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.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Cannonball Is One Of Many Finds

It was an exciting visit I made to the castle this morning as the archaeological finds are pouring in.  Dave Henderson and Tanja Romankiewicz of Addyman Archaeology, assisted by Phil from builders Ashley Thompson, continue the painstaking - and painful - task of excavating the moat, where they're beginning to form an idea of the sequence of events that resulted in it being largely filled in.  The finds they're making - pottery, bones, glass and, now, pieces of the long stems of smokers' clay pipes - all date to the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, so it looks as if the earthy layer on top is that date, while the stones infill beneath is earlier.

The most notable finds of the last two days have come from the main building in the castle courtyard.  This photo shows the window into the courtyard in the eastern of the three ground-floor rooms.  Under the top right corner of the measuring grid can be seen two stones, part of the original mediaeval wall into which the window was later formed.

Wedged between them Kenny Macfadyen unearthed a cannonball.  Quite how it got there, and how it was missed by the men who did the controlled demolition of the building in the mid-eighteenth century, is a mystery, but it's a thrilling find.

Kenny has good reason to look pleased.  The cannonball has a diametre of about 10cm, so it's a small one, but it's surprisingly heavy.  It'll go away now to be conserved, and for someone to identify what sort of cannon fired it and, hopefully, a rough age.

Meanwhile, Canadian archaeologist Andrew Morrison has been working in the west room, particularly in the northeastern quadrant where most of the demolition detritus has collected.  He's found a stack of artefacts including metal objects and glass, of which the most exciting are pieces of a Chinese-style pot, perhaps an ornamental vase.

It must have been a lovely piece, decorated with pictures of people, temples and battlements.  There are enough fragments to give a fairly accurate idea of its size and shape - Tom Addyman is an expert in pottery, so he'll be able to identify it.

I personally love the picture of the man in what looks like a frock coat and tricorn hat walking in front of a pillared arcade.  The glaze makes it seem as if he's peering out through the haze of time.  Sitting in the living room of a bleak castle in western Scotland it must have seemed far from home, but it would have been a treasured possession.  Its shattered remains leave many questions - like, who broke it, and how did it reach its resting place amongst the demolition rubble rather than, like so many other pieces, being thrown into the moat?

Meanwhile, Ross Cameron has been getting on with the more mundane task of digging up drains - but this find, again, poses a host of interesting questions.  It's beautifully made, the base being of slate, and it runs from under the stairs towards the front door.  It would have been beneath the floorboards of the last refurbishment, yet.... emerges to the right of the doorway, below the window, close to where the cannonball was found.  But this is right under the much lower, original arched entrance to the north range so, unless the inhabitants were accustomed to walking though a drain the reach the front door, it was later than the first phase of this building.

I can only give a snapshot of all the current activity in the castle.  I'm very conscious that I interrupt these good people at their work, and would like to thank them for their patience with me.  At least I think they appreciate how thrilled I am to watch their efforts yield such fascinating results.


  1. These entries are great! Thanks for bringing archaeology to life for a 7 year old in the US.

  2. Hi there - Good to hear from you, and I'm so pleased that you are enjoying the blog. I think I'm very lucky to be here, watching how an old castle is brought back to life. Jon