A brief history of the Isle of Mull (Scotland)
The general consensus agrees that the Isle of Mull has been inhabited since after the last Ice Age ended, which would be around the year 6000 BC. Inhabitants of the Bronze Age built abundant brochs, menhirs and also a stone circle, along with pottery, knives, burial cairns and other tantalizing evidence of the period.
During the time between around 600 BC and 400 BC, the inhabitants of the Iron Age were involved in the construction of defensive forts and crannogs. 563 AD saw an important and pivotal point in the Christian period, when it is thought that Christianity was first introduced to this particular area of Great Britain when St. Columba arrived from Ireland and set up a monastery close to the south western point of Mull.
Mull was to become a part of the Lordship of the Isles during the 14th century, subsequently being taken over by the MacLean clan in 1493 following the collapse of the Lordship.
There remains a legend which states that there are the remains of a Spanish vessel somewhere in the mud of Tobermory bay – laden to the gills with gold and treasure. Needless to say, the true identity of the ship and its cargo remains a mystery and the matter of dispute, but the story is nonetheless an incredibly famous local legend.
Some believe that the ship in question is none other than the Florencia, which belonged to the defeated Spanish Armada and was known to have fled the British fleet in or around 1588, anchoring in the area to stock up on provisions. There was a dispute regarding payment and the ship was to catch fire, eventually spreading to the gunpowder reserves and causing an explosion which would sink the ship. Legend has it that the cargo hold also hid no less than £300,000 in solid gold and valuable treasures.
Others believe that the ship in question was named the San Juan de Baptista and according to records was used for carrying troops and such, rather than treasure and gold. This particular account speaks of the chief of the island at the time cutting a deal with the commander of the Spanish ship to add provisions and supplies, along with refitting the ship in exchange for their help in an ongoing feud with enemies and conspirators on the nearby islands. The tale tells that the ship was sunk during the conflict that ensued.
Whichever of the tales happens to be true, if any at all, extensive searches were carried out for the wreck and whatever it may or may not have been carrying from the 17th century right through to the end of the 20th and sadly, nothing of value or significant interest has so far been found.
At the time of the so-called Highland Clearances during both the 18th and 19th centuries, the 10,000 inhabitants of Mull were reduced to under 3,000.
During the Second World War, the entire island was to become a restricted area, with Tobermory bay becoming a naval base. The whole of the restricted area and the base within was put under the control of one Sir Gilbert Stephenson, who was known to rule from his leather furniture with such an iron fist and terrifying temper that he was donned with the nickname ‘The Terror of Tebormory’. A total of 911 ships and vessels passed through between the years of 1940 and 1945, with the base being used to train in anti submarine combat.
The Isle of Mull continues to display its rich history and boasts a number of iconic and historic buildings for the admiration of visitors, including Torosay Castle and Duart Castle which remain open to the public from the early spring until the end of the summer. There is also the remains of a small distressed castle by the name of Moy Castle which can be found on the shoreline of Lochbuie.
Visitors can also find the remains of a number of interesting chapels, including those located at Kilvickeon and Pennygown. There are also plenty of important archaeological sites, ranging from standing stones to chambered cairns. One of the most notable is that of the prehistoric stone circle located at Lochbuie and another three stone groups found close to Dervaig.