This article was first drafted by its author, Eric R. Cregeen, in 1973; by his untimely death in 1983 it remained still untouched, and it is presented here in a re-cast form. Cregeen's object in writing this article was to ‘trace the beginnings of the crofting townships in the island of Tiree and to examine the forces which led to their creation’. Although elements of the crofting experience have been extensively written on, its origins have seen less investigation, particularly the regional and chronological variations of experience. This work is vital, therefore, in contributing to a fuller understanding of what was happening on one of the great Scottish estates in the age of improvement, and why. This article tracks the development of estate policy on Tiree, the role of the island's owners, the dukes of Argyll, and the nature of the entanglement of ideal and reality in the early nineteenth century.