The Parable of Tiree’s Houses


Today finds us on the mainland, staying with family, before heading south to meet up with our grown-up children in London. By force of habit we look on-line at the weather on Tiree and see that, in common with much of the West Coast of Scotland, they are experiencing wind speeds in excess of 70mph. Confirmation if any was needed that we made a wise decision to go off the island early, as the ferry is cancelled. It is reassuring to know that we can commit our home, church family and neighbours to our Father, God.

While we are off the island, there is to be a consultation in An Talla, the Community Hall, ‘TIREE A Good Place to Live, Work and Play?’ It is an attempt to answer the pressing question, ‘The population is declining and changing. How can we increase the working age population?’

As relatively recent residents and without either a business background or mindset is there anything we can contribute to the discussion? Perhaps one thing we can bring to the discussion is the Parable of Tiree’s Houses.

There are archaeological remains and ruins, some much older than others, There are what are called ‘Traditional’ houses that would have been modern at one time. They are vernacular architecture, built as a consequence of long experience and using locally available materials. Then there are the various adaptations of the traditional houses; the spotty or pudding houses, the felt roofs and corrugated roofs. There are what I would term the houses built for the old professions, There are the corrugated houses and the modern houses, some sympathetic to their location and others not so.

Like the archaeological remains and the ruins scattered about there is evidence of employment long gone. The traditional houses point to the traditional means of employment, making use of the island’s resources. Over time such means of employment have learned to adapt. Some adaptions failed while others have succeeded. The houses for the old professions, speak of employment such as medical and education. Finally, like the modern houses, there are modern means of employment which ought to be sympathetic to their location. When Tiree is connected to the fibre network it will not only transform employment opportunities we already have, it ought to make new opportunities possible.

It is natural for children to want to leave home and widen their horizons, but we also need some to want to return home to Tiree. To raise the working age population there must be employment opportunities. If the employment issue is not addressed Tiree will become a museum or a destination for wild life trips. Houses or employment, we need a good mix of the traditional and the new.