Township: Balevullin

Map Reference: Balevullin 300

Name Type: township

Meaning: Township of the mill

ScG Bail’ a’ Mhuilinn ‘the township of the mill’. This horizontal water mill was built on ScG An Abhainn Bhàn ‘the sandy stream’ (see Asadh). Early forms show the un- lenited muilinn, which suggests an early date. ‘Gender anomaly suggests a date from the tenth century, after the loss of the neuter gender’ (Cox 2002b, 115). Bail’ a’ Mhuilinn appears to have been carved out of Hough and Biostadh in a process of intrusive Gaelic re-settlement.
There are many surviving medieval Gaelic mill names on Tiree, so the fact that a township was named because of its mill suggests some distinctive feature that made it stand out. Baile rarely occurs as a Scottish settlement name before the twelfth century (Márkus 2012, 523).

Other Forms: Ballowilling - 1677, ICA PV19/1.

Balevuline - Tiree Rental 1747

Balewilline - The Turnbull Map of Tiree 1768 and accompanying survey text.

Ballamhulin - Typed List of Inhabitants of Tyree and their Age in September 1779. Taken from an unknown publication, 1998.201.1

Related Places:

Information:Bail’ a’ Mhuilinn, - the town of the mill. Down the centre of the township there is a stream called An Abhainn Bhàn, the pale or sandy stream. Some people call it instead An Abhainn Ruadh, the red or brown stream. The ‘street’ that runs down the west side is called An Sràid Ruadh and there is a hillock, An Cnoc Ruadh, somewhere on the machair where archaeologists excavated an Iron Age hut in 1912. In the bank of the stream towards the beach there is a thick band of immature peat sandwiched between two layers of sand, showing that sometime in the last 1000 years this area was quite boggy before being covered again with blown sand.
The mill itself, after which the township was named, was a horizontal ‘Norse’ mill and was built over the stream at, Druim a’ Mhuilinn, the ridge of the mill, opposite the house Druimasadh. There is little to see now.
About 100 yards south east of Druimasadh is a hollow in the machair called Sloc or Baca Sàbhaidh, the hollow or the dune of sawing. In the old days a lot of timber was being washed up on the shore. This sloc was a gap between two small rises in the machair which allowed a log to be put over it. One man crouched in the bottom of the gap and the other was on top, working the 8 foot saw vertically to make planks. Two men who used this spot were Duncan and Willie MacLean estate, joiners from Taigh Theònaidh Dhuibh.
On the machair just north of the phone box is an area called A’ Chreag Ghlas or An Clach Ghlas, the grey stone or rock. The tradition used to be that young men played shinty here at New Year, and the famous song Lag na Cruachan has the author, who is at sea, lamenting ‘S gur iomadh fear is aithne dhomh/ ‘S a chaman ur fo achlais/'Dol dh'ionnsuidh na Cloich Ghlaise/ Ged tha mise 'tarruing ropa [And many of my acquaintances /new shinty sticks under their arms/are going towards the Clach Ghlas/ although I am stuck here pulling ropes].
Balevullin machair is just that today, but 100 years ago it was badly eroded and known as the ‘Sahara Desert.’ The father of Captain John Lamont, Crois, Aonghas Mòr, planted murrain dug from the factor's farm at the back of Hough which stabilised the dunes and there is very little open sand today. A number of features have come and gone with this process. One was a dune called Bac' an Tàilleir, the dune of the tailor (Sandy MacKinnon maintained that there were two tailors living on the Sraid Ruadh at one time) and another was Baca Fhionnlaigh, the dune of Finlay. The Rev John Gregorson Campbell recorded that, the sandbank of this name on the farm of Balevullin in Tiree was at one time a noted Fairy residence, but has since been blown level with the ground. It caused surprise to many that no traces of fairies were found in it.
There was originally no boundary between Croish and Balevullin and today’s wire fence is relatively new. On the boundary is an area called Rangastal, a Viking name possibly meaning Ragnald’s field. The east end of Balevullin beach is called Tràigh Rangastail, or Ceann Darangastail. Alasdair MacDonald told the story that there is a pot of gold hidden at the end of this beach, but you can only find it at midnight if you go without telling anyone else! Also on the beach is a rock, half way between the machair edge and the sea. Called Creag na h-Analach, the rock of breath, it is where people paused while dragging flotsam up.
The northernmost summit of Ben Hough is called Beinn Bheag Bhail' a' Mhuilinn, small Balevullin hill, and at the foot of this is a side road to the Hough machair. Halfway up is a disused power station. This is the Ùtraid Poll Chrìoch, the side road of the pool of the boundary. Hector Kennedy told this story to Eric Cregeen in 1970 about a dispute between the factor and the Land Leaguers around 1880, which happened at this spot.
McDiarmid [the factor] down here, he had Hough [farm] and he had this place [Heylipol], together... I knew that man better than anybody round here. Every crofter in Balevullin [at that time] had to leave so many carts of seaweed in Hough for the factor, for going across the machair to the shore. That’s what he was telling them. And it’s there yet, the old road they used to come, the Balevullin crofters.... It’s a good road now. It was done up by the air force in the time of the war. And there’s a gate there. And this man Lachie Brown.... Lachie was a great Land Leaguer. And he went for seaweed, and he had two carts. And he was telling the crofters in Balevullin, he was a carpenter as well to trade, “You shouldn’t do that all”. And they were saying, “We have to do it!” “You’ve nothing of the kind.” And they went together to the shore for seaweed. And the factor down here sent the ground officer, he was staying down in that cottage [in Heylipol], John MacKinnon. And he belonged to Balevullin too. And he was a great Land Leaguer [too] until he got the job of the Ground Officer from the old factor. And if they got a hold of him, the Land Leaguers, he was killed, that he was a traitor. And he was sent up to this gate to put a padlock to keep the carts of Balevullin from going through the gate. And they were coming off the shore, a good many carts... Lachie Brown, he was the leader. And he came to the gate. And the ground officer said to him, “You’ll no go through the gate.” “How?” “Well, the factor is against you going through the gate without leaving so much seaweed as you used to do on Hough.”Here’s one that will no do it!” Lachie Brown says, “And I’m leaving my father’s horses and it’s you that’s to look after them, and if anything would happen to them, the factor or the estate of Argyll has to pay for them.” “Oh I’m not going to take charge of them,” said the ground officer. “You’ll have to do it. I’m going off! There are plenty of witnesses here.” “You’d better come,” he says. “I’ll open the gate and let you through.” That put an end of the seaweed. I heard my father and these people talking [about it]. There was 10 carts, 12 carts before they could put a graipful [forkful] on their own croft. They were taking up all the seaweed that the factor was needing in Hough. Yes! Not very long ago.



