Campbeltown Cross to be restored

From left: James Lafferty, Catherine Dobbie and Alan Baker, convenor of Campbeltown Community Council.
From left: James Lafferty, Catherine Dobbie and Alan Baker, convenor of Campbeltown Community Council.

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Campbeltown Community Council (CCC) has successfully secured funding from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to carry out urgent conservation and repair works on Campbeltown Cross and its immediate surrounds.

The cross is the finest surviving example of late medieval carving in Kintyre and it is thought to have been carved on Iona in 1380. It was brought to Campbeltown from Kilkivan Church near Machrihanish to serve as a market cross in 1680 and is the largest and most famous example of a late medieval Celtic cross in mainland Argyll.

The inscription on the Cross reads: ‘This is the cross of Sir Ivor McEachern, sometime parson of Kilkivan, and of his son, Sir Andrew, parson of Kilchoman, who caused it to be made.’

It originally stood outside Campbeltown Town Hall, the focus of the town’s civic and social life. In 1700 the local population gathered to witness the town proclaimed a Royal Burgh.

The cross was mutilated after the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century when its depiction of the Crucifix and two other figures were erased.

During the Second World War it was taken to Kilkerran Cemetery and, after much debate, was re-erected at the new purpose-designed Old Quay Head roundabout in 1946.

Campbeltown Cross has a special place in the hearts of the local community, a respect observed regularly by its circumnavigation prior to all weddings and funerals.

Last year, however, a report commissioned by CCC from specialist firm Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation Ltd highlighted huge deterioration of the cross due to algal growth, surface/detail loss, delaminations, cracks and fissures. The report recommended the need for urgent work to prevent further decay.

Catherine Dobbie from CCC worked with James Lafferty, Argyll and Bute Council’s Campbeltown Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) officer, to obtain quotes for remedial works.

The A-listed cross meant that Scheduled Monument Consent had to be sought and this was granted in September 2019.

Catherine applied to local organisations for funding and is very grateful to Campbeltown Common Good Fund, Machrihanish Airbase Community Company, The Rotary Club of Campbeltown, Kintyre Antiquarian and Natural History Society, and Campbeltown Community Council for their financial support.

Last week the community council learned its application to HES for funding was successful, meaning the project can now go ahead.

The specialist conservation works on the cross will be carried out by Graciela Ainsworth Scultpure Conservation Ltd. Local contractors will carry out all of the additional works. These include: installing scaffolding, repairing plinth and steps, repairing and painting railings, designing and erecting a new interpretation board, replacing disused floodlights, purchasing new seating benches and litter bins, replacing wooden barrel planters.

Catherine told the Courier: ‘Campbeltown Community Council felt it was our duty to preserve the cross. This will complement the other improvements that have been made to the town centre in recent years, helping to preserve another piece of our heritage for generations to come.’