Rich his­tory of Kil­bride is a jour­ney of discovery

The Oban Times - - Heritage - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

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.

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