Monday, September 27, 2010

Inverneill Mausoleum, on Loch Fyne

Major General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneill has become one of my favourite Knapdale characters. I have devoted a very large part of KnapdalePeople to this gentleman, and have been able to reproduce copies of family paintings on my site because of the great help from one of his (indirect) descendants, Neill Campbell. During the 19th Century, two proprietors owned most of Knapdale: the Campbells of Inverneill and the Malcolms of Poltalloch, and so to understand Knapdale, it is necessary to understand these Estates.

The Inverneill Campbells exemplified the Highland military aristocracy who - after Culloden - joined the British Empire and in doing so, made their fortune. Unlike the Campbells of Duntroon, the Inverneill family did very well financially, and managed to maintain their Knapdale Estates to the time of World War I.

The memorial inscriptions in the Inverneill Mausoleum are in the Knapdale People site. By reading those inscriptions, you can see the history of the British Empire.

With the help and guidance of Inverneill House's present owner, Gordon Hutton, we managed to track down the Mausoleum. This was a true adventure, and without Mr. Hutton, I would never have scrambled over that last fence (and he never laughed, either, he is a kind and wonderful gentleman!)

The area is really a deciduous jungle. In the photo on the right, you can sort of see me, within all the leaves and trees. There was once a path to the Mausoleum, but this has disappeared. Two large sequoias have grown up outside the mausoleum's outer wall, which helped Mr. Hutton guide us to the building from the road and across a couple of cow pastures and a small forest.

It was a lovely building, carefully planned and built, now well on its way to ruin, and it made me think of Shelley's poem, "Ozymandius."

Over the front entrance, there is the Campbell of Inverneill Coat of Arms; and on the back, there is a stained glass window. The latter has been broken. Plywood covers the hole.

St Columba's Cave on Loch Caolisport

On the south western side of Loch Caolisport, there is a ruined Chapel and behind that, a cave. This is known as "St Columba's Cave"

St Columba (c520 to c600) was an aristocrat who founded Celtic Christianity in, among other places on the Irish Sea, Iona. This particular Cave is on the shore of that sea, and it is not ridiculous to think that, indeed, it was first used by that Saint.

Inside the cave there is still the remains of an altar. The cross scratched onto the wall a very long time ago has been emphasized with white colour in modern times.

Marion Campbell of Kilberry produced a lovely booklet in which (on page 13) there is a description of this site. I have reproduced her "Mid Argyll Archaeological Guide" in pdf form in Knapdale People. Before the Reformation, this Cave and its Chapel would have been a major pilgrims' destination.

Cladh a Bhile on Loch Caolisport

We could not find this ancient burial ground. It is the one failure I most regret. Sorry.

Ormsary Estate on Loch Caolisport

Because a branch of my ancestors left Ormsary Estate for Canada (in 1853), I have a special interest in this place on the east side of Loch Caolisport. If you check the 1694 "Hearth Tax Records" on my site (page 6) you will see that there are a number of McNeills living along that Loch.

Donald McNeill is noted as living at Drumnamuckloch in Kilberry Estate in 1694. In 1672, this gentleman had acquired Crear Estate by Charter from the 9th Earl of Argyll. Crear is south of Ormsary, on the coast, with (one presumes) access via the adjacent Crear Burn to the uplands behind Ormsary. On our visit to Ormsary, Lord Lithgow very kindly drove us up into that area. To me, it looked grim, especially as compared to the lush green along the coast. And the McNeills were known as a primarily sea faring clan.

Looking on the bright side, there is, a loch up there, Loch Nan Torran. And the Landranger map shows that the place is actually laced with burns. Former habitations were probably in those green areas you can see in the photo. At the time, the clansmen made their homes out of turf, not stone.

During Argyll's failed rebellion against James II of England in 1685, this Donald McNeill supported Argyll. Perhaps this is why we see him living in a one-hearth home in 1695

Donald McNeill was the son of Neill McNeill of Arichonan. His eldest son, Malcolm, is also known as being "of Arichonan". It would seem that Donald spent the last years of his life working to move his clansmen from the Crear uplands. With the triumphant return of the Campbells of Argyll, he exchanged Crear for Colonsay Island. It was, however, his son Malcolm (of Arichonan) who actually led the McNeill Clansmen to Colonsay and Oronsay.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Like Leac Na Baan, Arichonan was built at the top of a hill, presumably because you could see any approaching ship coming up the Loch. The buildings are now in ruins and empty of people. A study of Arichonan has been one of my own major projects, and you can see the results of all that here, in KnapdalePeople.

When I visited Arichonan in 2002, there was a large plaque on site recounting the story of the Clearance that occurred here in 1848. This time, in 2010, there was no sign, except one warning against falling stones (!). Further, there is no longer any sign on the road indicating that up that hill there is a ruined township. We found the trail, though. It is still obvious and mowed. On the other hand, there is a modern house farther down the road to the south, with a sign identifying it as "Arichonan Farm". Since my 2010 visit, I have wondered if we are now meant to use that path up to the ruins?

