A Trip to Tiree Island in Scotland

--------------- Forwarded Message ---------------

From: "tyreetours.xtra", INTERNET:xtr60251501@xtra.co.nz
To: Robert & Mary Tyree, 71151,2020
Date: Sun, Aug 4, 1996, 21:40

RE: The New Zealand Tyrees


Many thanks for the update on the US contingent! Makes very interesting reading, especially when new information appears on the family.

Attached is a story which my mother in law, Doreen Tyree, wrote to the NZ Genealogy Society for their newsletter. They printed it in total with over 12 photos! Bob & Doreen went over to the UK last July to evade our winter, and came back with more Tyree knowledge.

As a result of the article, Mother Tyree has made contact with two 'new' cousins in New Zealand, I think on her side of the tree, but it was a worthwhile trip finding out the historic graveyards and taking rubbings to add the collection of memorabilia.

Hope you are well, enjoying the heat of the summer - we have a temporary reprieve in the winter here, the pond has defrosted, the sun is shining, and we even have had over 12 degrees for a couple of days in a row.

The article follows.


Lu & Pete Tyree



"You must be mad ! Drive out of Heathrow in a rental car? You've got a death wish!" So went the kindly opinions proffered by our loved ones. Others said "Piece of cake - you'll do it on your ear"

We had decided against joining a genealogy tour, and as we had a fair idea of what we wanted to see and do, we had to make a decision; do we go on our own? Or do we flag it away and put it in the too hard basket. We drew a deep breath and said let's go for it. The family told us later that they had held grave fears for our safety and were relieved when the first hours of our arrival in London passed without hearing of our demise. I think they imagined that a thundering great pantechnicon would take us out before we'd driven five miles.

We flew direct Christchurch/London with a three hour stopover at Singapore - 26 hours crammed in economy - and emerged at Heathrow at 5.30.am on a late July, 1995, Saturday. A courtesy coach took us to Avis where we picked up our Fiat Tipo, and by 7 a.m. we were heading out of the airport precinct bound for our first stop in Northamptonshire. It was very warm - the U.K. had already had weeks of heatwave - and after one false start when we ended up at Windsor (Doreen - " there's Windsor Castle !" Bob - " what! This is west. We're supposed to be going north !!) - we got on to the infamous M25 London Orbital and then the equally infamous M1. We had slept only fitfully on the plane but now we just had to get on with the new day and forget jet lag. Bob drove while I navigated and we settled in to what was to become a routine.

We had excellent maps and a copy of the U.K. road code, all of which we had studied endlessly at home. Sure, it was a multi-lane highway but there were plenty of road signs and when we needed to change lanes drivers immediately and courteously let us in. The motorway speed limit is 70mph (113kms), so there is no time to dither. Lesser roads were 60mph (96kms) and towns 30mph (48kms). We turned off at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, gasping for a cuppa in the heat, and spoke to a lady watering her garden. She said there'd be no-one open in the village yet - it was 9am ( felt like late afternoon !) and she asked us into her cool living room while she made us a cup of tea. We met such kindness everywhere we went.

It was hard to grasp that we were in England taking tea in an English village. Our new friend Denise couldn't believe we had left Heathrow only two hours before. It was all a bit unreal.

A few more miles along the picture-book lanes with thatched roofed cottages and we came to our destination, Great Houghton, on the outskirts of Northampton City. My maternal great great grandfather, John Van Paine, was born here in September 1800. I had with me a very old photo marked "Dear Father's Parish Church", so it gave me a great thrill to see that the church was still there with its distinctive spire, quite unchanged. It was built in 1754. We met the verger and his wife - Frank and Doreen Gibson - living across the road, and spent the rest of the day with them exploring the church and graveyard. They very generously offered us a bed for the night, as we were beginning to get owl's eyes with fatigue. More kindness to total strangers.

Next morning, we met several people coming to church and one lady, on learning we were ancestor hunting, said she had the Great Houghton Parish Registers at home on loan from the Northampton Archives while she was transcribing them! She fetched them for us and I found the christening of John Van Paine and those of his siblings and, most exciting, the names of their parents, William and Elizabeth, so going back another generation. William and Elizabeth's grave was in the church yard under shady trees, together with that of William, their son, brother of my John Van. At Xmas time, Doreen wrote to me ".... I have made up two small holly sprays to put by the Paine graves the day before Xmas Eve. I shall think of you when I do it. I thought it would make a link from you to yours. I shall do it each year for you and make sure the graves are kept tidy."

From Great Houghton our route took us north to York, Hadrians Wall at Housesteads, Northumberland, and over the border at Carter Bar into Scotland to Jedburgh. Scotland was a joy - the people, the scenery, the continuing hot weather, the good roads. We made our way to the beautiful south-west coast heading for Oban, the port for the Hebrides - the Western Isles. Bob's family legends said that the Tyrees originally came from the Isle of Tiree and we had always wanted to go there. In fact we neither proved nor disproved the story, but we really enjoyed the visit to 'our' island. We took the car onto the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry 'Lord of the Isles' at 5pm, ate and slept on board, and sailed at 6am next morning. The huge hold was packed with cars, trucks, bikes, motor- bikes, and general cargo, and as we pulled away from the wharf I fervently hoped we weren't going to sail into a North Atlantic gale. There was no need to worry. The amazing summer - the hottest and driest since 1727 - just shimmered on day after day.

