Glorious Glendaruel, A Wee Picture in Words

By Gilbert McKellar, Farmer, Glendaruel

Resting in a valley
In the bosom of the Bens
To the music of the waters
Flashing down the Glens.
Slumbering in the warmth
Of autumn’s russet glow,
Clothed in winter’s mantle
The white of driven snow.
Spring with life awakening,
The scent of summer flowers,
This is the Parish of Kilmodan
What a heritage is ours!

We who live in this beautiful Glen, may say with truth, “Our lines have fallen in pleasant places”.  Glendaruel is renowned in song and story, and wherever the pipes are played, The Glendaruel Highlanders March is a must in every good piper’s repertoire. You may know it as “Campbeltown Loch,” but pipers know its correct title.

Approaching the Glen from the south, we enter the Parish of Kilmodan. After the introduction of Christianity into this country the place of worship was consecrated to St. Modan, and called CELLA MODANI, now Kilmodan. The present Church, the third on the site, was built in 1610, and partially modernised in 1783. On the outside of the building is a stone with the Campbell crest carved on it, the date is 1610, and the initials, “S. D. C.” These initials are possibly those of Sir Dougal Campbell, who died in 1643. The Church situated in the Clachan is open daily throughout the year and holds much of interest for the visitor. Is it “T” shaped in construction; facing the high pulpit is the small gallery where in days of yore the Campbells of Glendaruel sat at worship. On either side are the galleries of the Campbells of Ormidale and the Campbells of South Hall. Each gallery has its own door, and the Church was once known as “The Kirk of the three doors”. It is said that the Campbells talked to God, but not to each other.

Around the walls are plaques in memory of the various Campbell families and of the Ministers who, from the early days of the 16th Century, held the charge of the Kirk of St. Modan. One of the plaques which must surely command the visitor’s attention, is that of the MacLaurin family, which reads: “In memory of John MacLaurin, who died in 1698, a faithful pastor of great public spirit, literary ability, and business talent. His eldest son, John MacLaurin, Minister of North West Parish, Glasgow, born at Kilmodan, October, 1693, died September, 1754.  A man of extraordinary zeal and piety, the most profound and eloquent Scottish Theologian of the 18th Century.  His younger son, the celebrated Cohn MacLaurin, M.A., F.R.S., Professor of Mathematics, University of Edinburgh, born at Kilmodan, February, 1698, died 14th June, 1746.  One of the most eminent among the mathematicians and philosophers that Great Britain has produced, he was noted for benevolence and unaffected piety, and rendered distinguished service to his county and to the cause of religion. Erected by Sir James Russell, LL.D., and Lt.-Colonel A. T. Russell, C.M.G., natives of Kilmodan”.

On the wall by the side of the Ormidale Gallery is a small wooden cross, which once marked the grave in France of the young laird, 2nd Lieut, C, M. B. Campbell, of the 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action 1915.  In a display cabinet on the West wall are various Communion Vessels, tokens, books, and manuscripts of past days.  All Session Books and historical records are now in Edinburgh with the Keeper of Records, but there is much in this cabinet which will interest the visitor. In the Kirkyard you will find many graves which deserve more than a passing glance, and in the South West corner a Lapidarium in which there are preserved carved gravestones of the 15th and 16th Centuries.  These stones once covered graves in the Kirkyard, they demonstrate the carver’s skill with Celtic interlace and animal design.

The Water of Life
It is recorded that there were some five illicit stills in the Glen during the last Century, and the schoolmaster, who had an eye for the Gaugar, as the Exciseman was called, used his senior pupils out on the hills to give timely warning when the law was about to make a raid.  No doubt he was suitably rewarded for his vigilance. From the records which lie on my desk, the story is told of the Gaugar getting the tip-off from Otter Ferry that Neil and Sandy Weir were at the brewing of whisky in the Glen.  Setting off to investigate, he was met by Peter Weir as he crossed the Bealach.  Weir invited him to his home, treated him well, and eventually put him to bed.  Returning to Otter Ferry in the morning there were two bottles of whisky in his pockets. The Gauger kent fine what was going on, but with no evidence what could he report?  On another occasion, two Excisemen were observed coming through Glen Lean, Baron Buchanan of Stronafian, was notified. The old Baron met the Gentlemen of the Excise, and with true Highland hospitality, invited them in for a wee “bite.” In the meantime he dispatched one of his men through the hills to warn the MacKellars of Aidacheran, who were known to be brewing at the time. Once again there was no evidence.  The local mixture was an oily one, but the brewers were getting 9/- a gallon for it.

