Taken from
Issue Number 86 Autumn 2019



Office-bearers 2019-20
Hon President: Mrs Frances Hood, FSA Scot
Hon Vice-President: Mrs Lily Cregeen
President: Dr Sandy McMillan
Vice-President: Mr Murdo MacDonald
Secretary: Mr Angus Martin
Treasurer: Mrs Elizabeth Marrison, FSA Scot
Committee: Mrs Frances Hood, Mr Harry McIver, Mr George McSporran, Mrs Judy Martin, Mrs Ellen Oliver, Mr Colin Leslie Oman, Mr Michael Peacock, Ms Christine Ritchie.

Speakers 2019/20
23 October Dr Anne Macleod Hill: 'Anna Ferguson: Forgotten Kintyre Poet.'
13 November Professor David Purdie: 'The Scottish Enlightenment: Morning of the Modem World.'
4 December Mike Healey: 'Art and Design.'
15 January Robert McPhail: 'Our Castle of Kings: Community Archaeology.'
12 February Dr Lindsay Blair: 'Constructing the Fisherfolk: Allegories of People and Place.' (This presentation failed in April 2019, owing to technical problems.)
25 March AGM, followed by three short presentations by members.

Meetings are held in the Ardshiel Hotel, Campbeltown, starting at 7.30 p.m.

A Fortnight on the Prairies (1866)
William Greenlees

The Following article was first published in the Glasgow Weekly Herald and copied into the Argyllshire Herald of 5 May 1866 with the sub-heading 'A Kintyre Settlement '. The anonymous author was described as 'a Glasgow artist and a native of Campbeltown', which identifies him as William Greenlees, who died on 4 September 1879. His death notice in the Argyllshire Herald (J 3/9/1879) described him as 'artist, late of Campbeltown '. He died at the home of his brother, Dr Thomas Greenlees, in Ballantrae, Ayrshire. His death certificate describes him as an 'artist '; he was 66 years old; widower of Janet Lorimer and, previously, of Mary McEachran; his parents were Gavin Greenlees, cooper, and Martha Wilson (both from Lowland Plantation stock in Kintyre); the cause of death was given as Bright's disease (degeneration of the kidneys). An internet search for 'William Greenlees, artist' produced just three references to individual works, all in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, all dated 1842, and all landscapes painted in the Stirling area ... but not necessarily by 'our' William Greenlees. Nothing more has emerged and the assumption must be that his talent was of a minor order.

The subject of Greenlees's article, referred to throughout as 'J. G. ' or 'Mr G. " was also a Greenlees and, as William says in the article, a relative: John Greenlees, a son of George in Machribeg, Southend, founded the Argyll Settlement, Illinois, in 1836. In keeping with colonialist attitudes of the time, indigenous peoples and their land rights might as well not have existed. Ed

Having spent a night and the best part of two days in Chicago, we left at four 0' clock p.m. the second day for Argyll Station, 80 miles distant in a north-west direction, which we reached between eight and nine 0' clock at night. It being quite dark when we arrived, and still two miles distant from our destination, we would have been in a sad fix, as there was neither inn nor hotel within a reasonable distance, where we could get accommodation for the night. Fortunately, after some talk with the superintendent of the station, Mr R. [presumably a local guide] discovered he was one of the 'family' and a near relative of his own. This ensured us good quarters for the night, and after breakfast the next morning we proceeded into the interior of the settlement, the following account of which may prove somewhat interesting to my stay-at.home follow-countrymen.

About thirty years ago, a Scotch farmer from the neighbourhood of Campbeltown, with his wife and family, arrived in America, in the hope of doing something better for himself and them than it was possible for him to do as tenant of a cold, dreary farm in the Highlands of Scotland. Many farmers and others from the same locality came out about the same time, with the same object in view. Money at that time was not a very plentiful commodity with them, but they were possessed of that which was of more value to them - health, industry, skill and perseverance, and a dogged determination to succeed in the object they had in view in coming out, in spite of every obstacle - and the sequel will show whether they have succeeded or not.

With some difficulty, Mr J. G., our Highland farmer, got his family as far west as Cincinnati, his means precluding him from taking them further. So, leaving them there, he proceeded westward, working at whatever he could get to do. Being a very handy, active little fellow, he could turn his hand either to cutting wood, erecting a house or building a bridge. He consequently never was idle; but the cultivation of the soil, the possession of a farm, and providing a home for his family were his great objects in coming west.

