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RCAHMS Inventory; Argyll Volume 1 - Kintyre

Date 1955 - 1969

Event ID 1086874

Category Project

Type Project


We, Your Majesty's Commissioners, appointed to make an Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions connected with or illustrative of the contemporary culture, civilisation and conditions of life of the people in Scotland from the earliest times to the year 1707, and such further Monuments and Constructions of a date subsequent to that year as may seem in our discretion worthy of mention therein, and to specify those which seem most worthy of preservation, humbly present to Your Majesty the Report on the Ancient Monuments of Kintyre, being the Eighteenth Report on the work of the Commission since its first appointment.

We record with grateful respect the receipt of the gracious message that accompanied Your Majesty's acceptance of the volume embodying our Seventeenth Report with Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Peeblesshire.

It is with great regret that we have to record the deaths of Mr. Ian Gordon Lindsay, O.B.E., R.S.A., F.R.I.B.A., and of Mr. William Douglas Simpson, C.B.E., D.Litt., LL.D., F.S.A., both of whom gave unstinted service to the Commission for many years.

We have to thank Your Majesty for the appointment of Professor Patrick John Nuttgens, Ph.D., A.R.I.B.A., under Your Majesty's Royal Sign Warrant of 21st February 1967, and of Professor Archibald Alexander McBeth Duncan, under Your Majesty's Royal Sign Warrant of 23rd February 1969.

Following our usual practice we have prepared a detailed, illustrated Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Kintyre, being the first volume of the Inventory of the County of Argyll, which will be issued as a non-Parliamentary publication.

Kintyre contains a rich and varied assemblage of prehistoric remains, many of which have been discovered in the course of our survey. Of particular interest are the Neolithic burial cairns of the 3rd millennium B.C., the remarkable concentration of cup-marked stones, and the numerous small stone forts traditionally known as "duns". The duns constitute by far the largest class of Iron Age structures in Argyll, and our survey marks a significant preliminary step towards the study of some of the complex problems of the occupation of the Atlantic Province of the British Iron Age.

The most important of the architectural monuments belong to the medieval period. They include two major castles of the 13th and 14th centuries, Skipness and Tarbert, as well as a fine tower-house at Saddell, which has affinities with a neighbouring group of towers situated around the shores of the Firth of Clyde. Of the adjacent Cistercian monastery of Saddell little now remains, but the present survey has brought to light an interesting series of parish churches and dependent chapels evidently associated with the introduction of the parochial system during the 12th and 13th centuries. Domestic architecture of the post-medieval period is poorly represented in Kintyre, the only noteworthy buildings of this class being a group of small lairds' houses and the Gothic Revival mansions of Torrisdale and Barr. Numerous minor rural buildings and deserted townships of the 18th and early 19th centuries survive, however, and some typical examples of these have been selected for inclusion, together with a number of shieling sites. A considerable variety of engineering works have also been recorded, including an 18th-century lighthouse, an early canal and a well-preserved water-mill, while the local distilling industry has furnished examples both of urban distillery architecture and of an illicit rural still.

The late medieval sculptured stones of Kintyre, of which the Campbeltown Cross is the outstanding example, presented us with a special problem. Most of them had been illustrate din the past, but the distinctive series of richly ornamented grave-slabs, effigies and freestanding crosses to which they belong, and which are widely distributed throughout the West Highlands and Islands, had never been comprehensively studied. Many of the carvings bear inscriptions, and the decoration includes numerous representations of ships, weapons, tools, domestic implements, liturgical instruments and other items in contemporary use. In these circumstances it was felt that the brief descriptions of the individual stones given in the Inventory ought to be supplemented by a definitive survey of the whole body of the material. This project was accordingly entrusted to our Secretary, and has now been completed. His report formed the subject for the Rhind Lectures in Archaeology given at the invitation of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1968, and it is proposed to issue it as a separate Commission publication [Steer and Bannerman 1977].

We wish to acknowledge the assistance accorded to us, during the preparation of this Inventory, by the owners and occupiers of ancient buildings and sites, and by parish ministers, throughout the region. Our thanks are due especially to Mr. Duncan Colville, J.P., whose personal researches into the history and antiquities of Kintyre, and whose extensive collection of local source material, have been placed unreservedly at our disposal. We are also indebted to His Grace the Duke of Argyll, T.D., D.L., Mr. J. G. Scott, M.A., F.M.A., the Reverend James Webb, the Kintyre Antiquarian Society, the General Manager of the Northern Lighthouse Board, and Mr. E. McKiernan, librarian of the Campbeltown Public Library and Museum, for access to, and information about, records or relics in their possession; to Mrs. K. M. Feachem, Lt.-Col. Sir James Horlick, Bt., O.B.E., M.C., the late Mr. C. A. M. Oakes of Skipness and Mr. G. E. S. Dunlop for assistance with the field survey; to the Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography for permission to reproduce air-photographs; to Sir Thomas Innes of Learney and Kinnairdy, K.C.V.O., LL.D., formerly Lord Lyon King of Arms, who kindly revised the heraldic matter in the Inventory; to Mr. J. W. M. Bannerman, M.A., Ph.D., for help with the inscriptions on the late medieval carvings; to the Institute of Geological Sciences, and particularly to Mr. G. H. Collins, B.Sc., F.G.S., one of its officers, for advice on geological questions; to the Scottish Development Department, for facilities for the study of air-photographs; and to the staffs of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, the Ministry of Public Building and Works, the Scottish Record Office and Your Majesty's Stationery Office for continual and valued co-operation.

We wish to record that the Secretary and the following past and present members of our Executive staff took part in the preparation of the Inventory: Messrs. R. W. Feachem, M.A., M. Sc., F.S.A., G. D. Hay, A.R.I.B.A., F.S.A., J. G. Dunbar, M.A., F.S.A., A. MacLaren, M.A., F.S.A., G. S. Maxwell, M.A., F.S.A., J. N. G. Ritchie, M.A., Ph.D., I. Fisher, B.A., I. G. Scott, D.A.(Edin.), G. B. Quick, A.I.I.P., A.R.P.S., R. G. Nicol, J. Keggie, D. Fleming, S. Scott and D. Boyd; Miss A. E. H. Muir and Miss M. Isbister. The volume has been edited by the Secretary, assisted by Mr. J. G. Dunbar and Mr. A. MacLaren.


RCAHMS 1971, xxv-xxvii

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