Historic Bell Ceremony set for 28 August
On Saturday, 28th August a specialised team will forge a replica of the eighteenth century bell from Kilbride Kirk in an outdoor furnace. The event will be a demonstration of this ancient craft, with a full explanation and commentary of the processes involved.
The original bell (from which the cast will be taken) will be piped down the old Drove road from Cologin at 14:30 to Historic Kilbride, where it will be given a ceremonial welcome. Parking at Kilbride will be limited to those of limited mobility (the furnace will be situated in the usual car park), and those wishing to attend are advised to park at Cologin, and to reserve a table for refreshments beforehand at the Barn Bar (01631 564618 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
There will be no charge for the event itself (though donations to Friends of Kilbride will be encouraged), and there will be opportunities to tour the ruined Kirk, churchyard and MacDougall Memorial Burial Aisle after the event, and to see the extent of the recent renovations which have been undertaken by Michael Hogg (stonemason) with the supervision of Shauna Cameron (architect) and Clare Ellis (archaeologist).
Friends of Kilbride are grateful to Clan MacDougall for their loan of the bell, and to Tesco and to Historic Environment Scotland for their financial support which has made this unique event possible.
The Church of Kilbride, in Larags Glen south of Oban, has been an important part of MacDougall, and indeed Lorn, history since at least the 13th century. Its cemetery contains enclosures where our Chiefs have been buried since before the 18th century. There are many stories and traditions associated with this church and its surroundings. A Scottish charity, the Friends of Kilbride, has energetically undertaken to preserve the remains of the church and grounds in order to honor, welcome visitors to, and learn more from the site.
Dunollie possesses a bronze church bell from Kilbride Chapel, engraved with the date 1795, that was obtained when the chapel was disestablished in 1860. Our Chief has kindly loaned the bell to the Friends of Kilbride and it is in the custody of Myra and Liam Griffin.
The latest Oban Times reports that the bell appears to have been cast in Glasgow in 1786. It was being shipped to Maryland when the ship carrying it was wrecked in the Sound of Kerrera. The bell was however rescued and eventually given to the church at Kilbride in, it is believed, 1795. The bell was initially hung on a tree near the Chapel, then moved to the Chapel itself.
The Friends of Kilbride have wanted to have a more permanent exhibition of the bell, while recognizing the risk of theft if the 1795 bell were to be on permanent display at the Kilbride site. The Trustees of Friends of Kilbride felt that formally returning the bell to Lerags Glen would be a symbol of the program now underway of renovation and preservation of the chapel, session house, and memorial burial aisle.
A plan evolved to create a replica bell, made of bronze (like the original bell), that could be placed on site permanently – with a clear notice that this was not the original. The strategy would be to create a mold from the original at Irene Gunston’s studio in West Wales and then erect a furnace to cast a bronze copy onsite at Kilbride to demonstrate the metal casting process in front of a live audience and to celebrate the bell’s return.
The arrangements have now been made, with the active support of Dunollie, Tesco and Historical Environment Scotland, and the date of the casting is set for Saturday 28th August. It is envisaged that the bell itself will be piped from the Barn bar at Cologin down the old drove road to Kilbride where it will be greeted at the churchyard gate by [Donald Cameron, Minister of the Church of Scotland in Oban] . The casting will take place in an outdoor forge in the car park area, where Irene will explain the processes involved.
The pour will require three people, one to lift and support the crucible full of molten bronze, one to direct the pour, and one to control the flow of metal into the mold, involving the three specialists: Rossy Adams, Irene Gunston, and Bryn Richards. Rossy Adams, daughter of Friends of Kilbride trustee Seymour Adams, is a metalsmith specializing in combination metal pouring. Irene Gunston is an artist and foundry technician with over 30 years of experience working and teaching in foundries. Bryn Richards is an artist who works with metal construction as well as a foundry technician. They will also create a video of the molding process and pour, for Kilbride and Dunollie to use on social media and in their other communications.