Skerryvore Lighthouse Exhibition
Fascinating new interpretative exhibition
at Hynish unfolds the tale of the
light on the 'big sea rock'
At first, it's a little difficult to believe that the story of
one of the most ambitiously imagined engineering feats of the 19th
Century should have chosen the most south-westerly point on the
Isle of Tiree on which to be played out.
But as the Hebridean Trust's new exhibition on the Skerryvore Lighthouse
in Hynish explains, not only was it imagined but brilliantly realised
by a member of one of the most famous Scottish families of that
The name Skerryvore itself derives from the Gaelic 'Sgeir'
meaning 'sea rock' and from 'mhor' meaning, simply, 'big'.
But while the name leaves little to the imagination, the same
can't be said of the design required to overcome the perilous
reef that in the early 1800s claimed more than 30 ships and
over 100 lives.
At the time, such creative drive was the province of only
one Scottish family, the rightly renowned 'Lighthouse Stevensons'.
The story behind the exhibition begins in 1837 with the arrival
on Tiree of one Alan Stevenson.
|Skerryvore Lighthouse Exhibition
Stevenson was the third generation of a family which, between
1786 and 1938, built no less than 156 lighthouses around the
coast of Scotland. Today, from the Signal Tower to the Egyptian
influenced Lighthouse Keepers' cottages or the prodigious
forces contained by the harbour's unique sluice system, every
inch of Hynish bears testimony to the former residence of
this industrious Victorian.
The story of the incredible challenges met by Stevenson is
told over 20 eye-catching interpretative panels in an exhibition
further enhanced by a scale model of Skerryvore. Original
artefacts such as the bell and foghorn along with original
book entries made and signed by Stevenson himself are also
Following a study of visitors to the island, every effort
has been made to make this aspect of the island's heritage
as interactive and accessible as possible. This is to appeal
to the predominantly AB social class that the report points
to as visiting Tiree in search of 'knowledge transfer'. In
this respect, providing a centre for such visitors forms part
of the Trust's mission to support the island economies - in
this case through increased tourism.
Almost half of the island's tourists are aged between 35
and 55 with the majority originating from the Scottish mainland
listing pursuits such as 'wildlife, walking and archaeology'
as priorities. This accounts for the immediate success of
the 'Hynish Heritage Trail' that invites visitors to take
a specially produced leaflet from the exhibition and continue
round the village viewing each of its landmarks in turn.
A monument to endeavour
Today, standing 138 feet tall with granite walls more than
nine feet thick, Skerryvore - Scotland's tallest lighthouse
- is a tribute to the Stevenson's legacy and that of the 150
men who battled the Atlantic for seven years to build it.
However, Stevenson's legacy extends to the design of lanterns,
lamps, radios and optics right through the storehouses, keepers'
homes and Hynish's giant sluice. Each was a unique solution
to the challenges of a unique environment.
It's no coincidence that the triumph of the Skerryvore Lighthouse
celebrated by the exhibition is so much in keeping with the
way that life has always been in the Hebrides.
This is why the work that your support enables the Hebridean Trust
to undertake first began at Hynish some 20 years ago. In that time
the Trust has restored the village to its former glory creating
a first class facility for children from inner cities to enjoy subsidised
holidays and introduced quality, rent-controlled local accommodation.
Over the years, Hynish may have attracted the attention of HRH
The Princess Royal, not to mention the BBC, but the real plaudits,
as always, belong to the Trust's supporters.
housed in Morton Boyd Hall, Hynish, is open daily and entrance
is free to the public
Supporters 'lift the roof' at the Sandaig Thatched Cottage
Restoration of the Signal Tower
Work will shortly begin on the complete renovation of the roofs
of Sandaig Thatched Cottage Museum in Tiree. Recent storms finally
put paid to much of the cottage's famous thatch and that of its
barn and byre. Local thatcher, Iain MacKinnon, has been engaged
to restore the museum's main attraction, hopefully before the weather
further threatens the museum's contents. These include wonderful
examples of the everyday tools required for island life in the 19th
|Sandaig Museum in Tiree
Of course, central to the success of the museum, which continues
to attract healthy numbers of Tiree's visitors is the contribution
made by its volunteer staff. Couples like Bella and Donald MacKinnon
and Ina and Charlie McLeish not only allow the museum to stay open
through the visitor season but along with Effie MacKinnon, Mary
Davies, Anneen Black and Jan Hunter they infuse the museum with
a captivating sense of the 'real'. Unfortunately, according to Mr
MacKinnon, whose family has been thatching the roofs of Tiree's
cottages for generations, the repairs needed are extensive with
each of the three buildings needing to be fully rethatched at a
cost of around £6,000.