On the boundless prairies of Illinois (at this time a perfect wilderness) he arrived. Here there was plenty of land to choose from, as flat as a bowling green or rolling with 'heights and howes' just as his fancy or judgement would suggest as best for his purpose. With the eye of a practical Scotch fanner, he pitched on the location which now forms the Scotch settlement as his future home; and I believe he has never regretted the step he then took. His first duty was to build himself a log shantie; the wood was convenient and he knew how to use it. His neighbours were neither troublesome nor numerous. For seven weeks he saw not the face of a white man, and there were only two houses like his own within fourteen miles of him. The grizzly bear, the wolf, and the skunk were his undomestic animals, while the blue bird, the quail and prairie chicken were his fowls when he could catch them, and the 'lnjuns' his companions for many long months.

However, nil desperandum was the motto of our Highland pioneer. His family was brought west - a serious matter, and tedious in those days - horses were purchased, ploughs were set agoing to turn up for the first time the rich dark loam of the prairie, and soon the whole routine of a western fanner's occupation was in full and successful motion. Then a nephew arrives and settles here, also a brother-in-law; then other friends and acquaintances from the same district of the old country settle down into industrious ... not what is called gentlemen, but working farmers. By and by, a neat little church with a white steeple is erected in a central position, and, for the comfort of the clergyman, a good-sized manse is built quite contiguous to the 'kirk'.

The settlement is in Winnebago County, Illinois, and consists of 144 square miles. The price of the land when Mr J. G. took possession was one dollar an acre; now it cannot be bought for less than fifty dollars per acre. Until within the last ten years, there were no railways, so that all their produce had to be taken to Chicago to market, a distance of 80 miles, and a journey that often took two weeks to accomplish. Now there are eleven railway stations within ten miles, three within four miles, and two within two miles of the church, while the journey can be made to Chicago and back in one day; and, to keep the memory of the old country, three of the stations are called respectively Caledonia, Argyll and Kintyre stations - all in the settlement; while a ready market can be had for farm produce at Argyll Station, or the flourishing little city of Rockford, six miles distant.

The community consists of about 150 families, and with, I think, two or three exceptions, all are Scotch, and generally Kintyre people. The exceptions are, I think, a Yankee and two Dutch families, who, whenever they choose to leave, will be bought out readily enough by the old settlers or their children. The propensity the Scotch have of clustering together in this country is something remarkable. There are Scots settlements in Indiana and also in Ohio; but I don't think that anywhere else will you find such an inclusive, clannish feeling displayed as in the one in Illinois. The fact is, they will scarce marry out of the settlement; and if they do happen to do so, it is to bring back some relative that has formerly strayed away from the fold. The consequence is, they are all cousins, or second cousins, from one end of the settlement to the other. My respected relative, Mr J. G., who is now 74 years of age, and has long since retired from the active superintendence of his man, is still a stout, healthy, active man. From his own door he can see the homesteads or farms of eight of his children, all married and settled as fanners on their own farms about him, and two nephews within a short distance, one with not less than twelve children (that of itself is a fortune here), three of them married and all settled as fanners themselves.

The roads are very broad, being formed of the green sward of the prairie. There not being much traffic on them, they are not so much cut up as some of the horrid mud roads in Ohio. There are no tolls in Illinois, although in Ohio and the Eastern States they are plentiful and quite as great a nuisance as at home. The large and handsome farm houses which have superseded the primitive log cabins, surrounded with their well-stocked stackyards (and this is the only place I have seen the old country stacks - in the Eastern States the grain is all housed), gives all the appearance of comfort and plenty. The homesteads are placed on each side of the broad State road, about a quarter of a mile in off the fence; and, looking along from the church, it is quite a sight to see the wonderfully improved appearance the whole has, when it is remembered that 30 years ago it was nothing but wild prairie land.

The country is now surveyed and divided into sections. A section consists of 640 acres and is generally sold in whole, half or quarter sections. Machinery is brought much into use in cultivating the soil, and with that aid it is allowed that two men can easily cultivate 150 acres. Everything that is grown in the Old Country is produced here in abundance, and a great deal that will not grow there flourishes here: the sugar cane, for instance, is cultivated to a considerable extent within the last few years, from which an excellent syrup is made, called 'sorgum', and which adds one more to the already too many sweets that are on every American table at all meals.

