Argyll Archives

Heanish area of Turnbull's map of Tiree, hand-painted 1768

Heanish area of Turnbull’s map of Tiree, hand-painted in 1768


An Iodhlann is set to start an amazing project with Inveraray Castle archives to publish some of the Duke of Argyll’s family’s historical treasures for the first time.  Since the Earl of Argyll took possession of Tiree in1679, the family has kept detailed records about the island. These papers have been kept in dusty bundles in a locked storeroom in Inveraray Castle, and access to them has had to be tightly restricted…until now. ‘Written in the Landscape’ will involve cataloguing and restoring the collection, then An Iodhlann will be asked which papers it wants to digitise.

Part of the Tiree Census of 1776

Part of the Tiree census of 1776

The Tiree part of the estate archive at Inveraray Castle includes over 50 old maps and plans, and a huge collection of papers about the day-to-day running of the island from the mid-17th to the 20th century. These records include accounts of the island in the days of runrig farms and the creation of today’s crofts, reports of emigration, rent arrears and relief work schemes (including the names of people employed knitting, draining and road-building), lists of ministers and schoolmasters and the Dewar manuscripts, one of Scotland’s most important collections of Gaelic tales. Another partner in the project will be Argyll and Bute Council, which itself holds extensive papers about Tiree, for example Poor Law records. Other history societies in Argyll are also involved.

Cherry Park, Inverarary - home of the Argyll papers

Cherry Park, Inverarary – home of the Argyll papers

A grant of £10,000 from Tiree’s Windfall Fund has opened the door, with An Iodhlann itself pledging £5,000. To complete the funding package we need another £5,000 and An Iodhlann is launching an appeal to its supporters to seal the deal. If you can, please send a small donation to the Treasurer, An Iodhlann, Scarinish, Tiree, PA77 6UH (marked ‘WIL’) or go to the donations page on the website. And then watch the door swing open to reveal Aladdin’s cave!

Update (May 2016): Ishbel MacKinnon, the Castle’s long-serving archivist and driving force behind the entire project, has moved to Perth to take up another post. Appointing her replacement will slow the project, but we hope to re-start in the summer. Some damaged documents, however, have already left the castle for conservation.

Update (September 2016): Alison Diamond, the new archivist at Inveraray Castle, has spent the last couple of months familiarising herself with her new post and our Written in the Landscape project. Alison has suggested progressing the project in two phases. The first would be predominantly conservation, which has already included the precious 1768 Turnbull map of Tiree, but would also include some obvious ‘low hanging fruit’ like the older censuses. The second phase would include copying the materials we thought valuable.

Update (April 2017): The funding gap has been completed and Inverary Archives is about to advertise two project archivist posts: written in landscape update Apr2017

Update (October 2018): Several archive items have now been digitised and copied to An Iodhlann. These include the 1779 Census, a History of Tiree 1897, maps and plans, transcripts and images of various documents, and various items from 1662-1703. All items will be listed individually in An Iodhlann’s online archive in due course. Staff at Inveraray Archives are also planning to bring over an exhibition of original items to Tiree in spring 2019.

Update (December 2018): The busy people at Argyll Estates’ archive at Inveraray Castle have just sent us this latest update on the Written in the Landscape project, including their plans to bring over a number of items not seen before on Tiree during 13 – 17 May 2019.

Update (May 2019): Argyll Archives’ exciting exhibition will run from Monday 13th May to Thursday 16th May. An Iodhlann will host a mini-exhibition each day (10am – 4pm), while a larger exhibition of treasures, plus talks and workshops, will be held in the evenings in An Talla (7pm – 9.30pm). Full Programme of Events.

Update (June 2019): Following the successful and fascinating exhibition in May, organised by the archivists at Inveraray Archives and Live Argyll, we include here their latest. Many thanks to Alison Diamond, Jackie Davenport and Hannah Baker, and to all who came along to the events. Mòran taing.

Update (July 2021): An Iodhlann has appointed experienced archivist Kirsteen Connor to begin the work of making the WIL documents available through our website. Despite the disruption caused by Covid-19, Kirsteen already has a mountain of files from Inveraray to review, sort and catalogue, and is working closely with Alison Diamond at Inveraray regarding the transfer of additional files. It shouldn’t be long before we start seeing these ‘hidden gems’ on our website.

Update (June 2022): Thanks to Kirsteen’s and Alison’s hard work, 200 documents from Inveraray Archives and LiveArgyll are now available to view through our website.

Procurator Fiscal Records 1848-1904

All Written-in-the-Landscape Documents

Tiree tales from the Dewar Manuscripts, 1866

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