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A Short History of Largieside

Compiled by

C. MacWilliam, A. B. Nugent, E. Clark, A. Maxwell Macdonald,
R. B. Thomson,
A. Gunn, B. Storry,

Published about 1968 by Largieside W.R.I.

Including some information taken from

(1) "Glencreggan" by Cuthbert Bede,1856
(2) "Kintyre in the Seventeenth Century"
by Andrew McKerral F.S.A. (published by Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh)
(3) "Annals of the parish of Killean and Kilkenzie" by The Rev. D. J. Macdonald
(4) "History of the Western Highlands, 1493-1625" by D. Gregory
(5) "The Old and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland 1793 and 1845"
The design on the (here, missing) cover was taken from a carved stone in Killean churchyard
which is considered to be one of the finest examples of its kind in Scotland.

CONTENTS

1. The Lie of The Land Page 05
2. Owners of the Land 07
3. Wild Life 09
4. Churches 11
5. Schools 13
6. Folklore and Customs
16
7. Industry 19
8. Transport 26
9. Our Villages
29
10. Gaelic
32
11. Food 33

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12. Sport and Social Life
35
13. Life Today (at time of writing in 1968) and Conclusion
38

Largieside is that part of Kintyre which takes its name from the estate of
Largie

Chapter 1 THE LIE OF THE LAND
Largieside W.R.I, draws its members from the northern half of the Parish of Killean and
Kilkenzie, which is situated along the west coast of that narrow strip of land known as
Kintyre. The growth and progress of any district depends largely on its geographical
position, the nature of its soil, geological construction, its climate and the industry of its
people.

Geographically, West Kintyre is one of the most remote areas in Scotland, and for many
years was very inaccessible except by sea, which involved the long and hazardous journey
round the Mull of Kintyre. Because it is joined to Argyll
by only a narrow isthmus of land, a few hundred yards long, it is technically not an island
but it is more correct to class it with the Western Isles than to look upon it as a part of the
mainland. In fact it was claimed by Magnus Barelegs of Norway when he was granted all the
land on the West round which he could travel by boat. He accomplished this feat by sailing
right round Kintyre to Tarbert, Loch Fyne and then having his boat pulled across the few
hundred yards to West Loch Tarbert. Because of its remote situation this district was for
many years very backward and, in development, a hundred years behind the mainland of
Scotland.

Kintyre consists of a central range of hills running north and south, averaging some 800 ft.,
but reaching a maximum height of 2,170 ft. at the peak of Bein-an-tuirc. The range consists
of an alternation of heights and hollows with narrow glens and streams. Along the greater
part of the coast line there is a typical example of a 'raised beach' resulting in a long,
narrow coastal strip of light sandy soil which in part grows, among other crops, excellent
potatoes, but the main agricultural land is found on the raised beach and right up the lower
slopes of the hills which are cultivated and produce plentiful crops. The higher ground is
bleak, poor and heather-clad and affords scanty food for its hardy black-faced
sheep and hill cattle that have to forage over miles of hillside in search of food; but it must
be mentioned that the beef and mutton from the heather-clad hillside excels in flavour and
quality.

Because of the steep slopes to the sea there are few rivers but many wild, quick flowing
streams. Glens and numerous lochs adorn the moors; veins of limestone, which have been
worked to advantage, are to be found but there are no rich mineral deposits. Peat is
plentiful and at one time provided the main supply of fuel. The coast is a series of sandy
bays and low rocky headlands composed of red sand stone, pudding stone and mica with
veins of quartz and basalt embedded. The northern half of the coast is sheltered by the
islands of Gigha, Cara, Islay and Jura, but further south it takes severe poundings from the
open Atlantic and affords no protection for shipping which proved a great disadvantage to
the sailing ships in days when supplies depended on transport by sea.

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The climate is influenced by the sea, the Gulf stream and the South West winds, resulting in
a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters and rain at all seasons. Local
weather prophets have become so reconciled to these rainy conditions that, as they look to
the high hills of Jura for guidance, they are forced to conclude ''when the Paps of Jura are
free of mist it is going to rain, and when the Paps of Jura are shrouded in mist it is raining!".

The mild wet climate produces abundant growth of grass, and makes the area very suitable
for dairy farming which has been successfully developed over the years.

The people of Kintyre have always been an industrious intelligent and highly principled
race, and while general improvement took longer to penetrate this isolated corner of
Scotland they were quick to grasp opportunity as it opened for them, and can now claim to
be as progressive as any part of Scotland.

Largie Castle, Tayinloan, Argyll

Chapter 2 OWNERS OF THE LAND
Most of the land from which Largieside takes its name belongs to the Macdonalds of Largie
who have been for centuries one of the chief families of Kintyre, but it also comprises the
smaller estates of Killean, Crubesdale, Clachaig and Muasdale along with the six farms
which are now owned by local families whose ancestors previously rented them for many
years.

It is said that the estate of Largie was given to Ranald Bane by the Earl of Ross for his
services at the battle of Inverlochy in 1431. Ranald Bane was descended through five
generations from Somerled of the Isles, forebears of many families of Macdonalds. His
descendents were called Clanranaldbane. Perhaps the most interesting generation of the
family was the one living about 1645 when their Chief Angus followed Montrose in the war
of that period and, as a result, forfeited the estate. It was returned to him after the
Restoration in 1661. This was the only break in the ownership since 1431. Angus's son
Archibald was a minor when he succeeded. His sister married the Reverend Angus
Macdonald, known as "An Mhinistear Laidear" (the strong minister), who was minister in
Gigha about 1700, and also for some time in Killean parish. He later went to South Uist and
settled there. His grand-daughter was the famous Flora Macdonald of Prince Charlie's time.
At one point Flora spent a year with her cousins at Largie when her brother Ronald was
killed in a shooting accident on Cara island.

Twice the succession has been through an heiress whose husband has taken the name
Macdonald and this explains the names Lockhart and Moreton appearing in the family.
The last generation were notable for their activities in the community. The late Mrs Moreton
Macdonald, who was left a widow with five young children, interested herself in the school
children. Her husband was a founder member of the Kintyre Antiquarian Society and she
also kept up her interest in it for a very long time. She opened our new school in 1908 and
helped to establish the district nursing service in the parish. She was a founder member of
the S.W.R.I. in Kintyre and later Federation President. Her eldest son, the present laird, is
interested in farming and forestry. His two sons, John Ronald and Donald, have each a son
with the traditional family names of John Ranald and James Donald.

The old family house mentioned in history was at Rhunahaorine Largie Castle, built less
than two hundred years ago, is now demolished. Who knows, a "Dorran" might rise in its
place!

Crubasdale
This estate belongs to Mrs McNeill, a daughter of the late Major Macalister of Glenbarr who
bought it in 1881. The Macalisters are an old Kintyre family. Colonel Norman Macalister was
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given the Clachaig estate by his brother in 1810 and commenced building a house in the
glen. Unfortunately on his way home from India his ship "Ocean" was lost with all hands.
The house was never completed. Colonel Macalister left £1,000 to the poor of the parish.
This money is still being used today.

Killean
This estate was owned from the end of last century by James M. Hall, a self-made
Campbeltown man, who prospered with the British India Shipping Company. He built
attractive Swiss type cottages on his estate which are still admired by tourists hurrying past
on coach tours. They do not know how small the rooms are inside! James Hall's sister Grace
is remembered by a well built "Mission" Hall on the estate, which is endowed in her
memory. A "Bible woman", as the lady in charge was called, lived in rooms off the Hall and
held Sunday schools and other services. This lady, Miss Baxter, a kindly person, is well
remembered by the older generation.