The voyage to Tiree took just over 4 hours. We sailed nor'west up the Sound of Mull calling in to Tobermory, a picturesque little town with 18th century stone houses curving around the sheltered harbour. On around Ardmore point, then south-west heading towards the sister islands of Coll and Tiree. The coast of Mull was on our left as we made our next call in to Arinagour, at Coll, where some of the cars, hikers and bikers disembarked, and supplies for the island were off-loaded. It was a very low, bare and rocky land, with the bedrock striated by glaciation.

Our first sight of Tiree was of Ben Hynish, at 462 feet the highest point on the island, topped by the 'golf ball', a radar station for tracking the in-coming trans-Atlantic flights.

It wasn't long before we were approaching the wharf at Scarinish, and I looked across to the long curving beach of pure white shell sand, Gott Bay, (Traigh Mohr, the great beach), and pinpointed Tiree Lodge Hotel standing in splendid isolation on the flower-starred machair (grassland). This hotel was to be our home for the next 5 days.

Tiree is the most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides, lying in the open Atlantic. It's Gaelic name, Tir Iodh, means land of corn, and it was once known as the Granary of the Isles. It has the highest sunshine records in the U.K., but it is also the windiest. It is so flat that it bears the Gaelic nickname 'Tir fo Thuinn' - land below the wave-tops. On very early maps the island was spelt as our name, Tyree.

It has a population of about 800, and crofting is the main source of income. Its width varies from 1-6 miles across and it is about 11 miles long , an area of about 30 square miles. Tiree has been occupied since 800 BC and its history includes settlement by followers of St. Columba, and occupation by the Vikings, many of the place names having Norse origins. From the late 17th century Tiree became the property of the Campbells, Dukes of Argyll.

There are good sealed roads to all corners of the island, but strictly single lane. Every so often there are little passing bays called 'pockets', which are marked with black and white striped posts called 'stobs', which are mostly in sight of each other. It is courteous driving to draw into a pocket to let the on-comer pass. If you are equally apart from a pocket one or the other will flash his lights to say "you first" and you are always rewarded with a cheery wave.

This limerick occurred to me ---


There was an old couple called Tyree
from Mosgiel, out on the Taieri.
Said Doreen to Bob
as they drove past a stob
We're Tyrees from Taieri on Tiree!


In the time we were there we clocked up about 90 miles, exploring, and meeting people. They were interested in our name and where we came from. We were shown over the High School at Cornaig where all the island children attend from 5 years to University Entrance. There are 130 pupils who enjoy excellent facilities including music, art, computer studies and Gaelic.

Low and windswept, Tiree has no trees. We watched fascinated, at dusk, as flocks of birds 'went to bed' in the machair, swooping down to roost as though at a given signal. There is a 9 - hole golf course at Vaul but no playing is allowed on the Sabbath.

"Golf and football were popular in the lawless Hebrides,in spite of the Scots Parliament, which in 1457 had 'decreted and ordained that futeball and golf be utterly cryit doun and nocht usit', for golf led to neglect of archery, and football to riot."('The Islands of Western Scotland' W.H. Murray.1978).

All too soon the time came to join the long queue of cars at Scarinish and be expertly sardined into the ferry. Friends we had made waved cheerily from the wharf and then it was farewell to our island. "Haste ye back", they say here - yes please! It is truly a magic place.

From Oban we continued exploring northern Scotland, using their brilliant Tourist information Service all the way. We would find the 'I' sign in a town and do a 'BABA' = Book A Bed Ahead. Ringing ahead to the Information Centre at your next destination they would book a bed and breakfast, which meant you could take your time getting there knowing you had somewhere to lay your head at the end of the day. You are charged the phone call, and 10% of the first day's tariff which is deducted from your bill. This service is available throughout the U.K. and Southern Ireland. We avoided staying in cities; for instance we stayed at Kirkcaldy and went into Edinburgh each day by train over the Forth Bridge.

B&B's cost us on the average #18 each a night for an en-suite and breakfast, and we stayed in every type of house you could imagine. The hosts were without exception super people, friendly and helpful. Once, in Scotland, the daughter of the house was just finishing servicing our room. " Mum will be home from church soon," she said "and she'll love to come and have a wee blether." And a delightful blether we had.

It amazed me to watch Bob, a porridge and toast man, tuck into a full English breakfast each morning - eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, fried bread, tomatoes. " I need it - I'm driving" he justified as he stoked it away. He even tried kippers. I was more restrained.

We went to John o'Groats and gazed over to Orkney, down again through lovely country to visit an elderly cousin in Aberfeldy, on to Kilmarnock, Ayr and Girvan to the port of Stranraer, where we drove onto the Stena Sealink ferry and sailed over to Larne in Northern Ireland.