Before leaving the Clachan we are remindcd of that beautiful and much-loved Gaelic song, “Clachan Glendaruel”, written by Angus Fletcher, schoolmaster, in praise of Jean Currie, a lass of great beauty who lived in neighbouring Glen Lean.

In the centre of the Glen in what is now the Caravan Park, you will find the ruins of Glendaruel House. With the passing of the Campbells, the estate came into the hands of a gentleman called Wiggan. He had the principal rooms panelled in Australian Kauri pine, and the main floors with close boarded maple and oak; however, more of this later.

Next to occupy the estate was the Surgeon, William Harrison Cripps, Surgeon to St. Bartholomews Hospital, and Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons.  What is believed to be the first operation for the removal of an appendix was performed by Cripps on King Edward VII.  Rosa Cripps, a daughter by his first marriage, lived at Evanechan, above Otter Ferry, on Loch Fyne.  Her father had a road hewn out of the hillside above Maymore Farm and rising to over a thousand feet then descending to Evanechan.  This road could be traversed by saddle pony and horse-drawn sledge.  A monument at the side of the road gives the date as 1906. This road is still used to transport feeding stuff to the sheep on the high hill.

A prominent landmark which draws the interest of people pasing through the West Glen is St. Sophia’s Chapel, built by Cripps for his second wife, who was a Catholic.  A small mound surrounded by birch trees at the home farm, is retained by the Campbell family, with the exclusive right of burial for all time. This burial ground is known as “Dun An 0ir (Mound of Earth), though many of the stones have weathered with the passing years, one still readable is: — “in memory of Elizabeth Campbell, the beloved and lamented wife of Archibald Campbell of Glendaruel, and the only child of Dr. J. R. Hume, of London, Physician to His Grace the Duke of Wellington, who died at Glendaruel House, 15th September, 1857”.

On the 24th July, the Estate was put up for auction.  Today the farms are mostly owner-occupied, and Glendaruel House, like many of our stately homes, is no more.  It became a hotel, and then some years ago was burnt down—the Kauri pine, maple and oak of the panelling and floors put in by Wiggan, defied all efforts to contain the blaze.

Moving to Garvie, to the place from which the Glen takes its name. Here a battle was fought between Meckan, son of Magnus, King of Norway, and the Gails. The bodies of the slain were thrown into the river which ows through the Glen, turning the water red with their blood. The river became the Ruail, and the Glen, Glendaruail or “Glen of Red Blood”, or as we spell it today, Glendaruel.

At the head of the Glen stands Dunans Castle, the home of Colonel Archibald Fletcher, Scots Guards, retired.  In the year 1630, the Campbells of Breadalban and Glenorchy united to oust the Fletchers from Achallder, their land of Loch Tulla.  Leaving Achallder, the Fletchers took with them a massive oak door, believing that in doing so that it would guarantee their ultimate return to their old lands. Sometime between the ’15 and ‘45 risings the Fletchers came to Glendaruel and settled in Dunans.  The door which was carried from Achallader is now the door to the small chapel at the top of the Castle. A mound in a field to the west of the Castle was the place where Court was held in past days—it was called Tom-a-Chrochadair (Hangman’s Mill).  The Hangman’s Tree is no more, but the Judges’ seat, fashioned and hewn out of a massive boulder, has been removed from the field and now stands by the south drive of the Castle policies.

As the day draws to its close and the shades of evening fall, who with the hearing ear, the seeing eye, standing by the river Ruel, could fail to observe:

As shadows lengthen on Maymore Hill
They skip and dance from rill to Till,
As by the river, a hatch of flies
Brings forth at once the evening rise,
As light applied to octane fuel
The sun goes down on Glendaruel.
The curlews flying through the Glen
To find their rest on highst Ben,
As in the shade the gentle roe
Slips from the streams that softly flow
As light reflected from finest Jewel
The sun goes down on Glendaruel.

May you enjoy your visit to Glendaruel, and may its peace and beauty stay with you.

Go with God!

GILBERT MACKELLAR,
Farmer, of Glendaruel.