Before the first world war Hamish Hall bought the first Rolls-Royce car in the county. It was
rumoured that he had sold two farms to do this! His chauffeur went to the works to bring it
home and of course it caused quite a sensation. Unfortunately it had to be laid up during
the war owing to petrol restrictions and was replaced by a very much smaller car. Mr Hall
gave a very fine library, a handsome building and many fine books to Campbeltown in
1908. He gave money for school bursaries, the "Hall" bursary being greatly appreciated by
its recipients. The estate was sold some years ago to an English family who live in it for part
of the year.

Muasdale
This estate was owned by the Colville family, whisky distillers of Campbeltown, during the
first half of this century. It has recently been divided and sold to the owners of the farms
and houses on the estate.

Chapter 3 WILD LIFE
The mild climate experienced in the Largieside gives one an impression of greenness for
most of the year. It means that tender plants, which in other districts would be grown in a
cold greenhouse, can live out of doors in sheltered parts of our gardens. A variety of palm
grows in the open and fuschias seed themselves freely.

Trees are scarce in Kintyre; the Rev. D. Macdonald writes in the new Statissical Account in
1845, "With the exception of a little brushwood in the hollows and glens at a distance from
the sea, the parish is almost destitute of natural wood". On the other hand, another record
indicates 1780 as the approximate date of the earliest planting at Largie, by Elizabeth
Macdonald, who married Charles Lockhart of The Lee and Camwath in Lanarkshire, and
lived at Largie from 1768 to 1787.

In recent years, a fair amount of planting has been done at Largie, mostly of Sitka spruce, a
species which was introduced to Britain about 100 years ago from British Columbia and has
proved ideally suited to West Coast Conditions - In 1932, rabbits, which are the chief
obstacles to planting, were put down on the southern part of the estate, and later, the
whole estate. Since then myxamatosis has found its way here, and it is sad that this
disease also attacks children's pets.

There are no sizeable rivers in Largieside, but numerous lochs in the hills give good fishing
for small brown trout, ideal for breakfast.
There is a great variety of wild flowers, far too many to mention with the exception of some
that are less common. The lovely vernal squill grows by the shore; globe flowers can be

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found in a few places; we see occasional butterfly orchids, bogbean and white water lilies in
a hill loch; the little pale butterwort and sundew grow on the hill.

Birds are numerous too—the sandy beaches of Kintyre are ideal for bird-watching and a
good variety of gulls, ducks and waders can be seen; unusual ones appear every now and
then, but we have no experienced bird-watchers to check our identification. Some changes
in our bird world over the last decade may be of interest. Now greylag and white-fronted
geese spend the winter here in some hundreds. Before 1930 there were none; perhaps their
numbers are increasing and they need more pasture. On the other hand, the grouse
population has become very much less since the years before the war; the same can be
said of blackgame.

Golden plover used to be found in small flocks in the fields in winter now, an odd one on the
shore is all there is to be seen. Pheasants seem happy here. There is marshy ground and
some woodlands, as well as arable ground for food which makes a good world for them.
They could be seen in fair numbers even before rearing was started a few years ago.
Another game bird that comes to these parts is woodcock. When the rest of the country is
in the grip of ice and snow, Kintyre is often still brown and soft, so the woodcock come in
from other parts to feed.

Buzzards have become much more common in recent years and hen harriers have been
seen in the district. Hooded crows and black-backed gulls have increased too, life being
better for them with fewer keepers! The influx of waxwings into Britain this year reached
Largieside, and they were seen by quite a few people.

Animal life here is much like other districts. There were no red deer here until a few years
ago when one or two were seen; fortunately for the farmers they seem to have gone off
again. But there are roe and Japanese or Sika deer in considerable numbers; the latter were
introduced on an estate on the east side of Kintyre and have spread to the woodlands on
this side. There were no foxes in Kintyre for a hundred years prior to the war years when
they were allowed to creep in again. This was very unfortunate for everyone and it will be
hard to eradicate them. The blue hares and the stoats sometimes seem to forget that there
is so seldom snow and turn white in winter. Round the shore sea trout and lobsters are
there for the catching and make for high living, but there are also lythe, saithe and dabs for
more every-day use, as well as the various shell fish. Spearing dabs in the pools at low tide
is fine sport for the young ones.

There are shells among the shingle, varying from the useful clam shell to the dainty little
cowrie, although these are somewhat rare - Largieside is lovely, and full of wild-life
interest.

Chapter 4 CHURCHES
The ruined church of Killean was first mentioned in the Records of 1243. In the reign of
Alexander II of Scotland the King, in a Royal Charter, granted to the then Bishop of Argyll
—"This church with its lands and pertinents." It was in use right up to about 1770. During
these stormy years, and especially in the seventeenth century with its political and
ecclesiastical unrest, the whole country was thrown into confusion. In that century, in which
took place the rebellion of the Earl of Argyll, the Colkitto raids and the Atholl raids, Kirk
sessions and Presbyteries ceased to function at times. Periods of Presbyterianism alternated
with periods of Episcopacy, making great difficulties for the Church.

Despite this we have records of some outstanding ministers in our parish. A certain Mr
McLean is remembered as being instrumental on bringing about great reform in church
discipline. Even the then Laird of Largie, who had been found guilty of some delinquence,
was rebuked publicly on the Sabbath.

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Mr David Simson, a lowlander, was asked to fill the Killean vacancy in 1656. As he had, in
his youth, no knowledge of Gaelic he was obliged to learn this language and it was said that
he became so proficient he was one of those chosen to translate the scriptures into Gaelic.
He was assigned as his portion the first Book of Kings. He was a man of strong covenanting
principles and was forced to emigrate to New Jersey where he died in 1695, steadfast in his
faith to the end.

The Presbyterian ministers were "outed" in 1661 at the Restoration when Episcopacy was
again made the national religion. At this time Angus MacDonald, an Episcopalian, took over
the Charge of Killean. He married the laird's sister. The "outed" ministers held services and
conventicles in barns and glens and even kept secret presbyteries.

The old church at Killean (now ruined), said to have been a "High" or "Mother" Church was
recorded to have been built not as rudely as the other ancient examples in Kintyre which
were often thatched with heather. The Church is surrounded by its old and lately extended
cemetery. In a vault, headed by the words "Here rest the bones of the House of Largie", are
buried many of the Macdonald family. There are in the vault a number of beautifully
ornamented slabs of stone which were once scattered throughout the old cemetery. One
headstone without lettering was erected recently by a local man who, still "hale and
hearty", wants to save his descendants this task ! In 1770 the minister, a Mr R. Thomson,
said to have been warned by an angel not to use the Church on a certain Sunday,
conducted the service in a tent nearby, and fortunately too, as at the end of the service
the roof of the Church fell in - The Church was not restored.

In 1775 the Presbytery met at Cleit and marked the ground for a new Church, the Church in
use today. It was built in the style of what is known as "Heritors Gothic", the usual style of
architecture in that un-ecclesiological era. Galleries and lofts were placed around the walls.
The Laird's loft is still used by the descendants of the then Laird, Macalister of Glenbarr.
Today a tablet commemorates the Col. Norman Macalister, mentioned in page 8, who was
drowned on his way home from India in 1810.

Another tablet tells of a greatly esteemed minister, the Rev. D. J. MacDonald, who as
Chairman of the School Board did much to help those who wished to further their children's
education. Much free private tutoring was done by him. His services in Gaelic, in which
language he was a scholar, did much to keep Gaelic alive. His classes in Gaelic and. Bible-
study were well attended by the young people of his day. He ministered to this parish for 50
years. The influence of his thorough Biblical teaching was felt long after his death in 1930.
He is buried in Killean Churchyard. To the Church he gave a carved pulpit in memory of the
local men who fell in the 1914-18 war. His wife, a lady who unobtrusively did much good
work in the parish, is still remembered for her work among the people.

