This past weekend served as a reminder that there is more to life on Tiree than surf and sand.
Tiree is justifiably proud of the white sandy beaches that surround the island and the surf that breaks on its shores. Little wonder then that year after year many return for their annual holiday, some even more frequently.
Unlike the Isle of Skye there is no fixed link to the mainland so the number of tourists is limited by the capacity of the ferry and the twin otter aircraft. Again, unlike some other islands there is not a shuttle service back and forth from the mainland. Other than on Saturdays in the height of the summer, when there are two sailings, there is only one crossing a day.
There is no doubt that tourism is important for the island’s economy, but crofting is even more important. Tiree is the most fertile of the Hebrides and it 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.
When visiting the island, whether on foot, cycle, car or motor home, it is easy to forget that for those who live here it is their workplace. For many this means having more than one place of employment. For example you may work your croft but you also work at the pier or as a postman -or even at all three jobs.
Last Saturday was the August sheep sale which is held at the Rural Centre at Crossapol.
The auctioneer and buyers come across from the mainland. As well as experiencing the uncertainties that all famers are facing at present, the island’s crofters have the additional expense of high ferry charges both for any imported feedstuffs or new stock as well as the cost of shipping livestock to the mainland.
Number plates with a touch of humour
The sight of the visiting livestock trucks was a reminder of just how important crofting and farming is to the island’s economy and the livelihood of many.
Our Sunday lunch, shared with friends, was yet another reminder of just how important agriculture is to the island. On this occasion it was beef from Ruaig but in the past it has included highland beef from the Balemartine Fold. Both are excellent and come highly recommended.
People make Tiree and many of our number are crofters, farmers and fishermen.
This is Life on Tiree.