Tag Archives: history

Tiree Welcomes HMS Sturdy Families

HMS sturdy ceremony

The sound of the waves, driven by the storm of the night before, onto the gravel beach in Sandaig mingled with the playing of the Tiree Pipe Band. We gathered around the new memorial to HMS Sturdy as the rising wind showed us a glimpse of the fury felt by the sailors seventy years before.

HMS Sturdy ceremony

The service, led by the Revds Peter Williams and Bruce Neill, was attended by around eighty people – three families of the crew (one had come from New South Wales to be there) alongside families from the township who had done so much to look after the exhausted men, representatives from the coastguard and Commodore Charles Stevenson who was representing the Royal Navy.

A special wreath was laid at the cairn to honour the work of Captain Donald ‘Dan’ Sinclair, Greenhill, who had instructed the crew to wait on board until low tide and had saved many lives as a result.

After the service we left to go to Soroby graveyard where we laid wreaths on the graves of the five sailors who drowned that day, as well as honouring the dead of the air forces who are also buried there. Tea was provided at An Talla and this gave a welcome chance to get out of the weather and swap stories about the Sturdy. There was also a huge display of items from the war from the collection of Mike Hughes.

At night Mike gave an illustrated talk on the impact of the war on the Hebrides, bringing his usual passion to the subject, and some stories. Apparently potatoes from the Sturdy stores have been grown in Middleton until recently. The families who had come for the event left the island full of memories, both happy and sad. Then Monday saw a huge storm batter the island, giving a taste of what it must have been like on that fateful day.

Thank you to everyone who supported the weekend, which had been initiated by Mike Gibson and organised locally by An Iodhlann.

Tiree Remembers HMS Sturdy

HMS Sturdy

“It was a Thursday, I remember it well. Willie got up – he heard something moving outside, something being blown by the wind…This would be about 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning. It was quite a rough morning and it was raining. I would call it force 9-10, a severe gale… Just before we got down there we could make out it was a naval vessel – the paint, the colour, you see. There were a lot of people there; you’d hear “Help!” [The wreck] would be about 60 yards from the gravel beach on the rocks out there. I remember – I’m sorry, I’m getting emotional – the first thing we met there, a body, a beautiful, young fellow. I picked him up and took him beyond the reach of the ocean and put him on the grass”

– the late Hugh MacLean, Barrapol.

Tiree had seen its fair share of wrecks driven ashore, but the scene on the rocks off Sandaig at first light on October 30th 1940 brought home the sickening reality of the Second World War. A Royal Navy destroyer broken in two, beaten up onto the oil soaked beach with scores of stunned sailors sheltering from the storm and five bodies left behind by the tide.

I was not able to walk very well because I had cut my feet on the rocks but the islanders seemed suddenly to appear…I was taken to a cottage where the people were very kind, my clothes were dried and I had a hot bath. I fell asleep exhausted in a beautiful bed.

– Leading Seaman Harry Springett, from the Sturdy

To honour the five seamen who lost their lives and to remember the great kindness the islanders showed to the shipwrecked sailors, a memorial has been built above the beach in Sandaig where the ship hit the rocks. 70 years, to the day, after the tragedy this memorial will be dedicated at a service on Saturday 30th October at 2pm. Relatives of the crew, along with Commodore Charles Stevenson, CBE, (Naval Regional Commander, Scotland and Northern Ireland), families of the islanders who showed such kindness to the seamen and the Tiree pipe band will be there.

After the ceremony there will be another short service in Soroby Cemetry to lay wreaths on the graves of those who lost their lives. Afterwards there will be teas at An Talla at 4pm where everyone will be welcome to meet the visitors.

In the evening at 7.30 Mike Hughes will give an illustrated talk on Tiree during the Second World War in An Talla (the last talk Mike gave at the Fèis was a sell-out! Be there early).

The memorial has been built by Bernie Smith and Sons and organised by Cmdr Mike Gibson, the son of the Sturdy’s chief engineer. The committee of An Iodhlann hopes the island will support this historic day.

