Sunday 28 April 2013

The 1745 House and The Isle of Karrera

Recently returned from a weekend trip up the west coast of Scotland round Oban way and one of the sights seen was the '1745 House'. This is the Clan MacDougall museum and cultural centre just north of Oban and adjacent to Dunollie Castle (the family's ancestral home).

With almost nothing to do with the '45 Jacobite Rebellion, as the then MacDougall Chief didn't come out 'fur Chairlie' but stayed at home, and had his home occupied for the duration for his trouble, the museum is instead a Clan centre and a house for the various family collections.

Just opened last year, the museum is still getting it's act together but looks to be shaping up nicely.

One exhibit taking up a first floor room is a display commemorating Vice Admiral Sir John MacDougall (1790-1865).

The man's Sword and Hat
(with a portrait of the man himself in the background)

Wikipedia describes his career thus;

MACDOUGALLSir JOHN (1790-1865), vice-admiral, born in 1790, was the second son of Patrick MacDougall of Dunolly Castle, Argyllshire, lineal representative of the MacDougalls of Lome, by his wife Louisa, youngest daughter of John Campbell of Achallader in Argyllshire. His elder brother, Alexander, captain in the 5th regiment of foot, was killed in 1812, at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo. John MacDougall entered the navy in December 1802, on board the Cruiser sloop, actively employed on the north coast of France through 1803. In he was in the Doris frigate with his cousin, Patrick Campbell [q. v.]; see also Campbell, Sir Colin, 1776-1847]. When the Doris was burnt, January 1805, he was appointed to the Hero, in which he was present in the action off Cape Finisterre, 22 July 1805. He was afterwards again with Patrick Campbell in the Chiffonne, and in the Unité from June 1806 to November 1809, during which time he was repeatedly engaged in boat actions in the Adriatic. On 25 Nov. 1809 he was promoted by Lord Collingwood to be lieutenant of the Ville de Paris, a promotion confirmed by the admiralty on 3 Jan. 1810. Li May 1811 he was again appointed to the Unit6, which under the command of Captain Chamberlayne still formed part of the squadron in the Adriatic. The service was very severe, and MacDougall was, as before, frequently engaged in boat actions. In November 1811 he was in command of a prize to take her to Malta, when he fell in with three French sums of war. 'With a judgment and zeal which did him infinite credit' he returned to communicate his intelligence to the senior officer, Captain Murray Maxwell [q. v.], with the result that two of the French ships were captured. Towards the end of 1812 he was invalided from the Unit6; in 1814 he was in the Leander on the coast of North America; and in 1816 was a lieutenant of the Superb with Captain Ekins, at the bombardment of Algiers, 27 Aug. In 1819 he was flag-lieutenant to Rear-admiral Donald Campbell in the West Indies, and was officially thanked by the king of Denmark, through the lords of the admiralty, for his conduct in saving the crew of a Danish ship wrecked in a hurricane at St. Thomas. He was promoted to be commander on 9 Feb. 1820.
From 1833 to 1835 he commanded the Nimrod on the coast of Portugal, and was promoted to be captain 16 Aug. 1836. In February 1845 he commissioned the Vulture, paddle-wheel frigate, for the East India station, and in April 1847, being then senior officer at Hongkong, escorted the governor, Sir John Davis, with a strong body of troops up the river to Canton, capturing the Bogue forts on the way, spiking upwards of five hundred guns and destroying the ammunition (Bulletins of State Intelligence, 1847, p. 262). It would appear that the Chinese were taken unawares, and that the forts were not garrisoned to their proper strength. He returned to England in 1848. He had no farther service, but was promoted to be rear-admiral on 12 May 1857 ; was nominated a K.C.B. 10 Nov. 1862 ; attained the rank of vice-admiral 3 Nov. 1863 ; and died at Dunolly on 12 April 1865. He married in 1826 Elizabeth Sophia, only daughter of Commander Charles Sheldon Timins of the royal navy, and had issue, among others, Colonel Charles Allan, the present laird of Dunolly, Patrick Charles Campbell, who died a commander in the navy in 1861, and Somerled, now a captain on the retired list.

He certainly had an evenful career and there's plenty there to make a scenario or two out of if your into 'Master and Commander' or 'Hornblower' or any of that ilk.

Brass Candle Holder
with Galley of Lorn
Another piece that caught my eye was this candle holder in the scullery/kitchen which is enscribed with the Galley of Lorn and what looks to be a dragons head. The history of the piece is unknown but the Galley of Lorn was the symbol of the MacDougalls (descended from Somerlad Lord of the Isles) then it would appear to be connected to the family and is of an obvious age. The Galley of Lorn is of interest to myself as it forms part of my own coat of arms with the family having taken over the Lordship of Lorn from the MacDougalls in the 15th Century anf hence took on the Galley of Lorn as a heraldic device.

A nice piece and looks to have been made and enscribed locally, possibly by a local smith or estate worker.

Chiefs Broadsword & Targe
along with the old Castle Key and Lock

The rest of the museum is taken up with family memoribilia and very interesting it is too with an insight into family life in the Highlands around the turn of the century and early 20th century. The house actually had lino fitted in 1938, a luxury item at the time!
Dunollie Castle from the West

The museum and castle are certainly worth a visit if your in the area.

Also near Oban is the Isle of Karrera, which sits in front of the port town and makes the area such a safe harbour.

The isle has an interesting history and is certainly a picturesque location and is still largely owned by the MacDougalls.

This is where King Alexander II died while mustering a fleet to retake the Hebrides from the Norwegians in 1249 at Dail Righ (The Kings Field), and a few years later in 1263 a fleet of 120 longships under King Hakkon I sailed from here to their defeat at the Battle of Largs and then the survivors returned here to muster before sailing north.

The island includes an Iron Age hillfort, several rural ruins, Neolithic Cairn and cists and the ruins of the 16th Century Gylen Castle.

Gylen Castle was completed in 1582 and was also known as Duncan's Fort, built in the Scots Baronial style complete with an Oriel window (which is the only one of it's type to survive intact) along with many pistol and gun loops and had a removanle floor where missiles and things could be dropped on attackers.

Gylen Castle - suitably moody location
One of the most famous episodes of the castle's short but troubled history is when in 1647 a Royalist garrison living in the castle came under attack from General Leslie's Covenanters troops who laid siege to the fort. The siege continued for an unknown period but due to lack of water(even though the castle has a natural spring) the garrison were forced to quit. The Covenanters threatening the garrison with hanging if they didn't surrender, they finally surrendered and the castle was set ablaze and the garrison massacred anyway, although it is said that the 19th Chief, John MacDougall was spared. The castle remained abondoned since that date.

The castle has now been restored and made safe for visits and a large amount of archeological investigation has been done on the site and the remains of all sorts have been recovered including foodstuffs and gaming dice!

The island is easily reachable by a short ferry trip from the purpose made jetty just soutrh of Oban and is of a size that can be explored fairly readily in a day with some good walking and very photogenic scenery.


  1. Jolly interesting place to visit by the sound of it

    1. Yeah, a good couple of days away, full of history and nice views.

  2. Looks a very interesting place!!

  3. I wouldn't mind visiting the place, a nice piece of history!

  4. Very cool artifacts - castle is very cool too. Best, Dean


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