Extracts from 'The Gaelic Otherworld' by John Gregorson Campbell, Edited with commentary by Ronald Black, (Edinburgh; Birlinn, 2005), p31

The Fairies on Finlay’s Sandbank

The sandbank of this name (Bac Fhionnlaigh) on the farm of Balevullin in Tiree was at one time a noted Fairy residence, but has since been blown level with the ground. It caused surprise to many that no traces of the Fairies were found in it.

Its Fairy tenants were at one time in the habit of sending every evening to the house of a smith in the neighbourhood for the loan of a kettle (iasad coire). The smith, when giving it, always said:

Dlighe gobhainn gual

Is iarann fuar a chur a-mach,

‘S dlighe coire cnàimh

‘S e thighinn slàn gu taigh.

(“A smith’s due is coals / And to send cold iron out, / A cauldron’s due is a bone / And to come safe back.”) Under the power of this rhyme the cauldron was restored safely before morning.

One evening when the smith was from home, and his wife, when the Fairies came for the usual loan, never thought of saying the rhyme. In consequence the cauldron was not returned. On finding this out the smith scolded savagely, and his wife, irritated by his reproaches, rushed away for the kettle. She found the brugh open, went in, and (as is recommended in such cases), without saying a word, snatched up the cauldron and made off with it. When going out at the door she heard on the Fairies calling out:

A Gheur bhalbh ud, ‘s a Gheur bhalbh,

Thàinig oirnn a tìr na marbh,

Dh’ fhuadaich an coire o’n bhruigh, -

Fuasgail an dul is leig an Garbh.

(“Thou dumb sharp one, thou dumb sharp, / that came from the land of the dead, / And drove the cauldron from the brugh - / Undo the Knot, and lose the Rough.”)

She succeeded in getting home before the Rough, the Fairy dog, overtook her, and the Fairies never again came for the loan of the kettle.

Page 265/266

Return of the Dead

The plant mòthan (trailing pearlwort or sagine procumbens) was placed by old women in Tiree above the door, on the lintel (san àrd-doras), to prevent the spirits of the dead – when they revisited their former haunts – from entering the house, and it was customary in many places to place a drink of water beside the corpse previous to the funeral in case the dead should return.

There is a sept of MacDonalds called MacCannel of whom it is said in Tiree that when one dies and the body is laid out to be waked, all the dead of the race enter the room, go round the body – upon each lays his hand – and then in solemn procession march out again. This is the case at every death of one of the septm but only those who have the second sight can see the shades. A man married to one of the MacCannels whose father had been long dead enraged her beyond measure, on the occasion of the sept, by asking her why she had not gone to Balevullin (where the death had occurred) last night to see her father. (Footnote 890)

Footnote 889: See Pearlwort (‘Mòthan’), pp. 229-30, and Henderson 1911, p. 219.
Footnote 890: There were MacCannels in Tiree – at Caolas and Breachachadh – in 1716 (Maclean-Bristol 1998, pp. 113, 164). A tailor called Archibald McDonald is listed in a Tiree census of 1776; he his given again amongst the cottars of Kilkennethmore as ‘Archibald McCannol taylor’ in 1779 (Cregeen 1936, pp. 30, 131). There were many McConnels among the tenants of Caolas today, having presumably given way to MacDonald. Not all Tiree MacDonalds will be MacCannels, however. I do not know whether it is the name behind Eilean Mhic Conaill, a fortified crannog referred to by MacDougall and Cameron (n/d., p. 80) as ‘the island of MacConall on Loch Bhasapol.’

There was no boundary between Balevullin and Kilmoluaig in the old days - Hugh MacLeod, Carachan, 6/1994.

Local Form:

Languages : Gaelic

Informants: multiple