An Talla was once again packed with a crowd on Friday the 27th of May as a wonderful week of activities to celebrate the Tiree Homecoming came to an end! The final concert and dance organised by An Commun Tirisdeach – The Tiree Association was an exceptional night which finished off an even better week.
A’ Bhuain 2016, ten years in the making but worth the wait, was described as many visiting ‘homecomers’ as the best week of their lives. With over 130 people from all over the world descending on Tiree the island was a hive of activity with an action packed week of talks, ceilidhs, plays, workshops, dancing, music, storytelling and much more!
We covered the beginning of the week in the last edition of An Tirisdeach, when we reported on the wonderful opening ceremony chaired by local man Gordon Connell along with a talk on Tiree’s Whisky heritage and launch of Tiree Whisky Company – which you can read more about on page 12. On Monday we were also treated to an interesting lecture by Donald Meek who talked about his life growing up on Tiree, family and memories of Tiree. Tuesday marked the beginning of the workshops that were on offer throughout the week. There was an excellent turn out for each workshop, which included tutoring from Tiree’s elite! You could choose from ceilidh dancing with Jessie Gray, accordion lessons with Eilidh MacFadyen, Ulpan (Gaelic) classes with Rhoda Meek and singing lessons from Ishbel Campbell. Workshops ran from 10am through to lunchtime, when attendees were then able to indulge in delicious soup and sandwich lunch, and a variety of homebaking. Each day a different local committee took their turn in the kitchen, using the opportunity to fundraise for their group or activities. Lunches were open to everyone and each day there were special guests from the Tiree community in attendance.
Tuesday saw our second talk of the week, from Alison Kennedy and Mary MacLean who gave an informative talk about Captain Donald MacKinnon. That same day, local RSPB officer, John Bowler led a walk and bird talk, looking at Tiree’s special birds.
Tuesday continued to be a very busy day indeed! In the evening we were treated to a fantastic performance from Tiree’s ‘West End Players’ who performed the Napier Play, written and directed by Mabel Macarthur. The play was excellently written, directed and performed, telling the story of the Napier Commission Enquiry, which was held in Kirkapol Church on the 7th of August 1883, which led to many of Tiree’s residents emmigrating to foreign lands. And Tuesday is still not finished. After the play attendees got the opportunity to dance to two of Tiree’s finest accordion players, Ian Smith from Trail West and Eilidh MacFadyen from Dùn Mòr.
The sun shone all weekend, with Tiree living up to its name of the ‘sunshine isle’, giving us perfect conditions for Wednesday’s walks and tours. Doctor John kicked the day off with a talk on the Vikings of Tiree, a subject that he has been researching for some time now! Following on from this talk there was then a graveyard tour led by Catriona Smyth, who has worked on a project with An Iodhlann to map and transcribe old gravestones from three of Tiree’s oldest graveyards!
During Wednesday afternoon participants also got the chance to go on the very popular Tiree Tour with Mabel Macarthur and Nancy Kennedy. The bus tour takes attendees all over the island giving them an insight into a variety of interesting facts about Tiree, from history and present day! The tour was very well attended and gave everyone the opportunity to see Tiree at its very best! On Wednesday evening we were treated to an excellent night of tunes, songs and stories from the very popular Skipinnish! Lead accordionist and Tiree native, Angus MacPhail and his band had the whole hall toe tapping and singing along to their very popular songs along with a variety of famous Tiree tunes! It was an excellent night, enjoyed by all!!
With the week nearing an end, Thursday saw us hearing from another Tiree local, Ian Smith who was joined by ‘homecomer’ Sharon Clayton, to tell us about the Balephuil Fishing Disaster of 1856. An interesting talk took place along with a field visit to the site of the disaster. In the evening, homecomers got the opportunity to experience a traditional Tiree ceilidh in the homes of various locals. There were tunes, singing, storytelling and poetry from a host of local and visiting guests, an excellent experience for all!
Friday brought us to the last day of this terrific week long event, but there was still lots to cover! The morning was started with the crofting tour, organised by the Cattle Show committee. This fully booked bus tour stopped at various crofts and farms around the island, looking at old and new farming practices along with hearing about some of the history of crofting on Tiree! Back in An Talla there were back to back talks, starting with ‘The Black Factor’ presented by Robin K Campbell who talked about the infamous factor, John Campbell. Straight after this we heard from Archie Henderson who talked to us about his research into the ‘Kirk Session Minutes’. And on Friday evening, we come to the last event of the week, the final concert and dance organised by The Tiree Association! Both events welcomed a host of extremely talented musicians,some who have never performed on Tiree before and others who are native to the island. The concert was put together by the musical director for the evening, Mary Ann Kennedy and we were treated to an excellent mix of tunes and song, that complimented the theme of the homecoming event!
Many stayed on for the dance which followed the concert and An Talla was full of people dancing, singing and socialising – creating an excellent atmosphere to round off a fantastic event! From start to finish, A’ Bhuain, The Tiree Homecoming 2016 was a wonderfully organised event, which will leave people with excellent memories for years to come. An Tirisdeach would like to say a very big well done to all of the hard working committee and people who were involved in making the event so special and we are eagerly waiting on confirmation of ‘take three’!