Category Archives: jewels


John and Christina MacPhail of Balinoe

Photograph of John and Christina MacPhail of Balinoe.


Courtesy of Mrs Mairi Campbell

John MacPhail (Iain Eacha’ Ruaidh) and his wife, Christina (Hutty Nèill an Tuathanaich), of Balinoe are pictured with a standard plough used for preparing the ground for sowing corn and potatoes.

Out of his working clothes, the crofter is celebrating the end of his spring ploughing. The polished ploughshare is oiled and ready to be returned to the implement shed until the autumn when it will be used for opening potato drills.

The plough is hitched to two exceptionally well-bred Clydesdales of the Tiree type. Introduced in the 1870s, Clydesdales were crossed with local ponies to produce lighter and faster draught animals for which Tiree was famous in the early 20th century.

Black and white photograph of John and Christina MacPhail of Balinoe.

L-R: John MacPhail (Iain Eacha` Ruaidh) of Balinoe and his wife Christina (Hutty Neill an Tuathanaich) with a plough drawn by two exceptionally well-bred Clydesdales of the Tiree type. Out of his working clothes, the crofter celebrates the end of his spring work. Note the polished ploughshare is oiled and ready to be returned to the implement shed till next spring. (Crofting details supplied by Donald MacIntyre, Gott)


Colour scan of brass plate.

Colour scan of brass plate from the Glassary seaweed factory cart engraved `NORTH BRITISH CHEMICAL CO. LD. TYREE NO. 1`.

nbc_plate.jpgTiree in 100 Object – 9 – Cart Plate

Kelp had been made on Tiree for a hundred years by the time this fine brass plate was made for one of the carts belonging to the kelp factory in Middleton. Long-stemmed brown seaweed was collected over the winter, laid on kelp drying walls made of large stones and burnt overnight in kelp kilns with the help of some dry grass. The next day the cooled residue was broken into lumps and sold to mainland dealers. These sold it in turn to soap, glass and linen manufacturers who valued its rich alkali content. In 1791 the French chemist Leblanc discovered a way of turning common salt into soda ash (sodium carbonate), and after Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the price of Scottish kelp ash halved and then plunged to rock bottom prices in 1822.

The Tiree kelpers needed a saviour, and he arrived in 1863 in the form a brilliant English chemist. Edward Stanford was also a rich young man, having inherited a considerable fortune from his grandfather. He had discovered a way of commercially extracting iodine (an element that had only been discovered in 1811) from fresh seaweed by heating it at a much lower temperature in a metal vat. He set up the British Seaweed Company, won the support of the Duke of Argyll, and built the factory that became known locally as ‘The Glassary’ in Middleton. He also built a similar factory on Loch Eport in North Uist, but preferred the Tiree weed because it was cleaner.

Stanford started off on the wrong foot on Tiree. Many islanders were suspicious of this outsider with the ear of the landlord, were angry that several crofters in Middleton had lost their land to the new development, and refused to deal with him. Stanford had no option but to buy his own horses and carts. But just a decade after opening, the factory fell into financial difficulties. The price of iodine fell because it was discovered that salt deposits in Chile were rich in the element. The British Seaweed Company was liquidated, and its assets were taken over, and its headquarters moved to Hope Street, Glasgow, by the new North British Chemical Company – whose managing director was none other than Edward Stanford! The Glassary factory continued in production, employing sixteen men, for another forty years until 1901, two years after Stanford’s death.

The North British Chemical Company collected fresh tangle from all parts of the island. This brass plate was fixed to the carts, while the horses were grazed on company land. John MacLean, Kilkenneth, was known as Gaffar a’ Churrain ‘the old man of the carrots’ from his job growing fodder for the company’s horses.

Dr John Holliday, 2016

The History of Tiree in 100 Objects


Black and white photograph of the wedding of Hugh Cameron and Margaret MacLaine,`Lochiel`, Cornaigmore, in Glasgow on 23rd December 1923, with best man Dr John Cameron and bridesmaid Marion MacLaine.


Courtesy of Mrs Mairi Campbell

The bride Margaret MacLaine and the bridesmaid, her sister Marion, are dressed in the fashion of the day with elaborate bouquets. The groom, Hugh Cameron, is in full Highland regalia.

Both families took a keen interest in the Tiree Association which was founded in 1900 to provide a focal point for islanders living in Glasgow. The bride’s father, Neil, was a well-known bard and was prominent in the Celtic movement in Glasgow.

The best man was the groom’s brother, Dr John Cameron. He married Mae Smillie who raised funds for a holiday cottage by the shore in Morvern for the families of ex-servicemen.


Keyring from Scarinish Guard Room during World War II.

Oval brass keyring 45 mm by 30 mm, stamped on one side with `SCARINISH GAURD ROOM` around the edge and `38` in the centre, and on the other side `W`, an upward-pointing arrow, `D`. In use during World War II. Found on Hough beach by Fiona MacRae.