The United Free Church is empty today. It was built by local subscription after the
Disruption. Much of the heavy work was done by the local supporters of the Church, but
they were later forced, by decreasing numbers, to give this up. The two churches were
joined some years ago. The services today are held in Cleit Church and the U.F. Manse was
the home of the Minister. This manse was sold recently and plans for the erection of a new
.manse are well advanced (1967).

Chapter 5 SCHOOLS
Today only one primary school, Rhunahaorine, functions in our district. The other school at
Cleit was closed in 1946 and the five pupils transferred to Glenbarr school in the adjoining
district.

In 1793 these schools were supported by "The Society for Propagating Chistian Knowledge".
In 1696 one of the last actions of Scottish Parliament ordained the setting up of a school in
every parish by the Kirk Session and Heritors. Some years elapsed before this was done.

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Masters were appointed and their meagre salaries augmented by a fee of one penny per
week from each pupil plus contributions of peats and meal.

The Education Act of 1872 relieved the Kirk Session and Heritors of their responsibility,
transferring it to locally elected Boards, and instituted regular Government grants. School
attendance was now made compulsory and School Board Officers appointed to enforce this
rule.

Early records tell of the trials of those early teachers. The General Assembly School, as it
was called in 1864, had on its roll twenty four pupils, but the need for child labour on the
farms greatly affected the roll. The older children were, at certain seasons, kept at home to
assist in herding cattle, planting, sowing, weeding, cutting peats, and harvesting of barley,
oats and potatoes. At that time potatoes were shipped in large quantities from our local pier
to Ireland, all available hands being needed to help in loading.

Another trial for the master was the fact that the children, on coming to school, spoke only
Gaelic; instruction was doubly difficult as a few Gaelic speaking parents were said to be
hostile to too much English.

The climax of the school year was the annual examination by H.M. Inspectors and the Bible
examination by the local minister. Those were the days of the "Shorter Catechism" and very
thorough Bible teaching.

Some children walked several miles to school and in wet weather arrived soaked with rain.
They were bare-footed in summer, perhaps a sign of poverty, but what a wonderful feeling
of freedom and health it gave, the old folks say.

The school "piece" in lieu of dinner was often gobbled up before reaching school. Vitamins,
unheard of then, were found on the hedges, hips and brambles and, from a farmer's field,
odd turnips and carrots.

Beginning with the three "R's" many other subjects were introduced in those early days.
Records tell us that music was first taught in 1876 beginning with "The Minstrel Boy" and
"The Old Hundredth". Latin, Mathematics and English Literature were also taught, but for a
session, the records say, "Music had to be cut out owing to a deficiency in other subjects".
About this time the number on the roll had risen in winter from thirty to seventy.

An evening school was begun in 1879 when 16 older boys attended four evenings a week.
Their work was examined at the end of the session with favourable results.

Pupil teachers were trained by assisting the masters. The brightest boy or girl was chosen,
first to serve as a monitor, then as an apprentice teacher, serving four years and being
examined yearly by H.M. Inspectors before going to the Training College in Glasgow.

At the beginning of the present century, frequent complaints from H.M. Inspectors gave rise
to a new school being built at Rhunahaorine. The old school was made part of the teacher's
house and today still looks a well-built stone house, with six rooms, in a spacious garden.
Too spacious, says today's teacher!

During the building of the new school the children were taught in the old U.F. Mission Hall
nearby, a small badly ventilated hall. The new school was opened in 1908 by Mrs Moreton
Macdonald of Largie, whose husband was a mem-
ber of the School Board. This family had always been associated with the school. The
children were invited to the Castle grounds - sometimes to see a cricket match, sometimes
to see an imitation fox hunt, and to annual treats. They were also invited there to celebrate
great events such as the Relief of Mafeking, Coronations etc. Mrs Macdonald and her family
gave prizes to the school for the best work done in class.

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The late James Coats of Paisley gave a fine collection of books to our schools in 1906,
which, throughout the years, were much used and provided a nucleus for the present
school library.

A very special and coveted award was, and still is, the prize given by the Kintyre Club to the
School Dux. This Club, which was instituted in 1825, still keeps up its interest in the rural
schools of Kintyre. The recipient of a very finely bound Shakespeare still treasures it after
70 years.

An Education Act in 1918 swept away the authority of the School Board and the County
Education Authority took its place. Since then many changes have taken place. Free books
were provided for all pupils and bursaries were increased
to enable more children to attend the Secondary School at Campbeltown.

The teacher was no longer asked to clean the school as well as teach! School meals and
school medical inspections were started later. In 1946 free milk was supplied to all schools.
The Qualifying examination was superseded by an intelligence test.

In 1961 a new school kitchen and dining hall was added to our school and central oil-fired
heating installed.

The Education Authority have supplied various evening classes on Music, Dressmaking,
Embroidery, Woodwork and Country Dancing. Recently the Extra-Mural Department of
Glasgow University gave us classes on Scottish Literature and Archaeology. The comfort of
the new school hall was much appreciated by the class.

Twenty nine pupils are on the school roll today (1966) and two teachers, both University
Graduates, are employed. New methods of teaching are being tried out and the school is
bright with flowers and a variety of the children's paintings. The school has come a long
way from its early beginnings.

Rhunahaorine School in 1952
Chapter 6 FOLKLORE
Every village in the Western Highlands has its store of "old wives' tales" and legends; our
village is no exception.

The most legendary figure in our locality is, of course, "The Brownie". Unfortunately too
few stories of this little man have ever been written down, but those that have depict him
as a very industrious little chap who could be counted on to help the members of the House
of Largie. In fact, one story has it that he quite often lit the fires for the domestic staff,
made the porridge and swept the floors ! Against this charming picture we have the
assurance of the family of Largie that far from being a helpful wee man he was a naughty
rascal who loved to hide letters and documents of importance.

The stories about him which have been passed on orally vary in great degree, but here is
the version I learned as a small child. The Brownie lived on the Island of Cara, where his
chair may be seen to this day. When danger threatened the Macdonalds he always
appeared to warn them. On their death beds the Brownie always appeared, dressed in his
green suit and silver buckled shoes and carrying a pair of grey brogans which he left at the
door of the room of the dying laird.

Until about 80 years ago the inhabitants of Largieside believed in the potency of "the Evil
Eye". It was known as the "Cronachadh". To ward off its power a bunch of stones was hung
above the door or above the gateway. The stones were of the honeycomb variety and a
string was passed through the hole. This type of stone was chosen because the holes
represented eyes able to watch for evil spirits !
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Salt was used as a preventive measure and in fact, until fairly recently, it was the practice
to throw salt on each cow as she left the byre for summer pastures on the first of May. If
any animal was thought to be struck with "the Evil Eye", the "Woman with the Eolas"
(knowledge) was sent for. She had power to cast out the evil spirit.

In Tayinloan it was said that one farmer's wife, on discovering her best cow dying, sent for
the "Eolas" woman. On arrival she asked the farmer's wife if M. McS. had been seen passing
by recently. On being told that she had passed on the preceding day the Eolas woman
immediately pronounced the cow as "having the Cronachadh". To cure the cow she went to
the March burn, filled a bottle with water, repeating all the while: "In the name of the
Father, Son and Holy Ghost". She then repaired to the hyre, prayed over the water: "In the
name of Mary, Peter and Paul", then poured the water over the cow's ears and back - The
cow was expected to recover within three days.

Legend also applies to Rhunahaorine Point, and the story explaining why the ground at the
Point is covered with thousands of tiny wild roses in summer goes thus - When General
Leslie fought against Sir Alexander Macdonald's forces in 1647 they met at this point and
much blood was spilled. To cover the shame of this, it was said that God made the little
roses grow. Today they grow so closely together among the heather that it is impossible to
walk without treading on them.

In a field above Killean Cottages called Cnoc-na-Cointach (the hill of the guilty) another
battle was fought and again so much blood was spilled that the people declared that never
again would the field be dry. Whatever the reason, the road from the field has never dried
up, despite much draining, even up to the present day.

