James is roaring to return St Conan’s lion

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Decades on and a Taynuilt builder is ‘making amends’ for schoolboy mischief at St Conan’s Kirk.

Nowadays James MacMillan’s presence at the historic Lochawe kirk is in an official capacity as one of its chief builders working on a massive restoration project – but that was not always the case.

In his younger years he and his pals used the out-of-bounds church as as ‘adventure playground’

St Conan’s lion before he was brought mysteriously crashing to the ground.

Dad-of-two James, whose mum still lives close to the historic kirk at Loch Awe, is sticking to his story that he and his chums had nothing to do with a 4ft lion brought crashing off its pedestal in the cloisters, smashing its chin clean off.

The true identity of the culprit and exactly how the lion became unperched has remained a mystery ever since.

Despite James insisting innocence on behalf of his peers and after some gentle ribbing from Friends of St Conan’s chairman Peter Hennessey, James has now offered his service for free to fix the lion back in his rightful place back on the pedestal.

‘I’d never have hurt the lion. It was nothing to do with me. We used to play at the church as boys, we shouldn’t have been there but it was an adventure playground to us!’ said James.

The lion is away being repaired before returning to St Conan’s soon with his chin intact.

James added: ‘It’ll be great to get the lion back. The place just hasn’t been the same without him!’

Those wanting to see the lion once he is back will have to wait a while longer. St Conan’s is now shut to visitors because of the coronavirus outbreak and the kirk’s programme of events has been postponed until June at least, said Mr Hennessey.