Historic Kilbride carries on in lockdown

Kilbride Kirk and the MacDougall Memorial Aisle on the right.

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Archaeologists will be digging up more of the past at Historic Kilbride later this month,

A wife and husband team from  Argyll Archoeology based in Campbeltown  will be able to safely work together without the worry of social distancing while the site is closed to the public during the coronavirus crisis.

The plan is to film their work and edit the highlights so the excluded public can go online to see what they find.

The couple will be digging two exploratory trenches either side of the entrance in a west gable wall that needs restoring and hope to be able to determine the original floor level of the prayer house and to see if there are any more graves.

Donations will help towards bringing the preservation plan to full fruition, says Friends of Kilbride chairman Seymour Adams. 16_T16_kilbride04
Donations will help towards bringing the preservation plan to full fruition, says Friends of Kilbride chairman of trustees Seymour Adams.

Other work scheduled soon is minor repair work on the burial aisle and a photographic survey, involving Historic Environment Scotland, of the inside and outside elevations of the west gable wall.

COVID-19 has put pay to tourists for now and about 50 trips being organised by a travel company this year but at least the site’s overheads are not as demanding as other tourist attractions in Argyll, says chairman of Friends of Historic Kilbride Seymour Adams.

‘Our only overheads really are keeping the grass down. Lockdown at least means we can hunker down and can get on with some of the restoration work sticking to safe guidelines,’ he said.

Talks are also ongoing about how the site can eventually reopen to the public with a one way in and one-way out route possibly on the cards, added Mr Seymour.

A planned open day to see a copy of the original Kilbride Church bell being cast so the replica can go on public view has been postponed until next year.

Last year the entire 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.

Funds are always needed to keep up conservation and preservation work on the Kilbride site, which includes a 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.

The Friends group received a grant of £7,000 from Carraig Gheal Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund but need more funding to keep up the work.

The Friends’  annual general meeting last week had to be held on Zoom, with the advantage of bringing in a wider attendance, including representatives from Clan MacDougall in Canada and the USA, a trustee currently grounded in Australia and a distant clan member in North Sweden.

‘It’s one of those areas where I think the new normal will be different from the old, but also substantially better,’ said Mr Adams.

To find out more go to friendsofkilbride.scot