Superstitions
Certain shrubs and trees, especially rowan and birch trees, were held in esteem and
deemed mighty against powers of witchcraft. Whisky, used as a medicine and a cordial,
was a ready remedy for every disease. Bogbean was used for rheumatism and wild thyme
for headaches. A doctor was not available between Tarbert and Campbeltown until the
beginning of the 19th century.

Weddings of a hundred years ago were great events and often lasted from two to three
days. On the morning of the wedding the washing of the bride took place, and after her
bath she was dressed in her best clothes ready for the ceremony. The bride's party
assembled in the house of her parents where later the wedding festivities were to be held.
The bridegroom's party gathered at his parents' house, and then each party, led by pipers,
marched to the Church or Manse where the actual ceremony was to take place, guns being
fired as they passed along. After the ceremony the two parties joined and, led by the pipers,
marched back to the bride's house. The barn had previously been thoroughly cleaned out
and decorated with greenery, ferns and flowers if available. The wedding feast, usually
dinner with cold fowl etc., was set out on tables. After the meal the tables were removed
and dancing commenced to the music of pipers and fiddlers. The dance was open to all;
young men and women came from far afield 'and, on payment of a small sum "for the
floor", joined in the fun. Dancing and whisky drinking were kept up all night and after dawn
the friends of the bride and those of the bridegroom put them to bed. The party gathered
round the bed and once more drank the health of the couple. The next day the wedding
company again met 'and spent the day feasting, walking, dancing and firing guns until the
evening, when they dispersed.

Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury at the Brownie's chair in Cara. in 1926.

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Chapter 7 INDUSTRY TODAY
From time immemorial farming has been our chief industry. The Statistical Account of 1793
remarks on "the excellency of the potato and barley crops which were grown without
cessation by the help of 'wraic' or Algae Marina obtained in great abundance from the
seashore". Seaweed is still used for manure today.

Our knowledge of rural and farming conditions before the great agricultural revolution of
the 18th century is meagre. Recently a book was published in which the author, Andrew
McKerrall (Kintyre in the 17th Century) was able to reconstruct the rural scene by
information gleaned from old rentals, leases, and charters. One of the chief differences
between conditions then and now was the existance of the Tacksman System wherby the
great Landlord Chiefs gave tacks or leases of their land, mostly to their own relatives. The
tacksmen were gentlemen who were engaged in the military and political activities of that
age, but some were working farmers.

The tacksmen paid the rents in money to the Chief, but the working tenants, who had little
or no money, paid in meal, cheese, malt and cows. The tacksman in turn sold those goods
before paying his rent to the chief. A charge on the land was the "Tiend" on a tenth part of
all grain crops due to the Church. The tenth sheaf had to be set apart in the fields to be
collected by the tacksman. Another burden was the "Calp" paid on the death of any tenant,
when his best beast, horse or cow was given to his landlord, an early form of death duty.
This was abolished by Act of Parliament in 1617 but was still specified in local Kintyre
Charters of 1670. Working farmers had to attend their Chief at his hunts, cultivate his land,
carry his peats and manure, and supply straw, important for thatching.

Usually several working tenants lived in one holding and worked the farm in communal
fashion. Each tenant received the product of a number of rigs under the Run-rig system. An
early plough, called a caschrom or one-man plough, was used before a wooden plough
drawn by four horses called a "four horse plough-gang". One man held the stilts, and
another walked backwards in front of the horses cheering them on by whistling, a third
regulated the depth of the furrow with a pole and a fourth dressed the furrow with a spade.
Each tenant was allowed a certain number of animals for his share. The tacksman owned
most of the implements and animals. One of the largest holdings ever given in tack in
Kintyre was the 53 merklands of the lands of Macdonald of Largie in our district, set in tack
to Dugald Campbell of Inverawe in 1651 but returned to Macdonald in 1661 at the
Restoration. Names such as Campbell, McConnachie and McCallum were introduced at that
time, probably retainers at Inverawe.

In the 17th century, wheeled carts were unknown and all agricultural transport was by
means of wooden slipes which were trailed along the ground by a horse, and by creels on
horseback. The country was bare - no fences, hedges or plantations. Only oats, barley and
a little flax for linen were grown. The meadow hay was a coarse grass. Threshing was done
by the Flail. Mills were not introduced until the early 17th century. If grain was needed in a
hurry it was burned off by drawing a sheaf quickly across the fire.

Malt was made in every farm to be used for brewing ale which was drunk as we drink tea.
The parent of whisky, Aqua-Vitae, was distilled and flavoured with herbs. Butter and cheese
making were home industries of unknown antiquity. Mills, erected at the landlord's expense
for grinding oats and barley, were in use in the mid seventeenth century. The owner
recouped himself with milling charges. Later on travelling mills were introduced.

The tacksman system was abolished in the mid eighteenth century and replaced by a
system which gave each tenant his own holding and steading. Many new steadings were
built at this time and old run-rig farms divided into smaller ones. This process was reversed
in the early nineteenth century when small farms were again joined. This can be seen in our
district at Beachmenach Farm, where the ruins of the four farm houses which were united to
form the present farm are still to be seen. Today this farm is owned by the family who were
10
the tenants of it over the past 50 years. In the nineteenth century farms were generally let
on a nineteen-year lease. During that century hill pasturage and cattle grazing was on a
bigger scale. Potatoes were in good demand and had a good reputation. Farmers depended
on the potato crop to pay the rent. Cheese was improved when the Dunlop process was
introduced from Ayrshire.

Cuthbert Bede wrote in 1850, quoting Lord Teignmouth: "The farm houses in Cantire are
generally old and very poor habitations, far behind improvements in other parts. The
entrance is usually through the byre which is a continuation of the house. The fire is in the
middle of the floor which is often earthy. The roofs are thatched. The sleeping berths of the
family occupy one side of the kitchen, a rudely enclosed cupboard divided into four parts in
which all the members of the family, including the servants, slept. Furniture was a chest
and wooden press. The only attempt at display was the garnishing of the dresser with
platters and jugs".

In the Statistical Account of 1793 the growing of turnips, clover and ryegrass were
mentioned as improvements of that time.

Emigration continued to increase. The farmers' condition was now improved but the cottars
and day labourers suffered great privations. Three or four families were often crowded into
what the Statistical Account called "deplorable conditions". The tenants, who were their
.landlords, could dispossess them at will.

Their meagre diet consisted of potatoes, sour milk, oatcakes 'and porridge, salt meat and
dried fish. Animal food was a luxury not often indulged in. A beast was sometimes killed at
New Year for use at this annual festival. The remains were salted down for later use. The
family depended on the earnings of their children to help them and hired them out at an
early age as servants through the district.

In a letter, written in 1888 by a local farmer to a relative who had emigrated to Canada, we
find: "I have left the old farm as our united families were so large we could not keep
together any longer. I have ten of a family and my brother Neil has nine. Here my hill
pasture carries three hundred sheep. I have thirty head of cattle and six horses, but am
only getting into stock. Times are hard on farmers today. Grain is very cheap 2/6 a bushel,
and oats 2/3. Wool and sheep however sell well. Wool is thirteen shillings a stone, cheese is
£56-£60 a ton and butter one shilling a Ib. We had a very hot summer and the heat of the
sun burned up the white crops, so the straw is short. I have done well by my sheep this
year. I have a good laird and a splendid farm-steading. Thatched houses are getting out of
date for farmers now, indeed many of the farm houses around are like gentlemen's houses"
- Most of the farm houses on Largie estate were rebuilt and others improved at this time.

Around 1900 most of the farm income came from the sale of barley, oats, rye, potatoes,
beef, butter and cheese, and from the rearing of pigs and horses. Prices were low; butter
sold for 6d a pound and a two-year-old wedder sheep for £1. (Today's price (1967) could be
£10). Complaints of high rents were heard. Rent was the first charge on the farm income.
"Sweeping the floor won't pay the rent" was a common saying.

