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Friends of Historic Kilbride near Oban are ringing in a replica.
More than 120 years or so ago after the original bell at Kilbride Church last rang out through Lerags Glen calling the faithful to prayer, a copy of it is being specially made so it can go on public view again.
The bell, cast in 1798, was recently discovered among a haul of precious items being kept at Dunollie Museum, Castle and Ground in the care of the MacDougall clan.
In the last six months the bell, with the kind permission of the clan chief, was returned home on loan, into the care of Friends of Kilbride.
Members of the public have been able to view it on special request but to keep it safe the bell has been kept close to trustees at Kilbride and under cover.
‘There’s been quite a few stories about historic bells being stolen from churches and we would not want that to happen to ours, so that’s where the whole idea of getting a replica made came from, so we could put it on view. It’ll probably still be chained up and taken in at night though and people will also still be able to ask to see the original too,’ said Myra Griffin from the Friends group.
Metal artist Rossy Adams, daughter of Kilbride trustee Seymour Adams, now has the bell with her at her Cardiff studio where she is taking measurements ready to make the casting.
The casting day at Kilbride will be open to the public on Sunday May 31.
‘We thought it was too good an opportunity not to mark it with a special day. We hope lots of people will turn out to watch the copy being made,’ added Myra.
Plans are still in the early stages but it is hoped people will gather at The Barn bar where the original bell will be piped down the old drovers road through the field to Kilbride, being greeted at the churchyard gate by members of Oban Handbell Ringers before the casting takes place in an outdoor forge in the car park area.
Last year the whole Kilbride site, including a prayer house and gravestones, was recognised by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument, highlighting the area’s historical and ecclesiastical importance.
Historic Environment Scotland is supporting the casting.
The story behind the original Kilbride bell is that it seems to have been cast in Glasgow in 1786 for use in Maryland but the ship carrying it was wrecked in the Sound of Kererra. The bell was rescued and then hung for some time in Stephenson’s boatyard until it was given to the Kilbride kirk, presumably in 1795, the date engraved on the bell. It hung on a tree in the churchyard until being moved to the prayer house, before ending up at Dunollie.
Funds are always needed to keep up conservation and preservation work on the Kilbride site – repairs have been carried out on the memorial aisle where MacDougall chiefs and notable family members have been buried since Jacobean times.
The site, once hidden behind trees and thick tangles of bracken and bramble bushes, was uncovered by Myra and Liam Griffin, who bought the land in 2002. Realising the site had ‘a past too rich to have no future’, the Griffins were instrumental in forming the Friends of Kilbride in 2015 and transferred the land title to the group three years later on a 99-year lease so it could attract funding.
The whole conservation project, covering three phases of works, could cost around £300,000 and take years to complete.
There are hopes the project, proving it can fulfil schemes and stick to budgets, will soon be able to attract more money from the likes of the lottery. Last April the Friends group was heartened by its first grant of £7,000 from Carraig Gheal Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund.
To find out more go to friendsofkilbride.scot