Museum of Islay Life - Life on Islay in the early 1900s
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Museum of Islay Life Port Charlotte

Museum of Islay Life Port Charlotte

This former church was purchased in 1976 and the Museum opened the following year. The bulk of the exhibits are in the main body of the building while the former vestry houses an extensive library. A gallery was constructed at one end in 1998 to act as an office and store. A small shop area sells books and pamphlets about Islay as well as a range of gifts.

More details and photographs of the Museum collections will be found below.

The Museum regrets that it cannot assist with genealogical enquiries from people researching their family histories. Visitors to the Museum are welcome to research in our library and use our other archives, for which we will normally make a small charge.

There are over 1600 items in the main Museum collection, covering all ages from the Mesolithic, c.8000 BC, to the 1950s. The Victorian and Edwardian ages are especially well represented, with exhibits showing what it was like to live in a simple house as well as how the laird lived at the same time.

Christian Stone
Early Christian Stone Carving
Illicit Whisky Still
Illicit Whisky Still
Gordon Booth Library
Gordon Booth Library

The earliest archaeological remains on Islay come from c. 8000 BC, very early in the Mesolithic period, and consist almost entirely of flint tools. No significant remains of any dwellings have survived from that period. By the Neolithic, c. 3500-2500 BC, relatively sophisticated pottery was in use and a number of burials from this period, and from the Bronze Age, c. 2500-600 BC, have been excavated, as have some dwelling houses.

The "Tuscania" Bell
Victorian Washstand
Victorian Washstand
A Ships Figurehead
A Ship's Figurehead

The Museum has several carved graveslabs dating from around 1400-1600 AD. There are many of these in old graveyards around the island, but some have been rescued and are housed in the Museum for safe keeping. Among the many and varied displays inside the Museum is a genuine illicit whisky still, while another display sets out the many specialist tools used by the coopers, who made and maintained the barrels vital to the industry. The coasts of Islay are littered with the wrecks of ships, and items from some of these, including the First World War tragedies involving the "Tuscania" and the "Otranto", are on display.

In addition to the collection of objects, the Museum houses a library of over 1,000 books about Islay and related areas, as well as Scottish cultural and economic history, together with several thousand photographs, many dating back to the early 1900s.

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Patrons of the Museum of Islay Life
Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen KT GCMG HonFRSE PCBruno Schroder
Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MPMrs Charmaine Mallinckrodt
Lord Margadale of Islay DLSara Parkin OBE
Councillor Robin Currie

Opening Hours 2018
10.30 am to 4.30 pm.
30 March to 30 April:- Monday to Friday.
1 May to 30 September:- every day (Sunday 1 pm to 4.30 pm).
1 to 31 October:- Monday to Friday.
Entrance Fee
- Adult 4.00
- Concession 3.00
- Child 1.00
- Family 8.00 (for 2 adults and 2 or more children)

Bowmore early 1900s

Port Ellen Pier Road

Lagavulin Distillery

Mending the Lobster Creels

Unloading Coal
Bowmore Pier