Do you have anything salvaged from the Sturdy or connected with it? If so, we would love to borrow it for the evening of the 30th October. We plan to have a table of things from the wreck at Mike Hughes’ evening talk.

Please contact Dr John.

A New Thatched House Museum

THE PROPOSED FACILITIES

  • *Lobby housing Information Office and Reception.
  • *Museum Hall with partially reconstructed Thatched House and Smithy
  • *Other displays.

SUGGESTED DISPLAYS

WHY TIREE HAD THATCHED HOUSES NOT BLACKHOUSES

  • *Where the peat came from before it ran out.
  • *How coal came to the island and chimneys were needed.
  • *How open fireplace evolved into stoves and ranges like The Modern Mistress, Victoress and Enchantress.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FELT HOUSE
*How the felt house evolved with a by-product of The Glassary.

THE CROFTER’S YEAR

*A display showing jobs and tools for the current month.
INTERACTIVE
*The Museum would be interactive e.g.: griddle scones made on the fire, children querning corn, being shown how to thatch a mock up roof, dig a lazy bed outside etc..
ECO DESIGN

The museum Would be a showcase for low energy use, and maybe “off the grid”. The building would be well insulated. Heated by a ground source heat pump (pipes buried in ground or seabed), with some windows, to allow solar gain and power generated by a wind turbine and/or solar panels.

HELP! The Tiree Heritage Society will discuss taking on this project at their AGM in the Rural Centre on 30th September at 7.30pm. If YOU want to see this happen: PLEASE COME TO THE AGM. PLEASE JOIN THE HERITAGE SOCIETY. PLEASE BECOME A MEMBER OF THE SUPPORT GROUP. Your help is needed to make this happen! Any suggestions, ideas or offers of help can be sent to:
Andrew Trussell by email: andrew@andrewsartefacts.me.uk Or by phone during office hours: 01897 220012

Shipwreck Information Sought

schooner

An Iodhlann recently received a request for information about the yacht Oceana that ran aground at Crossapol on 9 March 1949.

The Oceana was an impressive two-masted schooner with a decorative figurehead of a girl with flowing hair blowing a pipe. It was named Oceana by the son of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

The person who is enquiring after the Oceana has inherited some framed photographs of the yacht from his great-uncle who chartered it during the 1930s.

A couple of people on the island who remember the yacht have already kindly provided the location of the stranding, but perhaps there are others who can remember additional details. What were the weather conditions on the day it was stranded? What happened to it afterwards? What happened to its crew? Was the figurehead salvaged? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Please contact An Iodhlann: telephone 01879 220 793 or email aniodhlann@tireebroadband.com.

Many thanks.

Letters plea for ancestry help

The first regarding a Tiree schoolhouse

Dear Editor,
My name is Brian Harris and I am trying to find out more information about a Tiree School House in 1941.

My relatives, Erik and Leah Naslund stayed in the house. Erik was in the Merchant Navy and they had three children Erik, Jacqueline, and Dudley who was born in the School House in October 1941.

We are hoping to visit Tiree soon, and I am trying to find where the School House they lived in was, and whether it still exists. Any information you can give me would be appreciated.

Please contact the Editor if you have any information about the house and the family so this can be forwarded to Brian.

The second is a plea from Australia

Dear Editor,
I am currently researching Scottish Australian Heritage/History and Ancestry and I am very keen to have information from anyone in the community about the Scottish roots of those who came to Australia, especially as it’s the bicentenary of Australian Governor MacQuarrie in 2010, who of course is one of the most prominent Scotsmen that most people here have heard about.

I feel it is very important to collate this information soon while some of the history is still in living memory or has been passed down the family either orally or written, along with any information about their family ancestry names/dates etc.

Also any family stories about the places the families came from in Scotland, the boats they left on, journey stories and early pioneer days in Australia. All the information gathered will be passed on to Clan organisations in Australia and Scotland.

I myself am descended from the Mclaurins, Stewarts, Bruce and Hunter Clans and am directly related to Robert the Bruce -he was my 21 generation great grandfather and before him all the ancient Kings of Scotland. I am actively involved with the Clans in Australia with many friends and of course relatives in many of them.