Castle Sween

This is an impressive castle which dominates the sea approaches to Loch Sween. It was known as the "Key to Knapdale", and at Knapdale People, there is a whole section devoted to this fort. It was destroyed when the MacDonalds invaded Argyll in the 1640's, and never rebuilt. As you can see in the above photo, directly across Loch Sween is Taynish. Castle Sween is now a major centre for tourism. A flourishing trailer court lies next to it, and when we visited, there was lots of little boats in the water.

Road to Castle Sween

On the way to Castle Sween, south from Leac Na Baan, there was a gate with a pair of coats of arms. They interested me because they were so fresh and new, and the portcullis reminds me of the one for the city of Westminster in England.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Standing Stones, Myths and Rituals

Whenever you see some ancient pot described as a 'ritual' pot, you know that really, the archaeologist has no idea what it was actually FOR. So, 'ritual' is a handy hold-all for all the strange items of we dig up and wonder at, like, for example, the stone circles at Arran's Machrie Moor and the multitude of circles and henges and giant stones scattered over Kilmartin Glen. It's darned 'mythic' for sure....

Anyway, what should one think, when a married couple, living in northern Alberta, descended (a long way back) from West Highland people, build this stone circle in their yard just because they like rocks, big rocks, Standing Stone rocks, maybe of a 'mythic' kind:

This is Shane, delivering a birthday present to Sara:

And here is one of the more spectacular rocks, put up this August:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Leacnabaan (White Rock)

Leac Na Baan, now a Bed and Breakfast, was in the past a farm/township, part of the Arichonan Estate. In 1798 and 1802, when Niel Malcolm of Poltalloch purchased the area, he inventoried the houses and other shelters now part of his holdings. At KnapdalePeople, on page 10, there is a carpenter's description of the houses in 1802. There were a number of people over several generations who made Leac Na Baan their home. If you go to the "People List" at Knapdale People, and then to "Advanced Search", enter "Leac Na Baan" in "Place" and enable some 500 entries, you will find quite lots of names, mostly Births and Marriages, but also people eligible for the Argyll Militia, etc.

Lying near the cup shaped depression is the remnant of a very impressive standing stone.

Dunadd, and Cup Shaped Depressions

First, a closeup of Dunadd's "cup":

South of Kilmartin Valley, and of the Crinan Canal there is a township (now a B&B, White Rock Bed and Breakfast), known by the Gaelic name "Leacnabaan". Mr Hamilton, the proprietor, is an enthusiastic historian (as is his wife), and he has noticed several things about this place. When he looks north through a notch in the hills, Dunadd is clearly in sight. In fact, he believes that a small rise next to his home would have been ideal for placing signal fires (ie, like in the Lord of the Rings movie).

And then, close to a fallen standing stone at Leacnabaan, there is ANOTHER cup shaped depression:

Finally, there is a very similar cup shape inside St Columba's Cave on Loch Caolisport!

Interesting, No?? If anyone has archaeological/historical notes relating to these 'cups', let me know.

Dunadd Fort (Kilmartin Valley)

Dunadd is a rocky outcrop a few miles north of Lochgilphead. There is little left of its past now. But back in the day, when the Scottish tribes came from Ireland and settled in the West Highlands (about 500AD), they fortified it ("Dun" means "fort"), and made it the capital of their country, which they called "Dal Riata."

This hill sits in the middle of a very large bog, Mòine Mhòr (Great Moss) now largely drained through the efforts of the Malcolms of Poltalloch, but through most of time, an excellent part of Dunadd's defensive system. From its height, you can look down on the Kilmartin Valley and the River Add... quite a lovely scene!

There is every reason to believe that men were anointed as kings on Dunadd's summit. You can still see a large, worn, stone which features a foot-shaped depression, as well a cup-shaped depression. At one time, the stone also displayed a carving of a boar (very kingly beast), and I suppose with a lot of imagination, its shadow still remains. I am sure I saw the drawing a few years ago on a previous visit, but time goes by and events happen, I guess.

The Vikings, on their longships, arrived on Britain's horizon in 791, and changed everything in the Western Highlands. Dunadd was no longer tenable as a capital. By 850 AD, around the time of King Kenneth McAlpine, the Scottish leaders had moved their headquarters east, away from the coast, to Scone, near Perth.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kilmartin Glen and Carnasserie Castle

Carnasserie Castle sits on a hill a couple of kilometers north of Kilmartin Village. It was built for the 5th Earl of Argyll about 1565, by the then Bishop of the Isles, John Carswell. This Earl was one of the foremost leaders of the Protestant Reformation; and John Carswell (an excellent Gaelic scholar) is famous for translating John Knox's prayer book into Gaelic, so that it could be read by the people of the West Highlands.

Above the main door, there is an oblong panel with a carving of a shield commemorating one of the (probably) most rancorous marriages of that century: the 5th Earl of Argyll, Archibald Campbell, and Jean Stewart (a half sister of Mary Queen of Scots.) On the left, there is the Campbell galley and the 'gyronny' of eight; on the right, a lion rampant for the royal arms of Scotland. Along the bottom, in Gaelic script, there is carved, "Dia Le Ua N Dubh(n)e" (God be with the O Duibhne). The Campbells were, in Gaelic terms, the "O'Duibhne". The couple managed to divorce in 1573, the year of Archibald's death.

