Following the success of Archaeology Week in April-May this year, a group from the Association of Certificated Field Archaeologists (ACFA) are returning to the island on the 4th-8th of October. Dr Colleen Batey is also returning on the 18th-25th October to give public lectures and a school talk. Next year, our Chairman, Dr John Holliday, will be working with Dr Heather James on a community project to dig a possible Viking boat-grave at Kirkapol.
A sea mine recently discovered under gravel on the Sandaig shore, is now on display outside An Iodhlann. When a Bomb Disposal Team dug up the mine on the 3rd of August, it was found to be empty of explosive, safe and reasonably intact. We have positioned it so that its innards are visible, as well as the locations of detonation horns and the hole where a time-sensitive self-destruct mechanism was installed. Hundreds of pebbles and shells are fused onto its surface. Tens of thousands of similar mines were laid around the Hebrides and the North Sea during the first and second world wars.
Catriona Smyth has completed her monumental survey of the Soroby and Kirkapol graveyards, producing a database of transcribed inscriptions (where legible) and photographs of all the stones, translations of any Gaelic inscriptions and cemetery maps showing the locations of all stones. This is all now available online via An Iodhlann’s website or by visiting www.tireegraves.org.uk.
Archaeology Week, organised by An Iodhlann with help from the Tiree Windfall Fund, came to a close at the start of May. A group of members of the Association of Certificated Field Archaeologists (ACFA) were accompanied by Dr Heather James from Northlight Heritage, an archaeological charity in Glasgow. The party spent four days in the field accompanied by a number of local volunteers, and discovered some fascinating prehistoric sites: triangular enclosures, the remains of a building near the Ringing Stone and a corn-drying kiln. On the south-east slopes of Ben Hynish they found lambing enclosures, a Bronze Age kerb cairn, a possible Neolithic stone circle and cairn, and a small building complex.
An evening of talks was very well attended: Dr Colleen Batey was particularly interested in a site at Vaul known today as Boidhegeir (from Old Norse borg geiri ‘the farm of the fort’). Dr David Caldwell was attracted to the idea that Island House was built on the site of the ‘lost’ medieval castle of Isleborgh, which has been puzzling historians for years. Dr Stuart Jeffrey created a digital three-dimensional image of the Ringing Stone and a recording of its sound.
The experts also examined some artefacts held in An Iodhlann, identifying brass lace endings, a medieval brooch, medieval horse buckles, and high-quality medieval pottery. Dr James also visited Tiree High School to introduce archaeology to some enthusiastic pupils.
The programme of events for A’ Bhuain – Tiree Homecoming 2016 has been updated and published in An Tirisdeach. The finalised dates are Sunday 22nd May to Friday 27th May. For tickets and further information, visit www.tireehomecoming.com or contact Jessie Gray on +44 (0)1879 220 630 or Rosemary Omand on +44 (0)1879 220 960.
Click here to view A’ Bhuain 2016 programme
We are delighted to announce the launch of this, our new website. From 1 December 2015 anyone with internet access will be able to browse our archive from anywhere in the world, and carry out in-depth searches too. The online archive includes digital images of thousands of photographs, documents and artefacts, and a sample of our audio recordings. In future, we hope to include images of everything in the archive, and all of our audio and video recordings. That’s around 12,000 items in total! There is also information on our exhibitions, projects, genealogy service and even a shop.
Argyll Estates’ archivists Ishbel MacKinnon and Jackie Davenport announced today that “Our funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for Written in the Landscape has been successful! We have been awarded up to £100,000, which represents approximately 33% of the total project costs. Most of the remaining funding has already been pledged, so we are now very optimistic that the project will go ahead in early 2016 and run for three years, to December 2018.”
Written in the Landscape is an amazing new project that will allow publication of some of the Duke of Argyll’s family’s historical treasures for the first time. Papers dating back to 1679, which have been kept in dusty bundles in a locked storeroom in Inveraray Castle, will be catalogued and restored. An Iodhlann will then be allowed to digitise the Tiree-relevant documents for our archive. We are hoping to get started in mid-2016.
A wreath dedicated to the people of Tiree during WWII was thrown overboard from the Queen Mary recently. It commemorates the wrecking of the destroyer HMS Sturdy on the rocks at Sandaig during a storm in October 1940. Five lives were lost, but were it not for the actions of Tiree folk, in particular Captain Donald Sinclair, the toll would have been much higher. The dedication on the wreath reads: “Dedicated to the bravery of Captain Donald Sinclair and those who helped in the rescue effort of HMS Sturdy and in remembrance of all those lost on Empire Eland in 1941”. Captain Sinclair was on the Empire Eland when it was torpedoed by a U-boat in the Atlantic.