The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
An Exciting Day for the Archaeologists
I have spent the whole day on site again, most of the time with Dale Meagan working on the cobbled area in the courtyard, but we were constantly being summoned to see what was going on in the moat, where archaeologists Tom Addyman, Ross Cameron and Dave Henderson, with the help of John-Paul Ashley on the digger, were finding treasures.
One after another, the jambs and voussoirs - that's the curved blocks on top of the arch - of a sandstone doorway were being lifted from the moat.
It was a complex operation, with Martin Newton on the big digger helping to clear the moat of debris....
....while John-Paul did the delicate work, shifting rocks and, once a part of the doorway had been carefully excavated, using strops to lift it out. Of course, while the archaeologists were enjoying themselves paddling round in the muddy sludge, he had to be a little patient.
This picture shows Tom Addyman recording the ninth section before it was moved....
....to join the others.
As if this steady stream of discoveries wasn't enough, a close inspection of this piece, in particular, led to an exciting conclusion. The style of the doorway can be dated to the 16th century, but the yellow sandstone from which it is made is distinctly pink in places, a sure sign that it has been subjected to fire. And this block proves the point - it is also blackened.
Patrick Gordon of Ruthven, in his history of the Civil War in Scotland, wrote, "Hee forced the castell of Mingarie by a desperate assault with meir resolution, for they had neither cannon to batter nor pittard to blow up, nor scalled ladders to ascend the walls.... [They] marched and adwanced speedily until they ware at the foote of the wall, then fyred the gates and heaping on all sorts of combustible stuffe round about, they set fire to the castell...."
The "hee" referred to was Alasdair MacColla MacDonald, and the date was 1645. It is very rarely that archaeologists can date something they find as accurately as this.
The castle was refurbished some time around 1700 so, at that point, the broken remains of the arched doorway may have been thrown into the moat.
It was an exciting day, but the icing on the cake was sitting on the seaward side of the castle to eat our lunch and watching an otter hunting through the seaweed exposed at low tide.