Long­ships on the Sand – an ex­plo­ration of Norse his­tory on the is­land of Tiree

The Oban Times - - LEISURE -

A new book, about Tiree, Long­ships on

the Sand, has pro­posed that the West Coast is­land was mainly Norse for at least four cen­turies.

This con­clu­sion comes from an analysis of place-names. The Ord­nance Sur­vey col­lected more than 600 pla­ce­names from Tiree – a higher den­sity than on any other West Coast is­land.

GP John Hol­l­i­day was, un­til re­cently, the is­land’s doc­tor for 30 years. In that time he col­lected more than 2,500 ad­di­tional place-names. Of these, around 250 seem to come from the Norse, al­though some are cun­ningly dis­guised.

Us­ing these names, Dr Hol­l­i­day has re­con­structed how the is­land was set­tled by the Vik­ings soon af­ter 800, what Scan­di­na­vian Tiree looked like and how Norse gave way to Gaelic again in the 14th or 15th cen­turies.

Re­set­tle­ment by the MacDon­alds, MacLeans and MacKin­nons was slow and piece­meal, with the town­ship of Hough re­tain­ing a large num­ber of Norse names, while nearby Mid­dle­ton con­tains none.

The book con­tains a full in­tro­duc­tion, deal­ing with the is­land it­self, me­dieval farm­ing prac­tices and the his­tory of the western seaboard of Scot­land dur­ing the pe­riod.

At 483 pages, it is not a light read, but the book adds to the work of Alan Mac­niven on Is­lay in show­ing that the is­lands of the south­ern He­brides were colonised early and com­pletely by the Vik­ing raiders of the ninth cen­tury, and that this in­flu­ence lasted much longer than pre­vi­ously re­alised be­cause of the is­land’s fer­til­ity and strate­gic lo­ca­tion on the sea lanes to Ire­land.

Long­ships on the Sand is the first book pub­lished by An Iodhlann Press, the pub­lish­ing arm of the is­land’s his­tor­i­cal cen­tre.

It is avail­able from out­lets on Tiree and from www.an­iodhlann.org.uk.

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