Tiree Boat Builders

In 1802 the chamberlain of Tiree reported to the Duke of Argyll that one boat-carpenter had been given a croft in Scarinish, a township the Duke was trying to turn into a fishing village.  J. Brown with the dinghy 'Spindrift' at Scarinish  	harbourAs the fishing industry thrived on Tiree in the 19th century the number of island boat builders increased to provide the necessary services to the local fishermen. By 1851 there were seven boat builders on Tiree. In the second half of the century as the fishing boom began to decrease, so did the numbers of boat builders with only three left by 1881 – Duncan Sinclair, Baugh (aged 58), Alexander MacFadyen, Caolas (63) and Hugh MacArthur, Loch an Air, Milton (67).

There was a tradition of boatbuilding at Vaul which employed two well known families of boat builders – the MacDougall’s and the MacKinnon’s, Clann Eoghainn Ruaidh.

The Daisy“A family on Coll at the time had a particularly fast boat. A race was arranged between one of the MacDougall boats and the Coll boat, with the winner taking the loser’s boat as a prize. The Coll family cried off at the last minute. The MacDougall’s were famous for making boats quickly and the Coll fisherman said “if Tiree wins we lose our boat and livelihood, if Tiree loses they can build another boat in seven days!”

Tommy MacKinnon’s (Vaul) grandfather Iain was also a boat builder, he built the Joan recently gifted to the Tiree Maritime Trust by the family of the late Lachy MacArthur Mannal. This was the last boat made in Vaul and was built for Captain MacArthur, a deep sea sailor who brought back some Pacific oak for the keel which explains why she is so heavy.

Hugh MacKinnon, Tor a Bhalla, Ruaig built the Daisy in 1927 before he immigrated to Vancouver to be a joiner. She was sailed by Neil MacDonald (Iain MacDonald Skipinnish’s father) and Iain MacKinnon, Tor a Bhalla. The Daisy was gifted to the Tiree Maritime Trust in 2005 and has now been fully renovated.

Morag AnneMore recently there was another boat builder at Eite, Heanish – Calum ‘Dargo.

“He must have come here around 1938 from Connel. That’s what he called his house in Connel ‘Dargo. He was a good boat builder” (Angus Munn, Heanish).

It is believed that the Morag Anne may have been built by Calum ‘Dargo’. It isn’t known who the Morag Anne was built for but she was owned for many years by Donald MacKinnon (The Plumber). She was given to Mark Beese who gifted her to the Tiree Maritime Trust.

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