Township: Caolas

Map Reference: Caolas 300

Name Type: township

Meaning: ScG caolas masc. 'firth, straight' (Dwelly) refers to the passage between the east end of Tiree and Gunna. Caolas Farm at the west end of Coll is known on Tiree as Caolas Cholla.
See Caoles in Longships on the Sand.

Other Forms: Keulis Yc., and Keulis ocr - 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.

Kelis - Tiree Rental 1747

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

Kyles - Island Mull with Islands Tiri and Coll, M MacKenzie, 1775.

Kelis - List of Inhabitants of Tiree 1776

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

Related Places:

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

Cachlaidh na Cuil Connaidh (Caolas, Tiree) p 254:
Coming Misfortune

A taisher [seer] in Caolas, Tiree, was observed to have great objections to going home to take his meals. Being questioned on the subject, he said that at home he sae a horrible-looking black woman with her head ‘as black as a pot’, and if he chanced to catch a glimpse of her at meal-times her hideous appearance made him rise from his food. He said he did not recognise the woman, and was unable to say who or what she was.

This was continued for three months, when the place was visited with smallpox , and the seer’s own sister took the disease very badly. Her head became hideous and literally as ‘black as pot’, and the people understood the meaning of the vision.

A celebrated seer in the same village, Dòmhnall Mac an Duibh (Donald Black), was married for the fourth time. In his day lucifer matches were unknown, and when corn was kiln-dried a person had to sit up all night to keep the fire alive. As Donald sat at this work in a solitary hut – such as small kilns are still kept in – the figure of his first wife appeared and told him to beware, for ‘the terror’ (an t-eagal) was coing: it was at Crudh an Eich, ‘the Horse Shoe,’ a spot on the public road leading to Caolas, about a mile and a half distant, deriving its name from the plain likeness of a horse-shoe indented on the rock.

Hr, however, was dozing over into sleep again when his second wife, in more distressed tones, warned him the ‘terro’ was nearer at hand – at Cachlaidh na Cùil Connaidh , ‘the Gateway of the Fuel Enclosure.’ He neglected this warning also, and was dozing again when his third wife warned him the ‘terror’ was at the Bail’ Uachdrach (Upper Village).

He immediately went home, and had hardly got into bed when a sound like the rushing of a violent blast of wind passed, and the whole house was shaken so that the walls were like to fall. If this was not ‘the terror’ of which he had been so strangely warned, Donald could give no other explanation.

The Water Horse At Tiree, p 113:

A man working in the fields in Caolas, in the east end of the island, saw a water-horse coming from Loch an Àir, a small marshy lake full of reeds. He ran off in terror and left his coat behind. The water-horse tore the coat into shreds and then made after the man. The dogs came out when it came near the house and drove it away.
A son of one of the chamberlains of the island, last century, found a horse on the moors, and being struck with its excellence mounted it. The horse tore away at full gallop and could not be stopped. It galloped all round the country, till at last one side of the reins broke, and the horse rushed out on Loch Basibol, carrying its ill-fated rider with it. (Footnote 362)

Footnote 362; Loch an Àir is in the south-eastern tip of Tiree near Rubha Nead Geòidh, Rubha a’ Bhodaich and Port an Dùin. The name suggests ‘the Loch of Slaughter’ or ‘of Ploughing.’ There is nothing in oral tradition to suggest that it could have been the site of a battle, so the latter meaning is perhaps more likely, but the water-horse connection could well have given rise to either – or both. Niall M. Brownlie has drawn by attention to this verse in a cong by Captain Alick MacDonald, Milton, Caolas (Brownlie 1991a, p.123):
Aig Taigh Loch an Àir thogadh iomadh deagh bhàta,
Ainmeil bhon làimh chluicheadh tàl agus tuagh;
Am beagan th’ air fhàgail den tobhta tha’n làthair,
Tha mo chridh’ ann am bàidh rith’ seach àite mun cuairt.

(“At Loch an Àir House were built many fine boats, / Made famous by the hand which would wield adze and axe; / My heart loves the little that’s left of the ruins / More than anywhere else in the district around.”)
By ‘last century’ JGC means the eighteenth.

Witches as Gulls, p 193:

A witch assumed the shape of a gull, delighted in storms – not only to bring danger or safety to a boat, as already told, but also for payment to bring back news of fishing boats driven away in a storm.

A boat from Tiree, going for a cargo of wood, was caught in a violent gale and driven north past Ardnamurchan Point. With difficulty the boatmen, four in number, secured her in a creek. They remained in a cave for four days till the storm abated. The suddenness and violence of the gale caused much anxiety to their friends, and two women (one of whom had two sons and a son-in-law in the boat, and the other, a widow, her youngest and only surviving son) consulted a famous witch, Nic-ill’-Dòmhnaich, in Caolas, as to their fate. The witch told them to come next day, and she would tell them.

