Just returned from the second leg of annual leave catching the last of the summer wind on Tiree. I had intended to blog from there, but the first thing I learned is that everything is provisional on Tiree – a sort of ‘God Willing’ that extends to internet comnnections as much as whether the ferry will run or the papers arrive. Waterstones had planned a book sale at the Community Centre with the Women’s Guild serving teas, but the ferry bringing the treasure broke down.
But Tiree was a treasure to discover in itself – glorious sandy beaches, and well-kept crofts, and lots of ‘heritage’. I had not realised that Tiree was the granary for Iona, as it has flat and relatively fertile land. Indeed it was a sort of penal monastic colony of Iona, for ‘wayward monks’ (= ??) were sent there for hard agricultural labour. How did the monks acquire the land on Tiree in the first place? Donation? ‘Royal’ grant? We were not told.
Ruined Celtic chapels scatter the island. You can get a real sense of spiritual colonisation, with crosses engraved on the local stones – as above at ‘St Patrick’s Temple’ on the edge of the shore. But notice that it is a ‘Latin’ cross, not a Celtic one. This means it was probably carved after the triumph of Roman observance over Celtic in 664. Another early cross (below) has Celtic on one side and Roman on the other, hedging their bets maybe.
This Celtic Christianity was layered over a paganism on Tiree that still echoes in its stone circles and flat stones for sacrifice, and the ‘Ringing Stone’ that bears cup marks that no-one knows the function of. But then if you asked Mr or Mrs Average today, would they know what a font is for? or a Paschal candle? Why or how should they?
The new religion on Tiree is worshipping the wind as you kite-surf or wind-surf or simply surf. The devotees’ grace, dedication and evident oneness with the cosmos were a joy to watch.