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McCaig’s Tower, do not call it a folly!, overlooks Oban and is its most remarkable landmark.
In 1897, local banker John Stuart McCaig, a philanthropist who worked for the North of Scotland Bank, employed local stonemasons to build a tower in memory of his family on Battery Hill. The stonemasons found it difficult to find work during the winter months so McCaig stepped in. He designed the tower himself with the estimated cost for its construction being around £5,000.
Built from Bonawe granite quarried at Loch Etive, the circular structure has 94 arches over its two tiers.
McCaig’s original idea was to have a museum and art gallery at its centre, but this never came to fruition. In his will he stated that on the summit of the wall of the tower large statues of his five brothers and himself, his four sisters and his parents Malcolm and Margaret, were to be erected, all modelled from photographs. He said that if no such photographs could be found, then the statues were to have a likeness to him.
The cost of each one was to be around £1000. With any money left over, a chair was to be created in his name for teaching sculpture, painting or other fine art.
McCaig saw himself as an art critic and visited Europe in that capacity but in his house were cheap, ordinary engravings. He died on 29th June 1902 aged 78, his tower incomplete.
The will of Catherine McCaig, one of his sisters, who died at Oban in 1913, proved to be just as eccentric as her brother’s, which she successfully contested at the time of his death. She had revoked the building of the statues but now, they were to be erected under the terms of her will.
However, they were never commissioned by the surviving family members.