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.
Friday, 10 January 2014
Room Discovered Within the North Wall
I didn't manage to get down to the castle yesterday to see progress on the excavation of the intramural passages, so it was with a keen sense of anticipation that I approached the front entrance this morning. The pile of rocks put to one side to be cleaned and reused during the building phase promised well, and....
....as I climbed to the third level of the interior scaffolding I met Iain MacPhail, one of the workmen with builders Ashley Thompson, carrying another large block of stone out of the northeast corner of the building. The entrance to the passages is just beyond him, to the right.
From the small room in this corner, one can now look through the doorway into the area they're excavating - and what they are finding is very exciting indeed. What I expected to be a low and narrow passage built into the original north curtain wall has opened out into a room nearly two metres across and high enough to stand up in.
Sadly, the lintel stone which once supported the top of this doorway has disappeared and, at present, one cannot see the floor of the chamber. Archaeologist Andrew Morrison from Addyman Archaeology explained that they are deliberately leaving a layer of rubble to protect it as they remove the stone blocks, but he has had a quick look at what appears to be a stone-flagged surface.
As one steps through the doorway one can see the roof of the room. It was originally supported by oak beams but, again, these are long gone. It's difficult to describe the sense of excitement when one steps into a room which was probably blocked up some time in the fifteenth or early sixteenth century, around the time that newly-invented cannons threatened these walls and the MacIains - for it would have been this powerful sept of the Clan MacDonald who would have controlled Mingary at that time - decided to infill the chamber to increase the wall's strength.
Chris Hagyard and Liam Kelly are the two workmen carrying out the excavations, and one could hardly find a more cheerful pair, working, as they are, in damp, cramped and difficult conditions. Archaeologist Andrew Morrison is in constant attendance. What he's searching for is the slightest clue to the date this passage was blocked up. So far he's found nothing beyond a few fragments of bone, possibly the leftovers of the lunches brought in by Chris and Liam's equivalents when they were working in here five hundred years ago.