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Ballochroy Glen

The name Ballochroy is derived from two Gaelic words: Bealach = an opening or pass; and ruadh = red, and aptly describes the nature and colour of the lands at the entrance to the glen.

Few areas in Kintyre match the past history of the old settlement of Ballochroy and the adjacent township of Kilmichal. Although the principal villages in the parish were Clachan, the seat of the church, and Lagavullin (Whitehouse), each with its own school and grist mill, the glen with a large area of good agricultural land provided many families with a living.

At Ballochroy there was an inn, grain mill, blacksmith’s shop and cooper together with weavers, fishermen and other tradesmen of the times. The adjacent township of Kilmichal consisted of four farms, at one period all tenanted by McKinlay families, cottars, weavers and farm workers and, in addition, had a small place of worship and cemetery nearby. An old gravestone records the death of John McNiel, a tobacconist from Inveraray, who was shipwrecked at Kilmichal on 7 October 1756, aged 30. Incoming ships from America often used West Loch Tarbert to transship tobacco and other goods for Loch Fyne and Inveraray destinations, and this continued until the opening of the Crinan Canal in 1801.

The local school was situated about ˝ mile from Ballochroy and met the needs of all the children of the area. The last schoolmaster was John Campbell and his pupil teacher assistant was Archibald Currie, who had received his earlier education at the village school in Clachan. The school closed in 1851 when there was a mass emigration of twenty-four families to Canada. John Campbell was evicted, probably for Free church leanings, in 1851 and his assistant, Archibald Currie, after training in Scotland, also emigrated to Canada.

The upper reaches of the glen consisted of the large farms of North and South Brantian, Meanen, Courshellach and Loch Clonag. The names of families found in old records list McRob, McCook, Gilchrist, McKellar, McKinlay, McMurchy, McQuilkan and Bell. The McRob and McCook families denote Isle of Arran connections and the Bell family are noted as having been staunch Jacobites who fled Lochaber district after the 1745 Rebellion with their stock and walked to Kintyre.

All the others named are known to have left at various times for America with the introduction of sheep to the uplands of Kintyre. Two large sheep farms, each of over 3,000 acres, were created by merging smaller farms. This resulted in the renaming of North Brantian to Glac-an-tearradh (Glacantarie), which translates to the "place where the sheep were tarred" (smeared). A mixture of butter and archangel tar was used to smear the sheep against attacks by parasites. It was from Glacantarie that Donald McKinlay with his family left for Canada.

A large, flat gravestone in Clachan churchyard marks the burial of Finlay McQuestan, feuar in Kilmichal, who died in 1733, aged 43. It was his descendant, Duncan McKinlay who recorded the account of the mass emigration in 1851 of twenty-four families to Canada. The ship lay off the mouth of Ballochroy Burn and the families rowed out in small boats taking all their earthly possessions on board before setting out on a voyage which lasted forty-two days.

He (Duncan) was able to buy a small farm in South Ontario for 100 dollars and by 1855 had been able to clear almost sic acres of woodland on which he produced 35 bushels of wheat, which was sufficient to meet their food requirements, whilst his farm had increased in value to between 600-800 dollars.

Other family names were Blue, Taylor, McQuilkan, Mckinnon, Stewart, McKellar, McEachern, Gillies and Currie.

Today, two families reside in the glen where some of the roofless ruins still stand. Hardly a year goes by, however, but descendants of the emigrants come back to view and walk over the lands where their ancestors once lived.

Ian MacDonald





Appearing in "Kilcalmonell & Skipness Parish Magazine", Issue No. 8, November, 1998

Last Update: April 2005