Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 6, Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Day 6, 24 July 2014

The next morning we arrived at Tobermory, the capital of the Isle of Mull, which had been established as a fishing village about 1789. Again we had to stand-off shore and use the ship’s tenders to be transported into the town. An amazing little town snuggly tucked under the hill with the shops and houses brightly painted. It is not until you look carefully that you see there is more of the town high on the hill, behind the trees. The brightly coloured buildings seem to be a feature in the western highland ports, as we saw the same thing at Portree on the Isle of Skye, when we were on tour there a few weeks before.

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The town was busy and there was an air of excitement, as the crowd grew on the town foreshore. We had arrived in time for the annual Highland Gathering, which was to take place on the plateau above the town.

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The procession, led by the pipers assembled on the foreshore and marched up the hill to the sports ground. They were followed by both competitors and spectators in a brightly coloured mass, as they snaked their way up the winding road. We enjoyed the stirring music of the bagpipes, as we sat on the foreshore, and watched them out of sight over the brow of the hill.

We also made use of the free wifi offered in town to contact family at home and confirm arrangements to meet some Irish cousins in Dublin the following day.

Although we decided to remain in Tobermory for the morning, many other cruisers took a variety of interesting tours, including the seven hour round trip to Iona, where St Columba established a church in the 6th Century. The island is steeped in history, including being the burial place of many of the early Scottish Kings.

We were to be all on board the Marco Polo by 4 pm, but then there was a delay with the tour to Iona, so the ship’s departure was an hour later than planned.

Unlockthepast had a full block of lectures from 3.30pm with the first hour’s time-slot allotted to Geraldene O’Reilly, with a ‘Portrait of a parish with focus on place names’, and Jackie Depelle’s workshop on ‘Family Historian’, a genealogical software program. Unfortunately Jackie was stuck on the Iona tour, so her talk was postponed to later on the cruise. I went to Geraldene’s presentation, as I’m a great believer that you can only understand your ancestors ‘by walking in their shoes’ one might say.  I delve deep into the local history, and place names can reveal much.

Geraldene O’Reilly, came from New Zealand, and although this was her only presentation, she has had a long association with family history groups, giving regular talks on a number of topics.

In the next set of lectures it was a choice between Sean O’Duill on ‘Country cures from Irish folklore’ and Lesley Silvester on ‘Quarter Session records’. Sean’s presentation was open to all passengers on the ship, while all other talks were only available to the Unlockthepast cruise participants.Again I was drawn to the Irish presentation which was very interesting.

After a few minutes break, more lectures to choose from. ‘Family History sources before 1837’, by Jackie Depelle and, ‘Timelines as a research tool’, by Helen Smith. I choose Family History Sources before 1837, as nearly all my research at present, is before that time, but I’m a great fan of time-lines and was disappointed to miss Helen’s talk. However, we were all very happy to take advantage of Helen’s offer to repeat her talk a couple of days later on the cruise. It was a great talk, and showed how ‘time-lines’ should be a basic tool, for all historians, especially family historians.

For the last set of lectures for the day, it was a choice between,’Highland Clearances’ with Mike Murray, or ‘Understanding the context and why social history is important in your research’, by Helen Smith. As we had heard so many references to the ‘Highland Clearances’ on all our earlier tours throughout Scotland, I decided it was time I found out more about them, and the part they played in Scottish immigration. Mike’s presentation was excellent and he was able to present the topic in a simple, but very effect way.

After dinner we had free time, and I decided to review all the notes I had made during lectures,and made a list of all the questions I wanted to discuss, along with the list of experts, whom I hoped could help me during the Research Help Zone. I also checked all the catalogue references and printouts I had made during my preparations, before I left home several weeks before, and brought along with me.

I had been holding off consulting these experts because I wanted to allow others to make the most of these wonderful opportunities, however we only had a few days left and time was running out. I needed to make appointments with my lists of experts, which I did.

I went to bed late in the evening, and as the weather had remained calm and warm, sleep came easily and quickly.

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