Indian com, however, is the great crop here; it is nothing unusual to see great fields of between three and four hundred acres under this cereal. It is a most valuable article, for it serves all purposes. The many preparations of it for the table, as cooked by the Americans, are truly astonishing, and every one of them excellent. There is a class of it called 'hominy', like green peas; 'corn bread' is in high favour; 'mush', resembling porridge, and not inferior; then there is 'pop corn', prepared over the fire in a fine wire sieve, and a very nice thing it is too. Horses, cows, hogs and chickens are all very fond of Indian corn and soon get fat on it. The stalk grows from 10 to 12 feet high, long and straight, with long lance-shaped leaves. There is generally only one head on a stalk, but occasionally there are two. They arise out from the centre of the cane. It is well protected, having five or six layers of leaves wrapped round it, the inner being as soft and fine as tissue paper, and getting coarser as they approach the outside. When harvest arrives - about the beginning of November - the heads are extracted from the covering; the process, called 'husking', was going on with great spirit when we were there. Every spare man, woman and child was engaged. When very abundant, as it is this harvest, many use it for fuel; being 50 cents a bushel, many think it cheaper to burn than coal or wood, and it does the purpose equally well.

On Sunday forenoon we attended church and found a congregation there of more than 500, heard a very excellent discourse, altogether a veritable Scotch service. The clergyman wore the 'white choker', very unusual in this country, and the precentor sat in his desk below him. There was no organ or 'whistling kist'. The only thing wanting was the orthodox beadle, to carry in the Bible and usher the reverend gentleman into the pulpit, and close the door after him in a Christian-like manner; instead of that, they leave him to do all that with his own sacred hands. What a shame!

On each side of the road, and around the church, were innumerable posts, to which were 'hitched' horses, buggies and waggons, to the number of over 80. After service, it was a very exciting spectacle to see so many old country friends, and their families, all happy- and cheerful-looking, get into their various vehicles and drive off to their several homes, some of them six miles distant. I could not help thinking how happy and well-off these people were, in possession of their fine large productive farms - their own property - without the anxiety of how they were to meet the Martinmas or Whitsunday terms, as they had at home. Bad harvests, to be sure, they have now and again, but, if so, they have no dread of meeting a hard landlord. Surely it was good for those people to come here, and good would it be for hundreds besides, who are living, at this day, from hand to mouth, on cold dear farms, that, let them do what they like, they can never make more than a bare living from. One year's rent at home would buy a small estate here, and land is sure to rise - is rising every day - so that I have not the least doubt but the land in the settlement, which is now worth 50 dollars per acre, will before 20 years be worth 500. It must be - the position of the country will command it.

The Skipness Zebra
Christine Ritchie

At the recent Embroidered Stories: Scottish Samplers exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, two of the many samplers on show were identified by the curators as having been stitched by a girl from Kintyre. Isabella Cook (1828.92) was just eight years old when she completed them in 1836. They were given particular prominence because, in addition to the Dutch girls, flowers and other motifs commonly found in Scottish samplers, Isabella had seen fit to include a large zebra.

The first zebra ever seen in Britain arrived in 1762, when Queen Charlotte received it as a wedding present. The animal was put on public display at the royal menagerie and instantly caused a sensation, especially when satirists began composing bawdy songs about 'The Queen's Ass'. It became the subject of a painting by George Stubbs and numerous engravings, which were subsequently copied in popular natural history books. It is thought that Isabella was probably inspired by an illustration she had seen in one of these.

So, who was Isabella Cook? She was born in 1828 at North Coalfin, just north of the village of Skipness, the seventh child of William Cook, a joiner, and Mary Thomson. Kirk Session minutes record that William made 'a table and plate glass' for the church at Claonaig, as well as coffins for the community. The 1841 Census reveals that the family had moved to the mill beside Skipness old mansion house, and William's occupation was recorded subsequently as both joiner and miller. Isabella left the village around 1850 and worked for several years as a domestic servant in Largs. She later returned to act as housekeeper for her three unmarried brothers, all joiners, who were now living at Aoranaigh Cottage, the first house at the west end of the village. Isabella herself never married and died there in 1892, aged 64.