The farm servant's lot was a poor one, with long hours and small wages; his room, the
poorest in the house, had a chaff bed—no doubt healthy. His possessions were kept in his
kist. His washing, usually consisting of a shirt and pair of socks, was carried home weekly in
the traditional red handkerchief. The horses' stable was his den. He attended the six-
monthly feeing fairs and when discontented changed his master for another one. Another
big wave of emigration began at this time.

Changes caused by the scarcity of food in the First World War increased prices. A pound of
cheese, which had previously cost 6d, now cost 3/4. Egg prices rose from 10 to 5/- per
dozen. Many horses were requisitioned and young men were taken to the Army and Navy.
The farmers' economic position greatly improved. A post-war depression, however, caused
11
a slump in prices and by the time the "Hungry Thirties" was reached a position of near-
bankruptcy was widespread. Farmers' wives began to let their rooms to summer visitors.
The Milk Marketing Board set up by the Government was the salvation of the farmer. More
farms went into milk and dairy herds were increased. The Public Health Department
introduced standards for butter fat and cleanliness. Milking machines arrived when
electricity became available. Milk recording, which helped to improve the standard of cattle,
was started.

During the 1939-45 war farmers were forced to grow more potatoes. The Agricultural
Executive Committee put pressure on, and regulated the farmers' output. Today the
backbone of farming in this area is hill sheep. Large covered sheds have been built on one
farm to take 500 sheep for wintering, thus avoiding the necessity of sending sheep away for
winter grazing. This farm also has a New Zealand type of Shearing Shed where the sheep
are sheared by electricity.

Early potatoes are grown on a much bigger scale than formerly with the aid of new
machinery which cuts out much of the former labour. In a few farms potatoes are planted
by machinery and harvested by huge harvesting machines which even weigh and bag
them, ready for market - Spraying with weed killer reduces the necessity for much
weeding, formerly so laboriously done by hoe and hand.

The horse, once the pride of the worker, has given way to the tractor, and today's farm
worker is more than a bit of a mechanic. He might not shape too well with the old horse-
plough, but he knows when to change gear, elevate his plough and turn at the headland !

On some farms silage-making has replaced hay-making, and turnips are not grown in such
quantities as before. Much of our land is not very suitable for combine harvesting, but one
large farm does possess one.

Dairy herds have almost doubled. Cheese has ceased to be made on the farms. Milk is now
collected into Bulk-tanks and taken to the Campbeltown Creamery.

Tuberculosis has been eradicated in cattle. Strip grazing, by means of the electric fence,
has replaced the old-time herd and is in general use. Irrigation of grass and early potatoes
is done on one farm. The scientific knowledge acquired in the past thirty years has enabled
our farms to more than double their output. Feeding compounds of imported soya bean,
groundnuts etc. are in daily use and artificial fertilisers containing nitrogen, phosphates and
sulphates are used. The advisory work of the West of Scotland Agricultural College has been
of inestimable value, and has taught the farmer much; soil analysis and application of
manures has improved the land and grassland management has been so encouraged that
the farmers now count it top priority on their dairy farms.

Today's farmer enjoys a much higher standard of living than his ancestor. Perhaps leisure is
the one commodity still lacking, but the way of life still attracts men. He is heir to much
work done in the past. The capital value of the machinery necessary to farm today is
considerable, making it difficult for new-comers. Most of our farmers are men whose
ancestors farmed for several generations. Recently an old man, who had known lean years
and good years during
his long life on his farm, said "If I had my life to live over again I would not change one
single day!" When the schoolmaster asked him in school (in 1880) - "Malcolm, when did
your boots see blacking last?" he replied that he was busy ploughing before he came to
school in the morning.

Fishing and Kelp-making
Although agriculture was the main occupation of the people, many were employed in
fishing. Unfortunately, although the sea abounded in fish, they could not make the best use
of this because of severe weather, their lack of equipment and of sturdy boats. Poverty and
12
lack of capital hindered them from launching out into what might have been a lucrative
business. Crab and lobster fishing was most common because they did not call for
expensive gear. The creels required could be made by the fishermen themselves and,
although marketing often presented a problem, they did have markets in Ireland and
Liverpool, and cargo boats called along the coast to collect supplies. Cod fishing was also
followed and the cod was marketed at Campbeltown and Tarbert. Saith was caught in large
quantities but, because of its poor keeping quality, this fish was unsuitable for marketing
and had to be used locally or dried and salted. This was done by the villagers and it was a
common sight to see the saith drying on the dykes and around the houses; later it was
strung up inside to be used as required.

As the average wage of the cottar at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th
century was £18 per annum, it can be easily understood that money was scarce, in fact
almost non-existent; for this reason, means, of supplementing
their meagre income became necessary.

Many of the women were engaged in kelp-making, as the little bays around the coast
produced abundant quantities of sea-weed. This wraic, as it was called, was cut and
gathered from the half-hidden rocks and dried in the sun. When sufficiently dry it was
burned in a kiln, 9 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft., prepared for the purpose with a lining of straw to start the
burining process. On a good day several clouds of smoke could be seen along the shore as
the kelp-gatherers were busy
at work. It burned down to a dark brown gluey substance which solidified when cool. It was
then cut into slabs and sold to the merchant at Muasdale where the sailing ships, "Margaret
Wotherspoon" and "Dumbarton Castle" (wrecked at Achnafad in 1913 after dragging her
anchor from Gigha in a gale) called to ship it to Glasgow. There it was processed for the
extraction of iodine. Soda was also a bye-product and was used in soap making. The
average price paid was £3 per ton. When it is noted that it took 24 tons of seaweed to make
one ton of kelp it will be appreciated that the lot of the kelp-maker was not an easy one.
The cutting and carrying of 24 tons of dripping seaweed, laying it out to dry and turning it
daily to the sun before finally burning it, must have been laborious work indeed. In some
cases 10s per ton had to be paid to the owner of the land on whose shores the seaweed
was gathered. In Kintyre only the shores on the Duke of Argyll's estate had to pay this
royalty. Two women could be working practically side by side, with only the march burn
between them, and one would receive £3 per ton, while the other received £2 10s after
paying 17 per cent in royalty. The work was often carried out by a widowed mother and to
her, 10s was a lot of money; many had therefore reason to be grateful to landowners for
the privilege of gathering wraic from the shore.

Distilling:
Another means the cottars had of augmenting their living was the practice of illicit distilling.
While the work of the kelp-gatherer was carried on in the open, the whisky distiller worked
among the hills and glens and his still would be dug deep into the hillside away from the
prying eye of the law. He could choose a spot close by a good water supply, a prime factor
in the production of this "moonlight mountain-dew". Many tales are told of those smuggling
days when there was no lack of excitement as the smuggler pitted his wits against those of
the Excise Officer. Ireland was the main market for the whisky and, in spite of the difficult
communications of those days, it always seemed possible to find a means of transport.
Vessels would call for "cargoes of potatoes' which were carefully casked and placed in the
hold, the casks being covered by a top layer of loose potatoes.

Many cottars supported large families from the proceeds, often clearing 10s per week,
which enabled them to improve their standard of living. The smuggler knew he took a great
risk as it would cost him twelve months in jail if caught and certain hardship and poverty for
his family. A great loyalty existed among the smugglers themselves. The story is told of a
man who tended his friend's still while the owner went for a meal. During this time the
excise man came on the scene and the unhappy man was marched off and sentenced to
13
twelve months' imprisonment. As he was unmarried, and realising the hardship it would
mean to the large family of his friend, he kept his secret and served the sentence. The Rev.
D. Macdonald in his Statistical Record of 1843 speaks of smuggling as "a trade which,
though lucrative in itself, proved very injurious to the morals . . . but fortunately for the
morals of the lower orders of the community this evil had in a great measure been
remedied and smuggling suppressed by the "vigilant exertions of the excise". On the other
hand Christopher North writes, "Smugglers are seldom drunkards neither are they men of
boisterous manners and savage dispositions". Doubtless the peasant of those days was
driven to this doubtful means of support because of the extreme poverty in which he lived.
The Rev. D. Macdonald admits "the fact cannot be concealed that the privations under
which they labour are truly deplorable". If morals were low, illicit distilling can only be
counted as one of many contributary causes.

