Tanera Mòr is the largest of the Summer Islands located on the North West coast of Scotland at the mouth of Loch Broom. The name Tanera comes from the Norse for ‘Harbour Island’. Both Tanera Mòr and Tanera Beag have deep sheltered harbours, Tanera Mòr is said to have the second best natural harbour in Scotland, after Campbelltown in Argyllshire. A large Steatite Bowl was recovered from Tanera Mor, in 1984, while digging a path. There is some debate over its origins , and whether it is of Norse origin or potentially older. Either way it does suggest that Tanera Mòr has been utilised by local and foreign communities for centuries. The bowl is currently held in the collection of Ullapool Museum.
When the British Fisheries Society established the settlement at Ullapool the additions of Isle Ristol and Tanera Mòr were included. Tanera Mòr was established as an herring curing station by Roderick Morrison and John MacKenzie in 1784. Together they owned 6 ‘decked’ vessels as well as around 30 smaller boats. During its height the curing station at Tanera Mòr employed around 120 people. Maps of Tanera show around 10 acres of land that are laid out for use by the fishing station. Morison later erected warehouses for salt, casks nets etc. Five houses were built for smoking red herring as well as a pier large enough for five vessels at a time.
However, the curing of herring at Tanera Mòr, as well as Isle Martin, has a darker side. Part of the reason to expand the herring industry in the 18th century on the West Coast of Scotland was to supply the West Indies with red herring to be used as food for the enslaved persons on sugar plantations. The use of smoked or salted fish has lived on within Caribbean cuisine and today many traditional dishes are derived from ingenuitive methods that generations have adapted in order to make red herring palatable. It is unknown just how much red herring from curing stations such as Tanera Mòr or Isle Martin was sent to the Caribbean, as the emancipation act was initiated only 40 years later, but we do know that this was their initial purpose.
The two settlements on Tanera Mòr were known as Ardnagoine and Garadheancal. According to the census records, in 1881, around 120 people lived on the island however, all of whom had left by 1931 with the decline in the herring industry. Permanent habitation has been intermittent since then, with six people identified as resident in 1961, eight in 1981, none in 1991 and then five at the 2001 census and four in 2011.
Possibly Tanera’s most famous occupant was Frank Fraser Darling in which time he wrote and researched work on ecology and agriculture. During his lifetime he became one of the founding figures of the modern conservation movement. He, his wife and son moved into an abandoned croft in 1938 breathing life back into the waning island. He wanted to prove that crofting could be more than just subsistence living.
A salmon fish farm was set up by owner Ken Frampton and during the 80s there was a little community on the island with several young families. The children were taken by boat to school and pre-school without much in the way of problems. Framptom also set up the private postal service on Tanera Mor after Royal Mail stopped collecting mail due to lack of demand with its own collection of stamps.
In more recent years Tanera Mor has gone through great change with a huge development of housing and hospitality.
Tobhar an Dualchais: Murdo MacLeod,Place Names and Anecdotes from Tanera Mor. Interviewed by Dr John MacInness
The contributor discusses place names on Tanera More. He recounts some anecdotes and tales relating to the place names, including stories of ghosts, exorcism and burial places.
Header Image: Aerial photograph Tanera Mor; 1996; ULM_PH_2018_0111: Copyright Ullapool Museum Trust
Tanara Mor, A print by William Daniell ULMPH_2000_0351: Copyright The British Museum
Great Britain. Hydrographic Office Title The North Minch: 1849, Copyright National Library of Scotland, ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ https://maps.nls.uk/view/74401022 Copyright: NLS
Rubh’ Ard-na-goine on Tanera Mòr.Copyright: Public Domain