Tobermory (; Scottish Gaelic: Tobar Mhoire) is the capital of, and until 1973 the only burgh on, the Isle of Mull in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. It is located on the east coast of Mishnish, the most northerly part of the island, near the northern entrance of the Sound of Mull. The village was founded as a fishing port in 1788; its layout was based on the designs of Dumfriesshire engineer Thomas Telford. It has a current population of about 1,000. It is notable for appearing in the 2002–05 children's programme Balamory by the BBC.

Legend has it that the wreck of a Spanish galleon, laden with gold, lies somewhere in the mud at the bottom of Tobermory Bay—although the ship's true identity, and cargo, are in dispute. By some accounts, the Florencia (or Florida, or San Francisco), a member of the defeated Spanish Armada fleeing the English fleet in 1588, anchored in Tobermory to take on provisions. Following a dispute over payment (or possibly, according to local folklore, a spell cast by the witch Dòideag), the ship caught fire and the gunpowder magazine exploded, sinking the vessel. In her hold, reputedly, was £300,000 worth of gold bullion.[1] Other sources claim the vessel was the San Juan de Sicilia (or San Juan de Baptista), which, records indicate, carried troops, not treasure.[2][3][4] Whatever the true story, no significant treasure has ever been recovered in Tobermory Bay.[5]

Seventeenth-century efforts to salvage the treasure are well-documented. The Duke of Lennox gifted rights to Spanish wrecks near Tobermory to the Marquess of Argyll. In 1666, his son the Earl of Argyll engaged James Maule of Melgum to use diving bells to find treasure, and recover the valuable brass cannon. Maule had learnt diving in Sweden, but raised only two brass guns and an iron cannon, and left after three months. It was later said he had hoped to return, thinking he was the only expert diver. Argyll however raised six cannon by workmen under his direction, and next employed John Saint Clare, or Sinclair, son of the minister of Ormiston, in 1676 and a German sub-contractor Hans Albricht van Treileben, who had worked on the wreck of the Vasa. The next year, the earl transferred the rights to Captain Adolpho E. Smith and Treileben. At this period the fore-part of the wreck was visible above water, and was called the Admiral of Florence. The project was beset with difficulties in 1678; the Admiralty disputed Argyll's rights to the wreck. Captain Adolpho Smith refused to return the diving equipment to William Campbell, captain of the earl's frigate, the Anna of Argyll. The McLean clan fought the divers on land at Tobermory, led by Hector McLean, brother of Lachlan McLean of Torloisk.[6]

The largest attempt made to locate the galleon was in 1950 when the then Duke of Argyll signed a contract with the British Admiralty to locate the galleon. Nothing came of the attempt, apart from the development of equipment still used today to locate ancient sunk vessels.[7] Owing to similarities in sailing conditions, in the mid-1800s emigrant sailors created the community of Tobermory in Ontario, Canada. This namesake town has twin harbours, known locally as "Big Tub" and "Little Tub", which sheltered ships from the severe storms of Lake Huron.

Lobster pots on the harbour wall at Tobermory Lobster pots on the harbour wall at TobermoryTobermory war memorial Tobermory war memorial

During the Second World War, Tobermory was home to the Royal Navy training base HMS Western Isles, under the command of the legendary Vice admiral Sir Gilbert Stephenson, the so-called "Terror of Tobermory". His biography was written by broadcaster Richard Baker, who trained under him.[8][9]

^ "A Clan Feud, a Spanish Galleon, and a Big Bang". Retrieved 10 July 2010. ^ "The Galleon San Francisco". Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2010. ^ "The Tobermory Wreck". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 July 2010. ^ "British Archaeology Magazine – Guns of the Armada – Colin Martin". 2002. Retrieved 29 July 2008. ^ "Tobermory Bay". Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2010. ^ HMC 6th Report (Duke of Argyll) (London, 1877), pp. 625-27. ^ "Preliminary Search for Treasure in Tobermory Bay". Popular Mechanics (October 1950): 160–162. October 1950. ^ Baker, Richard (1972). The Terror of Tobermory: Vice-Admiral Sir Gilbert Stephenson, KBE, CB, CMG. W.H. Allen. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-84158-197-2. ^ Baker, Richard (2005). The Terror of Tobermory. Edinburgh: Birlinn. ISBN 978-1-84341-023-2. Paperback edition of the above biography of Vice Admiral Sir Gilbert Stephenson KBE CB CMG and history of HMS Western Isles
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