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RCAHMS Inventory; Argyll Volume 5 - Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay.

Date 1972 - 1984

Event ID 1087339

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 andconditions of life of the people in Scotland from the earliest times to the year 1707, and such further Monuments and Constructions 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 following Report, being the Twenty-third Report on the work of the Commission since its first appointment.

Following our usual practice we have prepared a detailed, illustrated Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, being the fifth volume of the Inventory of the former County of Argyll, which will be issued as a non-Parliamentary publication.

Of special note among the wide variety of archaeological remains are the shell-mid dens of Mesolithic date on Oronsay, and the well-preserved examples of hut-circles and associated field-systems of Bronze Age and later date, many of which are recorded for the first time. Excavation at Cul a' Bhaile, Jura, has provided detailed evidence of the structure and internal arrangement of such hut-circles, and at Ardnave,Islay, has produced valuable information about the economic life of the period. The range of defensive fortifications of broadly Iron Age date is exceptional for such a limited geographical area, and, together with the examples already published in previous volumes of the Inventory, nearly four hundred forts,brochs and duns have so far been recorded in Argyll.

The area contains an unusually rich series of monuments of the Early Christian period, including an isolated monastic site on Eileach an Naoimh, fine crosses at Kilnave and Kildalton, and many other carved stones and small chapels. The Viking burials from Colonsay, Oronsay and Islay are also of outstanding quality and interest. In the medieval period the principal monuments are the undefended residence of the Lords of the Isles at Finlaggan, Islay, and the well-preserved ruins of Oronsay Priory. At both these sites, and several others on Islay, there are important collections of late medieval graveslabs and crosses. From more recent times, many deserted townships and shieling sites testify to the settlement pattern before the work of the improving landlords,whose mansions are exemplified by Colonsay House and Islay House. The distinctive round church at Bowmore overlooks the earliest of the planned villages which are a notable feature of Islay, and the many whisky distilleries of the same island are of exceptional scenic and historicinterest.

As required, we append to this Report a list of monuments which we consider most worthy of preservation. This list takes account not only of monuments in Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, but also of those elsewhere in Scotland that we have recorded since April 1981, when we assumed responsibility for a programme for listing field monuments initiated some years previously by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

We wish to acknowledge the assistance afforded to us , during the preparation of this Inventory, by the owners and occupiers of ancient buildings and sites, and by parish ministers. Our thanks are due especially to Lord Margadale, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, Mr D. B. Boyd, Major J. A. McKay Forbes, Mrs R. Gibson, Mrs I. Ramsay, Mr B. L. Schroder, Mr P. Sims, the Revd P. Youngson, the General Manager of the Northern Lighthouse Board, the Islay Museums Trust (in particular, to Mr C. G. Booth, Mr R. Hodkinson and Mr C. N . Jupp) and to the staff of the Museum of Islay Life for access to, and information about, buildings, records and relics in their possession or care; to Mr A . Buie, Mr G. Clark,the late Mrs M. Earl, the late Mr D. Mackechnie, Mr A. S. MacNeill, Mr C. Roy and the late Mrs B. Wishart-Campbell for providing much helpful local information; to Dr J. W.M. Bannerman, Mr G. L. Canvin, Dr I. B. Cowan, Mr K. Dash, Mr I. A. Fraser, the late Dr W . D. Lamont and Mrs Lamont, and the late Mr J . Mercer for information and valued discussion; to the British Geological Survey (formerly the Institute of Geological Sciences) , and particularly to Mr G . H. Collins, one of its officers , for advice on geological questions; to the staffs of the National Library of Scotland, the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, the Ordnance Survey, the Scottish Development Department (Ancient Monuments Division), the Scottish Industrial Archaeology Survey, University of Strathclyde, the Scottish Record Office and Your Majesty's Stationery Office for continual and valued co-operation.

We wish to record our appreciation of the high standard of work maintained by past and present members of our executive staff, including those engaged not in the preparation of regional Inventories, but in ground and aerial survey of field monuments and historic buildings in other parts of Scotland or in archival duties for the National Monuments Record of Scotland.

In the present volume the articles and the sections of the Introduction dealing with prehistoric monuments have been written by Miss Marilyn Brown, B.A., Dip.Arch., Messrs Alasdair MacLaren, M.A., Gordon Maxwell, M.A. , F .S.A., J. N. Graham Ritchie, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A., Jack B. Stevenson, B.A ., F.S.A. and Humphrey G .Welfare, B.A ., M .Phil., and those dealing with Early Christian, medieval and later monuments by Miss Brown, Messrs Ian Fisher, M.A. , F.S.A., Geoffrey D. Hay, A.R.I.A.S., F.S.A. , Gefoffrey P. Stell, B.A., F.S.A. and the Secretary. The drawings and other illustrative work have been undertaken by Messrs Douglas R. Boyd, Alan Leith, Ian Parker, Ian Scott, D .A. , Sam Scott and John N Stevenson, N.D.D. The photographs have been taken by Messrs J. Gibson, J. D. Keggie, Angus Lamb, A.B.I.P.P., Jim M. Mackie, Geoff B. Quick, A.B.I.P.P. , F .R.P .S., and Steve Wallace, and general assistance has been given by Mrs F. Chalmers, Miss M. Isbister and Miss L. A. Louden. The volume has been edited by Mr MacLaren assisted by Mr Fisher, and the layout has been designed by Mr Ian Scott.


Edinburgh, 13 March 1984

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