In a small Argyll glen, stands Kilbride, a place sacred to one of the oldest clans in Scotland. For if these hills and stones could speak, they would tell stories of Clan MacDougall and its ancestors. From the Bronze Age to Age of Druids, from the birth of modern Scotland to the Jacobite Uprising, from the Protestant Reformation to the birth of the British Empire.
Kilbride is thought to have been founded around the time of St Columba in 6th century and named after the Celtic St Bride. However, it was the custom of the early Celtic Church to superimpose their Christian sites on earlier pagan sites. Kilbride may have been a place of worship since humans’ earliest settlement of the area in Bronze Age times.
By the 13th century a stone church was built on the site and an associated burial ground, with building stages through the 1500s. In 1249 Alexander II is recorded in writing as granting “to the See of Argyll the parish church of St. Bride the Virgin in Lorn”. Thus we can ascertain the church was standing at that date, with clearly defined parish boundaries. This action by the king was an attempt to ensure Clan MacDougall’s allegiance to Alexander II took precedence over their allegiance to Haakon IV of Norway.
By the Middle Ages, Kilbride was the centre of a well-established community, older than Oban, in the heart of traditional MacDougall controlled territory. In 1706 the present church building was erected. During the ensuing decades, and after several renovations including the addition of a session house, the church was partially demolished in 1876, though burials continued till recent times.
Since 22nd chief, Iain Ciar was buried here in 1737, all the chiefs and their families have been laid to rest in this sacred ground, where generations of the clan gathered to worship, to marry, to baptise and to bury.
Through the 20th century, Kilbride became overgrown to the point that the ruins were not visible from the road, and sheep were grazing among the various monuments. The Griffin family, who live next door, bought title to the site to save it, and began landscape maintenance, which revealed the incredible gem of history beneath the bracken.
In 2015, the Charity, Friends of Kilbride was formed and leased title to the site for 99 years, with the aim of preserving this historic site for the benefit of generations to come.
MacDougall Memorial Aisle
MacDougall Clan Chiefs and MacDougalls of note have been buried or memorialised at Kilbride from 1737, when the iconic Iain Ciar MacDougall was buried here. The structure that is the MacDougall Aisle was completed in 1787.
The memorials trace the role of various MacDougalls as the British Empire spread worldwide.
The three areas include memorials to:
- Chief John of Dunollie (Iain Ciar) 22nd chief and his wife, Mary of Sleat
- Vice Admiral Sir John MacDougall of MacDougall, KCB, 25th Chief distinguished himself during the Napoleonic wars and after.
- Colonel Charles Allan of Dunollie who served in Bengal Staff Corps, 27th Chief.
- Deputy Surgeon General Henry Robert Lawrence of Dunollie, 28th chief
- Sir John of Dunollie. Member of the Bengal Staff Corps
- Colonel Alexander James of Dunollie 29th Chief
- Other important clan members such as Sir James Patten MacDougall KCB, the last person to hold the combined post of Deputy Clerk Register and Registrar General, and Alexander McDougall, the first son who would never become Chief, Capt. in the 5th Regt. of foot, killed at Wellington’s storming of Ciudad Rodrigo.
Many MacDougalls and related Clan septs such as Cowan, MacConacher and MacCulloch are also buried here. Generations of MacDougalls gathered here to worship, to marry, to baptise and to be laid to rest.
To create a safe and inspiring venue that will display to visitors some of the world wide history of Clan MacDougall, and the role Kilbride played in creating that history.
- Purchased the site which had fallen into the title of a local land-owner.
- Fund raised to achieve the Preservation Plan.
- Cleared away decades of growth.
- Continue to maintain the site with volunteer help.
- Completed an academic led survey of the gravestones.
- Interpreted site with informational signage.
- Constructed visitors’ kiosk
- Hosted Clan members from around the world, especially at the Gathering in 2019.
- FroK volunteers make themselves available to act as guides for our thousands of visitors.
- Achieved Historic Environment Scotland Schedule Monument status for the site in June 2019.
- Hosted fund raising events that showcase Historic Kilbride’s rich History.
- Performed significant preservation work to the Clan MacDougall Memorial Aisle.
- Money expended to date (late 2015 till now) – £49,300 – includes donations, grants, fund raising activities, and donations in kind.
- Funded Archaeology dig Summer 2020.
Urgent need for funding
The professionally prepared Preservation Plan calls for an overall spend of £250,000. Phase 1 – significant repairs to the MacDougall memorial Aisle are complete. We urgently need to stabilise the west gable of the church, at a cost of £16,000. Without this work, the masonry is at risk of collapsing, risking our efforts and making part or the entire site unavailable to visitors.
We are asking for donations to secure the site’s safety and preserve it for the generations to come, so that we can tell the story of Clan MacDougall, and the Clan’s part, not only in Scottish history but MacDougalls role worldwide. Please click here to donate.
Our partner organisations
- Clan MacDougall
- Dunollie Preservation Trust
- Clan MacDougall Society of North America
- Historic Environment Scotland
- Carraig Gheal Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund
- Argyll and Bute Communities Fund
- Imagine Alba
- Treeworks Oban
- Shauna Cameron Architects
- Ergadia Heritage