Professional research

The Archaeology Projects

 

The Society has completed its exploration of the site in Glenstrae known as Tigh Mor and has obtained the funding to have in-depth analysis of the findings carried out. 

 

Once the work is finally brought together in publications the Society will continue to focus on preserving the medieval carved stones associated with the clan which currently lie in Glenorchy church graveyard.  Then, perhaps, it will be time to turn our attention to Inversnaid and finding Rob Roy’s house there.

 

Historical research efforts

 

The Society has been gathering information on MacGregor families for many decades and has an extensive collection of sources which have been transcribed and digitised in many cases. 

 

This information includes clan stories, music, genealogies, family histories, lists of names of individuals and family groups going back to the 16th century, as well as information collected from official documents including Registers of Deeds, Testaments (Wills), family papers (such as those associated with the Breadalbane Estate or the MacGregor of MacGregor Papers), and collections by other researchers including those put together by John MacGregor W.S.

 

The Society also supports a surname-based DNA project which has shed new light on the connections between different families and is helping us to relate these back to the various ‘Houses’ into which the clan was traditionally divided: Roro, Dougal Keir (later Glengyle), Gregor McIan, and what was called in one document ‘MacGregor’s gang’ (in other words those related to the Chief).  The surname project has also identified individuals who still bear surnames which were adopted during the time of Proscription and were never changed back when Proscription ended.

 

As well as through genealogy the Society is working to clarify the historical background of Clan Gregor and this has taken us to explore archaeological sites in the Loch Awe area and to develop educational programmes based on what we have discovered. There is a fuller account elsewhere on this website and annual reports on the excavations are available.

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Focus areas...

 

Prehistory

DNA Research

Recent Historical Research

Overseas Sept Connections

Clan Gregor today

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How professional family history research is supported

 

The Society has considerable expertise in searching records for family history and related studies. 

 

It is always wise to treat with caution material found in websites which contain information collected and copied from sources which cannot be verified (such as ancestry.com).

 

The Society can advise on such content and does from time to time undertake research for individuals, but since such research often has a cost implication this is discussed first with the enquirer.

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The Dalmally Stones Project

The village or clachan of Dalmally is situated near Loch Awe in Argyll. Its 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.

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Once the work is finally brought together in publications the Society will continue to focus on preserving the medieval carved stones associated with the clan which currently lie in Glenorchy church graveyard.  Then, perhaps, it will be time to turn our attention to Inversnaid and finding Rob Roy’s house there.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Our aim is to mount the stones inside the church, as part of a display with a history of Clan Gregor, thereby preserving them for future generations to see.  The cost, as you can imagine, will be considerable and we urge members and readers to donate via the Contact Us directory here on the website.

Glenorchy Kirk is a beautiful church in a superb location. It is well worth visiting. 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.

We have received very welcome donations from all over the world and are extremely grateful to our American cousins, in particular, for their generosity.  Sincere thanks also to Dalmally church itself and to everyone who has helped, for the progress we have made in five years of archaeology.  This is a study never done before in the clan’s history.

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. Photos courtesy of Scotland’s Churches Trust).

The Search for the 'Children of the Mist'

Having become virtually 'landless' in Glen Orchy and Glen Strae by 1624 through burnings and privations, the 'Children of the Mist' would come to possess little of the original buildings in their homelands, including our Chief’s fortified house at Stronmilchan.  This presented the challenge of attempting to uncover archaeological evidence of those past buildings and the people who lived there, but it has not deterred us from trying.

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Clan Gregor Society has been working with Northlight Heritage and it’s team of archaeologists in Glasgow, to investigate three sites associated with MacGregors of Glen Strae.  The first project was Dalmally church where the line of MacGregor chiefs and related families were said to be buried.  Through extensive research we were able to discover the foundations of the first medieval church within the walls of today’s third church. 

 

By further discovering the burial sites in situ of these people, as described by the Dean of Lismore centuries before, and actually identifying the carved medieval stones in the graveyard, we have illuminated an important piece of MacGregor history.  Now it has become our task to repatriate the stones with their owners back inside the church. 

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The Society is also seeking to find remains of their significant houses and homesteads in the glen.  This is stimulating work which has taken place in all weather conditions.  We have used ground penetrating radar, aerial photography and carbon dating in the task, which has been funded entirely by donations and legacies from clan members, with our American cousins being extremely generous. 

 

Special thanks go to members of the Dalmally Historical Association and to Dalmally church itself.  We thank everyone who gave, and continues to give, of their time and resources to this cause.

Bothan na Dige

Our second project began by investigating the site of a possible fortified manor house, called Bothan na Dige (‘house of the ditch, or moat’), by the banks of the River Orchy in an area called Stronmilchan.  No evidence of any structure was found, which may confirm the folktales that it was hauled away, but the dig provided excellent archaeological training for participating members through cold rain and blistering heat.

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Tigh Mor: the Big House

We then moved to a third location called Tigh Mor (‘the big house’) which occupies a commanding position, overlooking the head of Loch Awe, at the mouth of Glen Strae.  Two turf built rectangular structures, with interior hearths, have been identified, one of which is likely confirmed as a dwelling. 

 

We have also uncovered a bloomery (a medieval iron smelting furnace) together with substantial amounts of slag, iron flakes indicating that metal was worked on site, 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 a late 13th century time frame.

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You can be a part of the Archaeology Project!

We hope that readers and members alike will appreciate the importance of this project, both to Clan Gregor and to Scottish archaeology.


We will provide updates in due course and we thank you once again for your contributions.