Isabella's samplers were worked in silk on pieces of linen measuring 9 1/4. in. (23.5 cm.) x 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm.). The mirror image of each other (with the zebras facing each other), they were probably intended to hang on either side of another, larger sampler. Although not in the exhibition, this third sampler has also survived, bearing Isabella's name and dated the previous year (1835). It is more traditional in design, incorporating her parents' initials, a religious homily and the motto 'No Deceit'. There are deer, dogs and rabbits, but no zebras.

A further sampler was included in the exhibition as a curiosity, not because of its subject-matter, but because it had been worked by a boy, Douglas Graham, in 1851. The curators had not been able to identify who he was. Many readers will be aware that Douglas was an uncommon, but not unknown, name given to girls in Scotland until relatively recently. It probably reduced the impact of this particular exhibit when this was pointed out, but it was fairly simple to identify the sewer, Miss Douglas Graham, Galashiels, who later became a dressmaker.

When the exhibition closed in April, all the samplers returned to the U.S.A., where they are kept by their owner, the collector Leslie B. Durst.
(One of several descriptions of the exhibit has photo of two Isabella Cook samplers and others described here.)

Memories of the Mull of Kintyre: The Inneans and Borgadale
Liz Findlay

I was born at home in Campbeltown in April 1951, soon after my twin sister, Annie, and 15 months after older sister Jane. Our father, James Aikman Smith, had been appointed Sheriff Substitute for Argyll and Bute in 1948. Our parents loved their time in Campbeltown and although he was transferred to the Borders and subsequently to Aberdeen and then Edinburgh, we returned every summer to Kintyre and nowhere else really felt like home. It was a strange longing, when the spring came, to return to that far west headland - something akin to the urge of birds and salmon perhaps. For our father, returning to Scotland from six years of war in North Africa and Italy, including at Monte Cassino, the soft, yet wild beauty of Kintyre must have healed some of these wartime experiences - of which he never spoke, at least to us, until close to the end of his life.

We often stayed at Machrihanish in the 1950s, and every summer he would lead us across the Mull from Ballygroggan in his old army shorts, battered compass in hand, to ruined Cragaig, where we stopped to imagine the families who had lived there, and their rugged lives. Then we carried on past Earadale Point to the Inneans, and it seemed a long way to six- and seven-year-olds. Always we saw the wild goats, led for years by the big dark billy with huge horns. Often there were peregrines, sometimes eagles and choughs, and everywhere the song of the lark. Finally, below us, we would see the bay bathed in sunlight, and, hearing the sound of the breaking waves, begin the long descent. We would always pause by the grave of the unknown sailor, marked by a wooden cross and surrounded by white stones and green, glass net-floats. Tended by miners from Drumlemble, with its inscription 'God knows', we wondered who was the sailor and what land was he from? The bay seemed imbued with a sense of history and mystery to us as children. The beach was piled with driftwood and 'treasures' that Annie loved to take home. We built a fire and stayed for hours, sometimes swimming, always sorry to leave and dreading the steep climb back up from the bay and the long tramp back across the moor to Ballygroggan. These days were the high point of our summers.

In the late '60s, another move from Aberdeen to Edinburgh was approaching. The three of us were nearing the end of school and our parents bought East Carrine, the old smiddy at Southend. Once more we had a permanent base in Kintyre and experienced the warmth and welcome of the community of Southend. For the three of us, returning from London, Dundee and Glasgow to the soft, clear air of Kintyre felt like a lifeline and we now had the opportunity to explore the Mull from the south. Visits to the Inneans continued now by Glenbreackerie, Largiebaan and Cnoc Moy. Glenahanty, Gartnacopaig and Largiebaan were all still inhabited then. The walk over Cnoc Moy, with lark song and views across the shimmering sea to Ireland, Rathlin, Gigha, [slay and Jura, and cast and south to Arran, Ayrshire and Ailsa Craig, is wonderful. It's lovely to pick up the ancient track that winds round the coast; to think about the folk that made and walked it and to descend into the bay of the Inneans from the south. We discovered other bays too, and Borgadale became a favourite. It was more accessible than the Inneans if time was short and we only had bikes. Annie and I had holiday jobs at Keil Hotel, where we worked as rather clumsy waitresses, and Sybil Kelly was a very tolerant and kindly manager. [n the early '70s, the hotel was busy with guests and fully booked for the Glasgow and Edinburgh Fair fortnights. On days off, expeditions to Borgadale were by bike to the hill beyond Feorlan, then on foot down across the river, through the wood and up over the hill. A lovely burn cascades down on to the beach. Annie and I used to sit at the top, leaning against the walls of the old fort and looking out to Rathlin and beyond. 'There's nothing between us and America,' as Dad told us years before.

