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.
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
A Cold and Wet Day's Work
You'd never know, from the smiles on the faces of builder Ashley-Thompson's workmen, that the weather on site today was wet, windy and chillingly cold. Pictured are Iain MacPhail in the foreground and Johnny O'Neil in the yellow waterproof, and they're busy on the battlements of the north curtain wall.
This site works in all weathers. At present the men are clearing out the roots of vegetation which, over the last two centuries, has forced its way deep into the exterior stonework.
The battlements here aren't part of the original castle but were added some time around 1700, so the mortar they used wasn't the magical stuff of four hundred years earlier that has held the place together so well. Despite this, the battlements are in much better condition than was expected.
The methods used by the castle's builders are becoming visible. The walls were constructed by facing them with blocks of good-quality stone, then infilling the gap between with smaller stones and rubble, held in a mortar mix.
In places, this mortar mix is still in good enough condition to be left and incorporated into the build. Any rocks which are loose, whether it's the big rocks on the walls' facings or the rubbly ones inside, are taken away, cleaned, and will be put back when the rebuild starts.
Meanwhile, builder John-Paul Ashley continues to experiment to find the right mortar mix for the exterior castle walls. He's had another go at repointing a wall, and the results do look very good - even in the pouring rain.
But there's a long way to go, and a lot of discussion, before a decision is made as to which mortar they'll use. One option which is being actively considered is a hot mix mortar, which involves the use of quicklime, where a reaction with water produces a mortar which is hot and will set in any weather - and set very hard. It's probably what the original builders used, it's ideal for the sort of conditions we have on the Mingary site, but, unless great care is taken, it can be dangerous stuff.
Many thanks to John-Paul for taking me over the site today.