Since the last posting on 4 July, there have been exciting developments:
6 October. After several months of waiting, The Heritage Lottery Fund finally approved our project to lift, clean, repair and display eight of our best medieval stones in the graveyard. Because most of the work has to be done by professional contractors and archaeologists, the costs are high. Combining the commitment made by Historic Scotland (HS) and the new grant by The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the available funds are up to £47,000. At last, the project can start.
10 October. Meeting with Alison McIlroy, Technical Officer, Argyll & Bute Council (responsible for graveyards) to discuss details of the work to be done. The main conditions to be met are that each graveslab site should be returfed and have a permanent marker saying where the stone can be found after lifting.
27 October. First meeting of the joint CELM/Church Project Group (Bob Hay, Mary MacDougall, John Livingstone, Donnie MacCormick, Barbara McDougall) to plan progress. A great deal of thought has gone into the site and design of the shelter where the conserved stones will be protected and displayed. Alex Gourlay and Mike Rayworth from Appin have been invited by the Group to design a structure in Argyll green oak, and this was an opportunity to take a first look at their exciting ideas.
16 November. There are very few contractors approved by HS to do this kind of work to their standards. Because they and the HLF need three estimates for the work, it has taken months to be in a position to put the work out to tender. Today we finally secured a third estimate.
29 November. The Project Team is committed to involving the community of Lismore in the project, and there is a particular role for the schoolchildren – recording and editing a film of the project over the months. Today Helen Crossan and Bob Hay did some preliminary filming of the stones in situ – in terrible weather, wet and frozen stiff.
3 December. With the finance secured and estimates approved by HS, it was time for John Raven and Stephen Gordon of HS to visit and give us their approval for the project. The first job was to visit Baligarve schoolroom where the stones are to be stored, dried, conserved and
repaired. John (middle) and Stephen (right) were able to sort out any concerns that the Crossan family might have with the work to be done, and they approved the schoolroom for the work. They then went on to meet the project team and visit the graveyard to check the stones. There was a great deal of discussion about the site of the shelter, with the HS officials approving the idea of siting it to the right of the war memorial. Alex Gourlay (in both photos) will now adapt the design of the shelter to fit the site.
Afterwards, the Project Group met in the manse to consider the three estimates for the work. With the support of HS, it was agreed to award the contract for the first phase of the work (lifting with archaeological support, transport to Baligarve schoolroom, cleaning and drying) to Rowan Stoneworks of Appin, and Argyll Archaeology, Campbeltown. It is hoped that fieldwork can start soon in January.
A great deal of work now needs to be done to collect up to date information on West Highland graveslabs for the interpretation boards that will be mounted on the shelter to explain the importance and significance of the stones. We need to know what stone they were carved from (some are local slate, some harder material possibly from a distance); when they were carved; and some idea of the people that were commemorated (are they ruling MacDougalls?). In particular we would like to know more about the lady stone – are there traces of a rosary in her left hand? What is the significance of the two carvings in the niches above her head? We hope that answers may come when the stones are cleaned.