Tireragan, like much of Mull, has a long history of human habitation with the first people establishing themselves on the land about 6,000 years ago. Although little remains of those early settlers the standing stones and duns found around Mull are a lasting sign of their thriving society. Over the next few thousand years, the land was fought over numerous times, belonging to the Danes and Norse along the way.
The more recent history of Tireragan is a microcosm of most of the Highland and Islands of Scotland. After many years encouraging the locals to farm the meagre resources of the land, the landlords decided that sheep were a far better investment than people. Within a very short time the population of Tireragan was reduced from as many as one hundred to none. Some moved to other parts of Mull but most were shipped across the world to North America and Australia.
Before the clearances, the people living on the Tireragan existed in harsh conditions raising highland cattle amongst the woodlands and on the moors. Few crops could be grown, but potatoes were planted in so called lazy beds, which were small fields cleared of stones and drained by numerous small ditches. The lazy beds are still visible today, some 150 years after they were last used. Although some of the woodlands were cut down by the Tireragan inhabitants, they also maintained and managed much of it in a sustainable way. Signs of hazel coppicing can still be seen in one or two locations.
After the clearances, the land was managed solely for sheep. Trees were cut down and the land burnt, in order to provide more grazing. This management devastated the natural vegetation and the animals dependant upon it. Only remnants of the woodland survived, in small pockets that wouldn’t burn or couldn’t be grazed. These trees still spread seed but few seedlings were able to grow and even then, grazing kept them below the level of the surrounding vegetation. These trees survived, but were hardly able to grow more than a few inches high, until the sheep were removed and they began to flourish.
On our publications page a booklet of the social history of Tireragan is avilable for download.