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Netherlorn and its Neighbourhood
Chapter IV - Kilbrandon, Ardmaddie


"Large are the treasures of oblivion; much more is buried in silence than recorded; and the largest volumes are but epitomes of what has been." Sir THOMAS BROWN.

THE Mainland portion of the parish of Kilbrandon, consisting of a quadrangular area of land stretching from Clachan Sound to Loch Melfort, comprises the lands of Degnish, Kilchoan, Barnayarrie, and Ardmaddie; but there is evidence to show that at one time it included the lands of Barnacarrie, Duachy, and others lying south of the outlet of Loch Feochan, which now form part of the parish of Kilninver. Thus, on a hill overlooking Clachan Sound, known as Suidhe Bhreanain (the seat of St Brendan), there are the remains of a churchyard called Claodh Bhreanain (the burial-ground of Brendan). In the Aberdeen Breviary it is related that "Saint Brandon having sailed to the west coast of Scotland, fixed his residence on the top of a hill, whose base stretched into the sea, on the spot known as Sedes Brandani, where only one ship could enter." This description may well apply to Suidhe Bhreanain, and the narrow channel which at this place separates the parishes of Kilbrandon and Kilninver.

St Brendan of Clonfert in Galway, so called to distinguish him from the equally famous St Brendan of Birr, was one of those Twelve Apostles of Ireland who carried out the great work of re-Christianising that country. The influence of St Patrick's teaching had begun to wane, and the faith inculcated by him to decay, when St Finnian, an Irish Pict, trained in the Welsh school of St David, Gildas and Cadoc, returned to his native land and introduced that monastic rule, with its spirit of religious enthusiasm, which made Ireland in the sixth and seventh centuries the chief centre of Christian thought and missionary enterprise in Europe. St Finnian founded the great seminary of Clonard, and here Brendan of Clonfert, Columba, and the remainder of the Twelve, amongst many others, were trained and sent forth in succession to plant their faith, not only in the uttermost parts Of Ireland, but in Scotland, England, and the continent of Europe. The story of the wanderings of Brendan, as told in the poem of the Pilgrimage of' St Brendan, is often called the Christian Odyssey. For seven years he sailed over strange seas and visited the savage lands of Western Alban in quest of "the land of promise of the Saints," and during his dreary pilgrimage he repeatedly visited the Land of Lorn, where his memory is still green in the hearts and lore of the people.

If Columba, was the Apostle of Caledonia, Brendan was par excellence the Apostle of the Isles. The latter had reached manhood ere the Scots of Ireland had founded the colony of Dalriada in 498, and was an old man at the time of St Columba's exile from Ireland in 563. As pioneer of the Early Christian movement among the rude tribes of Western Argyll, the period of his missionary activity was spread over the second quarter of the sixth century. In 542 he founded the monastery of Ailech in one of the Garvelloch Isles, and a few years later the church of Kilbrandon. He was patron saint of the parish of that name: his festival day was the 16th of May. His name occurs frequently in the place-names of the district - Dun Bhreanain, Cille Bhreanain, Culi Bhreanain (the retreat of St Brendan), Suidhe Bhreanain and Geodha Bhreanain (the Creek of St Brendan); while that of his more famous successor St Columba occurs but twice, and then in connection with artificial wells - one, Tobar Choluim Chille, in the island of Lunga, and another of the same name in Eileach a' naoimh, or Holy Island. This fact would indicate that all the prominent natural features had received their Gaelic names before the advent of the great apostle in 563; and that ere that time the colonising and Christianising of the Western seaboard of Argyll was an accomplished fact. The way had been prepared and a strong foothold secured for the coming of St Columba, the purpose of whose mission amongst the Dalriadic Scots was to consolidate the power of the Church and systematise the method of government: a work for which his royal origin and statesman mind eminently fitted him.

The worship of stones, fountains, trees and other natural objects, and the mysterious beings which these represented, is as old as mankind itself; and it was this worship and the influence of its ministers--the Magi or Druaidh--which the early missionaries had to combat and subvert. Appropriately enough, at the foot of Suidhe Bhreanain, crowning a low gravel mound on the shores of a little lake known as the Dubh-loch, are the remains of a megalithic circle—vestiges of that ancient cult. Only four of the upright monoliths remain, but the general arrangement may be traced; and we may believe that here in this sequestered spot was the principal idol of the Pagan inhabitants, "the Cromcruach and twelve idols of stone around it, and he was God of all the people until the coming of Brendan."