In 1975, a plan to visit John (future husband) in Papua, New Guinea, where he was completing a spell with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), fell through. I decided to build a hut down on Borgadale shore, from driftwood probably cast up from the many wrecks that didn't make it round the Mull. Annie and (future brother-in-law) Robin helped me on one of the days. When I'd finished after about a week, it had a roof of heather to disguise an old bit of tarpaulin across the rafters, a floor, small window, door, and shelf inside for jars of tea, coffee etc. It nestled between a big rock, close to the waterfall and the path. My intention was to stay there overnight and paint, but, dozing off in the sun, woke from a vivid dream of invading Vikings, to a bank of mist advancing from Ireland, and retreated to the safety of East Carrine for the night. That evening an unexpected phone call resulted in a job on lona and I never did spend a night in the hut. John returned to Scotland later that summer and we were married the following July in Southend Church.

In 1981 our parents sold East Carrine and spent their last years in Edinburgh. In the mid '80s, now with two small boys, John and I returned to Southend and spent two rather wet weeks in the shepherds' cottage at Strone. We visited Borgadale again. The roof of the hut had partly fallen in and bracken had grown up through the floor, but a decade on it was still there. Marion Brown from Carskiey told us that a bird-watcher sometimes used it.

I often think back to those Kintyre times with gratitude for all that we gained and learned from them and how they informed my life. They gave us a sense of history as we came across the many ruined homes round that coast - testament to the hardness of life and resilience of those who lived all around the coast of Scotland. Roadman Dan Harvey tended the verges of Southend and they were like gardens in their diversity of species, colour and texture. Quietly on his bike, Dan worked his way round the hill road, keeping the ditches clear, letting the wild flowers flourish and always happy to stop for a chat. The wildness of the sea and power of the tides; the mist that can so suddenly engulf and make you lose your way; the bright green bogs that can suck you in, all taught us to respect the sea and the land. We could lie in the heather for hours watching golden eagles soaring out over the sea and dozens of gleaming diving gannets. In the vast space of the Mull, with light reflecting off the expanses of sea, and the quiet islands on the horizon, we had complete freedom to roam and to think. We spoke with the last lighthouse keepers at the Mull and on Sanda and saw the log-books charting so many shipwrecks over the years. We were witnessing the passing of an era, as technology began to bring many changes.

Kintyre taught us darker things too. I first saw a Polaris submarine there and learned about what it meant and the horror of Hiroshima. High double fencing went up at Machrihanish and guard-dogs patrolled around the US airbase. We were to be kept out and in the dark. We learned later that nuclear weapons were buried under the barley fields. Kintyre was strategic to the Americans and apparently expendable. Hidden horrors were lurking underwater, as we later discovered when John, a keen sailor, bought a boat and through the '90s our journeys back to Kintyre were by sea. Trident had replaced Polaris, despite the opposition of many of us, and after the terrible tragedy of the Antares from Carradale in 1990, every shipping forecast contained a submarine warning. Several times we were warned off stretches of water by naval police. All that wild beauty was threatened and nowhere was safe. We saw Trident submarines many times.

Mostly, though, I remember the joy of returning: the long drives back across Scotland from Aberdeen, and the bus journeys as a student from Glasgow, reaching at last the beautiful west road and the smell of seaweed at Bellochantuy; the primroses, bluebells and lambs in the spring; the ripening fields in the summer and, above all, the warmth, humour and kindness of the people, especially our neighbours, Richard and Elizabeth Semple at Low Cattadale Farm, when we lived at East Carrine.

Copyright belongs to the authors unless otherwise stated.

The Kintyre Antiquarian & Natural History Society was founded in 1921 and exists to promote the history, archaeology and natural history of the peninsula.
It organises monthly lectures in Campbeltown - from October to April, annually - and has published its journal, 'The Kintyre Magazine', twice a year since 1977, in addition to a range of books on diverse subjects relating to Kintyre.

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