The Dalmally Stones Project

Background

 The village or clachan of Dalmally is situated near Loch Awe in Argyll. It’s old name is Dysart, which means a retreat or a hermitage and it is recorded, under various spellings, as Clachan Dysart in early Scottish annals. The present church at Dalmally is the third one known to have been built on the site and is called Glenorchy Parish Church. The original parish of Glenorchy comprised the ancient MacGregor lands of Glen Orchy, Glen Lochy and Glen Strae.

The Church and Graveyard

 The original church is first mentioned in written records as a burial place of Clan Gregor in the 14th century, with The Book of the Dean of Lismore giving detailed accounts of the Chiefs of Clan Gregor interred there, circa 1390 – 1528. The present building, which is a superb, white painted, octagonal design with bell tower, was constructed by the Earl of Breadalbane in 1811.

Around 30 years ago, extensive repairs were carried out to strengthen the stairwell in the tower and to support the gallery in the main body of the church. When part of the floor was dug up for this purpose, a scatter of human bones were found. These were presumed to have been disturbed during construction of the building in 1810/11.

With the floor removed, signs of the medieval church were also found but these were insufficient to give an exact layout of that building. It would seem, however, that the High Altar, at which the leaders of Clan Gregor were buried, must lie under the present tower. This conclusion stems from the earlier churches being of different design.

The graveyard contains several sculptured stones from the 14th and 15th centuries. Many appear to have been re-used, as was common in earlier times, and most are found on the west side of the church. The likelihood is that that they were placed there during The Reformation in Scotland when great change took place. Altars were moved and burials within churches were forbidden in 1572 so cists, i.e. stone coffins, which had previously lain inside churches, were thrown out. This may be why one of the MacGregor stones, which lies among the early sculptured stones, appears to be part of a cist.

The graveyard is very ancient and also has a MacNab stone, a walled Campbell enclosure and an area said to be for tinker children’s burials.

THE PROJECT

Clan Gregor Society has taken an active interest in the church and conducted historical research there for some years now. In 2011 we donated a beautifully carved wooden lectern to commemorate the building’s 200th anniversary and in 2012 we surveyed the interior of the church, using ground penetrating radar, as part of our archaeological program of digs in the surrounding area. We seek to discover and preserve Clan Gregor history within the church itself and in the adjacent clan lands of Glen Orchy and Glen Strae. We also seek to protect and preserve the Clan Gregor gravestones from further decay by wind and weather.

To that end we have sought financial support from members and have received very welcome donations from all over the world. We are extremely grateful to our American cousins and to the Ed Boothe Fund, in particular, for their kind  generosity.

One possibility is to mount the stones inside the church, together with a history of Clan Gregor, as part of a display, thereby preserving them for future generations to see. Another is to house them in a separate building adjacent to the church. Either way the cost will be considerable and we urge members and readers to donate to this worthy cause via the Contact Us directory here on the website.

Extracts from the Book of the Dean of Lismore

“Death of John Macgregor of Glenurquay, at Glenurquay.” (Glen Orchy). “He was buried in Dysart on the north side of the High Altar, on the 19thof April, in the year 1390.”

“Death of John Dhu Macgregor of Glenstray, son of Patrick, at Stronmelochan (Stronmilchan).  He was buried in Dysart, north of the Great Altar, in a stone coffin, upon the 26thof May, in the year 1519; on which day a great meteor was seen in Glenurquay.”

 Comments

Glenorchy Kirk is a beautiful church in a superb location. It is well worth visiting now. If you also visit Kilchurn Castle, the magnificent MacGregor holding on nearby Loch Awe side, it puts the church’s position within the clan lands into context.

 The Dalmally Stones Project will take time to complete but it will make the church an even greater attraction for visitors and researchers once the MacGregor grave stones  are readily on view.

(Sources = Clan Gregor Society, Wikipedia, Church of Scotland).

Posted in History

International Gathering 2018

Full details on The 2018 International Gathering, as well as how to apply, can be found on The Gatherings Page which is under the heading Membership above.  

Meanwhile, here is a brief summary of dates, venue and cost.

The International Gathering will run from 15 – 22 July 2018 and the venue will be the Loch Awe Hotel near Dalmally in the west highlands. Cost will be in the range £550 – £750, per person, depending on the type of room requested and whether you are already a member of Clan Gregor Society or not. A 15% deposit, per person, is payable by 30th November 2017 and the balance by the end of February 2018.

Please ensure that any communication with us on the Gathering includes your email address. We will keep you up to date on the website and will also send personal Gathering Newsletters, by email, to those who are coming.

( item posted 12.3.2017)

Posted in Events

The Archaeology Project

The written history of Clan Gregor begins in the 1300s, in the area around Glen Orchy and Glen Strae, although oral tradition speaks of descent from Dalriadic kings of 500 years earlier. The subsequent moves eastward to Loch Lomondside and the Central Highlands occurred in later centuries, as a result of factors such as proscription, failure to secure written title to lands held and contest with the ever expanding Campbells of Argyll.  Finding ourselves landless in the aftermath of the Battle of Glenfruin in 1603, the “Children of the Mist” now have few original buildings or chiefly homes still in existence. This presents challenges when attempting to uncover archaeological evidence of those past buildings – but it has not deterred us from trying.

For the past 5 years Clan Gregor Society has been working with Northlight Heritage and it’s team of archaeologists, to investigate two sites associated with MacGregors of Glen Strae. We are seeking to find remains of their significant houses / homesteads.

This is stimulating work which has taken place in all weather conditions. We are grateful for the funding, which was entirely by donations and legacies from clan members, with our American cousins being extremely generous. We have also had assistance in the field from members of Dalmally Historical Association. – New technologies such as Ground Penetrating Radar, aerial drone photography and carbon dating have all been used in the task.

We began by investigating the site of a possible fortified manor house, called Bothan na Dige, by the banks of the River Orchy near Stronmilchan and reputed to be the home of MacGregor chiefs for centuries. Although no evidence of any structure was found, the dig provided excellent archaeological training for participating members.

We then focused on a location called Tigh Mor ( the Big House) which has a commanding position, overlooking the head of Loch Awe, at the mouth of Glen Strae. Thus far, two turf built rectangular structures, with interior hearths, have been identified, one of which is most likely a dwelling. We have also uncovered a bloomery (a medieval iron furnace) together with substantial amounts of slag iron and a collection of pottery, identified as Scottish Redware, dating from the 13th to 15th centuries. Radiocarbon dating of samples of charcoal found also confirms late 13th century. –  We will continue to work on Tigh Mor but we now move to news of our next dig.

On 29th July 2016 we were invited to a meeting with Glasgow University Archaeological Department and The Great Trossachs Forest Project who own / manage the lands around Inversnaid on Loch Lomondside. Clan Gregor Society was given the opportunity to explore (and hopefully discover) the site of Rob Roy’s house near the military barracks at Inversnaid. The investigation will begin in July 2017 and take place over the ensuing 3 years.

This is marvellous news. 2017 is the Year of Archaeology and Inversnaid was Rob Roy’s home during his turbulent years with the Duke of Montrose. The barracks were burned by Rob in 1718 and captured by his son James Mor, with only 12 MacGregors, during the 1745 Rising.

We hope that readers and members appreciate the importance of this new project, both to Clan Gregor and to Scottish archaeology. We will provide updates in due course and we thank you, once again, for all your contributions.

(Extract by courtesy of CGS newsletter).

Posted in news
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