Survey Visits Ross of Mull Quaries
At the end of May members of The Hebridean Trust Council of Management
began a 10-day survey trip including visits to our projects on Canna,
Tiree and the Treshnish Isles and a visit to The Ross of Mull. We
managed to cram in a lot of activity including meetings with NTS
representatives and the building surveyor on Canna.
We also met with people from Heritage Engineering, Bob Reekie a
retired curator from National Museum of Scotland and Chairman of
the Lead mining museum and Richard Gillanders of The British Geological
Survey to discuss future projects at Hynish. We agreed the format
for the forthcoming season with Andy Spink from Hebridean Pursuits.
On the Treshnish Isles we carried out further studies at Lunga
but were prevented from landing on The Dutchman by a heavy swell.
We also visited the old Northern Lighthouse Board quarries at
Camus Tuath on the Ross of Mull. This was the source of the pink
granite that was worked at Hynish to build the Skerryvore Lighthouse.
We were greeted by a friendly group from The Iona Community who
were using the quarry for abseiling practice. The industrial archaeology
is fascinating when viewed in conjunction with Hynish. The quarrymen's
barracks are naturally of a similar design to Hynish but they
have not been restored and the religious community lives in the
retreat without the modern conveniences of electricity and running
Focus on Canna - looking
to the future
|View of Canna Harbour and Compass Hill
Canna has a remarkably varied heritage as diverse as nesting golden
eagles, puffins and corncrakes, early Christian archaeology and
John and Margaret Campbell's dedication to the study of the Gaelic
oral tradition. The Hebridean Trust has been working with the community
on Canna and The National Trust of Scotland for the last eight years
to help increase investment in the island.
While critical of the lack of a clear plan for the island, an interim
report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise recognizes
that few remote communities benefit from the level of stability
that National Trust for Scotland ownership has given to Canna.
The report noted that Canna faces the apparent Catch 22 of declining
island populations: The lack of investment has speeded the fall
in population and without reinvestment the island will lack the
infrastructure needed to support any increase in the population.
While we commend this report for highlighting the need for well-planned
investment in Canna, it has not fully recognised the potential of
the St Edward's Centre to provide income from visitors.
St Edward's has the capacity to generate 1200 bed nights of accommodation
based on our seasonal occupancy at The Hynish Centre, which should
generate an income of £25,000 - £30,000 full board based
on a cost of £21 to £25 per night. This is enough to
employ a full time warden and make a substantial contribution to
the maintenance costs of the building.
In the case of any historic building maintenance costs are relatively
high but should be offset against indirect benefits such as the
preservation of the island's heritage and the morale boost of a
landmark renovation project. Income from the heritage value of historic
buildings should be maximized and currently there are no grants
available for their maintenance. The St Edward's Centre and Canna
have a fascinating history and any plan for economic development
of the island should look at how this can be used to provide income.
The HIE report also looks at the need for investment in key infrastructure,
which islanders have identified as including 2 more homes and a
road and road bridge for Sanday. The challenge for funding organisations
is to find a place for these works within their remit. In the case
of Canna it requires imagination to realize that while homes and
roads may not have the natural appeal of historic buildings for
capital grants, they form a necessary part of the fabric of Canna's
The Hebridean Trust is now in talks with the directorate at The
National Trust for Scotland to find a way forward for investment
in the island.
St. Edward's Centre Survey
Following on from Newsletter 4, I can report that the scaffolding
was erected on the tower at St Edward's Centre in April following
a full thermographic survey of the building.
|Canna and back in a day - Seafari Adventures
high Speed RIB helped us make the best use of consultants'
time during the survey work
This is a technique using infrared light to produce thermal
images and see inside the fabric of a building and has allowed
us to see the exact areas where water is penetrating giving
the architects the information they require to specify remedial
The contractor now has a team back on site and they have begun
these works. It is hoped to prevent any further damage to the
interior finishes of the building. Tackling this problem has stretched
The Hebridean Trust's resources and it has certainly been a time
where we have been thankful for the support of our friends.
|The west gable of St. Edward's
showing water penetration at coping stones
Searching for the lost history of Hynish
- can you help
News from Tiree, May 1890 something
(Please note that this article is a product of
my imagination and was written to try to give a sense of how someone
writing at the turn of the last century might view the past achievements
and future prospects for Hynish - Ed.)
After 50 years of use, The Northern Lighthouse
Board Shorestation at Hynish, Isle of Tiree has been abandoned in
favour of Erraid on Mull. A lighthouse commissioners' representative
cited the unceasing march of technology as the primary cause for
the station's demise. "When we began working at Hynish steam
power was only just coming into general use. The development of
the marine steam engine has revolutionised travel at sea and will
allow us to operate more efficiently from a centralised base on
the Ross of Mull." The representative denied suggestions that
the constant silting of the harbour at Hynish had been a factor.
"The sluice mechanism at Hynish has proved more than adequate
in maintaining a clear harbour that can be accessed at any time
from 3/4 full tide" he assured us.
He also denied suggestions that the rise
of steam power meant that the Skerryvore rocks no longer presented
a hazard to navigation and that the lighthouse would soon be abandoned.
