Township: Crossapol

Map Reference: Crossapol 2

Name Type: agriculture

Meaning: This is a huge expanse of both dry and wet machair in the centre of the island between the townships of Crossapol, Kenovay, Balephetrish and Baugh. The '1,034 acres common' (Cregeen 1964, 8) is kept for winter grazing: 'There is a plain piece of ground about six miles in compass on the east coast called the Rive; the grass is seldom suffered to grow the length of half an inch, being only kept as a common, yet is believed to excel any parcel of land of its extent in the isles, or opposite continent.' (Martin 1994 (1695), 294)

This has been gaelicised as ScG ruighe or righe masc. 'outstretched part or base of a mountain, shieling ground' (MacBain and Dwelly). However, the earlier forms point to this being a Norse name. Johnston has proposed a derivation from ON rif 'a reef in the sea', modern Norwegian rev (CV, 497; Johnston 1991, 107). This is likely to refer to the large skerry complex to the north in Balephetrish Bay, including ScG Na Sgeirean Mhòra 'the big skerries' and An Grà' dar (see Gazetteer). This later became a Gaelic and then Scots loan-name. The phonetic development from i > i: is also found in the local dialectal variant ON kirkja > Cìrceabol [?ki?h kj? ?bo?].
Riof or Reef is a settlement name on the Valtos peninsula, Uig, Lewis, made famous by the Reef Farm raiders of 1913:
Reef [in Lewis, comes from] ON rif 'reef'. A farm with this name (Reve, from ON dative Rifi) is located in Jæren, southwest Norway. De Riv, de Rif is common in Shetland, but apparently not as a farm name. The possibility that the name is from English reef may be safely discarded. (Oftedal 2009, 31)
There is a Sgeir Rife on Barra (Stahl 1999, 264); a coastal settlement Reiff in Assynt, Sutherland (SP); the name appears as a coastal farm name in Orkney: 'Riff, a farm on Bay of Puldrite, the name is coined from Orkney Sc rif ‘reef of rocks’ < ON rif' (Sandnes 2010a, 145); The Riff occurs on Rousay (Marwick 1995 (1947), 67); there is a Reeva in Dunrossness and a Reevi in Walls, Shetland (SP); there is a popular surfing beach at Reve in Klepp, and a Rievika in Flora, Norway (NG); Rive is a farm name in Aaremark, Norway (OR); and Rif is a fishing village in west Iceland.

Other Forms: Ryfmoir - The map MVLA INSVLA in the Atlas of Scotland, Atlas Novus, by Joan Blaeu, 1654. These maps were largely based on work by Timothy Pont who mapped Scotland between 1583 and 1596. NLS, 123.

There is a plain piece of ground about six miles in compass on the east coast called the Rive; the grass is seldom suffered to grow the length of half an inch, being only kept as a common, yet is believed to excel any parcel of land of its extent in the isles, or opposite continent; there are small channels in it, through which the tide of flood comes in, and it sometimes overflows the whole. Martin Martin, A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, 1703, p267.

The Reef or Great Green Plain - The Turnbull Map of Tiree 1768 and accompanying survey text; and Map of Tiree, reduced from a survey of the island by Langlands, in the possession of His Grace, The Duke of Argyll. Reproduced in The Island of Tiree by William Reeves, Ulster Journal of Archaeology, volume 2, 1854, p 233-244.

The Reef (1801) - Argyll Estate Instructions, ed. Eric Cregeen, Scottish History Society, 1964, p 58; described as a 1,034 acres common (p 8)

An Ruighe - Handbook to the Islands of Coll and Tiree, Hector MacDougall and Rev. Hector Cameron, Archibald Sinclair, p85.

The Reef - OS 1st edition
The Reef - ONB p95

Related Places:

Information:Extracts from 'The Gaelic Otherworld' by John Gregorson Campbell, Edited with commentary by Ronald Black, (Edinburgh; Birlinn, 2005)
About four generations ago a native of Cornaig in Tiree was out shooting on the Reef plain, and returning home in the evening, at the streamlet which falls into Balefetrish Bay (near Kennovay) was met by a Fairy dame. He did not at first observe anything in her appearance different from other women, but, on her putting over her head and kissing him, he saw she had but one nostril. On reaching home he was unable to articulate one word.
By the advice of an old man he composed, in his mind, a love song to the Fairy. On doing this, his speech came back.

On the North shore of Tiree there is a beach of more than a mile in length called Cladach a’ Chrògain, well calculated to be the scene of strange terrors. The extensive plain (about 1,500 acres in extent) of which it forms the northern fringe is almost a dead level, and in instances of very high flood-tides, with north-west gales of wind, the sea has been known to overflow it and join the sea on the south side three miles away, dividing Tiree into two islands. The upper part of the beach consists of loose round stones, a little larger than a goose’s egg, which make – when the tide is in, and under the influence of the restless surf – a hoarse rumbling sound, sufficienty calculated, with the accompaniment of strange scenery, to awaken the imagination.

Witches as Sheep
A native of Tiree was on his way home to the west end of the island in the evening with a new gun in his hand. When above the beach called Travay, he observed a black sheep running towards him from across the plain of Reef. Alarmed by the animal’s motions, he put a silver sixpence in the gun, and on its coming near enough, took aim. The black sheep instantly became a woman (whom he recognised) with a drugget coat wrapped around her head.
The same woman had often persecuted him before, often in shape of cat. She asked him to keep her secret, and he promised to do so, but one day, when drunk in the village to which the woman belonged to, he told his adventure and the name of the woman. In less than a fortnight after, he was drowned, and the witch (for such the woman was universally reputed to be) was blamed as the cause.

"There is a plain, called the Reef, near the centre of Tiry" - Old Statistical Account 1791 by Rev Archibald McColl, p399.

Nuair a fhuair e'n Ruigh fo chasan - Na Baird Thirisdeach, p166.

ONB p 95: "A remarkable plain called the Reef, near the centre of the island, and 1,562 acres in area, is as flat as the sea." Extract from the Imperial Gazeteer of Scotland.

The first known tenant of the Reef was Duncan Campbell, and his house was situated near Cnoc nan Deilgnean ('The Knoll of Thorns'). It was to his daughter that Dr John MacLachlan, the sweet siger of Rahoy, composed the beautiful love song 'N seo nam Shìneadh air an t-Sliabh. Bailtean is Ath-Ghairmean, Townships and Echoes by Niall M Brownlie, Argyll Publishing, 1995, p32.

The great grandmother of the great grandmother of Hugh MacLean, Barrapol, was told that some horses drowned at high tide on The Reef. Flora MacPhail, Skipnish, 5/2014

Local Form:

Languages : Gaelic

Informants: multiple

Informant 2: OS