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Updated 04/26/2013


ptain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree

Tiree (Scottish Gaelic:Thiriodh) is an island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides southwest of Coll.  The main village on Tiree is Scarinish (shown above), from which ferries sail to Arinagour on Coll and to Oban on the mainland.  Its name derives from Tir Iodh, 'land of the corn', from the days of the 6th-century Celtic missionary and abbot St Columba (d. 597). Tiree provided the monastic community on the island of Iona, south-east of the island, with grain. A number of early Christian monasteries once existed on Tiree itself, and several sites have stone cross-slabs from this period.

Tiree is divided into 286 crofts and five farms although there are today probably fewer than a hundred active crofters. The land is split into thirty one crofting townships, each controlled by a grazing committee. It is the most fertile of the Hebrides.

The Roman occupation of northern Britain had a stabilizing effect on the tribes of Scotland who united against a common enemy. With the Romansí withdrawal around 400 AD, local warlords sprang up, splitting the political map.

Into this turbulent world sailed Columba and his twelve companions, who settled on Iona in 563. Soon afterwards, he founded a daughter monastery on Tiree. This is usually thought to have been at the site of the graveyard at Soroby but is equally likely to have been around the old chapels at Kirkapol.

The final years of the eighth century saw the first raids by the Vikings from southern Norway on the Hebrides. Some Vikings then began to over-winter in the Hebrides. Two graves, said to be from the Viking period and neither properly excavated, have been found on the island. One containing a tortoise-shell brooch and bronze pin was exhibited in Edinburgh in 1872.

During this period a Gaelic speaking native population survived alongside the new settlers. A new line of half Gael, half Norse mercenary warriors - the Gall-Gaedhil - developed in the Hebrides and many leaders mentioned in this period have one parent from either group.

The five centuries after 1000 were a time of further turbulence in the Hebrides, which became the battleground between the Kings of Norway, the Isle of Man, local warlords and later the Scottish Crown.

In the 1715 uprising the Duke of Argyll was the leader of the government side which defeated the Earl of Marís army at Sherriffmuir. The next year 358 Tiree men were disarmed over two days in Scarinish by the Dukeís representative, the overwhelming majority of them Jacobite rebels fighting against the government and, therefore, against the Duke himself.

In the 1745 uprising matters had changed little on the island. After Bonny Prince Charlie was defeated at Culloden, thirty government soldiers were sent to Tiree. Their leader was commanded "to apprehend some of the leading rebels and drive their cattle, nay I should be glad if he would even burn some of their houses".

The population of Tiree built up to a peak of almost 4,500 in the 1830s. This was due to more efficient agriculture, especially the use of the new wonder crop, the potato, and the kelp industry.