St Conan’s lion will take pride of place

Stonemason Michael Hogg works on St Conan's lion ready for it to take pride of place back at the historic kirk.

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Appin stonemason Michael Hogg is roaring ahead with repairs  on a historic lion ready to return to St Conan’s Kirk.

The church on the shores of Loch Awe is shut to visitors during the COVID-19 outbreak but it is hoped the four-foot stone lion will soon be back, taking ‘pride’ of place in its rightful position on a pedestal in the cloisters ready for when the doors open again.

Despite coronavirus restrictions hampering supply of materials, Michael was able to source what he needed to chip away at the special commission.

Just how the lion got damaged decades ago is still a mystery today but with Michael’s expertise it will shortly be as good as new.

The lion’s broken mouth is being rebuilt in layers so it can be restored to its former glory.

Michael said: ‘Somehow the lion had come off its pedestal and hit the ground, breaking off a corner. I’ve put in a new piece of stone and tidied up the base so it’ll be easier to put back on its base.

‘The lion’s mouth also needed fixing, that was a first for me! I put a dowel in and then I’ve been building up the area in layers so I can reshape it back to how it would’ve been.

‘It’s been great to be part of the kirk’s refurbishment process and feels good to think my work will be part of such a historic building’s ongoing story.’

Michael who originally comes from Inverkip started out as a drystone waller and then served his time with Historic Scotland as an apprentice stonemason working at Fort George, Elgin Cathedral and Kildrummy Castle in Aberdeenshire.

The 32-year-old  came to the Oban area to work for another stonemason business but when the owner retired, Michael decided to stick around and go it alone with his own venture from Fasnacloich.

‘I didn’t want to leave the area and so far going it alone has gone really well for me, mostly rendering and repairing old buildings and I do letter cutting. Work on the lion will soon be finished. Once I get the nod from the kirk, he’ll be on his way back home to take “pride” of place,’ he added.