One initiative that the Trust hopes will help secure at least part
of the funding is a competition to win a week's free accommodation
in Morton Boyd House. The Trust would be grateful for any support
you might be able to lend - and with raffle tickets priced at £5,
the odds are actually rather good!
Alternatively, you might be willing to sell a small number of tickets
within your immediate social circle. If either of these options
appeals, please contact the Trust on 01865 311468.
|The Signal Tower at Hynish
Touchwood Renovations has been engaged to carry out the much-needed
restoration of Alan Stevenson's famous Signal Tower in Hynish.
Once the only means of communicating with the keepers of the
Skerryvore Lighthouse some 10 miles out to sea, its past has seen
children's clothes hoisted up the flag pole to communicate the
news of new arrivals while recent times have seen local sheep
climbing the stairs to enjoy the view!
It's hoped that water damage in the Tower can be quickly put
right although scaffolding is likely to obscure much of the Tower
for several weeks.
information on the Signal Tower in Hynish and the Skerryvore
Lighthouse - see our Isle of Tiree web
Where a helping hand can be met with open arms
Monica Smith has been warden of Alan Stevenson House since
it first opened its doors in May 1991. But as the Trust's involvement
with the heritage of Hynish has grown, so has Monica's role.
This means that whether there's a problem with the hot water,
abandoned socks stewing in a drawer or just visitors needing
to borrow a cooking pot or some loo roll, it's usually Monica
or her deputy, Emma, who field the call.
But while Monica acknowledges her role as a font of knowledge
for some of the families who make Hynish a regular holiday location,
her real reward comes in the faces of those teenagers that have
benefited from visiting Alan Stevenson House over the last dozen
years or more.
Monica's days start early. By 7.30am she's driving across
Tiree and by 8.30am, breakfast choices are already laid out
at the centre. As Monica explains, the emphasis has always been
on self-reliance. After cleaning up after breakfast, each group
goes on to prepare its choice of packed lunch.
Visiting groups range from young to late teens and frequently
include those with learning difficulties or the mentally disabled.
A frequent denominator though, is the hardship and lack of opportunity
they can face back home.
"You can usually see the children start to change after
just a few days here," says Monica. "Often they start
out with the weight of the world on their young shoulders. After
a few days of activity though," she says, "they often
seem like different children."
|Monica (pictured above fourth from left)
with a group at Alan Stevenson House
It's the confidence and self worth that these teens take away
that makes all the difference. "It's not uncommon to see
tears on departure day," says Monica, "as many just
don't want to leave. I recently received a letter from a 24-year
old woman who'd visited 10 years ago but who still remembered
all our names. Her visit was clearly a turning point for her,"
"An experience like that leaves you hoping that all our
visitors make it to a happy ending," says Monica who recalls
a similar young girl visiting this summer. "When she arrived,
she was severely withdrawn but after a few days here she literally
started to beam. We later found out that she was the eldest of
four in a family with no father and where the mother was a registered
drug addict. The poor child had been the only real parent her
siblings had known but she was still only 14. It's heartbreaking,"
she says, "but it makes us all the more determined to try
and equip these children with the tools they need for a better
If you are able to support the Trust's crucial
work in this area in any way, please contact the Development Office
on 01865 311468.
Later this year will also see work start to improve disabled facilities
at Alan Stevenson House. Its unique attributes mean that the facilities
it offers for disadvantaged and inner city children to enjoy activity-based
holidays are in great demand. As part of an ongoing programme to
maintain and improve the Trust's offering here, a disabled toilet
is to be installed along with a number of other sensible additions
to improve disabled access.
