Lifting potatoes at Ruaig
Postcard of the potato harvest at Ruaig in the mid-1920s.
Courtesy of Mr Angus MacLean
Potatoes were first grown in the Hebrides in 1743 when they were brought back to South Uist from Ireland by MacDonald of Clanranald. His tenants were unwilling to plant them and brought the crop to his house as they refused to eat them.
However, by 1800 potatoes had become the main food crop in the islands, including Tiree. They produce three to five times as many calories as grain from the same area of land. Potatoes are also a much more dependable crop than oats and barley, which can be flattened overnight by a storm.
Dependable, that is, until 1846, when the fungus causing potato blight caused widespread starvation in Europe. It is said that West Hynish was the only area of Tiree to be unaffected. This postcard shows Nancy and Alexander MacInnes in the foreground harvesting potatoes in Ruaig in the mid-1920s.
Black and white photograph of potato lifting at Ruaig.
Lifting potatoes at Ruaig, c. 1925-6, with Nancy and Alexander MacInnes in the foreground (Duncan MacInnes`s aunt and great-uncle).