Rich history of Kilbride is a journey of discovery
LERAGS Glen near Oban is another corner of Argyll that feels heavy with history.
Lying deep in the glen is Kilbride Kirk, a religious site since at least the 13th century, and perhaps even as early as the sixth century.
Its historical record begins in 1249, when Alexander II granted ‘the see of Argyll the Parish Church of St Bride the Virgin in Lorn’. This church dedicated to St Bride or Bridget became ruinous by 1671, and was replaced by a rectangular kirk in 1706, which again has now become a roofless ruin.
Inside lies the MacDougall burial aisle of clan chiefs, and so far 319 graves have been identified at Kilbride, dating from the 13th century to the present day.
A small band of volunteers called the Friends of Kilbride was formed in 2015 to rescue the historic kirk, graveyard and archaeological sites from near oblivion, donating their time, labour and money - which totals £20,000 so far. The church has ‘a past too rich to have no future’, their website appeals. To develop a preservation plan approved by Historic Environment Scotland, the Friends of Kilbride have also announced a £165,000 fundraising campaign.
Centuries of history are often crammed into one stone, let alone a whole graveyard, and one small inquiry set one volunteer on a journey of discovery. Liam Griffin, who lives next door, said the Friends of Kilbride offered to help a Canadian visitor search their records for traces of her family, who had emigrated to Canada from Oban.
‘Thanks to Dr Robert (Bob) Irvine’s survey, and the work of his volunteers, we have mapped 239 graves at Kilbride and recorded, where possible, the inscriptions and details,’ Liam explained.
‘By coincidence,’ he related, ‘grave number three, just a few pages into the record, revealed “Private Hugh McIntyre, 48th Canadian Highlanders killed in action at St Julian. 1915”. Next to the grave, both in the survey and kirkyard, stands grave number 59: “Stone 59 recorded the deaths in action of the McCulloch brothers: Iain Hugh who died on September 25, 1915, and Donald, killed in action on August 8, 1917”.’
The two gravestones that stand almost side by side list two unconnected local families back to the 1880s, yet they also both record Kilbride kirkyard’s only deaths from the Great War, Liam added. His further research revealed that Hugh McIntyre and Donald McCulloch are also recorded on Oban’s Dunollie War Memorial.
‘To further underline the poignancy of these events, just a few steps away from these memorials to men who died fighting their German enemies, lies the grave of my friend, Michael Hulman, lately resident of Oban, but born and raised in Hamburg, Germany.
‘“Man’s inhumanity to man” might have seen these poor souls, of different nationality, aiming to kill each other, but now their names are recorded, virtually side by side, at eternal peace, in a quiet graveyard among Argyll’s hills.
‘August 2 will see the centenary of Donald McCulloch’s death. The Friends of Kilbride plan to hold a simple, dignified ceremony at Kilbride to commemorate his life and death and the deaths of all those killed in the awful conflicts we human beings manufacture for ourselves. We would be especially pleased to hear from relatives or friends of the McCulloch brothers or from those of Private Hugh McIntyre.
‘The Friends of Kilbride would like to record our thanks to Lodge Saint Modan, the Oban Commercial Lodge, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Canadian government and genealogist Caroline Boswell, whose help in tracing the histories of these brave Oban soldiers was invaluable.’
Liam Griffin found the graves of First World War soldiers next to one another at Kilbride, and has organised a remembrance ceremony. Inset, one of the headstones.