Each monolith is a roughly hexagonal block of basalt, many tons in weight, standing nine feet or more above the surface of the ground; and we cannot but wonder at the mechanical genius and perseverance which the men of that far-off neolithic age must have possessed to wedge the columns from their bed in the trap-dyke, to transport them long distances, and ultimately, by lever, inclined plane and the power of co-operation, to erect them as enduring monuments of their worship and beliefs.

About a quarter of a mile to the east of the circle, in a bleak, bare glen, is a large sheet of fresh water known as Loch Seil, in the middle of which is still to be seen the foundation of a lake dwelling, rectilinear, and built of square blocks of stone; while to the north tower the basaltic cliff's of Duachy and Ardnahua, crowned by the fantastic Losgann Lathurnach and the remains of a, prehistoric fortress. Viewed from the sea, the rock upon which the ruins stand, 600 feet above sea-level, resembles a bastioned fort. It is precipitous on three sides, the scarp being about 60 feet high. landward side was defended by a wall 250 feet long, drawn across the top of an abrupt slope.

The main road from Oban passes along the side of Loch Sell, and about a mile to the south, at Achnasaul, bifurcates. One branch, turning sharply to the right, passes over Clachan Bridge, then across the island of Seil, to communicate by means of ferries with the islands of Easdale and Luing. The other branch, traversing the steep defile of Bealach-na-cridhe, skirts a wide stretch of swelling braes, known as Na-h-oighean (the maidens), which, while they partake of the treeless aspect common to Highland moors, satisfy the eye by the long, stately procession of purple-coloured undulations mounting to a smooth, clear sky-line in the far distance. Passing along a densely-wooded ravine, the road suddenly opens into a deep recess on the shores of a sea-loch, and here, pleasantly situated at the head of the Islay, is Ardmaddie Castle, a seat of the Marquis of Breadalbane. Sheltered on three sides by tree-covered heights, it commands to the south-west a magnificent vista of sea and shore, broadening in the distance as the long rays of land - Seil, Iuing, and Jura on the one side, and the jutting bold promontories of Degnish, Craignish, and Knapdale on the other - diverge.

Behind the castle are the gardens, and a long flat field called Lon a chuspair. It was here that the retainers practised "cuspaireachd," or archery. Close by the Lon is a pretty waterfall, known as Eas-na-ceardaich, down which the great volumes of water gathered from the Braes above force a noisy passage to the sea.

The dome-shaped mound upon which the castle stands was the site of much earlier buildings than the present. During the fifteenth, sixteenth, and part of the seventeenth centuries the house and broad lands in Netherlorn were the property of the MacDougalls of Reray. This family, the chief cadets of the house of Dunollie, attained during the period referred to a position of considerable power and influence. Their leaders seem to have been men of great ability, and were generally engaged in important service. The marriage of John MacDougall of Reray to Isabel, daughter of Sir John Campbell and Muriel of Calder, inclined the family to support the Argyll Campbells in their schemes of aggrandisement against the MacDonalds of Islay and Kintyre. Thus we find John MacDougall's grandson acting as Argyll's lieutenant against Sir James MacDonald of Islay during the last great struggle of that princely family to maintain the superiority which had in previous centuries earned for its chiefs the proud title of "Lords of the Isles": and during the same campaign Alexander MacDougall, a brother of Reray, was killed while acting as Constable of the royal castle of Duniveg in Islay.

Notwithstanding frequent marriage alliances with Campbell families, the MacDougalls, during the Civil War, actively supported 1Clontrose and his able coadjutor, Sir Alexander MacDonald. Young MacDougall of Reray, reputed the most handsome soldier in the Royalist army, was one of the few men of note who fell on the victorious side in the sanguinary battle of Inverlochy.

For this defection, the Campbells, who suffered severely during the strife, never forgave the MacDougalls, and seized the first opportunity, which soon presented itself, of revenge. The story is thus told. John Maol MacDougall, the last baron of Reray, was married to a sister of Campbell of Ardkinglass; they lived unhappily together, so that by and by a separation was agreed upon, the wife being allowed a residence at Dunmore, near Easdale. MacDougall being shortly afterwards at a fair held at Kilmore, near Oban, was induced by one of the Campbells of Calder to marry a kinswoman of the latter. The matter being reported to Argyll, MacDougall was prosecuted for bigamy, and failing to pay the enormous fine imposed, his lands were seized by the Earl of Argyll, at that time hereditary Sheriff of Argyll and Justiciar for Argyll and the Western Isles, who bestowed them in feu upon his second son, Lord Neil Campbell. It is said that the MacDougalls were not evicted without a severe struggle, the old castle withstanding several attacks before being captured. Strange to say, the fate of the family of Reray is unknown; they appear to have sunk into instant and complete obscurity, and at the present day not an acre of land in the district of Netherlorn is possessed by one of the name.

