Township: Vaul

Map Reference: Vaul 300

Name Type: township

Meaning: See Vaul in Longships on the Sand.

Other Forms:

Related Places:

Information:There are 134 place, croft and house names in Vaul. It’s not the largest township in the island, but there are some fascinating names – and one or two mysteries!
Today we write Vaul, or Bhalla in Gaelic. In 1590 it was written as Wall, in 1716 as Vaal and it has been said that it comes from the Old Norse of the Vikings meaning cliffs. Many of us will know the ‘Braes of Vaul’ from the song often sung by Mairi MacArthur - Fàgail Bràigh Bhalla. Vaul is famous for its two Iron Age brochs, Dùn Mòr Bhalla and Dùn Beag Bhalla. The path to the larger fort is beautifully called An Gleann Dorcha, the dark glen. Vaul is also known for its golf course. One the old holes was on the top of a precipitous sand dune nicknamed ‘Mount Ararat’, a very difficult green to get on to as Ronnie MacLean, Silversands, remembers! Some of the machair between Vaul and Salum was badly eroded in the last century and was called ‘The Sahara’.
Separating Vaul and Salum is Mìthealum, another Viking name meaning, simply enough, middle island. Mìthealum an Fheòir is the grassy, inner part and half way out is Eilean nan Cloinne where Mary MacKinnon, Seaside, told Duncan Grant women would put their children when they waded out to collect tangle. Just to the east of Mìthealum is a big rock called Sgeir Bòdhab by Lachie MacLean (Lachainn Sheumais) – I’ve no idea what it means but it’s a great name!
On the inner part of Mìthealum you can still see the shape of a building through the grass. This is where the mystery begins! Lachainn Sheumais called this Taigh Shearmonachadh, the house of the sermons and Bobby MacLean, who lived yards away, told me there used to be church on Mìthealum. In two of the biographies of St Brendan of Clonfert (The Navigator) the saint founds a church called Bledach in ‘the district called Heth’ or in ‘terra Ethica’ – both of these are old names for Tiree in the old Irish records. And if we walk past Seaside towards the broch, what do we have? A rocky hillock called Creag a' Briundainn by the late Dorothy MacKinnon and Mary MacKinnon, Seaside – the rock of Brendan. Just north of this again is Glac nan Salm, the hollow of the psalms. I know it’s speculation and some scholars say St Brendan never came to Tiree at all, but...
Just down from Seaside is a little gully on the shore called Sloc nan Coin, the gully of the dogs. There are lots of these around the shore of Tiree and they are usually named after the old practice of disposing of unwanted puppies by throwing them in a sack into the sea - ‘going to the Navy’ as it was sometimes called. Up on the hill behind Vaul on the skyline is Cnoc Sgitheag. I don’t know what it means, but it is a Neolithic burial cairn. You can see their characteristic pointed outlines opposite An Talla and on the road to Ruaig. And I can’t leave Vaul without mentioning two other magnificent Viking names - Cnoc Hùineisdeir up towards the sliabh and Cnoc Òinegeir where Tommy and Peggy MacKinnon have built their house.
There’s so much information in these old names – it’s just a question of working out what they all mean!
Dr John Holliday

The Gaelic Otherworld, ed Ronald Black, p 191:

Near Vaul in Tiree, a man riding home at night with his son (a young boy) seated behind him was met by a number of cats. The boy had his hands clasped round his father, and the man, pressing them to his sides to make surer of the boy's hold, urged his horse to its speed. The cats sprang, and, fastening on the boy, literally devoured him. When the man reached home with his horse at full gallop, he had only the boy's arms left.

Local Form:

Languages : Norse