Reference Number23
TitleSeann Taighean Tirisdeach
AuthorBoyd, Ailean
Date Of Edition1986
Date Of Language20c
Date Of Language Ed1950-1999
DateMacroLate 20th c.
Date Of Language Notes
PublisherCairdean nan Taighean Tugha (The Friends of the Thatched Houses)
Place PublishedTiree
LocationNational, academic and local libraries
Geographical OriginsTiree
Geographical Origins EdTiree
GeoMacroMull, Coll and Tiree
Geographical Origins Notes
RegisterEducation, Prose (Material Culture, Housing)
Register EdEducation, Prose
A book on the thatched houses of Tiree.
Good source of housing terminology from Tiree (e.g. parts of the house and house construction).
Good source of passive verb constructions as used in Tiree.
A number of Gaelicisations of English terms.
Includes a glossary of 49 housing-related terms.
Alternative Author NameN/A
Manuscript Or EditionEd.
Size And Condition19.6cm x 20.9cm
Short TitleSeann Taighean Tirisdeach
Reference DetailsEUL: Scottish Studies Library: I2(4117-6)BOYD
Number Of Pages32, [1]
Gaelic Text ByN/A
Social ContextAccording to the author, this book is a ‘personal account’, rather than a scholarly study, of the old thatched houses of Tiree. Boyd is not from the island, but he used to visit it with his parents as a young boy and became very fond of it. After working as an officer on foreign sailing ships, Boyd went to University to learn to teach Gaelic. In 1985, Argyll and Bute District Council called a meeting to discuss the old thatched houses and, as a result, Càirdean nan Taighean Tugha (The Friends of the Thatched Houses) was formed in order to help preserve the remaining thatched houses. This book was published by Càirdean nan Taighean Tugha in 1986.
ContentsThis volume begins with a Clàr-innse (p. 3), a Ro-ràdh by Ailig MacArtair (p. 5), and Taing (p. 6). There is also a loose-leaf page introducing the island of Tiree and Càirdean nan Taighean Tugha.

The main body of the text is divided into 8 chapters as follows:

Na Th’ann Dhiubh (pp. 7-9): This chapter introduces the 18 remaining thatched houses in Tiree, and also those old houses that have been roofed anew with sarking and felt. The chapter also introduces the terms taigh-tugha and an ceann, which are used in Tiree instead of taigh-tughaidh and am mullach.

Na Ballachan (pp. 10-13): This chapter describes the walls of the houses, introducing the method of construction and describing the broad tobhta ‘wall head’, which in Tiree was sometimes used to plant flowers in. It also discusses the site and orientation of the house – cùl ri gaoith agus aghaidh ri grèin – and the distribution of this house type throughout the Hebrides. The internal layout of the houses is touched upon towards the end of the chapter.

Meud an Taighe (pp. 14-15): This chapter looks primarily at the internal layout of the houses and includes the names of the four main rooms in the house: ceann an tinidh, clòsaid, lobaidh, and seòmbar. A labelled plan is provided on page 15.

Connadh agus Teine (pp. 16-17): This section discusses the change from peat to coal as the main source of fuel on Tiree, and mentions also the use of sgàinteagan – dried cow-pats which were sometimes used for fuel. The effects of the switch from coal to peat are also discussed, including the move from a central, open hearth with no chimney to an enclosed, raised hearth with a chimney in the end wall of the house.

An Ceann (pp. 18-21): This chapter examines the materials used in roofing the house, including the names of the different roofing timbers, e.g. cranntair, ceanna-mhaide, and taobhan. It describes the method of roof construction, including the process of cutting and laying turfs on top of the roof timbers before thatching.

An Tughadaireachd (pp. 22-23): This chapter describes the types of thatch used and the process of thatching the roof.

Na Ròpannan (pp. 24-25): This chapter describes the method securing the thatch with ropes and also the types of ropes used. It includes a labelled diagram showing the names of the ropes in their different positions on the roof.

