Tag Archives: history

An Appeal For Help

A private archive of Tiree papers, which have sat in the cellars of Invereray Castle for 350 years, could see the light of day for the first time – if An Iodhlann can raise £5,000 to complete funding for a fascinating new research project. The Argyll family documents, censuses, letters, rent rolls, maps and reports about the island have been gathering dust for centuries in the family’s home. As part of a deal with the government, the estate has now undertaken to allow public access. The first task is to find out exactly what’s there, repair any records that are crumbling to dust, and then copy them so that islanders, historians and all those around the world with Tiree connections can begin the huge task of sifting through the treasure trove. Eminent scholars like Ronald Black and Donald William Stewart from Edinburgh University have already been attracted to one of Scotland’s hidden jewels.

Sadly, a bigger application for the whole archive has been turned down by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the time being, but the Tiree part of the project can still go ahead, thanks to an amazing £10,000 grant from the Windfall Fund added to £5,000 from An Iodhlann’s own pockets. Now we badly need £5,000 from supporters to complete the package so that we can start work at the beginning of next year. Ishbel MacKinnon, the Inveraray archivist, is leading the programme. Family history enthusiasts will be able to see estate rent rolls for the first time, the island will see a number of exhibitions about the collection, long lost Gaelic stories about Tiree have been unearthed, and Ishbel is coming to talk at A’ Bhuain – Tiree Homecoming 2016.

Dr John Holliday, chair of An Iodhlann told An Tirisdeach, “Professor Allan Macinnes has called the Inveraray collection the most significant private archive in Scotland. We are now on the verge of opening up this treasure chest and starting the long job of trying to understand our ‘Secret Island’. If you put all the estate papers on one shelf it would stretch to 100 metres – and a tenth of these papers are about Tiree. There are rental records for each croft going back two hundred years, 18th century reports on the harbours and fishing on the island and letters from ministers and factors. We have already had some large donations from Canada to help us towards our target, but if you can help in any way, please write to An Iodhlann, Scarinish, Tiree, PA77 6UH or visit our website.”

On Saturday 31st January 2015 An Iodhlann held an Open Day to give more local Tiree folk the opportunity to come in and find out about what goes on there. The building was dressed with colourful bunting to draw people’s attention, and a number of staff, committee members and Summer volunteers were present to welcome visitors and provide additional insights into Tiree’s history.

An Iodhlann first opened its doors to the public in 1997 after refurbishment of the original building, known as The Reading Room (pictured left), which was built in 1886 as a waiting room for ferry passengers. The history of the building makes fascinating reading. The extension was built a few years after 1997, and the current permanent exhibition was opened around 2008.

Entry was free and each visitor received a free raffle ticket, the top prize being won by Morag MacKenzie. The event was a success with around 25 people dropping by over the course of the day (that’s 21 more than during the whole of November through January!) one person decided to join our growing family of members, and we raised a few funds through raffle ticket sales and donations.

Many thanks to all who attended and made the day a success, to the volunteers who helped out, to those who donated raffle prizes, and to Alan & Janette at the Cobbled Cow for the use of their ‘Open’ sign.

Janet Bowler


I went along to the open day but will have to go back as it merits a full half day rather than a quick half hour.

The layout has been well considered and there’s lots to see and discover. I was lucky to grab a few minutes with Janet to find out more about her role at An Iodhlann, here’s what she had to say:

My job title is Archive Manager, a role I have enjoyed since January 2009. It is the only paid position at An Iodhlann and part-time. My job is to catalogue and care for our library and all the historical artefacts, documents, photographs, and audio recordings, to welcome and assist visitors, to search the archive in response to queries from the public, and to keep an eye on the building’s fabric.

From time to time I work on additional specific projects such as Frasan, our ‘app’ that allows users to see some of our collection as they explore the island http://www.aniodhlann.org.uk/index.cfm?method=home.frasan . At the moment I am collaborating with our IT manager to create a new website, one of the aims of which will allow people to search the archive database themselves online.

Other specialised work is done voluntarily by members of the An Iodhlann Committee, most notably Dr John Holliday who is our chairman and does most of the historical research and collecting, and Mr Duncan Grant who is our genealogist and who helps people from all over the world trace their Tiree ancestors.


The Secret Island

secret Island Authors

Dr John Holliday, Charles MacDonell, Donald
Meek, Bob Chalmers and
John Randall.

‘The Secret Island’ is a real first for Tiree.

In a book containing 20 chapters launched last week, in which 18 authors discuss different aspects of the history of the island since 1745 a fascinating story of the past unfolds.

Our very own Gordon Scott, Iain Smith, Iona Brown and John Bowler contribute chapters on the church, the Balephuil fishing disaster, Tiree gaelic and history of birds and their habitats. Professor Donald Meek has written four chapters, on the land struggle, transport, Non -Conformist churches and the Rev John Gregorson Campbell, and Lesley Ferguson discusses the work of the archaeologist Erskine Beveridge on Coll and Tiree.

The book is a real treasure house for those seeking historical knowledge of the island and varied perspectives on its past. The book was born after the huge success of the Secret Island history conference last year. Up until the publication and launch of ‘Secret Island’ last week, Tiree was one of the very few Hebridean islands without a full-length recent book which covered its remarkable history.

Dr John Holliday, chair of An Iodhlann, which organised last year’s conference said ,”It is really wonderful to have this book as a permanent record of so many aspects of the island’s past and it is a real step forward in trying to understand the secrets of this very special place.”

The 425 page book is priced at £12 and is available at An Iodhlann, the Tiree Business Centre and also may be bought in all good bookshops. It makes a wonderful read !

An Iodhlann Goes Mobile

An Iodhlann

An Iodhlann has just been awarded funding of £21,300 by the Scottish Digital Research and Development Fund for Arts and Culture to make historic archive material available through a mobile application whilst ‘on the ground’ walking, cycling or driving around the island.

Have you ever been walking, seen something and wondered “what is that?”, or been looking for something that you know is there, but can’t find on the ground – perhaps the Kirkapol stone crosses? By the end of the project (March next year), you will be able to download an “An Iodhlann” application onto any smartphone or tablet. This will show you information about nearby sites and artefacts … and help you find them. And in case you are wondering – yes this will work when there is no mobile signal!

As well as adding an extra service for those who already visit An Iodhlann, we hope that this will attract new users, especially younger tourists.

The Scottish Digital Research and Development Fund for Arts and Culture is run by Nesta, Creative Scotland and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). This was a highly competitive process with 52 applications of which just 6 were funded. The other successful organisations are:
The National Piping Centre, Lyceum Theatre Company and the Edinburgh Cultural Quarter, Dundee Contemporary Arts, National Galleries of Scotland, Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse. These are all big city organisations as were the projects funded by an earlier similar programme run by Nesta England. As the only rural-based project, this is a great achievement for Tiree and a great challenge for us over the next nine months! In addition, a team of researchers from the Universities of Stirling, Strathclyde and St Andrews will be studying the progress of all the projects, so we will become an exemplar of advanced technology adoption in rural communities … no pressure 🙂

We will start a blog for the project soon, and post updates in