The island of Tiree is the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It is a relatively low-lying island with an area of 7,834 hectares and a population of around 650.
There are many theories as to where the name Tiree is derived. Professor William J Watson, who published The Celtic Place Names of Scotland in 1926, argues that the second element of Tir-iodh is likely to be Heeth, a name from the Iron Age or earlier which is not Gaelic, possibly not even Celtic. More common theories have suggested that the name derives from ‘Tir-iodh’ which means ‘land of corn’, or possibly ‘Tir-I’ the land or granary of Iona.
As the latter two theories suggest, the economy of Tiree has been based on the production of grain since ancient times. Renowned for fertile and easily worked soil and long growing seasons, the island was unique in the Hebrides. Along with this corn production, Tiree was famous for the production of whisky- made from the island’s plentiful supplies of barley. The island was once a major producer of whisky and, at one time, supplied a number of the neighbouring islands.
Records suggest that there were fifty distillers on the island around 1768, declining to around thirty in 1793, and eventually the tradition died out completely, probably around the start of the twentieth century.