Members of Loch Ard Local History Group are aware of their good fortune in having some archaeological treasures on their doorstep and are keen to make the most of them. Big Bruach Caoruinn township was described by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) as one of the two ‘most interesting examples’ in Stirlingshire, along with the adjacent Little Bruach Caoruinn township to the south-east. The Loch Ard Local History Group has undertaken three visits to the sites. The first visit was to Big Bruach Caoruinn, followed by two visits to Little Bruach Caoruinn township, one before and one after tree-felling on the site. On the latter visit, on 1 June 2019, the group arrived at the site unable to believe it was the same place they had visited previously, now naked and cleared of felling debris.
Those of us lucky enough to be present on both visits have debated as to whether the experience was better with or without the trees! The corn drying kiln was of great interest and well preserved. Niall Logan of the Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group had identified the buildings as unusual to Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS). This had led to FLS working with its own archaeologist, and with Loch Ard Local History Group and others to research and explore the township. Aided by Paul Bishop, Niall pointed out features of interest in the long house and speculated on what life would have been like for the inhabitants, drawing on his extensive research into long houses in other areas. As we explored the buildings and ruins of enclosure walls, we were informed by an artist’s impression/reconstruction of the site as a late eighteenth century sheep farm. The artist Alan Braby had worked with FLS, using their laser scan survey to bring the township to life.
Dating the sites is not an exact science but Jennifer G Robertson MA PhD FSA Scot MIFA, who was commissioned to do a survey of Big Bruach Caoruinn prior to the run of river hydro scheme, has this to say in her report:
‘Both (townships) were recorded on Roy’s map of 1747-55 as Braechurnmor (Big Bruach Caoruinn) and Braechurnbeg (Little Bruach Caoruinn) and on Grassom’s 1817 map of Stirlingshire as Bruacheurnmore and Bruacheurn. With reference to the latter version, it is possible that the Bra Cheurin on Pont’s map, dating to between c.1583 and 1601, also refers to one or both of these settlements. Cartographic evidence thus suggests that this settlement belongs to the pre-clearance period, with probably Medieval origins.’
Matt Ritchie, Archaeologist for FLS, visited Little Bruach Caoruinn before timber harvesting and also prepared a report, from which the following is extracted:
‘We know that the Wee Bruach was a sheep farm in the late 18th century before it was finally abandoned as a dwelling between 1841 and 1851. There are strong associations with a number of the important families in the district, including Buchanan, MacFarlane and MacGregor.’
Thanks to Forestry and Land Scotland and in particular John Hair and Shirley Leek, members of Loch Ard Local History Group have enjoyed three delightful and informative visits to a bygone era when life was hard. We were stimulated to imagine what daily life was like for local families then. The Forestry and Land Scotland report on Little Bruach Caoruinn is well worth a read.
This link takes you to the full report.