Down Memory Lane, September 4 2020

Kildonan Dun is a well preserved fortified farmstead on Kintyre's east coast.
Kildonan Dun is a well preserved fortified farmstead on Kintyre's east coast.

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Kintyre’s historic links with USA

When a US-based community television company was looking for someone to talk about the history of Campbeltown and Kintyre for a travel entertainment show, it found the perfect interviewee in Alex McKinven.

Alex recently spoke with Doug Crisman, host of The Surprised Traveler, a travel entertainment series featuring 30-minute episodes promoting off-the-beaten-track destinations around the world.

Having previously featured India, Nepal and Tanzania, Scotland was country of choice for a recent episode, with a 10-minute segment dedicated exclusively to Campbeltown and Kintyre.

Having written a book about the history of football in Campbeltown, Alex, who recognised the interview as a good opportunity to highlight the Wee Toon and its surrounds, began by speaking to Doug about the sport’s influence on the area.

Alex also spoke of the area’s geography and appeal to tourists as well as links with the US – namely the founding of a community in North Carolina in 1738 by Kintyre expats called Campbeltown, now renamed Fayetteville.

He mentioned Scottish footballer Jock Curran who travelled to the US to play senior football for Philadelphia, where is where the television company is based, in 1923.

He also spoke about Kintyre’s impressive historical sites, including Campbeltown’s medieval cross and Kildonan Dun, a site Alex calls ‘Kintyre’s Skara Brae’.

A ‘beautifully preserved’ fortified farmstead on Kintyre’s east coast, Kildonan Dun is thought to date back to 600BC. The D-shaped enclosure is surrounded by stone walls of about one metre in height inside and two metres outside.

The website Undiscovered Scotland says of the site: ‘The entrance to the dun is imposingly lined with stone and comes complete with a setting for a wooden door and slots for a beam to secure it in place. Meanwhile, the whole of the wall surrounding the dun is faced in stone on both its inner and outer sides, which goes a long way to help explain its excellent state of preservation.

‘A little north of the entrance, a double set of steps has been constructed within the thickness of the wall to allow access to the inner wall-head. Two other irregularities are also of interest. The first is a chamber enclosed within the wall at the northern end of the dun, while the second is the sharp angle formed within the dun at its southern end. This is caused by the shape of an inner wall constructed within the main wall on this side of the entrance, leaving a narrow gallery between the two.’

The Canmore website adds: ‘Excavations between 1936 and 1938 indicated there had been several occupations and modern excavations at comparable sites indicate a primary occupation in the late first or early second centuries AD.

‘Kerbed hearths and what were thought to be the foundations of small huts were associated with this period and among the finds was a single, small shard of Samian [pottery].

‘A ninth century bronze penannular [Celtic] brooch indicated Dark Age occupation and the site was again re-occupied between the late 12th and early 14th centuries. In the final phase, which cannot be dated, the interior of the dun appears to have been adapted for use as a stock enclosure.’

The episode in which Kintyre features is available to view on The Surprised Traveler’s YouTube channel, which contains episodes after their initial air date as well as clips and other resources relating to the broadcast and future episodes.