Bob is quarter Irish by descent, and we found the little village of Rockcorry in County Monaghan where his maternal great grandmother, Kate Donnelly, nee King, was born C1834. The place was unchanged by the passing years, and a retired local school teacher showed us the school Kate would have attended, built of solid stone, still a school today.

We took day trips from Monaghan town to Belfast and Dublin by comfortable buses, which gave us a spell from driving and navigating. The Irish countryside is very beautiful. On to Galway, Killarney, Cork; passing through towns with the familiar names of Wanaka's streets - Youghal, Dungarvan, Ardmore; then Tramore, Waterford, and the port of Rosslare, where we drove onto the fast SeaLynx catamaran, had our Fiat slotted in amongst the rows of cars, and had a fast trip over to Fishguard, Wales.

Our next genealogical stop was at Nailsea, just a few miles south-west of Bristol, where my Coomb(e)s ancestors came from. The beautiful old 15th century church, the Holy Trinity, has an ancient graveyard, and genealogists will appreciate the wonderful feeling of laying your hand on your ancestor's gravestone - 'John Coombs, of this Parish, Yeoman, who departed this life the 30th of Octor, 1729, aged 46 years'. My paternal 6x great grandfather. His wife Penelope, nee Godwin, is buried here too. A rather macabre motto was carved at the top of the stone - 'No one is truly happy before death'. Well I don't know about that!

While we took photos and transcribed other Coombs' headstones a lady passed by who took an interest in what we were doing. She was Bid Wheeler of the Vicarage of the 'newer' church (1843) on the other side of Nailsea, and she has proved to be a good friend. Not only has she done a great deal of research into the Coombs history and sent me masses of information, but she also put me in contact with Peter Wright of the Historical Society, who has sent over booklets, photos,etc. Half an hour earlier or later and Bid and I would not have met. That's the joy of genealogy - coincidences become commonplace.

Back to the tourist mode and down to Lyme Regis, Bournemouth and Portsmouth. What a thrill to see Henry V111's 'Mary Rose', and Nelson's 'Victory'. Then the final leg up the M3 to turn the car in to Avis at Heathrow. Since our initial visit the authorities had cut back the speed limit on the Orbital M25 to 60mph to try to improve traffic flow at a less frantic pace, so that helped a lot. Even so it was a great relief to make our way through amazing traffic and an almost overwhelming conglomeration of road signs straddling the umpteen-lane motorway, into the huge complex of Heathrow and actually find Avis, and hand our trusty Fiat over, unscathed.

We took a 'hotel shuttle' bus into London and we were dropped off at the Tavistock in Bloomsbury, and from this base we had 11 days to walk and walk and look and learn. A very handy location, we were only a few blocks from the British Museum, 15mins walk from St. Catherine's House, another 10mins and you're at the Thames.

My John Van Paine spent his adult life in the Horseleydown, Bermondsey area as a maker of sails, marquee tents, flags and banners; Bob's lot were in the Parish of Westminster, as bootmakers and photographers. Great Uncle James Tyree (uncle of the Nelson photographers William and Fred), had exhibited photographs in the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition, and we found mention of this in the Guildhall Library. So we had a wonderful time finding and walking in the streets where they had lived and worked and the churches where they were christened and married. We did all the touristy things too. We loved London.

Throughout our trip we had quite significant concessions to tourist attractions because we were 'senior citizens' (73 & 66). No-one ever asked for an ID. I suppose one look was enough.

Our seven weeks drew to a close in mid September with a noticeable feeling of autumn arriving. It was still hard to believe that we had travelled so far and wide, just the two of us. One of the important things was that we looked after each other. Sound soppy? But I knew we could go nowhere if Bob became unable to drive, and he knew life would be quite complicated if I wasn't sitting beside him, forefinger glued to the map, calling out the road signs. We tried to remain in smile mode in times when we were a bit stressed and tired and inclined to address each other through gritted teeth.

I was proud of the way Bob drove nearly 3000 miles; belting along the 'M' motorways with aplomb, negotiating the A-roads with their fiendish roundabouts, and tootling along the narrow country lanes. The little Fiat never faltered, and we had only 3-4 wet days in the seven weeks of hot weather. We were deeply contented to have been where our ancestors had lived out their lives, and the places where they were laid to rest. We felt we really knew them now.

Our hotel deal included a private car ride out to Heathrow on our departure, which was good, but airports are the same world wide, and there's no escape from the mind-numbing waiting. To my embarrassment every time Bob went through the electronic scanner he set off all the bells and whistles - his belt buckle, glasses, shaver, pen and asthma huffer, - the scanner got them all! Also it freaked me out to know that our Megatop plane held over 400 people. It was great to come in over our Southern Alps at last, land safely, and grin at each other - we did it! Up the Oldies!

However, Lady Luck, or Fate, or who-ever it is makes sure we don't get too cocky about ourselves, had the last word.

We drove into Mosgiel on the Taieri, turned into our drive - and ran over our neighbour's cat.



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