Smaller industries, employing a number of local men today, are as follows -

(1) Ronachan Lime Factory at Achnafad employs about thirty men. It was modernised five
years ago (1962). Limestone is quarried and crushed and is used for agricultural purposes.
It has been transported as far away as Mull by barge.

(2) A sand and gravel quarry at Achnadriane on Largie's ground was opened by Hunter of
Tinto's Quarries. It has already supplied 100,000 tons of gravel to a nearby N.A.T.O.
establishment. It was taken over by Crarae Granite Company, Ltd., two years ago and
employs six local men; it makes bricks and supplies road-making material for the Argyll
County Council and N.A.T.O.

(3) Largie Sawmill was modernised in 1957. Timber is. brought in from other estates to be
sawn and this timber is used for building and other agricultural purposes. The timber is
celcurised under pressure. Three local men are employed and the output has increased
considerably since 1957.

McConnachie's bus at Taylnloan. 1930

Chapter 8 TRANSPORT

Mail coach at Tayinloan 1906 - Campbeltown—Tarbert Mail Coach

Commenced running 1871 — Discontinued August 30, 1913

Situated as we are in the middle of a peninsula, transport has always been important to our
way of life. The mode of transport has undergone considerable change over the last half
century - In 1900 horse-drawn vehicles took the farmer's produce to shops and markets in
Campbeltown, a distance of 20 miles each way. When heavily loaded, it took six hours for a
horse to complete this journey. To reach the city of Glasgow, before 1914, one boarded the
mail-coach which travelled from Campbeltown to Tarbert daily, then sailed by steamer from
Tarbert to Gourock, finishing the journey by train from Gourock to Glasgow.

The mail-coach horses were changed at several points en route, one of which was at
Tayinloan. The house on the right of the picture below, known as "Charley's stable", made
provision for the horses during the day, and at night it was the meeting and gossiping place
of the local men. It was demolished in 1929 and replaced by a house built for the District
Nurse. The money required for this purpose was collected locally.

In 1914 the mail-coach was replaced by a motor bus, financed and run by the local
Episcopal minister's sons under the name of The Argyll Motor Company. Later other
companies took over. The railway never reached us.
14
A local Carrier also carried goods, chiefly butter and eggs, from the farms to the
Campbeltown shops and brought back ther goods. His was a key position for collecting and
relating the news of the countryside on his route, and a column of the local weekly
newspaper, under the heading "Sparks and Flashes", was often augmented with news from
him. For instance, the information that "at the Tayinloan Ball on Friday night the real and
only Belle of the Ball was the young lady in blue", would be followed in the next week's
issue by a contradiction saying "the real and only Belle was the young lady in pink"!
Messages were given orally and the Carrier had a good memory !

Dugie's Van

Before the roads were opened up for transport we depended chiefly on the small cargo
boats which brought goods by sea from Glasgow. The "Loch-Nell", one of the last ships to
do this, arrived weekly, weather permitting, and discharged her cargo at the Ferry. When
the tide was out horses and carts assisted in the unloading. Coal too was brought in the
same fashion by puffers. Transport to the island of Gigha, three miles away, was
accomplished by the ferry boat, a sailing boat, oars in calm weather, until about 1920
when a motor boat was used. The charge for this journey in 1845 was two shillings for the
boat or sixpence for each person if there were more than four persons in the boat. Today
the County Council own the boat and advertise their charge, 15s return ! As there was no
Post Office on Gigha or at Tayinloan at that time, the mail was taken to a receiving-house at
Tayinloan and from there to the nearest Post Office at Tarbert - Today (1967) a waiting-
room has been erected at the Ferry. Lavatories are to be added soon, to cost, we are told,
two thousand pounds (£2,000).

An interesting contrast in bus and ferry fares is that while the latter has increased, the
former has decreased. The old mail-coach from Campbletown to Tarbert charged £1 return,
which was. prohibitive for most people. Allowing for the change in the value of the £, the
fare was more than double what it is today.

Air travel came to Kintyre earlier than to most other districts in Scotland and a service from
Campbeltown to Renfrew was started in 1933. This journey takes a little more than 30
minutes and is a popular mode of transport.
In 1965 travel by Hovercraft from Tarbert to the Clyde resorts was tried out. A journey
which previously took three hours was done in thirty minutes. Unfortunately this fast mode
of travel, which at first seemed to be satisfactory, was not pursued.

Today, of course, fast cars and buses keep our roads busy. The pony and trap, once considered a
great luxury, is forgotten. Fast cars have replaced that once delightful form of travel. Our district can
show anything from "a Bentley to a Mini".

The Seamen's strike of today (June 1966) has caused us to use a new privately-owned service called
"Eilean Sea Services" which owns a sea-going barge. This barge carries essential goods from our
neighbouring district to the islands. The strike, now in its fifth week, has also given a new demand for
Hovercraft and one vessel is operating daily from Tarbert to the island of Islay carrying food-stuffs
etc. This journey takes forty five minutes.

Chapter 9 OUR VILLAGES
The two villages in our district are called Tayinloan and Muasdale - Muasdale is a Norse
name and is one of the few remaining signs to show that our district was occupied by the
Norsemen for over three hundred years (from A.D. 801). They left no monuments, only
several place names and men's names such as Torquil, Ivar, Godfrey and Ranald—still in
use here today.

15
Cuthbert Bede in 1856 described Muasdale as "a pretty village which could become a
fashionable watering place". It has grown since these days and is certainly an attractive
village overlooking a fine sandy beach, with lots of rocks and interesting hills in the
background and a biggish waterfall and a large bum passing under two bridges very close
to each other. Recently the farms and some of the houses of the Muasdale estate have
been sold to the present tenants and a few private houses have been built near the
waterfall. Recently too, twelve new houses have been built by the County Council where
several old cottages once stood. They have a very fine vista looking out on the broad
Atlantic Ocean, and they have pretty, well cared for gardens.

The old Inn, modernised recently, is still in use (Closed 1988). A new shop, complete with
modern refrigeration, was built last year (1966) by the enterprising tenant of the old store.

The old manse is now a flourishing Guest House, appreciated for its fine situation on the
beach and its fine old walled garden. One remembers the Minister's orchard of long ago, its
apples and the boys who climbed the walls to help themselves to them - a great luxury at
that time! Some fine palm trees flourish in the garden, giving quite a tropical touch.

Muasdale before the Council houses were built

There is a large substantially built, three gabled stone building with a slate roof in Muasdale
which was erected about 1840 for the purpose of extracting starch from potatoes. It might
have proved an excellent project for factory worker and farmer alike had not potato blight
caused a potato famine just 'as the factory was about to go into production. It never worked
a single day ! When the district had recovered from the blight, English and Irish markets
began to clamour for supplies, and as the good quality of the local potatoes became widely
known, they were eagerly sought after, both for consumption and as seed. It certainly was a
commendable effort to introduce work into the district had not fate decreed otherwise.

In the early 20th century the second floor of the building was converted into dwelling
houses and used as such until the people were re-housed in 1950 in houses built by the
County Council. The ground floor was used as a store and also gave room to the local Coats'
library. The greenheart wood used to build the lade is as fresh today as when put down a
hundred and thirty years ago (a new house was built on the site in the early 1990's).

