Friday, October 28, 2016

'Island' Cemetery - Loch Katrine

Writing the last post about the Magregors buried on Inchcailloch reminded me of another MacGregor burial ground 12 miles away in Loch Katrine. And yes, I did say 'in' Loch Katrine. 

Portnellen burial ground in Loch Katrine
In the 1800s Loch Katrine was dammed to provide water for Glasgow. In 1922 the water level was raised again, which meant the old burial ground at Portnellen would be submerged. Alasdair Alpin MacGregor, in his Book Wild Drumalbain (1927), has this to say about how the burial ground was protected from the rising waters:

The commissioners were bound to erect, previous to raising the level of Loch Katrine, a substantial stone wall around the burying-ground, on the identical site of the then existing wall... and prior to the raising of the level of the loch, they were required to raise the level of the ground within the said wall, and for a distance of 12 feet outside the same, to a height not less than six feet above the existing level, placing any gravestones in the same positions relatively to the raised surface, as they had occupied with reference to the original surface.

In 1993 my wife and I made the five-mile hike from Stronachlachar to Portnellen to see this 'island' cemetery in Loch Katrine. After walking across the narrow causeway we found about a dozen tombstones. None of the inscriptions were readable, but they are said to date to between 1699 and 1800.

Tombstones in the 'waterproof' enclosure
These tombstones lie some six feet above the actual graves - six feet of solid concrete. Alasdair Alpin wrote humorously write about this in Somewhere in Scotland (1935):

...the MacGregors buried there will require to be hefty fellows when Gabriel sounds the reveille, if they expect to break through the tons of cement which the Glasgow bailies have placed over and around their tombs by the shores of Loch Katrine.

See this CANMORE page for more on the 'island' burial ground at Portnellan.

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