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Publication Account

Date 1985

Event ID 1018703

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


Even in 1845 it was recorded that the quantity of rain which falls in this parish of Inveraray is 'prodigious', and it is important to choose a good day to visit the restored township of Auchindrain in order to make the most of the scattered buildings, many furnished in meticulous detail. As it stands today Auchindrain illustrates the type of joint-tenancy holding that would have been common around 1800 and indeed before. Twelve tenants paid their rent jointly to the Duke of Argyll and each had a share of the arable land, by dividing it into strips or rigs, and also of the common grazing. The number of rigs to be worked and the number of beasts each tenant was allowed to graze was determined by his share in the tenancy. Auchindrain thus shows the way the land was worked before the adoption of large-scale sheep-farming from the later part of the 18th century onward. The families remained the Duke's tenants, and the fields and slopes were not enclosed by the massive dykes of the lowland farmers. Thus Auchindrain remained until about 1935, and the last tenant lived in house A until 1954.

There are twenty buildings in the complex: houses, longhouses (byre and dwelling combined), barns, sheds and stables, and an excellent display in the information centre sets the scene before one ventures out to the township buildings. Most have drystone walls with the roof supported on cruck-frames and employing turf; straw or heather thatch, though several were replaced with corrugated iron in the early 20th century. Building N, immediately to the northeast of the modem house, is a barn with adjacent stackyard; the opposing doorways are to provide a through draught for winnowing. The adjacent little house (M), probably built in the 1870s, is the equivalent of today's sheltered housing, for if the village supported an indigent person it was exempted from paying the Poor Rate. K is a shed currently with a display of smith's tools. J, Hand Dare longhouses with D perhaps the oldest in the township. House H has been furnished to show what it would have been like in the 1890s. House A on the other hand is probably the most recent, dating to about 1820; the arrangement of living and byre accommodation gives a good impression of what a country cottage of the middle of the last century looked like. The ingenious method of restraining cattle in the byre is shown in the photograph: one of a pair of upright posts could be moved to allow the cows head into the gap, and the most was then pegged back into position. Several of the buildings on the south-east side of the little burn that runs through the township are currently being restored, and visitors can see the various building-and roofing-techniques of the past being put into practice.

There are several isolated kailyards or walled kitchen gardens, which produced both green vegetables for the community and also fruit; sometimes flax was grown.

One important aspect of the west Highland economy cannot be shown at Auchindrain-the summer shieling; the cattle were taken away from the township so that they should not trample on the growing crops, and between June and August many of the women and old folk would have tended the cattle in the hills on either side of the Douglas Water where the township had its summer grazings, and where the shieling-huts were made ready each year by an advance party.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Argyll and the Western Isles’, (1985).

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