The kelp industry in Tiree.

Date 04 October 1968
Track ID 59828
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The kelp industry in Tiree.

The contributor recalls the kelp being collected when he was a young man. In the beginning of May, the wrack was growing off the tangle and when it came away, more would grow. The wrack was pulled up on the beach in big heaps and was left to dry. It would be burned in stone kilns on the shore. When it was burning, it would be stirred with iron poles and it would have the consistency of porridge. Once it was burned, it would be tough and hard to break. The kilns were around two-and-a-half feet high and between ten and fourteen feet long. The shore would be divided between the people who were working on it. Men and women worked on the kelp, but it did not pay very well.

Children who were not well would be sent to run through the smoke of the burning kelp, and it was believed that whatever was wrong with them would be healed.

The company that bought the kelp had a store at the north end of the island. Men who were working at the kelp were given a line at the store for whatever supplies they needed. The store manager was an Irishman named Freeman, and he brought up his children on the island. He gave the kelp workers a fair deal. Both crofting and fishing families went to work at the kelp. There was a lull in the industry for a few years when the firm in Glasgow that bought the kelp closed down the store, but an island man came home from working on the mainland and started it back up again. He gave better prices. If the kelp was good quality, one could earn £5 per tonne, or £4 if it was not so good.

Item Location

County - Argyllshire

Parish - Tiree

Island - Tiree