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, 16 January 2014
Opening an Ancient Window
The team of archaeologists and builders very kindly waited until I arrived at the castle this morning before starting the process of opening the first of the lancet windows. It was with a real sense of excitement that stonemason 'H' started work on the outside, while....
....John-Paul Ashley of Ashley Thompson began on the inside, carefully removing the blocks of stone and the mortar.
Considering it's been there so long, the mortar is incredibly hard, so it took a good half-hour, and some gentle persuasion with a small pneumatic drill, before....
....they finally broke through. Even then, it took a lot more time to clear the rest of the material so we could, for the first time in 500 years....
....look out at a view which was last seen when members of Clan MacIain held Mingary Castle.
The wall here is only about 60-80cm thick, and this explains why it was so important to infill the room once cannon threatened the fortifications - and it also explains why they went to such lengths to ensure that the fill was solidly mortared in.
And here is the view from the window, looking north across what were once clan lands. This narrow window had several functions. During a siege, defenders could fire arrows and crossbow bolts down onto their attackers. In more peaceful times, the gap would have allowed light and fresh air into the room. And one can quite imagine someone sitting, looking out at, and enjoying the view.
As soon as the window had been cleared of the larger rocks, archaeologist Andrew Morrison of Addyman Archaeology began a detailed examination of it. Sadly, he still hasn't found anything, such as an artifact or a piece of charcoal, which would enable him to date the infill, but what he did find....
....was a groove running round the inside of the window. It's quite likely that this is evidence of there being some way of closing the window, perhaps by placing a wooden board against it.
Over the last two days the men have been tunnelling westwards towards the second, double lancet window. I have stopped thinking of it as a 'passageway' as this term is only appropriate if it opens out at the far end, and there's no sign at present that it does.
This view looks along the length of the room, with the newly opened window on the right . They've now reached the 'cubbyhole' which was accessed from the stairwell, and Andrew is fairly certain that, far from being dug into the fill, it was formed at the time the intramural room was filled in. While it's purely speculation, it might be that the cubbyhole was some sort of strong room in which valuables were kept.