Kilbride Kirk rings out a welcome for the return of its bell

The ancient craft of recasting an 18th century bronze bell was carried out in front of an audience at historic Kilbride

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Friends and visitors of Kilbride Kirk turned out to see a replica made of the bronze bell that once rang out across Lerags Glen near Oban.

On Saturday a specialist team travelled from Wales to create an outdoor forge at the historic site and make a copy of the kirk’s 18th-century bell currently on loan from Dunollie’s MacDougall Clan.

Before a crowd of about 50 onlookers, the original bell from which the cast was taken was  piped down the old drove road from Cologin to the Kirk site to receive a ceremonial welcome.

The bell recasting team and Seymour Adams, Friends of Kilbride trustee. Photograph: Campbell Cameron
A crowed turned out to watch the replica made of the original Kilbride Kirk bell
Photograph: Campbell Cameron
The replica of the original Kilbride Kirk bell
Photograph: Campbell Cameron

Donations to Friends of Kilbride were collected and there was the chance to tour the ruined Kirk, churchyard and MacDougall Memorial Burial Aisle to see renovation work so far carried out by stonemason Michael Hogg, with the supervision of architect Shauna Cameron  and archaeologist Clare Ellis.

Friends of Kilbride trustee Seymour Adams said the charity was grateful to Clan MacDougall for their loan of the bell, and to Tesco and Historic Environment Scotland for their financial support which made this unique event possible.

‘The people of Lerags Glen and visitors from further afield turned out in strength for the recasting. We are delighted with how it went,’ said Mr Adams.

The Church of Kilbride has played an important part of the area’s history since at least the 13th century linked to many stories and traditions. The cemetery contains enclosures where clan Chiefs have been buried since before the 18th century.

Dunollie has had possession of the old kirk bell since the chapel was disestablished in 1860. The Clan’s Chief kindly loaned the bell to the Friends of Kilbride and it is in the custody of Myra and Liam Griffin.

According to reports, the bell appeared to have been cast in Glasgow in 1786 and was being transported to Maryland when the ship carrying it was wrecked in the Sound of Kerrera. The bell was rescued and eventually given to the church at Kilbride where it was first hung on a tree near the chapel, then moved to the chapel itself.

The Friends of Kilbride hope the replica bell will eventually go on show at the site as a  symbol of work being carried out to renovate and preserve the chapel, session house, and memorial burial aisle.

Saturday’s  pour needed three people  to lift and support the crucible full of molten bronze. They were metalsmith Rossy Adams, daughter of  trustee Mr Adams, artist Irene Gunston whose Welsh studio  made the mold and other artist Bryn Richards who also worked on the project and is a foundry technician.

A video of the molding process and pour was made on the day to go up on social media for more people to see.

The bell is now back on its way to Wales where it will be finished off and polished before returning to Kilbride.

Mr Adams said: ‘When it comes back we will be working out how and where to put it on display somewhere in the churchyard for people to see.’

The historic site is enjoying a steady stream of  visitors after opening up after Covid.

‘We are getting a steady stream of visitors and everyone is happy to see the restoration work we have carried out so far at the site. We are mobilising now to raise more funds for the final stage of the restoration work on the site. We hope that will happen this year,’ Mr Adams added.

On Saturday September 4 at 7pm, pianist Clare Hammond will be performing at Kilbride as part of Oban Music Society’s Summer programme of concerts.

Go to www.obanmusicsociety.com/concerts to find out more.