"The Northern Lighthouse Board will still maintain the signal
tower at Hynish to facilitate communication with the lighthouse
crew but the remaining buildings will revert to The Duke of Argyll".
The extensive legacy NLB leave to the Duchy and the crofters of
Tiree include buildings that represent the best in modern architectural
science, in sharp contrast to the smoke filled thatched dwellings
that have been used traditionally on the island. It is hoped that
these sturdy buildings will provide good quality homes for many
years to come
We need your help...
The Hebridean Trust is looking for any stories about life at Hynish
over the years to include in a small interpretation centre. Occupation
of the village since the 1890s forms as much a part of its history
as the original lighthouse construction. Does anyone know anything
about work at the signal tower- we understand that it was manned
for many years until radio became a trustworthy form of communication?
Who lived at Upper Square? Who used the harbour? - There is evidence
that the original crane was replaced. Recently we had a letter from
a former resident at Upper Square (see below), which is just the
kind of information we are looking for so we would love to hear
from you. Please write to Ian Rees at the address at the end of
Former resident of Upper Square, Alistair MacNeill, wrote to us
in July saying how he admired the restoration work at Hynish. Mr
MacNeill commented that he had not visited the island for 16 years
and that he was fascinated to see the transformation of the village.
"It was like stepping back in time in more than one way and
very pleasing to see the excellent work of restoration being carried
out by people who included a former classmate, John Fletcher from
Balemartin." Mr MacNeill grew up in Upper Square from 1941
and returned on holidays until 1986. He remembers helping his father
reslate the store rooms where the Duke of Argyll's coaches used
to be kept - now Alan Stevenson House providing high quality hostel
accommodation and venue for Monica's famous Sunday Teas.
|A plan taken from Alan Stevenson's account
of the construction of Skerryvore lighthouse showing the elevation
and section of the dock at Hynish
Lunga House Mice
Lunga is the largest of The Treshnish Isles, purchased in April
2000 by The Hebridean Trust with the aim of providing for their
management as an important natural habitat for diverse species including
thousands of breeding seabirds, grey seals and a wide variety of
flora and fauna. Lunga is visited by large numbers of people who
are interested in its natural history. As well as putting together
a management plan for the islands The Hebridean Trust is encouraging
and actively participating in their use as a scientific resource.
Professor Ian Boyd, scientist and member of The Hebridean Trust
Council of Management has recently established that house mice still
thrive in large numbers on Lunga - despite the fact that it has
been well over a century since anybody lived there. Experience elsewhere
suggests that house mice normally do not survive without the presence
of human habitation.
On St Kilda, the house mouse died out when the population left.
However this appears not to be the case on Lunga. One theory explaining
this is that, unlike St. Kilda, Lunga has no field mice.
|The ruins of the abandoned village on Lunga
provide importand nesting habitat
It is possible that the house mice cannot compete with field mice
unless there is human habitation. Physically the two species are
very similar but this summer we were able to make a positive identification
of a Lunga house mouse. Further study of the population is required
to understand its adaptation to life on Lunga including the possibility
that it has develoloped a seasonal breeding cycle.
Upper Square nearing completion
We are now coming to the end of the Upper Square project and
tenants will soon be moving into the four cottages. Perhaps this
is a good time to take a look at where this project fits into the
wider scheme of things.....
|High quality houseing at Council pegged rents
at Upper Square will help towards the revival of the Tiree economy
The renovation of the Lightkeepers Cottages at Upper Square will
provide very high quality accommodation at rents pegged to the council's
own housing stock. But this is not a stand-alone project. Rather
it forms an intrinsic part of a strategy for Hynish, with wider
implications. Before beginning the project we studied the overall
strategy adopted by Argyll and Bute Council for the region. This
identified several key issues:
The need to provide a sound foundation for economic growth. The
region is made up of many distinctive local centres with no one
dominant town. Tiree is a classic example of this with its spread
The Economy of the region is characterised by a large primary sector
related to fishing and farming, and a large tourist sector. Employment
tends to be seasonal and there is a high proportion of temporary
The economy of the area is not performing well in comparison with
the Scottish economy as a whole. The problems of seasonality and
low pay are deep rooted. Cost of living is high in remote rural
and island communities. There are however areas of opportunity.
The investment in further education provided by Argyll College,
with its link to Tiree Business Centre and the growth of the tourist
sector have good potential.Hynish was nearly uninhabitable 20 years
ago and will now increase from 14 to 26 residents with the completion
of Upper Square, including a family moving in from the mainland.
All the rents have been set to Argyll and Bute Council levels to
increase the stock of low cost affordable housing on the island.
We have also created capacity for up to 32 tourist visitors at
The Hynish Centre, providing local employment (1 full time, 1 part
time and 1 seasonal post) and supporting other local businesses.
Restoring heritage improves the status of the island as a tourist
attraction and provides a morale boost for the local economy. Landmark
investments such as this help encourage further interest in the
island from investors and government funding agencies, showing that
serious investment can be achieved, providing far reaching benefits.
This newsletter includes
photographs courtesy of Michael Stanfield, Bill Revie, ARP
Lorimer and Associates, Ian Rees, Gavin Shaw and Heather Green
|For more information
on Tiree and the Hynish Centre
please send us your address for a copy of our full colour