High Clachan farm, Kirkcolm. A Victorian farmhouse flanked by substantial outbuildings which makes a strong group in the landscape. Some of the nearby buildings have chimneys and were clearly houses in the past suggesting that the group may indeed once have been a traditional clachan as found in Scotland and Ireland. This is where a group of farm houses were surrounded by a system of infields and outfields. The system, known as the rundale system was largely superseded in the nineteenth century as farming practices changed and landlords became more aware of the benefit of rotating land use. In many cases, as appears to have been the situation here, clachans were then converted to a single larger farm. The current arrangement is shown on the first Ordnance Survey of the area taken between 1845 and 1856.
Happy New Year. This is Kirkcolm graveyard about two miles from Stranraer in Scotland. The name betrays the site’s early medieval origins. Kirkcolm - the church of St Columba once stood on this spot and there is a holy well nearby. Columba, of course, is traditionally understood to have left Derry in 563 setting up a monastery in Iona from where he took his mission first to Scots and later to the Picts. This area would have been controlled by the Scots (Irish) at the time, and, if indeed an early site, a timber church in the Irish style would once have stood here. This would have been replaced later in stone. An overgrown circular boundary wall, reminiscent of those found around monastic sites in Ireland creates a strong sense of a connection with this early period. Records note that the church was a ‘free parsonage’ in the 13th century, and that it was repaired in the 18th but pulled down in the 1820′s to make way for a replacement in the nearby village. Today the graveyard is a place of great atmosphere and charm.
Spent Christmas near Stranraer. This is the tower house in the centre of the town- the Castle of St John. Built around 1520 by the Adair of Kinhilt family, it is described as good example of an ‘L shaped tower house’ with a spiral star in the narrow projecting return. It originally funcioned as the administrative centre for the Adair territory; and this encouraged the settlement around it. As in many such buildings there are two vaulted chambers at ground level and a large vaulted hall above. Smaller chambers above would have been the original lord’s bedroom and private rooms. An extra floor above the string couse was added in the seventeenth century. The remains of a typically scottish bartizan can be seen at the opposite end of this string course from the return. In the nineteenth century the two upper floors became a gaol and the building became hemmed in by other stuctrures. Surrounding buildings were cleared forming the current square in the late 1980′s. Its an interesting tower that dominates its town square convincingly - much like the castle of Ballycastle must once have done. It now functions as a museum. Its a good idea to look at it and contemplate its long history from the very good coffee shop opposite.
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West of Ireland and further afield with a little information about their history.