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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.


Bill Innes talking about Captain David Barclay

Sound clip in English of former airline pilot Bill Innes talking about Captain David Barclay.

Courtesy of Mr Bill Innes

Former airline pilot Bill Innes tells a humorous anecdote about Captain David Barclay, MBE, during an illustrated talk about the pioneers of Scottish aviation held in An Talla, Tiree on 5th July 2004.

The name David Barclay is synonymous with the development of aviation in the Western Isles and with the Scottish Air Ambulance Service. He flew his first ambulance flight with Northern & Scottish Airways in 1935 and at the end of his career had flown more than two thousand ambulance missions.

He was awarded the MBE in 1942 and invested with the order of St John of Jerusalem in 1950. Much loved and well respected by those who knew him, Captain Barclay retired in April 1965 with an overwhelming send-off from islanders in Barra and Tiree.


Two old men over a hundred

Sound clip in English of Angus MacLean telling a humorous anecdote about two old men over a hundred.

Courtesy of Mr Angus MacLean

In a discussion about families living in Caoles in 1881 recorded by Dr John Holliday in June 2004, Angus MacLean of Scarinish tells a humorous anecdote about two old men in Caoles to Alasdair Sinclair and Duncan Grant.

At the time of the story, the two men – Iain MacLean and Ruaraidh MacDonald – were both over a hundred years old. Caoles was mainly unfenced and, despite his age, Iain’s job was to keep the animals within the township boundaries and out of the crops. This was not without precedent.

The Statistical Account of the 1790s recorded ten islanders over ninety and one over a hundred. ‘The Tiry-man above 100, was allowed to be 106, at his death, in spring last. Except for the last 7 years he supported himself and wife by herding. His liveliness appeared to the last, not only by walking but dancing.’


Dan MacLeod’s practical joke

Sound clip in English of Duncan Grant of Ruaig talking about a practical joke involving a lobster.

Courtesy of Mr Duncan Grant

In a conversation with Alasdair Sinclair of Brock recorded in January 2004, Duncan Grant of Ruaig tells a humorous story about his relative, Dan MacLeod, who played a practical joke on Alasdair’s great-uncles, William, Donald and Neil MacKinnon.

In the days before television, neighbours would regularly visit each other ‘air chèilidh’- for the ‘crack’. Alasdair’s Uncle William was a great story-teller and would entertain the township children with ghost stories.

Duncan’s mother, Mary Flora MacLeod, remembered a particularly scary story about ‘cròg mòr fada liath, liath le aois’ (a long grey claw-like hand, grey with age). She and her sister would be so scared of leaving in the dark they would race the twenty yards home.


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’.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Audio cassette recording Isobel Weatherston interviewed by Dr John Holliday in Scarinish on 17/10/98.

Mrs Isobel Weatherston talks about her husband, Bill, and his career in dentistry, their purchase of Taigh na Beairt and the Reading Room in the Scarinish.

MP3 Click here to download the sound file ac69.mp3 (14MB).