Over the years we have made hundreds of audio recordings of Tiree folk talking (in Gaelic and in English) about what it was like to live on Tiree in the old days, of experts giving talks on Tiree topics, of concerts and of ceilidhs. We hope, eventually, to make all of these available to hear on this website, but in the meantime you can access a sample of them below. You can also listen to many more Tiree recordings via the Tobar an Dualchais website: www.tobarandualchais.co.uk
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Tiree blacksmiths in the 20th century
Sound clip in English of retired vet Robert Beck talking about the blacksmiths on Tiree in the 20th century.
Courtesy of Mr Robert Beck
Retired veterinary surgeon Robert Beck talks about the number of blacksmiths on Tiree within living memory during a public talk on the subject of Scotland’s native horse given at the 1997 Feis Thiriodh. In 1945 there were over four hundred working horses on the island providing ample work for eight smiddies.
The Tiree Clydesdale was in great demand in the early 20th century especially for work in the towns. Derived from cross-breeding a superior type of native pony introduced to Tiree in the early 1800s with Clydesdales brought in by Tom Barr in the 1870s, they were tougher and faster than mainland-bred draught horses.
Many crofters kept one or two brood mares which were also worked. Three stallions, two Clydesdale and one Highland pony, ‘walked’ the island, kept by Hector Campbell of Cornaigmore, John MacLean of the Brae, Cornaigbeg and Donald MacIntyre of Gott.
Effie MacDonald singing ‘Am falbh thu leam, a rìbhinn òg’
Sound clip of Effie MacDonald of Middleton singing ‘Am falbh thu leam, a rìbhinn òg’.
Courtesy of Mrs Effie MacDonald
Effie MacDonald of Middleton sings ‘Am falbh thu leam, a rìbhinn òg’, known colloquially as the ‘Tiree Love Song’. It was written by Alexander Sinclair (Alasdair Nèill Òig), a wine and spirit merchant in Glasgow.
In the song, he asks a young maiden to come with him over the sea where she will see everything she could desire in the isle of the west that once was his home: geese and white swans, views over the ocean to the neighbouring isles, the green meadows and the tranquillity of St Patrick’s chapel.
He tells her of the songbirds, the bumble bees and the blaze on the cattle, the cormorants and ducks, the marram grass growing on the dunes and the fragrance of the machair flowers, all to be found on his favourite part of Argyll – the green island of Tiree.
Mairi MacLean singing ‘’S e Tiriodh an t-eilean’
Sound clip of Mairi MacLean singing ‘’S e Tiriodh an t-eilean’.
Courtesy of Mrs Mairi MacLean
Mairi MacLean of Ruaig was recorded by Co-Chomunn Dualchas Thiriodh singing ‘’S e Tiriodh an t-eilean’ (‘Tiree is the island’), an unpublished song probably written by Neil MacLaine, a nephew of John MacLean, Bard Tighearna Cholla, and a bard himself.
While at school in Tiree, Mairi competed in several Mods. She won first prize singing this song at the Mod in Inverness in 1972. That same year she came third in the silver medal competition for singing a set Gaelic song.
Mairi has worked as a district nurse in Tiree for eighteen years. Before returning to Tiree she worked as a district nurse in Oban and Glasgow.
Ishbel MacLean singing ‘Ma shiubbhlais sibh tuath’
Sound clip of Ishbel MacLean of Kenovay singing ‘Ma shiubbhlais sibh tuath’.
Courtesy of Mrs Ishbel MacLean
Ishbel MacLean née MacDonald of Kenovay was Tiree’s District Nurse from 1955 to 1962. She did her general nurse training at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and midwifery at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and Lennox Castle in Glasgow.
She married a Lewis man, Angus MacLean, and lived for twenty years in Canada where her husband worked as a teacher. While in Toronto she was given tuition by a professional opera singer. She was recorded by Co-Chomunn Dualchas Thiriodh singing the Tiree song ‘Ma shiubhlais sibh tuath’ (If you travel north).