Thirty children live in the village today, surely a healthy sign. Several of the young men
catch lobsters and crabs. Fishing is not a full-time job today, but with lobster prices rising
to as much as 9/- per lb the sport is quite lucrative - Who knows, Muasdale may yet
become the fashionable watering place visualised by Cuthbert Bede in 1856.

Tayinloan (a Gaelic word meaning the house on the marsh) is surrounded by some fine old
trees. It is a mixture of old and new houses. There are fourteen council houses, five houses
belonging to Largie, and two privately owned. The old Inn, now an up-to-date little hotel is
privately owned, as is also the village store and post office.

In bygone times, such craftsmen as a miller, a baker, a shoemaker, a weaver, a tailor, a
mason and a blacksmith lived and worked in or near the village. Today, the site of the
bakery is a petrol filling station. An old meal mill was once the centre of social functions
(one sat on a meal bag sometimes!). The old mill wheel was sold as scrap only a few years
ago. The old smiddy, once very busy when the horse was so important, was also the scene
of much fun and gossiping, but is now a store. No trace is left of the other craftsmen,
except some building done by the last mason to live here.

The old bridge, although picturesque, is to narrow for today's traffic. The Council have
promised a new road and bridge here and we look forward to its completion. A comfortable
new waiting room has been erected in the village, much used for shelter etc by the local
tinkers, but it is kept beautifully clean. A new village hall was erected in 1954 at a cost of
16
£4,000. A good deal of this money was collected locally and grants from various sources
provided the remainder. Later a huge car park was laid out and cemented by local voluntary
labour.

An interesting antiquity stands high on a hill between Muasdale and Tayinloan, the Beachar
Standing Stone. It measures 4 feet broad and 16 feet high. Nearby is what is said to be the
grave of four giants. This grave or cist, as it is called, is the largest in Kintyre. It was
excavated by Kintyre Scientific Society in 1892 when six clay vessels of the Stone Age
period were found and are now in the Campbeltown Museum. The cist was opened up again
in 1963 by Mr Jack Scott, a keen archaeologist from Glasgow, who is writing a thesis on the
cists of Kintyre.

We are told in old records that Muasdale and Tayinloan were not always the most important
villages in our district. Rhunahaorine, which was beside the old home of the Macdonalds of
Largie, and Killean, because of its early church buidings, were mentioned in history very
much earlier.

Chapter 10 GAELIC
The Gaelic language, rich in words which by their sound alone express ideas, was spoken by
most of the people in Largieside until the end of the l&th century. Children going to school
up to that time had to learn English first. This was said to hinder progress greatly. The
language has declined since then and today only a few of the older members of the
community can speak it. An Comunn Gaidhealach (the Highland Association) had a branch
here some years ago. A local Gaelic choir was formed, conducted by the late Malcolm
McCallum L.R.A.M. They competed at a National Mod in Glasgow with some success, being
fifth out of thirteen entries. Both An Comunn's branch and the choir have ceased to
function.

Different dialects of Gaelic are found over the west and north-west of Scotland. Our
particular dialect was the subject of a linguistic survey of Kintyre Gaelic done by a Swedish
student in 1935. This student, Nils Holmer, who later became Assistant Professor of Celtic at
the University of. Upsala, Sweden, published "Studies in Argyllshire Gaelic" first,, and later
in 1962 "The Gaelic of Kintyre". The latter was published in Dublin by "The Dublin Institute
of Advanced Studies", as funds were not available in this country for this purpose.

Professor Holmer was assisted in his survey by twenty local native speakers. Largieside
Gaelic was said to be well preserved up to that time and especially characterised by its
preservation of the unaspirated 'L'. The chief differences between the Largieside dialct and
others were noted. Holmer lived in the district for several months during two years. He
'appeared to admire greatly the Highland mode of life and the qualities of the Gael, and
said that not enough was being done to preserve its culture. The Gael's contribution to
language, song, poetry and story has enhanced those arts.

Holmer was amused with one materialistic old native lady who remarked to him—"Don't
bother with the Gaelic, there's no money in it!" A reason for the decline? The total number
of Gaelic speakers in 1931 was 10 per cent of the population in Kintyre. Today it is doubtful
if more than one per cent speak the language.

If the language is dying, the music of the Gael is still much appreciated, and today the
songs, provided that not too many verses are sung, are enjoyed at local entertainments.

Chapter 11 FOOD AND COOKERY

17
Archaeologists tell us that our ancestors of the Megalithic Age lived mainly on shell-fish
until the Age of Agriculture arrived. The Statistical Account of Killean and Kilkenzie in 1793
states: "The farmers, with a few exceptions are well fed with wholesome food, but the
cottars' meagre diet consists of potatoes, sour milk oatbread and porridge. Animal food is a
luxury few can afford. Such as can, salt a little fish occasionally as a change. They use a
specimen of wild leek grown on the shore."

As we know today, these foods, brought straight from the soil and sea, hold he subtle
elements of good nutrition and compare well with the diet of city slums in the first part of
the twentieth century. Oatmeal, the most nutritious of all the cereals, rich in fats, organic
phosphorus and lecithms, was for centuries the mainstay in the diet of country folks. It was
said to have produced a big-boned and mentally alert race. Porridge and milk, eaten twice a
day—night and morning, was the main source of protein until well on in the twentieth
century.

The old primitive structure of our local mills gave pleasant variations in the flavour of the
meal. The meal chest was an important piece of the kitchen furniture and was replenished
after the harvest when the sacks were brought home from the mill. The rich nutty flavour of
the new meal was much enjoyed. Oatcakes, baked on girdles over peat fires, were rich in
food value and preserved the teeth, despite the description of them given by Cuthbert Bede
in 1856 - "Their oatcakes are like deal boards, tasting like a mixture of chaff and bran.
They hurt the teeth and cause a sensation in the throat similar to what must be felt by
anyone who stands open-mouthed before a winnowing machine in full work !" Oatmeal in
water was used to give energy and quench thirst on the harvest field.

When the mutton barrel was replenished with a "Braxy" (a sheep which had died engorging
on new grass), good use was made of the whole carcase. The intestines were washed and
scalded and then made into mealy puddings and black puddings were made with the blood.
The stomach was made into tripe, the head into broth and often the skin made into a rug.
The flesh was cut into pieces and salted for use during the winter months. Good broth was
made with the salted mutton; rich with barley and whatever vegetables could be obtained,
it was an excellent source of valuable mineral salts.

Potatoes, first mentioned in 1701, were said to have been brought to us from Ireland. Since
then, grown in great
abundance here, they have been a great asset to our diet. "Tatties and herring", another
traditional dish of high nutritional value, was popular.

Fish, when available, was prized. Fresh cod, which the Gigha fishermen brought across in
the Spring at anything from sixpence to a shilling a fish, was relished. Later, dried and
salted cod was stored for winter use. Saithe and lythe, dried on the dykes, were hung up on
the kitchen ceiling. Along with the barrel of salt herring the supplies lasted out until fresh
fish was again available.

Fresh beef was generally obtainable only at Festivals such as Hogmanay and Ne'erday when
the farmer killed an animal and he and his family indulged in an orgy of fresh meat in the
form of stews and pot roasts.

Cheese, a valuable protein, was used sparingly because it must be sold to pay the rent. The
same applied to butter and eggs. Butter was often salted in large crocks for winter use.
Buttermilk, said to be good for the lining of the stomach and for removing rust from iron,
was a valuable drink and much used.

The seashore still provides some food. Carrageen (sea moss) is dried and made into
wholesome sweets. Whelk soup is still a favourite dish in the spring locally.

One great improvement in today's diet is the use made of fresh vegetables. Salads were
practically unknown until the present century. Before they appeared on our tables, kail and
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a little cabbage occupied the Kailyard and young spring nettles, now known to be rich in
iron, were much used.