Shortly after entering into possession of the Netherlorn estates, Lord Neil Campbell partially rebuilt Ardmaddie Castle; and a stone, carved with his initials intertwined with those of his wife, Lady Vera Kerr, daughter of the Marquis of Lothian, and bearing the date 1671, is set in the north gable.

Lord Neil, like his father, the Marquis of Argyll and eighth earl, and his brother the ninth earl, was a staunch adherent of the Presbyterian party in Scotland, and shared in the persecution to which that body was subjected during the reigns of Charles II and James VII. Thus, on 1st August 1684, "that excellent person, Lord Neil Campbell, brother to the noble Earl of Argyll, was cited before the Council for no other cause but that: he was the son of the excellent Marquis and brother to the Earl of Argyll. Nothing worthy of death or bonds could be laid to his charge"; but nevertheless we find it ordained that "the clerks of council are warranted to receive caution for him, under the penalty of five thousand pounds sterling, that he confine himself to Edinburgh, and six miles about, and compear before the council in a charge of six hours." In 1685, after the failure of the miserably planned rising which ended in the capture and execution of the Earl of Argyll, great severity was exercised towards the family and their followers: their names were proscribed, their estates devastated, and, in the words of Woodrow, "to that height of madness did some bigots run, that an act was a-framing to be presented to the parliament for the utter abolishing of the name of Campbell." Lord Neil became a fugitive, ultimately escaping to America; but for two years he is said to have hidden in a deep recess high in the cliffs overhanging the loch, a mile to the north-west of Ardmaddie.

The cave is known as "Uamh phubuill" (the cave of the tent), from the fact that, owing to the capacious mouth of the recess, it was necessary to erect a tent or pavilion to obtain shelter from the wind and rain. The opening is effectively screened from observation by a dense growth of hazel and ash along the range of cliffs. The exile did not return until the "killing times" were over, and the Revolution Settlement had established a more enlightened policy and juster system of government.

The hardships and exposure to which Lord Neil was subjected brought on a weak and gouty habit of body, and rendered him liable to a disease not uncommon among the better living classes of those and other days: he became peculiarly subject to the attacks of' what Burns calls "crowling ferlies." Stories about the Morair Niall, as he was called, still linger in the district, and the following bearing upon his bodily affliction is told. A tenant from the island of Luing having duly paid his rent was surprised to get notice some time afterwards that he was in arrears. Receipts not being customary at a time when the small holder's possession depended upon the whim of the tacksman or landlord, the tenant proceeded to the castle, where he saw the laird and tried to remind him of the payment. The farmer's statement was likely to receive no credit, when he interjected:

"Nach eil cuimhne agaibh a Mhorair air an latha a thug mi miall thar cota?" ("Do you not remember, my lord, that day upon which I took a louse from your coat"). Lord Neil became confused, but, remembering the incident, replied: "Companach mial an righ, ach compannch coin deargan. Seadh! seadh! mo laochan phaidh thu mall ceart gu Leoir." ("The flea may be the companion of dogs, but the louse is the companion of kings. Yes, yes, my little man, you paid your rent right enough. Go away, go away.") His trouble became so vexatious, however, that, consulting a wise woman who resided near by, he was told that it was caused by the presence of a certain plant - the ribwort (slanlus)--which grew in great abundance near the castle; and, as he considered it impossible to eradicate the root, he determined to dispose of the estates. They were accordingly sold about 1692 to John, first Earl of Breadalbane, for a sum, it is said, of twenty thousand pounds. The Earl of Argyll was furious when he heard of the transaction, and refused to accept any portion of the money, which, tradition relates, remains in the Sheriff Court of Inveraray until this day.

For the greater part of the eighteenth century Ardmaddie was the residence of the factor for the Argyllshire portion of the Breadalbane property; but the first Marquis, having been born there while his father, Colin Campbell of Carwhin, was Commissioner upon the estate, made it his favourite seat when he succeeded to the earldom. His son, the second Marquis, planned vast improvements to the house and surroundings, but died before the work was well-nigh begun. The present noble representative of the house of Breadalbane completed the building as it at present stands, adding a large wing with decorated towers and handsome elevation; so that the house, although not a large one, is in perfect proportion to its surroundings.


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