After their return from Canada, Ishbel and her husband lived in Glasgow and Helensburgh but now reside permanently in her family home in Kenovay.
Three anecdotes about ‘the Goilear’
Sound clip in English of Hector MacPhail telling three anecdotes about ‘the Goilear’.
Hector MacPhail of Ruaig gave a talk at Vaul Golf Club in November 1996, during which he told three humorous anecdotes about a fisherman from Balevullin nicknamed ‘the Goilear’.
Hector MacPhail talking about apprentice sailor Iain MacArthur
Sound clip in English of Hector MacPhail talking about apprentice sailor Iain MacArthur of Roisgeal in Caoles.
Hector MacPhail of Ruaig tells the story of the first voyage of Iain MacArthur from Roisgeal in Caoles on his uncle’s sailing ship. He was made to turn out in foul weather to change sail and to sew up the bodies of his fellow crew members after a fever had gone round the boat.
Donald Kennedy during World War II
Sound clip in English of Donald Kennedy of Balevullin talking about the sinking of his ship during World War II.
Courtesy of Mr Donald Kennedy
Donald Kennedy (Dòmhnall Eachainn) of Balevullin talks to Dr. John Holliday in September 1998 about his experiences as a seaman during World War II.
In the Merchant Navy before the war, Donald volunteered to rejoin his tanker ‘British Petrol’ which was sunk in June 1940 by a German Q ship, the ‘Narvick’, a warship disguised as merchantman flying a Swedish flag.
Picked up in a lifeboat by the German ship, he and his shipmates were held prisoner on board until they landed in Brest in November. He was kept in prisoner-of-war camps in Germany and Poland until 1945.
Interior decoration in the 1920s
Sound clip in English of Mabel Kennedy talking about interior decoration in the 1920s.
Courtesy of Mrs Mabel MacArthur
Mabel Kennedy talks to Dr John Holliday in October 1998 about the interior decoration of the house at Main Road Farm in Balephuil where she lived until she went to work in service in Glasgow in 1926.
The floors of the house were made of concrete although, at that time, some must still have been beaten earth and clay. Earthen floors were considered warmer for children’s feet than concrete or flagstones and were kept clean by a sprinkling of shell sand every day except Sunday.
The walls inside were painted twice a year with whitewash made from seashells. The difficulty and expense of obtaining household goods on a remote Hebridean island encouraged the resourcefulness of the local people who would make do with the materials to hand.
Harry Kelly talking about Catriona McKinnon of Vaul
Sound clip in English of Harry Kelly talking about Catriona MacKinnon of Vaul.
Courtesy of Mr Harry Kelly
Former chemistry teacher Harry Kelly of Glasgow was recorded in April 2000 talking to Dr John Holliday about the time he spent in the early 1960s as a volunteer at the excavation of the Iron Age broch at Vaul.
When his tent was washed out by rain soon after his arrival, Harry was offered lodgings by Catriona MacKinnon of Rhum View in Vaul. Catriona was a mine of information about life on Tiree in the 1930s.
Much to Harry’s surprise, she had made her own pottery from local clay and dyed cloth with lichens. In this clip, Harry talks about the method she used to make pots.
Dr Euan Mackie talking about the Vaul broch
Sound clip in English of Dr Euan Mackie talking in 2000 about the excavation of the broch at Vaul.
Courtesy of Dr Euan Mackie
Dr Euan Mackie, Honorary Research Fellow of the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow and director of the excavation of Dùn Mòr in Vaul, talks to Dr John Holliday in April 2000 about the implications of the dig for Scottish archaeology and for himself personally.
Initially Dr Mackie requested permission from Argyll Estates to excavate a machair site at Balevullin where A. Henderson Bishop had found Iron Age pottery and other artefacts in 1912. This was refused because the area was used for grazing cattle.
An alternative site of the broch at Vaul was acceptable. Dr Mackie directed the excavations there over three seasons in the early 1960s which produced a wealth of material from the late 6th or 5th century B.C. to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. The finds are stored in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow.