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Outer Isles
Chapter I. Tyree


WHEN the London season of 1894 reached the stage when one’s friends began to ask “What are you going to do this summer?” we derived a certain amusement from the reception of our announcement that we were going to the Island of Tyree. Some committed themselves to nothing and hoped we should enjoy it; some supposed it was in the Mediterranean somewhere; and when, to a few of vaguely inquiring mood, we explained that it was about thirty miles south of the Long Island, such as knew their geography concluded that it must be somewhere within reach of New York.

As a matter of fact, the island does lie next to America, but in the sense in which, in a volume of the reign of Good Queen Bess, Cornwall is described as “a country on that side of England next to Spain,” and had we explained that it was an island of the Hebrides, fifty miles west of the mainland of Scotland, few would have been much the wiser. Even the “Ideal Ward,” with all his learning, abandoned an attempt to write a poem on the subject, having exhausted his available information in the lines—

There are some islands in the northern seas—
At least, I’m told so—called the Hebrides;
These islanders have very little wood,
Therefore they can’t build ships—they wish they could.

At last, however, we came across a man who, having met our statement with the observation, “But isn't it too early for snipe?” showed that he was really in touch with the subject. He knew a man who had been there—to shoot snipe—and he would get to know all about it. In course of time he communicated the fact that there was a mail boat which went twice or three times a week, weather permitting, and that we must be sure to take a case of soda-water.

The great MacBrayne’s official handbook to the west coast of Scotland, had nothing to tell beyond the name of the pier-master, a fact which, later, became the more interesting to us that there is not a pier. Of other literature upon the subject we could find nothing written within the last hundred years, except an Agricultural survey of the year 1811.

It was therefore with some sense of adventure that we started on our journey on July 11, 1894, my friend, myself, and our dog Scamp, a Dartmoor terrier of admirable muscle and a pedigree to boast of even in the Highlands. After a night or two in Edinbro' and Glasgow we reached Oban, the Charing Cross of the north, where every second house is an hotel and every one has either just come or is just going away. At this period we knew nothing of the Royal Hotel, which, later, in moments of hunger and weariness we came to think of as homo, and we were thankful to escape, as soon as might be, from German waiters and extortionate charges, and to find ourselves at sunrise on board the little Fingal—tonnage 123; Neil McArthur, Captain; J. McTaggart, Purser. That one should remember and write down the names of passing friends like these, is a feature of the life upon which we were entering, a life so primitive that those who ministered to us became for us, as in the childhood of the world, our fellow creatures, men and women of like passions; a strange sensation to reflect upon in a life in which a tradesman is a necessary hindrance to the acquiring of goods, and a cab-driver, like his horse, part of the means of locomotion.

We had been warned that we were unwise to travel at the time of Glasgow Fair, and that the boats would be crowded, but we were unable to see the connexion of ideas, and did not know, till later acquaintance with the Fingal revealed the fact, that our dozen or so of fellow passengers was such a crowd as we were never likely to see upon her deck again.

The morning was grey and chilly, and the piled-up hills of Mull and Morvern were clothed in mist on either hand, but by degrees the sunlight broke through, and by the time we reached Tobermory the unbroken water-line of the Atlantic stretched blue and clear before us. Away to the south lay the dream-lands of Staffa and Iona, and further still to the north were the dim peaks of Ben More in Uist and the Cuchullin hills in Skye.

The sea was clear and blue, not a sail was within sight, and in the entire selfishness of mere animal enjoyment and anticipation, we were almost thankful to the dancing waves for causing the withdrawal, into private life, of most of our fellow passengers. In Oban we had heard fearful tales of the dangers and horrors of a journey to Tyree, but those nine sun-lit hours still stand out in happy memory although only the first of many of a like kind.

The little boat, with her orange-coloured funnel, seemed to manage all her business for herself, for the crew had nothing to do but look picturesque, the Captain and Purser but to make themselves agreeable. Towards afternoon we peeped into the tiny cabin below, but roast beef and batter-pudding seemed an anticlimax, and we begged for something more ethereal on deck. Little guessed we how long it would be before we should look upon their like again!

As the afternoon wore on, a long straight line made a shadow on the sea, and we learnt that Coll was in sight, but somehow even memories of Dr. Johnson could not distract our thoughts from Tyree, and we were glad to pause no longer than was necessary to drop a whole family overboard, into a wide boat which rowed out to meet us, and carried off some half-dozen of the consequences of Glasgow Fair.

Soon we were in sight of Tyree, “the kingdom just emerging from the summits of the waves,” as one of its old names has it, in terse Gaelic, Rioghachd-bham•-thonn. Slowly the little Fingal wound herself into a long narrow creek. There was no pier, not so much as a “slip,” and so far as we could ever discover, the only high ground on this side of the island, which is nowhere more than 350 feet out of the sea, rises most precipitately at the spot at present selected for a landing-place. How we were to get to shore was not obvious, but we cared little, so absorbed were we in the novelty of the scene. On the rocks above us some fifty people at least were collected, and with much shouting, laughing, gesticulating, two small boats apparently already quite full of people were boarding our little vessel. Later we learnt that there were other reasons besides the desire to meet friends, to get the mails, to fetch the cargo, why some of the islanders greet MacBrayne with such eagerness—but of that anon. The tiny mail boat heaved and tossed in the water below—it seemed to us as if the very letters would upset it, but in went the bags. The parcel post, a great institution in the islands, followed—could she possibly survive? we wondered, and we modestly declined when courteously asked if we would care to take our places in her, instead of waiting for the cargo boat. Being Glasgow Fair, we were told, the boats were “rather” full. The cargo boat certainly was. Large baskets like laundry travelling-baskets, full of Glasgow bread, we learnt, went in first, then sundry crates for the “Mairchant,” then some luggage, including ours, then all our fellow passengers, finally half a dozen sheep. We remained modest and retiring. We knew that the handsome young Minister, who after a long disappearance was now again on deck, would have to get on shore somehow, and that another boat would surely appear from somewhere. By-and-by the cargo boat returned, more cargo went in, but few passengers, and no sheep, only the Minister and the men who had so mysteriously come on board and who now came out of the deck-cabin wiping their mouths and smelling of whisky. The Purser advised us to take our seats, the kindly Captain shook hands with us, obviously perplexed as to our business there, since we were no off-shoot from Glasgow Fair, and we were off. We drew up at a perpendicular rock upon which some scratches were pointed out to us as steps. Many kindly hands were offered to help us to shore. The dog was hauled up, and we found ourselves standing beside our luggage in a wilderness of sand with not the faintest idea what to do next. Most of our companions had already climbed into carts and disappeared, and a group of men shouting in Gaelic over the “cargo” at a little distance, alone remained.

The Minister had looked at us, paused, looked again, and with true Highland shyness walked rapidly away. It was no time for ceremony. I ran after him, and breathlessly presented a piece of paper on which was the address of the house where, so we had been told, we might hope for shelter. I had written some days before, I explained—was it likely any one would come to meet us? The polite young Minister smiled at our simplicity. The letter was probably in one of the bags still lying on the rocks, or perhaps, if it arrived last mail, in the post-office, waiting to be fetched : the farm in question was nine miles off, there was no road for most of the way, there was no vehicle to be had, and being Glasgow Fair they were “likely full.” We began to feel anxious, not so much for shelter on so glorious an evening, as for food. Could we telegraph anywhere? we asked, glancing at a single wire overhead. No, that only went to the mainland, but the Minister would send a message for us from the post-office whence it would be taken with the letters, or the bread, and meantime could we not go to the hotel? We looked around at the wilderness of rock and sand and short, scant herbage, at the group of men still shouting in a strange foreign tongue, at the funnel of the little Fingal disappearing in the blue distance, at some tiny huts scarcely distinguishable from the rocks among which they seemed to hide, at the “road ” a foot deep in loose white sand, at the bare-legged boy driving a herd of cows which clambered awkwardly among the rocks, and found the notion of an hotel somewhat bewildering. He would go with us, this kind young Highlander, and turning back, soon conducted us to an unenclosed house overlooking the harbour, destitute, like most Highland inns, of signboard—and being conducted on strictly teetotal principles, destitute also of everything else—open doors, loafers, sound of human life, which one associates with inns. A kindly landlady, a quiet sitting-room, a clean bedroom, and a welcome tea soon made us feel that home life in Tyree had begun.

We have long remembered that tea; after nine hours’ feast of the eye only, it was very welcome. It certainly was excellent, but we remember it the better because we sat down to its counterpart every time we called for food during our stay in the island, and after a time it palled. Good tea, good cream, good eggs, Glasgow jam, Glasgow bread (it was long before we convinced our kind friends that we preferred their own home-made scones), Glasgow cake, and from time to time something of the nature of meat out of a tin. Our sitting-room window opened on to the moor or common, that is on to unenclosed space, and the cows often looked on at our meals, sheep and fowls came in at the door, and presumably fish swam about in the sea which lay almost at our feet; but none of these things found their way to the table except once, when we had an orgie of chops — what became of the rest of that sheep we could not discover—and once when we had a fish of species so perplexing that ,we tossed up who should first venture upon it. It was finally rejected by the dog, and given, through the window, to a cow, who apparently thought it an interesting experiment.

Except for some potatoes, which we were assured were excellent, but which differed in some essentials from those which we were accustomed to, we moreover never saw either vegetables or fruit during this visit. On a later occasion, when the hotel had got into more experienced hands (into kinder it could never come), our bill of fare was greatly enlarged, and now every necessary of life is amply provided for.

After tea we of course went out, and first learnt something of the glory of evening in the Hebrides. Tyree is so flat, that a considerable tract of country in the middle, known as the Reef, is said to be below sea-level. The island slopes from south-west to north-east, and its average width is about two and a half miles; though, according to the Government Survey, it varies from seven miles to one. There is not a single tree, not a hill worth mentioning, and as we looked straight out into the open glory of the July sunset it seemed somehow to belong to us in some especial manner, so isolated did we feel on this little shelterless sand-bank in the wide Atlantic Ocean.

It was a pageant of which we never tired, but what followed was to us an even greater miracle. Elsewhere, when the sun has set, “ at one stride comes the dark,” but here, in these low-lying islands, the darkness hardly came at all, and at half past ten we could see the time by the tiny watch on my wrist, or read the Evening psalms from the smallest of pocket prayer-books. And again, when the change came at dawn, and colour, rather than light, returned to the sky, we were awakened by a rush of wings, and strange sounds overhead, as the sea-birds flew over the island from their home on the western side to seek for food in the more sheltered waters, between the island and the mainland.

Later we came to know that home of theirs, a precipitous cliff, not above 300 feet high perhaps, but absolutely perpendicular, where, on almost imperceptible ledges, the sea fowl dwell in thousands. Long before we came in sight we heard their voices in the cliffs of Ceann a Mhara, which for convenience I spell—phonetically— Kenevara; and though we have since seen even more wonderful sights of the kind, none have seemed more impressive than those bare cliffs fronting the ocean, a world of feathered life with all the freedom and independence which is its birthright. One evening too, we were so fortunate as to see the return of the sea-fowl. Towards the western side of the island, we found a house with a garden, a rare phenomenon in these treeless isles, and, still stranger anomaly, a garden enclosed with such a fuchsia hedge, as one seldom looks for out of Devonshire—probably the only shelter of the kind within fifty miles. Standing silently near by, we heard a rush of wings; and a sudden cloud coming towards us, resolved itself at our feet into myriads of small birds; starlings, sparrows, chaffinches, stone-chats, thrushes, larks, alighting upon, and below, and around, the green and crimson hedge. There was no chirping, none of the usual chatter of small birds, the invasion was sudden and almost silent. In a few minutes the sky was again swept, this time by a very different concourse. Far, far aloft there sailed a mighty fleet, looking like a vast white cloud, so far above, that the shrieks of the great sea birds, gulls, cormorants, guillemots, seemed a phantom sound. Almost in a moment, they were out of sight, and then, as suddenly as before, there awoke a whir of small wings close beside us, and the little birds arose from their hiding-place, and this time, with much clamour and talk, dispersed again into the fields of air, once more left open to them, as the crowd again closes in after a royal procession has passed by. We wondered what became of them all, and where they found homes for the night whore there is no vegetation, and even where roofs and chimneys have, for the most part, so little elevation as to afford no protection from cats, and dogs, and even sheep. Strange shifts are they put to, these feathered exiles, and we have since found them crouching in holes in the rocks, or under tufts of grass, or even in ruts on the road.

It was not indeed upon this, our first visit to the island, that we discovered that fuchsia-hedge, and all we could learn in these earlier days, was that the Free Kirk Minister had a tree. We never saw it, and we also never saw the policeman, one third of whom, it was alleged, belonged to the island. A story is told of some old woman who, having been taken to the mainland, was much perplexed by the “big kail,” cabbages having been the nearest approximation to trees in her limited experience.

As to the fractional policeman, we could, on one or two occasions, have found a use for him, as 011 this island alone of the whole range of the Hebrides we saw signs of drunkenness. No licensed house is allowed; consequently, on occasions of weddings and funerals, the host imports or otherwise obtains his whisky in larger quantities than would in other circumstances be the case, and this, one gathers, it is considered hospitable to furnish. The results are generally obvious enough. There is moreover we are told, a considerable amount, among the fairly well to do, of that “ close drinking ” which comes of the private consumption of what, in public places and with companionship, would probably be taken in moderation only.

As long ago as 1811 it was stated, in the Agricultural Survey of the Hebrides, that “there were formerly large sums of money drawn by Tyree for whisky, distilled from the excellent barley of this fertile island; but of late this branch of industry has been suppressed, and that too, very probably, to the ultimate advantage both of proprietor and tenants.”

We ourselves could not speak with the same conviction either as to the entire suppression of the commerce, or the advantage derived, at all events by the people, from the alleged abolition of the “shebeen.” The Highlanders cannot be expected (apparently) to drink beer, but to assume that because the Duke of Argyll has suppressed licensed houses that they will necessarily abstain from whisky, is like other attempts to make people good by Act of Parliament, assuming too much. The Fingal is of course allowed, though at a special price, to sell whisky to her passengers; and, as we have seen, affords a frequent opportunity for a little mild conviviality while she lies in harbour; and remote and lonely as is the island, the inhabitants are visited by an occasional cargo-boat, the Dunara Castle or the Hebridean, which carries cargo direct from Glasgow, a journey of from twenty-four to thirty hours, and have thus the opportunity of importing whatever they desire for their private consumption, possibly sharing it with friends. Not to seem censorious, nor to speak de haut en bas, I freely acknowledge that we obtained a bottle of excellent whisky with little difficulty, and with the gratitude that one feels for luxuries, when necessaries are somewhat scarce. One of us who had an appetite for dairy-food did very well (though I fear the cheese was Glasgow, not to say American), but the other, an eater of dinner rather than tea-meals got, after a time, what old women call ‘ rather low,’ especially as we were taking an immense amount of exercise and the sea air was strong and exhausting. We had forgotten the case of soda-water, and the water of the island was of quite too doubtful a quality to drink when not boiled, but after we possessed that bottle of whisky wo felt that we were in touch with life and not more, perhaps, than eighty miles from a lemon.

The size of the island is roughly estimated at about thirty-four square miles, but it is so indented by the sea, that the coast is probably over fifty miles long. It measures about thirteen miles from NE. to SW., and lies in latitude 56°. The population is about 2,000. The superficial contents are said to be about 17,000 acres; of which over 2,000 are water, rock, and marsh. There is but one road worth mentioning, which leads from a dairy-farm in the north-east of the island to the factors house in the middle, and which, at one point, touches the harbour, or rather runs away right and left of it in the shape of a V. The greater number of the inhabitants therefore have houses reached only by rough tracks across grass or sand. They will however tell you that they have “the best of good roads which is mended twice a day,” which means, that no one being in a hurry in Tyree, it is usual to go from point to point along the sea-shore.

For some distance along the best part of the road, one sees on either hand heaps of stones, all that now remain of comfortable homes on fertile ground, now part of one of the large farms, of which there are some half dozen in the island : three of them let to a Lowlander, and three being in the hands of the Duke’s factor or his relatives. The theory is, that by giving the land to strangers, the natives receive an object lesson in good farming, though how that is to benefit those with no land to farm, one fails to understand. The whole subject of the rights of land in the islands is a difficult one, and must have a chapter to itself.

The islanders, when questioned as to the ownership of the island, will almost invariably reply that it belongs to the Macleans, “but the Duke has it now whatever.” The island originally belonged to the Lord of the Isles, one of whom, says the story, had a daughter who married a Maclean of Duart or Dowart, whose ruined Castle is one of the most notable beauties of the Sound of Mull, and of whose family history most know something from Scott’s Lord of the Isles, if not from Miss Joanna Baillie’s Family Legends. When this lady was visited by her father he was surprised to see no linen cloth upon her table, and on learning that her husband’s estate yielded no lint, he endowed her with the island of Tyree to grow flax upon, which for a long period was successfully done. Thus the island passed into the hands of the Macleans, who kept it till what is euphemistically called the “forfeiture” of the clan, at the end of the seventeenth century. The island sympathies are still in every sense with the old family, and they have a good many songs and stories not exactly complimentary to the Cailean Mor and his clan. [Macdonald, author of the Agricultural Survey (1811), quaintly remarks: “The natives of Tyree are like the generality of their countrymen, a brave and hospitable race, and make a good figure among the other Hebrideans, notwithstanding many disadvantages to which they have long been subjected. The Duke of Argyll is proprietor of the whole island, his ancestors having obtained it in consequence of the misfortunes of the ancient and gallant family of Dowart.”] Over, and over again, when I was asking for stories from the people, I was told, with variations, that of a certain dark John Campbell, a hated tax-gatherer, who among other misdeeds seized a pair of plough-horses belonging to a man named Dewar, who was away at the smithy mending his plough. This led naturally to a fray between the two men, in which Dewar s policy was to drive Campbell backwards away from the sea and his boats, till they reached the burial ground of Soraby, where still stands a beautiful Celtic monument known as Maclean’s Cross. Here Campbell fell, but on begging for his life was allowed to rise, on giving his promise never to return to the island on the same errand. Meantime his boat had gone, and the horses with it, so, on his return to Inverary, he had to sell the horses and remit their value to their owner. The ghost of Black John still “walks” among the scenes of his former misdoings.

Tyree is the land of song and story, and when the people come to look upon one as a friend, they will never weary of telling the traditions of their island, stories of the Fians, or as they call them, the Fingalians, stories of the Maclean Chiefs, and the old Bards, stories too of Witch-craft and Second-Sight and Fairies. Many an evening have we listened to these tales, told in quaint, precise, literary English, which has nothing in common with the language of Donald and Mairi in the story books which the unsuspecting Saxon imagines to be pictures of Highland life. But of these tales we shall have more to say later. Tyree was the first chapter in our collection, and during this summer we came for the first time under the spell of a new life and a new world, and a new people with a history and a past of strange limitations. In our life, too, they took an interest which was something more than that kindly courtesy in which they never failed. Every Highlander is a gentleman, and in the poorest homes, under the roughest circumstances, we never met with anything less than a courtesy, kindliness, and what I can only call a savoir faire which one misses in many a drawingroom of the rich and great. They were interested in everything we would tell them, as to our aim and object in coming to the island, and as to our life and interests at home; but they were far too polite to show any curiosity except on subjects of acknowledged publicity, such as the health of the Queen or the fate of “Jack the Ripper” who, even seven years ago, was ancient history and of whom we could tell little.

Later, in other islands more remote, we fancied we could trace definite physiological distinctions, as typical of certain parts of the Hebrides, according as the Celtic, the Pictish, the Scandinavian, or even the Scot, predominated. In Tyree the types are less apparent, partly on account of this island’s much more frequent connexion with the mainland, than upon those more inaccessible. The yellow-haired Scandinavian (not to be confounded with the high-cheeked, yellow-haired laddie of the Lowlands) was we fancied distinguishable, and the dark-haired, bright-eyed Celt, again not to be confounded with the almost Jewish, aquiline type which we came to call “Pictish.”

The obviously Celtic, i.e. the Irish type, is very likely to be found in Tyree, for the island seems to have been early colonized from Iona, having served as a farm for the Monks. “Wherever there was a farm there was a cow, and wherever there was a cow there was a woman, and wherever there was a woman there was mischief! ” was their ungallant explanation of their choice of so distant a site. Tir li, the land of I or Iona, is the most commonly-received derivation of the name, though Tire, a country, and iy, an isthmus, is almost equally plausible, and, says Martin (in 1695), “the rocks in the narrow channel, seem to favour the etymology.” The “land of corn,” the land of barley, the flat or level land, and “the land of wood,” are also given as possible derivations, the last being less improbable than would appear at first sight; for, though not a stick as thick as one’s wrist grows on the island at present, there are remains of abundant woods, probably cut down on account of the scarcity of fuel, the peat-bogs which so adequately supply the outer Islands being exhausted, if they have ever existed, in Tyree. The author of the Agricultural Survey relates that in 1809 the islanders “exhausted one third of their annual industry in procuring peats”—mainly it is said from Mull. When, however, the population, or it may be the proprietor, of Mull demurred at such a tax upon them, and the outer Isles, alleged to contain 250 square miles of peat-bog, were found too inaccessible for such traffic, the natives of Tyree fell back upon coal, which is now imported at great expense from Glasgow by means of The Primrose and other special steamers.

The absence of peats should certainly be held, among other causes, to account for what we afterwards came to value as the very superior cleanliness of the persons and homes of the inhabitants of Tyree, as compared with any other island of the Hebrides. The burning of coal has necessitated the use of a chimney, and this, in most cases, has led to putting the fireplace at the side instead of in the middle of the room, so that the skin and clothes and belongings of the inhabitants do not become stained with peat smoke as in the other islands. This encourages a degree of “ house-pride ” which we never saw elsewhere, and the houses, though quaint enough, are often beautifully clean and orderly, both within and without.

They are built of rough unhewn stones piled up in large masses which might almost be called rocks. Within this wall is another separated from it by a clear space often of several inches, which, as well as all interstices, is then filled up with the fine white sand which is so abundant in the island. It will be easily seen that the walls are thus from a foot to eighteen inches wide at the top, and as the roof springs from the inner edge there is a considerable ledge all round it, which in the fertile climate of Tyree, soon becomes clothed with flowers and verdure, and has the effect of a garland round the roof; and as the house is only one story high, affords a resting-place for dogs and cats, and even a promenade for sheep and goats. The windows, for the same reason, are sunk in deep embrasures which are generally carefully whitened, and give an air of neatness and finish to the house. The most curious feature, however, is the roof, especially in the case of older houses built before increased facility of access made the purchase of timber a possibility.

In former times the only source of timber was a shipwreck, and there is a story of a pious man in the island of Barra, who used to pray, “If ships must in any case perish, do Thou, O Lord, guide their timber with their tackling and rigging to the island of Barra and the Sound of Watersay,” a prayer at which one wonders the less, when one knows that the roofs and doors of many a home depended upon the flotsam of the Atlantic ocean. Seen from inside, one notices all sorts of extraordinary devices to supply couplers, and old oars, parts of boats, and parts of masts are in common use. The thatch is of great thickness, and in view of winter storms is secured by old fishing nets, by means of which the roof is literally tied to the chimney, and pegged down to the projecting wall all round the house. As wood is again required for this last purpose, ingenuity is called into play, and we have seen the ribs of sheep thus utilized, and houses decorated with, as it were, the skeletons of departed mutton-chops.

Inside, the houses are warm and comfortable, the system of double walls, if somewhat clumsy, being probably warmer than that of mortar and hewn stones, in a climate which, though not cold, is as boisterous and humid as one might naturally expect upon a treeless sandbank in mid-Atlantic.

There is hardly any frost in the island, perhaps because it is not very far removed from the Gulf Stream, and snow falls seldom and never remains. The winds, however, are very violent, and as there is no pier it is quite common, even in summer, for the Fingal to have to return to Bunessan or Oban, unable to deposit her mail-bags or passengers. One inhabitant told us that his newspaper, which should reach him three times a week, often accumulated in the mail-bags to the number of thirty before he opened them, and Mr. Stanford, the late manager of the kelp industry, gave us another instance of the difficulties of traffic. He said that when a young man, in the prosperous days of kelp-making (of which more in a separate chapter), he would at times remain for some months on the island, and that on occasions of a family gathering in his father’s home, various members came from far-away places—I forget exactly where, but let us say America, India and the Continent — when it was impracticable for him to come from Tyree.

During this very summer of 1901, in the first week of June, during weather so fine that we spent the entire day out of doors, it happened that twice over the mail-boat, and twice the cargo-boat, came within sight of the island but was unable to land either passengers or mailbags. The small boats, accustomed to go out to meet the steamboats, were quite unable to put off, and for lack of a pier the larger boats could not come in. One boat indeed came into Gott Bay, east of the usual entrance, the site frequently recommended for the building of a pier, and remained there in shelter for some hours, landing a man and a horse. The boat was going north, but for the sake of the passengers put back to Mull, leaving them at Tobermory on the chance of their coming on in three days by the Fingal, the Fingal herself, with her crew, having also turned back from Tyree. After obtaining accommodation from Friday to Monday with considerable difficulty, the Mull hotel having, rightly or wrongly, refused to take in one passenger because she was ill, they were transferred to the Fingal, a boat with no saloon accommodation worth mentioning, and already occupied by two sets of passengers of her own, and once more, on a sunny June day, a landing was attempted. At first the case was considered hopeless, and we were told that when, for the third time, the unlucky sufferers were in danger of turning back, the sobs and screams of the women and children were piteous to hear. However, with great difficulty, a landing was effected, and very thankfully, but in a sadly exhausted condition, the unhappy passengers, and our delayed mail-bags, were put ashore.

Almost the entire wealth of the island is in cattle and horses, and it may easily be imagined what is the loss of life and limb in transit of stock. Often the farmers arrive in Mull or at Oban too late for the market, and have to sell their beasts at any price they will fetch. At the best of times it is of course obvious that good prices can seldom be obtained, as naturally the Tyree farmer is known to be anxious to sell when the alternative is the risk of attempting to convey his cattle once more to so inaccessible an island. The extreme necessity for a pier has of course been long obvious, and the case represented again and again as strenuously as possible. The Crofters’ Commission recommended it, engineers have pointed out more than one suitable site, the people themselves are ready and anxious i to contribute all the help they can in money or voluntary labour, and to submit to be heavily taxed in pier dues for a privilege which would be so very great an advantage to all concerned; it is even said that, as in the case of Uig in Skye, where an excellent pier has been put up under considerable difficulties in a very remote place, a Government grant would be given—but all to no purpose. The fact remains, that even in a sunny week in June, four times over, a landing may be impossible and discomfort and inconvenience and even heavy loss continue. Among other unfortunate results of the difficulty of transportation may also be mentioned the abandonment by the Company which undertook the working of the marble quarries at Balephetrish. The stone is of very beautiful appearance, judging from some dressed specimens in the possession of the late Mr. Edward Stanford, and is said to be varied and abundant, but, under the circumstances, competition with the mainland and the continent is of course out of the question. The fact is the more to be regretted as the quarries are said to have employed one hundred men.

With such advantages as excellent golf links, a comfortable hotel, miles of sands which are an ideal nursery for children, a happy hunting ground for the antiquarian, botanist and ornithologist, Tyree might become, as Mr. Stanford, who had known and loved the island for over thirty years used to say, “the sanitorium of the west.” That a proprietor should have the power to perpetuate a state of things contrary to every elementary law of civilization, is a relic of barbarism, a far greater anachronism than “black houses*’ or the Gaelic tongue.


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