During the terrible wars of the 1600s, Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchenbreck garrisoned the castle as a supporter of the 9th Earl of Argyll's uprising against James II (Stewart) of England. The MacLeans of Torloisk, etc. successfully besieged the castle, blew part of it up, and murdered Auchenbreck's uncle. Good times.

Kilmartin Gala and the Mid Argyll Bagpipe Band

Luck was with us in Kilmartin, because we happened upon a Gala put on by the local people. There was a lot going on, of course, including a peregrine falcon...

And then there was the Mid Argyll Bag Pipe Band! This was a real treat as they put on a particularly energetic show. The Drummer girls were incredible. And the music was so well done. This band has been in existence in Mid Argyll (and Lochgilphead) for most of the 20th century and given the relatively small population of the area, is very conscious of the necessity to encourage young people to take part. This is absolutely evident in this video, which I totally recommend (it combines hip hop dancing with piping!!). Anyway, I purchased the CD and here is the cover:

Kilmartin Church and the Campbells of Duntroon

Inside the Church there are a number of plaques on the walls, some remembering the Malcolms of Poltalloch who purchased Duntroon Castle in the late 1700s, and a couple remembering the previous Campbell Lairds. This one is particularly interesting, I think, evocative of the Scottish aristocracy of the 1700s, and their attempts to make their fortune within the British Empire:

Kilmartin Church & Poltalloch Graveslabs

The church at Kilmartin is host to a Poltalloch enclosure with a display of medieval gravestones.

Notice the mention of the Loch Awe school of sculptures. The Campbells were strong supporters of indigenous art and music, and were fully at home within the West Highland Gaelic world. The Malcolms of Poltalloch are an extremely old family, and even during the MacDonald invasion of the mid 1600s, continued to support the Campbell clan.

Kilmartin Glen and Archaeology

Kilmartin Glen is one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe. Super-ancient items are scattered from one end to the other of the valley. More than 350 prehistoric sites lie within 6 miles of Kilmartin Village. We walked almost the entire length of this place, taking photos throughout. There are plenty of photos on the 'net, so I will show you only 2 of ours: First, finding a 'henge' was a problem, since they tend to lie flat on the landscape. They were popular in neolithic times, and are dough-nut shaped. Being keen of eye, I found one, in a field not far from a much more outstanding group of standing stones. Here it is:
And here are a nearby group of Standing Stones. The resident cattle were using them as scratching posts and windbreaks. Given that the stones are VERY old, whoever set them up were serious builders!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ford, and a Standing Stone

Across the road from the Alpaca herd was a Standing Stone. The entire Kilmartin Glen is festooned with such stones (and cairns).

This particular one is broken. According to local information, it was broken at the same time (1879) as the collapse of the Tay Bridge, over the Firth of Dundee, on the other side of Scotland.

Amazing things, those stones.

Ford and the Alpaca Baby

No, we did not go over to Oban this trip. Instead, we concentrated on Kilmartin Glen, Lochgilphead, and south of the Crinan Canal. This meant that we travelled a number of times on the road between Ford and Lochgilphead.

And, the highlight turned out to be an Alpaca farm!

We managed to time our travels with the birth of this little alpaca.

Ford, south end of Loch Awe and a Cairn

After Jura, we found lodgings in the Ford Hotel, 12 miles north of Lochgilphead.

Ford lies at the south end of Loch Awe, a long narrow lake which lies parallel to Loch Fyne.

It was from Loch Awe and surrounding area that Clan Campbell established itself as a powerful family. In 1308, Robert the Bruce defeated the Clan MacDougall at the Battle of the Pass of Brander downstream from the loch.

Across the road from the Hotel is a genuine
Add Imageancient cairn! Yes! The kind that archaeologists love to excavate because they are often burial mounds. However, as far as I can gather, there has been no attempt to dig this up. Really.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jura and the Sea

It becomes obvious, as one travels around these islands, that in the old times, the West Highlands was a sea faring area. Today, aside from ferries, there are plenty of yachts, but no birlinns.

The Celtic Galley Association exists to encourage the skills of the sea, "including traditional boatbuilding, sailing, rowing, and seamanship. It also seeks to promote knowledge of the maritime history of the Celtic Seas and to enable a wide range of people to have access to their cultural heritage."

And, of course, there is a book written by Denis Rixson, about this maritime galley. It seems to me that there is, potentially, a really excellent team sport in birlinn racing.

Jura: Standing Stones

Of course, there are standing stones on Jura. Jura, Island of Deer, by Peter Youngson, proved to be an invaluable guide for this part of the trip. We tracked down the one at Knockrome. There are TWO of them, according to Youngson, but we only found the one, and compared to the others, it was a very small standing stone (we were becoming jaded and picky by this time, I know.) There is a story that when passing between the 2 stones, local people of Jura speak of passing between 'the Two Juras' an act which would bring good luck.

The stone was in a boggy field, beside an airstrip, which itself lies beside an outstanding white sandy beach known as 'Corran Sand'.