is the crown jewel vacation spot at the northern tip of the Bruce
Peninsula. Fishermen began dropping nets into Tobermory’s deep natural
harbours, Big and Little Tub in the late 1800s. Naval surveyor Henry
Bayfield originally named this port Collins Harbour. It was renamed in
1882 by Scottish fishermen for the port of Tobermory on the Island of
Mull in Scotland.
One Week in Tobermory
2020 Ontario Cottage Country Georgian Bay Vacation Family Vlog
The hive of activity
that Tobermory Ontario has become and the presence of many successful
commercial enterprises might surprise some of the earliest visitors and
settlers in that area. However, it must be remembered that in the 1800s
tourism and other related ventures were not the reasons why pioneers
came to the Bruce Peninsula. It was the quest for land suitable for
agriculture that attracted settlement.
In "The Early Settlement of Tobermory and St. Edmonds Township” author
Patrick Folkes provides excerpts from the reports of three early
government representatives whose responsibility it was to prepare the
area for an influx of settlers. Their comments were less than
enthusiastic about the future prospects of that area.
In 1857 A. G. Robinson, the chief engineer for Lake Huron lighthouse
operations described the area as being “totally unfit for agricultural
In 1869, Public Land Surveyor, Charles Rankin, arrived in the area to
resurvey the proposed road that would run through the centre of St.
Edmonds Township from the Lindsay town line to Tobermory Ontario harbour.
After six weeks of struggle to complete the task, Rankin and his crew
returned to their base camp. He summarized in his report that the work
had been “one of the most troublesome explorations and pieces of line
running ... which I have ever met with”.
Tobermory & Flowerpot
Island - Everything you need to know to plan a day trip!
William Bull, a representative of the Indian Department, was sent in
1873 to explore the region to ascertain the amount of good agricultural
lands and also the quality and quantity of timber resources. He reported
that the town plot and some of the surrounding area was “nearly all
burnt off, leaving the white rocky ridges quite bare”. However, Bull
also reported that the area, nearly four thousand acres, adjacent to the
community was perhaps the best in the region.
Despite such warnings, during the 1870s and 1880s the government sold
tracts of land to prospective settlers under the guise of promoting them
as agricultural lands. The results were chaotic. Some pioneers arrived
and struggled to create farmland. Others came, and after battling the
environment and the elements left. Some of these plots were taken over
by others, while tracts remained undeveloped.
The hardier pioneers remained. While many continued to cultivate the
soil, they turned to other ventures to sustain their families. Many
worked for the lumbering companies that held the timber rights in the
area. Fishing had long been carried out in the area. Editions of the
Owen Sound Comet from the early 1850s report of fishermen arriving from
“Tupper Murray” with large catches of fish to trade for supplies. Many
of the early settlers to the region augmented their diets and income by
The area around Tobermory Ontario remained relatively isolated for many
decades. Land transportation was difficult at best. Consequently, the
community was dependent upon the vessels that sailed around the tip of
Bruce Peninsula from Georgian Bay to Lake Huron.
However, the arrival and emergence of the automobile as a means of
transportation had a great impact upon the Tobermory area. The
automobile age was closely followed by the growth and expansion of the
tourism industry. To facilitate both of these twentieth century
phenomena a good system of roads had to be built. The completion of an
automobile route to Tobermory marked the end of isolation and the
beginning of tourism in the area. Today tourism is a major economic
factor in the life of the area.
History of Tobermory, Scotland
Tobermory derives its name from the gaelic ‘Tobar Mhoire’ meaning the
well of Mary. Mary’s Well and Mary’s Chapel dated back to the Medieval
period, the water from the well was said to possess medicinal
properties. Both the well and chapel are gone but a monument was erected
on the approximate site of the well in commemoration of Edward VII’s
coronation. The only sign of the old chapel, can be seen at one corner
of the graveyard.
Tobermory - Isle of Mull, Scotland
The town of Tobermory was established in 1788, created by the British
Fisheries Society. The society had decided that Tobermory should be one
of three new habitations to be developed. The other two being Ullapool
and Lochbay in Skye. In 1788 the building work began.
Man has inhabited the general area for over 3000 years, but because the
previous inhabitants were farmers, the majority of the population lived
at Baliscate at the top of the Eas Brae (Eas meaning ‘Waterfall’). The
only real evidence that can be seen of early settlements are the
Standing stones at Baliscate and an Iron age fort near to the farm at
Sgriob Ruadh. The fort is called Dun Urgadul and is thought to have been
in use between 600 B.C. and 400 A.D.
Where the Main Street now sits had been nothing more than a rocky cliff
face with a small piece of flat ground at Ledaig (where the distillery
is now situated) that supported a small settlement. To start building
the new Tobermory, the site had to be created by cutting away at the
steep slope and reclaiming land from the sea. A small pier and customs
house were the first structures to be built so that the salt could be
landed and taxes could be levied. Most fish was transported in salt to
preserve it, and salt was taxable. The current post office was the
customs house and store. Other buildings were then constructed in this
area, including an inn (where the co-op is now). this was to be the core
of the village. Land was precious, and so, to allow the village to
expand, accommodation land was released at the top of the hill. Argyll
Terrace was developed and named after the 5th Duke of Argyll.
The new village was expected to attract people currently working on the
land and to develop their skills into being fishermen and tradesmen.
This never really worked, as few local people had either the knowledge
or finance to build boats and head way out to sea and catch Herring. In
the end other factors helped develop this part of Scotland. Kelp was
being harvested for processing into soap and glass. This meant that the
pier had to be extended and this increased trade.
The boom in Kelp however, was only temporary and the trade collapsed in
the 1820’s and lean years were ahead for the village. As in recent
years, tourism came to the rescue and after visits by notables like
Mendelssohn the village became a stopping off place for people visiting
the Hebrides and Fingal’s Cave. In 1847 Queen Victoria visited Tobermory
in the Royal Yacht (Victoria and Albert) and described Tobermory as
“prettily situated” The town then had a reputation for being on the
‘Royal Route’ and Steamships Companies used this description in its
advertising material to attract people onto its cruises. The promotion
worked, and the village didn’t look back.
A visit to Tobermory and
the Isle of Mull, Oct 2016
By now the village had around a thousand inhabitants and the buildings
were developing outwards to the north. The area where the Mishnish pub
is now standing was constructed and more seawall was extended to carry
the road. In 1864 a new deep water pier was completed to service larger
vessels that had become necessary to service all the growing small
communities up the West Coast of Scotland. The importance of Tobermory’s
safe harbour was now as important as ever to passing vessels. More
vessels meant more trade and the Tobermory shops developed and with them
the necessary trades.
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