The medieval land-holding of Kilmun: finding Achinlochir

Exploring Celtic Christan Landscapes in Cowal

Gilbert Markus

Gilbert Markus

ex-priest, professor of history, eminent academic, and the original Faith in Cowal pilgrim trails development officer

The fifteenth-century tower of the Collegiate Church stands beside the nineteenth-century parish kirk.
The fifteenth-century tower of the Collegiate Church stands beside the nineteenth-century parish kirk.

There was a church at Kilmun in Cowal for centuries before 1442, but in that year Duncan Campbell of Lochawe elevated it to the status of a collegiate church and rebuilt it. Only the tower now survives.  Duncan  granted various lands for the support of the provost and chaplains whom he was establishing there. In return they were to pray for various named people (his own family and the king’s family) and for all the faithful departed.

Now the various lands granted by Duncan are described in some detail in a royal charter confirming his grant.   The first one in the list is ‘the three-mark-land of Achinlochir lying in the barony of Kilmun, between the burn commonly called Altlochir on the north side and Altinmarkis on the east side’. (1)

I wondered where Achinlochir might have been.  I expected it to be fairly close to Kilmun, given that it’s in the barony (though that can’t always be guaranteed). The place-name itself might be a clue. It is pretty transparent, containing Gaelic achadh ‘field’ and luachair ‘rush, rushy place’ and hence ‘marsh’. So we would be looking for a place near Kilmun where rushes might grow, somewhere wet.

Well, to be honest, that could be almost anywhere in Cowal – especially after the weather of these last few months! But looking around on the OS map in the area around Kilmun (grid-reference NS165820) we very quickly come across a place called Rashfield, about 2½ km away (NS146836). That’s very promising. It’s on low-lying ground near the mouth of the River Eachaig. Even without the place-name Rashfield, ‘field of rushes’, you might expect such a place to be marshy.

But Rashfield is a Scots name. And this was a Gaelic-speaking area until fairly recently. So the name Rashfield is likely to be a fairly modern coining. Was there a farm there before Rashfield got its name, and if so what was it called?

A look at some earlier maps tells us everything. In the 1750s Roy’s map shows a farm right here, close to the church of Killmun, and it’s called Achinlochar!

Roy's map (c.1750) shows Achinlochar close  to the lands of Killmun, at the mouth of the River Eachaig.
Roy’s map (c.1750) shows Achinlochar close to the lands of Killmun, at the mouth of the River Eachaig.

This is a very happy conclusion.   A further insight follows. Our charter tells us that the northern boundary of Achinlochir was Altlochir ‘rushy burn’. There is a significant burn which is now called Eas Mor, flowing through Puck’s Glen and into the Eachaig. It probably formed the northern march of the lands of Achinlochir, and if so the Eas Mor (Gaelic eas mòr ‘big waterfall’ or ‘big cascade’) was once called Altlochir.

 

(1) This is from the manuscript in the National Records of Scotland, C2/4/21; a briefer and less descriptive mention is made of it in the edition in the Register of the Great Seal (RMS ii no. 346).

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COVID-19

Social Distancing

Click the image for current guidance

Most of our sites are still open, and will make for a nice, socially distanced way to celebrate your faith, or to partake in a pilgrimage.

HOWEVER

They are small sites, with small parking areas. If there is already a car in the parking areas, THINK TWICE about visiting. Perhaps try a different location but don't stray too far from home (there are sites all over Cowal), and stay at least 2m/3ft away from other people at all times. Keep up to date with with current government guidelines.