14 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk MC: It was horses that were getting the best money.
DM: It was horses that kept the crofters in their crofts.
The money they were getting for cattle and sheep, it wasn’t worth talking about – £5-6 for cattle…15 shillings for a lamb…They were going to Oban to sell the horses.
There was a horse sale every July…They would keep an eye out to see if the farmers from Lismore were over because they were good at buying horses and breaking them in (Donald MacIntyre talking to Margaret Campbell, AC189).
Horses were expensive then…during the war and before it you could get £70 for a horse that was broken in (Hugh Archie MacCallum talking to Maggie Campbell, AC394).
The horse not only did the heavy work on the island.
It was also the crofters’ main source of income.
Over a hundred foals were born here every year and these were usually sold out as two year olds which would fetch as much as 5 or 6 two- to threeyear-old bullocks…There was a family of MacLeans in Kenovay.
They lived where Fiona Maxwell had a craft shop.
And one of these men, Charles (Tearlach Ghilleasbuig), he sold a stallion pony before the First World war for £600.
That was a colossal heap of money in those days…You know the story.
Tearlach Ghilleasbuig got up this morning.
And his brother, Ailean, was still upstairs. ‘Where are you going?’ [he shouted down]. ‘I’m going for a wee visit to New Zealand!’ [Tearlach replied] (Hector MacPhail, AC41). Alasdair Brown, Balephuil, with a prize-winning Clydesdale at the Tiree Agricultural Show, Crossapol, in the 1950s (S71) 15 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk Donald MacIntyre develops this last story: Charles MacLean [Kenovay] was a stud groom in the employment of one of Scotland’s most famous Clydesdale horse breeders, David Adams, Auchencraig, Dumbarton.
Now in his day Mr.
Adams was the main exporter of Clydesdale horses to Canada, Australia and New Zealand… When a consignment of over twenty mares and fillies was shipped out it took six weeks in a boat, which required a groom to feed water and replace clean bedding.
Furthermore every horse had to be exercised daily.
Charles MacLean was the groom responsible for the daily care of these valuable Clydesdales.
As a token of good will Mr.
Adams allowed Charles to select and buy for himself up to four Clydesdale fillies, which were included in M.
Adams’ consignment free of charge, and it was a well-known fact that buyers would be waiting at the dock where the boat berthed…and Mr.
MacLean’s fillies were bought at a very high price before they left ship (AI 2003.130.14).
There was also a direct trade, using smacks, with these ponies from Tiree to Northern Ireland…and that was still continuing into the [20th] century….In 1901 my grandfather Hugh MacPhail sold a horse for £45 [to Donald MacDonald, the ‘Contractor’].
It was the horse he had been using for pulling the grocery van, but it was too good a horse and it was being wasted pulling a little grocery van about.
Now £45 was more than enough to build you a three bedroom, two storey house.
A farm labourer’s wage in 1901 was only £6 a year.
The reason horses were at such a colossally high value was because of the Boer war.
In wartime the army used to buy up tens of thousands of horses.
Again the price went up in the First World War.
The Second World War was the first major conflict that did not affect the price of horses (Hector MacPhail, AC41, 1997).
The number of horses on Tiree fell during the First World War (from 513 in 1910 to 483 in 1915) due the demands of the war effort, before bouncing back to 646 in 1920.
Hector Campbell: There was a man here [Ailig Bhòdaidh Mairi C] very keen on dealing with horses, buying and selling them.
And he sold a horse in Oban for £100.
A great big price.
And he went back the next year and he saw the man who bought the horse and he got talking. ‘See that horse you sold me.’ ‘Yes.
What about it?’ replied the Tiree man. ‘I went out one night and he was dead’ said the buyer. ‘Well he never did that the whole time I had it!’ said the man (Robert Beck AC2).
The father of Alec MacNeill, Balevullin sold a black mare to MacGregor of Oban for £140 in 1919.
Hector MacPhail: There were a lot of Tiree crofters, including your own grandfather, Tearlach Eòghainn, who were particularly adept at buying horses and selling them at a profit.
They would buy a horse here on Tiree, use it perhaps for a year, and then take it away to the sales in Oban and make a healthy profit.
The first cattle buyer to come here, a man called Touch, he began to buy horses too, and he had at least two agents here.
They used to buy horses and keep them for him, until he had maybe 20 or 30 to ship away.
In the old days the majority of Tiree horses were sold at the Salen fair in Mull, and then it became Oban.
The old Salen horse fair was a major event. 16 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk Angus Munn: When I was a young boy in Scarinish school [in the 1930s] what I would call the travelling people, tinkers, bought horses here and they broke them in on Silversands and Baugh beach.
These people, although they were obviously poor, they were expert handlers of horses…They took about fifty horses away from here each summer (Hector MacPhail, AC41, 1997). 17 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk Stallions After Tom Barr had brought the first Clydesdale to Tiree, breeding stallions were brought to the island every summer, up until July. ‘Walking the stallion’ means taking the horse from place to place in order to serve mares.
Even after the introduction of motor-drawn horse-boxes, the stallions were walked to keep them fit.
Robert Beck: Three stallions walked this island…two Clydesdales and a Highland pony.
There was a gentleman called Hector Campbell [from An Àirigh, Cornaigmore] who walked with one of them.
The late Iain Alasdair Iain (John MacLean, The Brae, Cornaigbeg) [had another] and Donald MacIntyre walked the Highland pony.
One stallion had the premium from the local Society.
Hector Campbell, Corrairigh: In the early 1900s, maybe the late 1800s, there was a Tiree Heavy Horse Society formed here.
And the purpose of that committee was to select a certain stud on the mainland to travel here all summer.
And that one had a premium.
And one year that horse left 80 foals on Tiree.
But there was what was called a poacher around as well and of course as you mentioned a Highland pony.
The [groom] fee for service from the Highland stallion was £1, and the heavy horse stallion was £2 for service with a further 6 /- when the mare proved in foal.
That would be more than 100 foals born on Tiree in a year easily.
Plus the garrons the Highland ponies – would have 20-30 as well.
Because the smaller crofters couldn’t afford the [Clydesdale] service fee.
The Tiree Heavy Horse Breeding Society brought selected Clydesdale stallions to the island.
The chairman read to the members present letters from various stallion owners in reply to an advert in the Scottish Farmer for Clydesdale stallions to travel the district during season 1947.
A reply from Mr.
James Holmes, Greenock, offering last season’s horse ‘Windlass Priority’ was given consideration.
It was unanimously agreed to accept this horse for the coming season if the percentage of foals left by him in the district during 1946 proves him eligible for a D.O.A.S grant (Minutes of Society’s AGM, 1947). 18 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk
Read more about Dock : Adams consignment free of charge and it was a well….: