The Campbeltown Heritage Centre is a museum and heritage centre in Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland. The centre is the main repository for social history for the Kintyre Peninsula from around 1700 to the present day, and is run by the Kintyre Amenity Trust. Kintyre Amenity Trust (KAT) was formed in 1998 to lease the recently redundant Lorne Street Church from the Church of Scotland and open a Heritage Centre to compliment the existing Campbeltown Museum whose exhibits focused on archaeology and natural history. With grants and contributions from the local community the trustees established a museum that highlighted the different aspects of Campbeltown's success - it had the highest per capita income for any town in Scotland. This was based not only on the herring fishing industry but also coal, shipbuilding, whisky and agriculture. Exhibits were donated by many local people and the museum now holds a premier collection. In 2012 KAT opened Campbeltown Backpackers in the old Free Church School. This provides a modest revenue stream to support the activities in the museum. The Lorne Street Church was built in 1868 as a result of the Disruption in the Church of Scotland. The architect was James Boucher of Glasgow, perhaps inspired by a church recently built in Manchester by the leading Gothic architect of the day, E.W. Pugin. The highly unusual stripy pattern that emerged from the use of differently coloured bands of stone on the east front, rapidly led to the church being named colloquially as The Tartan Kirk. In 2016 KAT celebrated The Year of Scottish Architecture with a display of pictures of key Campbeltown buildings using contemporary pictures by the McGory Brothers, pioneer photographers from the early twentieth century.
Campbeltown has been a destination for visitors for many centuries. Some of these visitors have been welcomed, but not all. The town has a wonderful location with safe anchorage in its sheltered loch and is only twelve miles from Northern Ireland. The first visitors arrived in Neolithic times to set up settlements around the coast, one of the earliest being the Scotti Tribe from where the Scottish Nation took its name. A few centuries later, in 563 AD, St Columba visited to spread Christianity before he moved to the island of Iona. Around 800 AD the Vikings arrived to claim Kintyre as their own. Their arrival must have caused much distress in the existing population, but in time, they started to integrate and set up a base on Sanda Island off the southern tip of Kintyre at Southend. The McDonalds were later granted the lands by the King, but were driven out by the Campbells in 1647.
Tourism as we know it today started when the Clyde Steamers began to visit the town around 1812. These ships allowed much easier access to Campbeltown and Kintyre, bringing increasing number of visitors from Glasgow and surrounding areas, who could visit and return home in the day. These ships also brought in goods to the town, which was quickly gaining a reputation as a major whisky-producing town with 34 distilleries. The “Wee Train” which transported coal from Machrihanish coal mines was converted to carry passengers in 1906 and when the visitors arrived by steamer, they could then board the train to Machrihanish, spend a few hours on the beach, before returning in the late afternoon. This reached its peak in the 1950’s with 56,000 passengers arriving in a 12 week period, before a slow decline with the advent of foreign holidays and cheap air travel. The only steamer to visit Campbeltown now is the paddle steamer “Waverley” which visits a couple of times each spring and summer. Today most visitors arrive by car, bus or on foot along the Kintyre Way. Golf courses now attract visitors and walkers who enjoy the quiet hills and views out to the Islands both to the East and West of Kintyre. Models of the steamers and the “Wee Train” can be seen in The Heritage Centre, along with a few artefacts from HMS Davaar.
Coal has been mined in Kintyre since the latter part of the 15th century. After a visit by James IV to his castles in Tarbert, Kilkerran and Dunaverty in 1494 he sent “ain coll man to pas to Kintyre to vesy gif cclys maybe be wonnyn thare”, as entered in the treasurers report of March 1498. The original mine appears to be to the south of Drumlemble on the ridge by Torchoillean and it is thought the coal won at this time was only for the Royal Castles and was transferred by horse and cart. In 1678 the first recorded mining for industrial use is recorded. This coal was used mainly for the production of salt at Machrihanish. In 1773 James Watt was asked to produce a plan for a route of a canal from Drumlemble to Campbeltown. Work started in 1773 and the canal opened in 1791, and lasted to 1855. Evidence of its existence can still be seen between Hillside and Gorton Farms and there are the remains of the aqueduct which crossed the Chiskan Water near the present road bridge on the Machrihanish Road. The coal field is a basin stretching from the sea at Machrihanish eastwards to within a mile and a half of Campbeltown, being cut off to the north by the big fault which follows the road to Tayinloan. It is thought the field extends to nine square miles. There are six or more seams some over ten foot (about 3 metres) thick. There were a number of pits/mines, some worked in the Kilkivan/Drumlembel area but it was not until 1874 that the deeper mines were developed.
In 1876 the railway was laid down to connect Kilkvan pits with the depot on the west side of Campbeltown. In 1881 these pits were exhausted and the railway extended to Drumlemble half a mile to the west. This pit may have been known as the Wimbledon. Electricity was introduced to the pit 1905/6 but in 1933 the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway was wound up. The Glasgow Iron and Steel Company was granted a licence to bore for coal from 2 September 1943 until 11 November 1944. Following the results of the boring the company started preparatory work to drive two shafts in February 1944. On 29th May 1946 Lady Lithgow, wife of Sir James declared the new colliery open. Speaking at the lunch following Mr Frank Hodges spoke of impending nationalisation. The mine was nationalised in 1947 and the mine became the Argyll Colliery part of the National Coal Board. It was reported that a bore at No:2 West Parkfergus went down 162 fathoms (almost 300 metres) and stopped at 220 fathoms (400 metres). By August 1950 production had increased to 280 tons per day. Tragedy struck on 15th February 1951 when a block of coal fell from the face, killing Donald Woodcock and injuring Robert Hamilton. On 18th September 1958 a fire caused by spontaneous combustion started in the slope door and despite strenuous efforts the douse the flames it continued until 4 October when it was decided that the only remedy was to flood the mine, which was completed by 25th November. Due to adverse mining conditions and loss of markets the manpower had been reduced to 200 men by 1960. In 1961 a further 60 men were made redundant. In 1962 a further series of faults caused problems with running sand and increased water. On some occasions water at the working face necessitated pumping 150 gallons per minute. By 1966 the particular problems of the pit allied to the general problems of coal mining in the country made closure inevitable and the colliery ceased production on 26th March 1967.
There is a rich history of farming over 400 years of almost self-efficiency. Starting with the black cattle which produced milk, butter and beef. The twentieth century saw and end to the black cattle, their drovers and the drove roads which are charted but hard to find in the modern farming landscape of today. Kintyre now have mixed breed cattle in dairy and in beef. The dairy farms produce the UK's Mull of Kintyre cheddar cheese. In small farms 17/1800's butter was the main use for milk, while cheese was made from skimmed milk. Thanks to Barbara Gilmore, an Ayrshire woman in 1792 developed Dunlop Cheese made from whole milk, sometime later rivalling Ayrshire in output and quality was Kintyre cheese where the soft peaty type of Dunlop was preferred by the merchants. Today Mull of Kintyre cheddar cheese is renowned throughout the UK. Beef cattle are still one of the main products from our hill farms achieving some of the highest prices in the Stirling and Oban markets. Black-Faced and sheep are no longer the main breed for lamb or mutton. They are now cross bred with various other breeds to produce heavier carcases. The older generation still prefer the mutton from the Black-Faced sheep, mutton is now in great demand in top London restaurants. Pigs (pork) - 200 years ago most country cottages had a pig almost like the pet dog, only this “pet pig” got killed, cured and hung on the ham-hooks in the kitchen. A few pigs are still reared in Kintyre, mostly sold in the farmers markets which are held on the first Saturday of the month in Campbeltown.