So we can see that, despite their poverty, our ancestors ate wisely and fared not too badly.
Many of them had excellent teeth in their old age, and could teach today's carbohydrate-
conscious people many things.

Chapter 12 SPORT AND SOCIAL LIFE
In this day of wireless, television and easy access to the entertainments of the town it is
interesting to take a glimpse into the social life of 50-100 years ago.

In this district the mill gate in the village of Tayinloan was the central point and meeting
place. The entrance was semi-circular with seats round the wall making an ideal
arrangement for a 'rendez-vous', as it has been for as far back as can be remembered. On a
quiet summer evening the strains of music wafted in the breeze as the 'would be'
accordionist or fiddler entertained.

Football was always a popular sport and many pleasant evenings were passed as
neighbouring teams challenged the local boys, 'the young contending as the old surveyed.'

The more leisurely game of quoits was engaged in by men of all ages. Pins were driven into
the ground, 18—20 yards apart, and quoits or heavy iron rings were thrown in an attempt
to encircle the pin. Some became quite expert at the game and points were awarded for
covering the pin or according to the distance from it. Often the actual quoits, were not
available but old horse-shoes from the Smith across the road were used.

Each autumn annual sports were held and this meant many evenings spent in training for
racing, jumping, pole-vaulting, hammer-throwing and caber-tossing. It can be imagined that
the summer evenings passed quickly as the com-
petitors poured in from many miles around.

In the spring the ploughing match was the attraction when men took great pride in their
ploughing, the grooming of the horses and the polishing of the harness, for all of which
prizes were awarded.

Clay pigeon shooting was also a sport enjoyed by many and the district could boast of
several good shots. Sadly it must be confessed that most of those recreations have died or
are dying out. Indeed, only football has survived in any marked degree. When war comes it
changes many things and not least the simple things of life. Many sporting events ceased
during the two world wars and were never revived. The annual sports have ceased since
1939 and the ploughing match, although still held, lacks much of the old enthusiasm. It
must be admitted that the advance of science has accelerated the change. The tractor and
the motor car have replaced the horse, and as young people go further afield in pursuit of
pleasure, rural life suffers.

The long winter nights did not deprive people of social life. There were always those who
could sing and recite the
folksongs and ballads, and there was never any lack of good story-tellers or musicians. The
unrehearsed ceilidh was most common and popular; people gathered at one another's
houses and local news and views were discussed with the usual story or song thrown in. On
special occasions like New Year or "Harvest Home" some farm bam would be prepared and
quickly transformed into a lively place of entertainment, and resounded with loud laughter.
Dancing was always popular and the older inhabitants can recall the winter dancing classes
of sixty to seventy years ago when, for three months, dancing-master Bums gave weekly
lessons at sixpence a lesson.

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In the nineteenth century the district had frequent visits from old men who travelled around
the country. It must be pointed out that these men were not disorderly tramps or vagrants
as the word suggests today, but were decent old men who, no longer able to work, and with
no one to care for them, chose the freedom of the open road rather than the confinement
and humiliation of the work-house. Old age pensions were unknown, but great kindness was
shown to these people. Most farms in the district had their regular visitors for whom a place
in the barn or bothy was always prepared. 'Old Tom' was a regular visitor. He sold small
wares and exchanged them for horse-hair for which he always
found a good market in the town or city. Some still remember 'old George', the retired
soldier, who had served in India. His visits to the ceilidhs were always welcome and his
listeners never tired of his stories of people and distant lands they could never hope to see.

To further illustrate how these people were accepted, the story is told of one old man who,
feeling himself feeble and frail, had an urgent desire to reach a certain farm where he was
always sure of a special welcome, for he said, "I will pass on tonight", and he wanted to be
among his friends. He did reach his destination and, sure enough, that proved to be his last
night on earth.

That such old men often ended their days in these circumstances is further remembered by
the story of the farmer's wife who returned home from attending one of them in the bothy
and sorrowfully told her husband "Poor old Jack's up there dying and not a word of Gaelic in
his head to put up a prayer". This simple but worthy lady had obviously never heard a
prayer offered in anything other than her native language, and thought no other suitable
for the occasion.
It can be seen that these old people, although outwardly passers-by, were really a part of
the scene and life of that day and were accepted with remarkable kindness by the people
who often had very little of this world's goods themselves.

The picture above shows the Platform Party on the night of the official opening
of the new hall at Tayinloan
Reading Left to Right - Simon Macdonald Lockhart, Robert Currie, the Laird, Mrs
Moreton Macdonald,
Jim Cameron, Dr Donald Mclntyre and the Rev. Mr McCallum.

Chapter 13 LIFE TODAY
In Kintyre life today is very different from what it was seventy to a hundred years ago.
Poverty is unknown. Old people are well provided for and great care is taken to see that
they have enough for the necessities of life. In rural areas they are often slow to take
advantage of the schemes provided for them, but in this district many are making use of
the "Home-help" service which is proving a great success.

Housing conditions have greatly improved. Many old houses have been renovated and
many new ones built. Most houses have bathrooms with hot and cold water, resulting in a
higher standard of hygiene and health. Diphtheria, tuberculosis and scarlet fever claimed
many victims fifty years ago, but today they are rarely heard of. With the introduction of
electricity in 1952, labour-saving equipment took the drudgery out of housework and gave
more leisure
time to the housewife. She now has time to enjoy the Bridge Club, the Women's Rural
Institute and even joins her family in Country Dancing classes. The new hall in the village
makes these clubs and classes possible. Little provision was made for the social life of
women in earlier days, mainly because the mother looking after her large family, had little
leisure time.

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The youth live a different life today. Largieside Young Farmers' Club has done much to
encourage the young people to take their place in the life of the community, and during the
winter months the young people enjoy a badminton club and dancing class - In the
summer, swimming, boating, fishing and water-ski-ing provide much enjoyment.

A new playing field was formally opened in August 1967: a football pitch, a putting green,
and swings for the children were provided. A hard working local committee collected the
money for this purpose. The opening day was a day to be remembered. Sports were held
for young and old. The "Rural" served a rather special "tea" and incidentally made a
handsome profit for themselves! This profit was later handed over to one of their pet
charities. The playing fields funds were greatly augmented by the "gate money" due to the
large crowd who were present.

Better education has done much to revolutionise the life of today. Every child can have a
secondary school education and no boy or girl who has the ability need be denied the
opportunity to go on to a University or Technical College. Thirty years ago a child wishing to
attend a Grammar School had to find lodging in Campbeltown. Today a bus runs to school
each morning and returns at 5 p.m.

Last winter extra-mural classes in Literature and Archaeology were held in the local school
and were well attended. The newly inaugurated mobile library is much appreciated in the
district. It is hoped that both ventures will do much to raise the cultural background of the
people.

From this review of the history of Largieside it must be concluded that the factors which
hindered early development now wield less influence. Our geographical position remains
unaltered, but its isolation has been overcome by good roads, fast cars and dependable
heavy, transport. Distance is not so much measured by miles as hours of travel. Science
has greatly altered soil content and reclaimed hitherto unproductive areas. Climate remains
much the same but it does not have so great a control because research has introduced
new methods of farming. Silage-making, which is not determined by a wet or dry climate,
has replaced hay-making, so dependent on sunshine, Early maturing crops are harvested at
least four weeks earlier and in a much better condition.

Social reform has developed hand-in-hand with science and research. Long hours of work,
poor wages and appalling housing conditions have been replaced by a standard of living tht
has never been better in any age or in any country.

The district has come a long way towards the Utopia of its dreams, but much is still to be
learned. As news of strikes and misuse of greater leisure-time spreads, it is realised that
progress brings its own problems. It would be a pity if the battle for reforms so hardly
fought and won should yet prove our undoing. Perhaps in this more leisurely part of
Scotland things can be seen in their proper perspective and a sense of balance maintained.

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