The safe anchorage at the southern end of the Island has played a crucial role in Tanera’s history and is still of paramount importance to today’s occupants. The anchorage was of key interest to the Island’s earliest known inhabitants, the Vikings. Although there are no records available to confirm the exact duration of their stay it is commonly believed that the Norsemen were resident on the Island from around the 8th to the 13th Centuries. The earliest record of life, or rather death, on Tanera is a tomb stone in the graveyard, located up the hill just above Tigh-an-Quay. The stone bears the inscription 1193, suggesting that the Island was used for burials during the Norse period.
It was in the late 18th Century that the herring industry put down firm roots on Tanera with the construction of the herring station at Tigh-an-Quay (see image to the left) in 1784 by the London based British Fishery Society. The industry peaked for little more than 35 years, with diminishing stocks sending the company bankrupt in 1820. There followed a period of various different ownerships and economic activity, but predominantly fishing based. However, it was the First World War and the great depression that followed which dealt the hammer blow for the Island, with the population declining rapidly from a high of 120 persons at the start of the 20th Century until 1931 when the last family left the Island.
In the late 1930’s Tanera caught the attention of the naturalist Frank Fraser Darling who came to live on the Island, based at Tigh-an-Quay, with his wife Bobby from 1938 to 1944. Fraser Darling’s ambition was to demonstrate to society how it was possible to live a sustainable life in harmony with nature, rather than in competition with it. He recorded his time on the Island in his book Island Years.
Following Fraser Darling’s departure there followed a further period when the Island was uninhabited. In 1965 it was purchased by Summer Isles Estates who restored many of the Island’s derelict cottages and buildings, and let them as holiday accommodation whilst also providing facilities for boating, sailing and fishing. Tourism has been a feature of Island life ever since, sitting alongside commercial fish farming as the two main economic activities still alive today.