As part of the Trust's commitment to improve 'interpretation and
access' to Hynish, work is underway on a car park, including two
disabled spaces, at Morton Boyd Hall to coincide with the recent
opening of the Skerryvore exhibition.
exhibition, housed in Morton Boyd Hall, Hynish, is open
daily and entrance is free to the public
work is being undertaken by Touchwood Renovations of Tiree using
environmentally friendly Golpla® - a plastic, erosion control
and grass reinforcement system.
We still have a few weeks/weekends available for the 2004 season
in both Morton Boyd House (sleeps up to 8) and Alan Stevenson
House (sleeps up to 24) in Hynish, Isle of Tiree. Families and
couples welcome. You can check the latest availability for our
accommodation by visiting our web site at www.hynishcentre.co.uk
information on Tiree
us your address - we will send you a copy of our full
colour Tiree Brochure.
Study groups flock to Hebridean breeding ground
Since completing the purchase of the Treshnish Isles in April 2000,
the Hebridean Trust has continued the gradual rollout of its management
plans for the archipelago. The uninhabited islands lie to the west
of the Isle of Mull and despite the fact that none of the eight
islands has any facilities, visitor numbers in recent years have
continued to climb to current estimates in the region of 10,000
|Bird survey expedition group 2004, lead by
Simon Walker (pictured back row third from left).
The management plan sets out to provide protection for the islands'
unique confluence of geological, archaeological and wildlife interests
while ensuring that the islands continue to make a full contribution
to the economy of the region. To this end, the Trust is currently
exploring the feasibility of a grazing management plan that could
potentially buttress both these aims.
Key threats facing the delicate natural balance of the islands
include the potential impact of unmonitored and growing tourism
on the indigenous seabird colonies, the errant introduction of harmful
alien species and, of course, the threat on sustained marine pollution.
Key species of note include wintering barnacle geese from the shores
of Greenland, around 5% of the total guillemot population estimated
to nest in Scotland and around 1% of the world population of storm
petrels. But while this smallest of sea birds, like the famous local
puffins, faces potential risk due to its slow breeding patterns
and 40 year life span, of still more significance in conservation
terms is likely to be the significant numbers of manx shearwaters
that make their home on the Treshnish Isles - one of the four main
colonies of the Hebrides which crucially represent almost all of
the world population of this intriguing winged fisherman.
With ever increasing visitor interest in this remote avian paradise,
the need to find adequate funding for the implementation of the
Trust's conservation management programme has never been more pressing.
Puffin © Stanton
Trust benefits from Moore guidance
month marks the six-month anniversary of the appointment of Sarah
Moore to the post of executive director of the Hebridean Trust where
she now leads all ongoing fundraising, conservation and renovation
projects. Previously Sarah worked for more than a decade in a number
of demanding and high profile marketing roles within the UK's insurance
industry but now reports that she "couldn't be happier"
in her new role. "The role combines a number of demanding business
activities," she says, "but I have to admit that I've
never felt as well rewarded as I do now." Although based in
its Oxford Development Office, Sarah has already become a familiar
figure on Tiree and the surrounding islands and found herself making
many new friends when she recently holidayed on Tiree with her young
In recognition of his years of patient service to the Trust, former
director, Ian Rees, has been awarded an honorary life membership.
The Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank Ian for all
his efforts over the years and to wish him well in his new life
which sees him taking to the open seas.
The Trust would also like to extend similar thanks along with an
honorary life membership to Jane Moody, of AH Moody & Son Ltd.
Jane has consistently demonstrated a commitment and dedication to
the Trust's work without which numerous special projects would not
have been possible.
The Hebridean Trust Trustees:
Michael Stanfield (Chairman)
Professor Ian Boyd
The Hebridean Trust
North Parade Chambers
75a Banbury Road
Oxford OX2 6PE
Tel/Fax: 01865 311468
|For more information
on Tiree and the Hynish
Centre please send us your address - we will send
you a copy of our full colour Tiree Brochure.
Join the Friends of the Hebridean Trust
We need your support! We invite you to join the Friends of The
Hebridean Trust where you will be helping us to conserve the unique
Hebridean way of life and environment. Your membership or donation
can help develop new projects, to ensure future generations will
continue to enjoy a rich and varied experience of life in the Hebrides.
See our pages on membership
and learn more about the other ways you can
help the Hebridean Trust.
The Hebridean Trust
North Parade Chambers
75a Banbury Road
Tel/Fax: 01865 311468