Catriona Bell outlines the achievements of the Ballygrant and Keills Action Group in developing a local history project. The article is in two parts - the second part will be published later.
Before the Ballygrant and Keills local history project becomes history itself I must commit to print what we discovered about our related villages and honour the promise made to the many people who helped us. 'We' were the Ballygrant and Keills Community Action Group set up at public meeting called by Councillor Robin Currie in June 2003. Ballygrant and Keills had long felt themselves to be the forgotten villages, too small for any council support, too unassuming to demand it.
Councillor Currie's news of a grant scheme available to communities within 5 miles of a working quarry opened our eyes to the self-help route. A brain storming session produced a long list of community needs and an Action Group of volunteers was formed to get to work right away. Forgotten villages they might now be but it was not always so, and when the long list was whittled down to five manageable projects local history came in at No2. Donald James MacPhee (DJ), and I were delegated to collect all the information group members could provide, do any research required, and as much as possible, separate fact from myth. DJ took on the research of historical documents, I got on the phone to track down local knowledge. Faced with pre-history, the Vikings, the Lords of the Isles and beyond and a four month deadline to complete the project we decided on two subjects ' the history of the village names and their industrial past. Continue Reading.....
Keills, derives from the Gaelic Cill ' a church or chapel. The ruins of Cill Chaluim Chille, St Columba's Chapel, stand within the graveyard at the north of the village. Cill Chalium Chille, according to The Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland's Argyll Inventory, 'appears to be of late medieval date. Presentations to the chaplainry, then held jointly with that of the nearby chapel on Eilean Mor, Finlaggan, are recorded in 1503 and 1542. At that period the patronage belonged to the Crown, as successor to the Lords of the Isles.' The old drove road from Port Askaig to Lochindaal passes the chapel. It's difficulty to trace the road to the east of Keills but in the playing field behind the school you'll find the 14-15th century cross, now headless, which would have stood beside the road. In his book 'Ancient and Mediaeval Stones of Islay' WD Lamont writes that the shaft 'so closely resembles one at Keills, Morven that the head was probably of the same character'. Westwards from the graveyard the drove road can be traced till it merges with Finlaggan farm road. We can surmise that communication between the neighbouring chapels was easy and frequent. The Argyll Inventory also reveals that the clergy at Keills were major landowners with farms at Balleschone and Knocklearach. We have not been able to ascertain the modern name of Balleschone or its location and any help from Ileach readers would be appreciated.
St Columba's Chapel at Keills
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.