In the eighteenth century crops were oats, barely, beer, wheat, turnips, potatoes and not forgetting Kale and hay. These crops sustained the farm animals, the households and the farm workers, also local markets. Larger farms would have up to 4 pair of horses, small farms would only have one to two pair horses. These smaller farms would share (pull) their horses at harvest time. The horse was so important to the farmer. They said the farmer's first priority was his horses, second was the cattle and third the wife (or mistress as the wife was called). Often the trap pony was used with an offset swingle tree in smaller farms. The tools that were used: the scythe (for cutting hay and harvest), the hay would be cut and left to dry, then coiled in small bundles and then rucked in the field, this allowing the hay to dry out before being carted to the stack yard and stacked. In the Heritage Centre you can see the difference between a hay-stack and a grain/oats-stacks. The barley, beer, wheat, oats and grain crops were cut and tied into sheaf’s and stooked together 6/8 sheafs to the stook again this was to allow the grain to dry before it was carted to the stack yard and stacked. We have a collection of farm tools on display including a peat barrow, always remember there was no waste every part of our land yielded something and peat was cut, dried and stacked for the fire and cooking. Tractors were introduced mainly in the WWII, the government tractor scheme to enable Kintyre to increase food production for the war effort.
1730 to 1740 the old system of the Tackesman was abolished and leases were given, for the first time to working farmers, and this new farming system was to some extent, similar to the farms of the nineteenth century. Farms were described as consisting of so many merklands, and it is necessary to explain this term: a merk was thirteen shillings and four pence which is the equivalent to 67 pence today. The rents were not paid in money, they were generally paid in meal, cheese, malt (made from beer grain) and cows. The Tackesman converted a good deal of this produce into money before he paid the rents to the Chiefs. There were many other payments to churches and Chiefs which are too numerous to go into which were abolished in the 1700's. It was rare to find a farm tenanted by a single tenant, and in general several tenants worked the farms in a communal fashion, all took part in each operation and the rigs of the farms were drawn for by lots, each tenant receiving the produce of a number of rigs according to his share in the tenancy. In order to ensure each tenant got a fair distribution of good and bad land the rigs appointed to any one tenant were scattered throughout the farm and this fact probably accounts for the word Run-Rig, which was the name given to the system or method. It is from the Gaelic “Rhoinn”, a division, and “Ruith”, to run, and signifies that the rigs pertaining to a tenant ran or extended over all the available area, and not confined to a particular part of the farm. In the middle of the eighteenth century at the same time as the Tackesman were abolished, replaced by the system of tenant farmers, his own separate holding and steading, and the old run-rig's were divided up for this purpose, and the earliest farms “leased” to farmers dated from 1742. This was the start of farming as we know it today. In the 1950's the Duke of Argyll sold most of his lands in Kintyre to the leased tenant farmers. To this day farmers still share their tractors and machinery and manpower with their neighbours. Among the first meal mills were Saddell (1634), Kilkenzie (1633), Kileonan (1636) and Kinloch (1636), Machrimore (1636), Kilellan (1659), Carskay (1651) and many more. Many of the ruined walls of these mills can still be seen today.
Also in the heritage centre are several recreated rooms designed to bring together artefacts associated with particular aspects of Campbeltown life. Especially evocative is the re-created cooper's workshop. In all, some 34 distilleries were established in Campbeltown, or Whiskyopolis as it was sometimes called, with as many as 25 operating at any one time in the mid 1800s. Coopers were therefore a very important part of the local economy. In 2016, a conserved and stabilised German 17 cm mittlerer Minenwerfer (bomb thrower or mortar) was put on display in the grounds of the heritage centre.] It is believed to be one of just eight surviving examples worldwide. The heritage centre and cafe are wheelchair accessible. There are public toilets available but not specifically for the disabled. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Campbeltown Heritage Centre, Witchburn Road, Campbeltown, Argyll PA28 6JU
Transport: Stranraer (National Rail) then ferry. Bus Routes : 100, 200, 400, 440, 442, 443, 444, 445 and 449 stopclose by.
Opening Times : April 1st to September 30th, Monday - Saturday 09.00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free (donations welcome)
Tel : 07733 485387