I am very keen to try to build a database with Scottish Australian History which will be also recorded with any of the Clan groups or societies any of the community members are related to.
Thankyou best wishes Trevor Smurthwaite

If anyone can help Trevor, he can be contacted directly at the address below or via the An Tirisdeach Office.

Trevor Smurthwaite
122 Goldmark Crescent
Cranebrook Sydney NSW2749
Australia
queenbabyfay@bigpond.com
smurthwai8@aol.com
0247302728

Fèis thiriodh

Next week sees the start of Fèis Thiriodh, Tiree’s festival of traditional music, dance and culture, and 2009 looks to be building on the success of last year’s record-breaking Fèis.
The week starts on Sunday afternoon with a walk round Hynish looking at the township’s fascinating history and looking behind the buildings to look at the human stories. Vikings, Iron Age forts and of course the incomparable Alan Stevenson. A bonus this year will be Hynish teas halfway through – a must for hungry historians!
Monday night sees a Homecoming Supper and Cèilidh in An Talla to celebrate Scotland’s Year of the Homecoming. A dram, a traditional Burns meal and an old fashioned cèilidh with some top singers and a great chance to meet the week’s tutors. Tickets are in the shops and at the office of Paper.works at the Rural Centre (220055). There are only 80 tickets, so don’t delay!
On Tuesday there is an evening of film from An Iodhlann, Tiree’s historical centre. There’s a short clip from the 1930s, some from the 1950s, and more recent material. This is in the Rural Centre and there will be a chance to sample teas at the Cobbled Cow in the interval (more hungry historians!)
Wednesday night sees the ever popular (for young and old!) children’s dance, Dannsa na Chloinne, Thursday the Tutors’ Cèilidh and Friday night the Final Dance, this year with band of the moment Trail West.
During the day the school will be thronging with musicians, shinty players and film makers. The tutors this year are Sileas Sinclair, accordion; John MacLeod, pipes; Melissa Deans, drama; Iain Sandilands, djembe (something new this year-an African drum); Brian Graham, pipe band drumming; Jenna Reid, fiddle; Calum MacCrimmon, whistle; Christine MacIntyre, film making (this was so popular last year that we have made this into a regular class); our own Ishbel Campbell, singing; Catriona MacGregor, our Gaelic teacher, and Darren Reid, shinty; and Iona Brown, Gaelic. A week to be proud of Tiree’s rich culture. See you there!
Ar cànan, ar cultur ‘s ar ceòl.
Dr John Holliday, chair.

Sheaves from the Stackyard

an_iodhlann

H. M.S. Sturdy The Final installment

Once all of the 105 crew were accounted for, the captain’s priority was to remove all the secret papers from the vessel. Most of the crew, including the injured, were taken to Oban that evening on HMS Rhododendron, leaving a salvage party of 22 on the island.

The wreck held provisions that were too tempting to ignore for warhungry Tiree.
Angus MacLean, Scarinish recalled “I never saw so much tea in my life.”
He saw an old man from West Hynish wearing an old tweed coat with patch pockets at the Sturdy wreck. He held the pockets open and someone literally poured the loose tea into them.
“It would have done him for a year!”
“The first ‘Crunchie’ bar I had to eat was from the Sturdy”. Mairi Campbell, Corrairigh.

“It wasn’t very safe. It’s a wonder to me no one was hurt or even drowned. I was there myself looking for souvenirs, and I’ve got one of the clasp knives out there in the workshop. And as for tobacco! My goodness, tobacco! Cigarettes by the million! Rum if you wanted it, plenty of rum too. And some of the boys [the Navy salvage party]would pinch a drop for a person, too”. Hugh MacLean, Barrapol.

Willie MacLean, Balinoe, watched another old islander searching on the beach afterwards. There were piles of oilskins and boots tangled up in the seaweed and he stripped off his old trousers and put on the new Navy oilskin trousers. The Sturdy’s chief engineer had fractured his knee during the evacuation of the boat. His son, Mike Gibson, was sent to Tiree to collect what personal possessions he could:

The preceding was extracted from the paper version of An Tirisdeach.

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