Early next morning the widow went. “Yea,” said the witch, “they live, and they had no little amusement last night for the fallaid bannock, and your son had his own share of it.” Footnote 652

When the young men came home, they were questioned as to their seeing anything the night the witch was sent for news. They said a grey gull was seen by them sitting on the edge of the rocks that overhang their place of shelter and peering down at them. One was for throwing stones at it, but the rest dissuaded him. It was only seen that night and the next morning.

p 224:

There is a stone in Caolas, Tiree, called Clach an Stoirm (‘the Storm Stone,’) almost entirely buried in the ground. If taken out of the ground, cleaned and set upright, it will cause a storm to arise.(Footnote 773)

Footnote 773: It is at Croish in Caolas. Professor Donald Meek, a native of Caolas, gives me the name as Clach na Stoirmeadh. MacDougall and Cameron say (n.d., pp. 128-29): “Only the faintest traces remain of the ancient burial ground of Crois a’ Chaolais. These are in a small enclosure by the roadside, half a mile from the ferry which formerly existed between Tiree and Coll...But on the other side of the road, opposite the burial-ground, there are two large stones embedded in the soil, and between these the Cross is said to have stood. There is a tradition that if ever the larger of these stones be removed a hurricane will sweep the island with devastating violence.”

p 246:

A crofted (or tenant of a small piece of land of which he has no lease) in Caolas, Tiree, went out at night to see that his neighbour’s horse were not trespassing on some clover he had in his croft. He was a man who had confessedly the second sight. He observed on this occasion a man going in a parallel direction to himself , and but a short distance off. At first he thought it was only a neighbour, Black Allan, trying to frighten him, but, struck by the motion and silence of the figure, he stooped down and then raised himself suddenly. The figure did the same, proof of its being a tamhasg or phantasm. The seer reached home, pale and ready to faint, but nothing further came of his vision.

p 259:

The taisher in Caolas, Tiree, already mentioned as having seen the fetch of his sister in the smallpox, on a New Year night accompanied his brother-in-law, who had spent the evening with him (and from whom the story has been got), a piece of the way home. (Footnote 871) When his brother-in-law urged him to return, as he had come far enough, he asked to be allowed, as this was the last New Year he would be with his friends. He was asked what made him think so gloomily of the future. He said the matter was to be so, and there was no chance of its being otherwise, for he had seen his own phantom three or four times. In March following the man was drowned.
Footnote 861:
As Professor Donald Meek has pointed out to me, Mac an Duibh is in error for mac ’Ain Duibh’ the son of Black John (cf. Notes 584, 855) and Donald was not a Black but a MacDonald. The patronymic of his great-grandson Malcolm, who served in the Peninsular War as a surgeon’s valet and thus enjoyed the nickname of an Lannsair (the Lancer’), is given by Eric Cregeen (1998, p.24) as Calum mac Iain ‘ic Neill ‘ic Dhòmhnaill ‘ic Iain duibh, ‘Malcolm son of John son of Neil son of Donald son of Black John.’ It is clear from this that Donald flourished c. 1700. The family were well known in Caolas as seers and were spoken of as na Duibh (pronounced na Duich), ‘Black Ones’, which would of course explain JGC’s ‘Donald Black’. Genuine Blacks are descended from an ancestor called an Gille Dubh; informally in Tiree (where they are descended from a minor estate official who came from Lismore c. 1800, see Cregeen 1998, pp. 24, 27, 33) they are Blackaich, formally Clann Mhic Ghille Dhuibh or Clann MhicilleDhuibh.
Cruidh (not Crudh) an Eich is a well-known bend in the B8069 road west of Caolas, close to Salum and Ruaig. Am Bail’ Uachdrach, Upper Caolas, is the central part of Caolas (around Croish) as opposed to to Am Bail’ Uachdrach , Lower Caolas, on the shore to the south.

Presumably Cachalaidh na Cùil Connaidh was the entrance to Caolas from the west. If so, it is now long gone. Professor Meek recalls other cachlaidhean however: Cachlaidh Ruaig ‘the Ruaig Gateway’, Cachlaidh a’ Chaolais ‘the Caolas Gateway,’ Cachlaidh an t-Slèibhe ‘the Gateway to the Outrun.’ (In Tiree sliabh is the outrun as distinct from the monadh or hill ground.)

Local Form:

Languages : Gaelic