Nam Broinn (pp. 26-28): This section looks at the interior of the houses. It begins with a poem by Niall Iain Ruaidh which describes a row of thatched houses as he remembered them from his youth. It describes the clay floor – an t-urlar dubh – and the construction of the partition walls, along with a discussion of the lobhta which includes terminology such as balla beag and anainn. These terms are also shown on the labelled diagram in the chapter An Ceann (p. 20).

A final word on how worthy these buildings are of preservation is given in Co-dhùnadh (p. 29). A list of people mentioned in the text, including the names by which they are most commonly known, their first names and surnames, and the townships they are from in Tiree, is given in Na Daoine a Th’air an ainmeachadh (pp. 30-31). A list of 49 terms mentioned in the text, giving English translations and the gender of each term is given in ‘Faclair’ (inside back cover). It should be noted that more terms occur in the text than are included in this section.
SourcesThe housing terminology presented in this book has been gathered from the people of Tiree, either through conversations the author had with Tiree residents, or from sources such as the book Am Measg nam Bodach (1938), in which a man from Tiree describes the houses he remembered from his youth.
LanguageThis book contains a rich vocabulary of housing and related terminology, much of which is particular to the Tiree dialect, e.g. tugha rather than tughadh (p. 7), an ceann rather than am mullach (p. 8), balla-mach rather than balla-muigh (p. 10), an seòmbar (p. 14), a’ chlòsaid (p. 14), an lobaidh (p. 14), glutadh (p. 10), an teinidh rather than an teine (p. 14), and teas an tinidh (p. 14). In some cases, similar terms are used in other dialects, e.g. làir-chaib is used in Tiree, whereas caibe-làir is used in other islands, such as in Skye and Uist (see ‘Faclair’). Other terms are also in common usage elsewhere, such as an tobhta (p. 10) similearan (p. 13), stàball (p. 13), iodhlann (p. 13), àrd-doras (p. 14), an cidsin (p. 14), bàthach (p. 15), sglèat (p. 20), an t-snighe (p. 22), an t-urlar dubh (p. 26), cuimhleachan-snìomh (p. 28), slabhraidh (p. 28), and a’ chrùisgean dubh (p. 28).

Of particular interest are the labelled diagrams on pp. 20 and 25, which contain terminology relating to roof and wall construction, such as balla beag, anainn, and spàrr; and to the method of roping the thatch, e.g. màthair-shìoman, sìoman-taoibh, and crios.

This book is also a good source of types of passive and impersonal verb constructions, as used in Tiree Gaelic, e.g. thatar (p. 14), theirte (p. 14), air an robhtar (p. 16), ris an abrar (p. 18), gus an ruigte (p. 20), bhite (p. 20), cha chualas (p. 25), cluinnte (p. 26), and mar a thuirteadh (p. 28).

The text also contains some commonly used Gaelicisations of English words, such as bheat (p. 7), teàrr (p. 7), sgueadhar (p. 7), canabhas (p. 7), saimeant (p. 8), steapaichean (p. 11), ròpannan (p. 24), lìon-uèir (p. 25), and frèam (p. 28).
OrthographyIn addition to the housing terms presented in this volume, some of which are particular to Tiree, the following terms may reflect the Tiree dialect: air a thàilleamh seo (p. 5), air tàilleamh ’s (p. 17), gu leòir (p. 7), fairis (e.g. p. 7), ag ùisneachadh (p. 19), làmh ri (p. 10), am bitheantas (e.g. p. 10), mar as bitheanta (p. 10), ag ràdhainn (e.g. p. 11), fiadhaich meaning ‘extremely’ (p. 11), annamh rather than ainneamh (p. 13), mar sin air aghaidh (p. 19), caigeann bhliadhnaichean (p. 19), a’ tòiseachdainn (p. 22), fad na h-ùineach (p. 26), and sgèanan (p. 28).

The orthography is that of the late twentieth century. English words that have not been altered to fit Gaelic orthography are printed in italics, e.g. hip, hitch, sarking. Those that have been altered, such as a’ choconut are not italicised.
EditionFirst edition. Black and white photographs of houses are inserted throughout the text along with a few line drawings.
Other Sources
Further ReadingAm Measg nam Bodach (Glasgow, 1938: An Comunn Gaidhealach).
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