The Gauldrons (“Innean nan Gailleann” – Innean or Bay of Storms)
A couple of books by local authors describe the area beautifully…..the books describe the areas from different points of view, sometimes historical at others poetical but at all times very informative……….
Kintyre – The Hidden Past by Angus Martin
Meanders in South Kintyre by James McNeill
Both books are well worth reading to gain an insight into the lives of the people of the area and how they lived and continue to thrive. Other books on the area available at Amazon.
Extract from Kintyre – The Hidden Past
The Western Shore
‘The Eenans’ – The name’s plural probably acknowledges the twin townships there, long abandoned and now ruinous. Innean Mór is on the Atlantic-facing slope of Cnoc Maighe, south of Eenans Glen. Innean Beag is on the Northern shoulder of the Glen. Its remains are sparser and less defined than those of its neighbour, and when the virulent bracken has risen chest-high the scattered ruins are hidden.
Near each township stands a massive fank, or fold, raised with the coming of sheep, and stone-plundering from the ruins almost certainly occurred. Confronted with such massive material requirements, the labourers who built these fanks – now themselves disused and entering a ruinous future – would likely have utilised without sentiment the dry stone shells of the townships.
An innean in Kintyre ‘generally appears to comprise a grassy area on the coast bounded steep rock strewn slopes in the form of an amphitheatre. But such definitions seldom satisfy the imagination, and to see the Eenans is, perhaps, to realise why it is the Eenans. It is quite simply the finest of the few bays which indent the high coast between Machrihanish and the Mull of Kintyre. Much of its charm is, no doubt, the charm of the singular, for it is without comparison on that coast which raises itself, as it were, against the unrestrained violence of the Atlantic , lifting in unchecked between the islands Rathlin and Islay .
One’s first sight on Eenans, from no matter which direction one approaches, is invested with a kind of awe which seems never to diminish, as though time were suspended in that clear landward drift of the Atlantic air. One of my own favourite approaches is from Ballygroggan, a hill farm above Machrihanish. The walk is a slow moderate one across uneven moor land, sectioned here and there with the shaded hollows of old peat workings, marking the toil of unremembered people.
Leaving the moor land – and leaving, too, the backward vista of the plain of Laggan, the sanded bow of Machrihanish bay which is it’s westerly margin, and the northerly rising hills of Kintyre – the descent into the bay begins. Eenans Glen is moulded by the step, stony shoulders Cnoc Maighe, in the south, and Beinn ne Faire (The Watch Hill) in the north. A peaty burn falls down between. Keeping to the course of the old road to Innean Beag, well above that burn, the prospect is of the wall of rising to the south, and, right ahead, the neat V of the glen’s extremity, with the sea’s blue caught in the notch, like water in the bottom of a glass. And then the first glimpse of the bay itself…the sudden revelation of the whiteness of sand.
The bay is level and grassy right to the walls of the glen. Visible from a height above the bay, in the subdued light or early morning or evening, are broad rigs, aligned vertically from the shore, and transversing the length of the bay. The sandy, sparse earth has since been undermined by the innumerable rabbits which now thrive there.
Wherever man goes he leaves, in some form or other, an expression of himself to the place, unlike his fellow creatures which offer, in the end, only their poor mortality to the haunts which they knew with an intimacy and vibrancy of spirit which we fugitives from our natural being dare not now contemplate.
These expressions may be material – dwellings, fortifications, burial sites, artefacts and so on – or the may be marks on his landscape – cultivations, drains, peat-banks. They may even, be their very absence, testify to his past presence – forests felled and marshes drained to yield him crops. In the remotest of places may be found his mute expressions across the span of transient cultures.
Or he may leave vestiges of his language in the names which he put, with intimate sureness, on the places which filled his landscape, his visible world. The process is unending. As a culture and it’s language break down, the ascendant culture will hoist itself on to the wreckage and rebuild, fusing new materials with the hold. That renewal goes on.
If one but thinks the process through, unsentimentally, there is at the end of it, a kind of justice. On a summer night in 1981, an archaeologist friend, Norman Newton, was seated with me in the Eenans, beside a blazing driftwood fire. We had eaten before darkness came, and were sipping whisky in the glare of the fire. I spoke to him, in a mood of regret, of the Gaelic people of the place who had gone with their culture; but he reminded me of the pre-Gaelic sites we had visited that day, and asked: ‘What of these people, and what of their culture?’
The Gaelic place-names of the Eenans have mostly gone, leaving, as one would have expected, only those attached to major features of the landscape. Cnoc Maighe and Beinn na Faire have already been mentioned; Innean Mór and Innean Beag, too, and there are few names to add to these. An Cirean – the Crest or Ridge – arches the skyline to the sea on the south side of the bay. Allt Dubh – Black Burn, for the gully down which it runs is shaded constantly – comes of Cnoc Maighe and enters the fuller Eenans Burn before merging with the sea. An Círean and Allt Dubh properly belong to the six-inch Ordnance Survey maps on which they are recorded, and I have heard them only from those acquainted with these maps. Effectively, the names are as dead as the people who propagated them.
But the need to name and to comprehend by names is persistent, and a useful, if very meagre, crop of compensatory names has grown up. All are English, and all are of fairly recent origin, having appeared perhaps within the last century. Their existence is owed to the successive generations of men – mainly miners from the village of Drumlemble – whose liking for the Eenans and the style of living which they evolved for themselves in its remoteness, will form the heart of this chapter.
Rising from the grassy level at the north end of the bay is the Needle Rock, a stack distinctively formed, if of unimpressive height. Behind it rises the bluff seaward brow of Beinn na Faire, the base of which is know as the Singing Rock. That name though explained to me by individuals long acquainted with the Eenans, remained essentially a wonder until, one night after sunset I wandered with a companion across the shore.
It was he who, unaware though he was of the tradition and the name embedded in it, drew my attention to the sound. It was difficult to describe, as I later noted in my journal, and I am content to reproduce here what I noted at the time: ‘A continual muted roar, which sounds as though it is coming from within the rock.’ It induced in us both, listening intently in the dark, a sense of awe and unease. The theories on the cause of the ‘singing’ vary between reverberation of the breaking sea and the resounding of the wind, but the likelier explanation is the wind.
Horseshoe bay – A rocky indentation south of the Eenans – completes the stratum of English names, but for the Sailor’s Grave.
I’m afraid you will have to buy the book to hear about the Sailor’s Grave and many other interesting stories.
This extract describes the Gauldrons, starting from the Bun an Uisge. This area was and still is popular with the locals for camping and picnics.
Near the waterfall could be seen pretty little ferns and the rather uncommon Grass of Parnassus. This little stream is called “Bun an Uisge” (Boon-an-Uisk) – Bun –Foot, an – of the, uisge – water. The foot of the water – Waterfoot. We now enter the south end of what is known as the Gauldrons or Gauldrons Bay, a large amphitheatre of great interest. The beach consists of sand, shingle and massive tumbledown rocks from the cliffs above, backed by a grassy bank reaching to the foot of the cliffs.
Here in the scree, grow great quantities of a large rhubarb-leaved looking plant – the butterbur – from which the name “Gauldrons” is derived and has mistakenly been applied to the bay.
It seems that the original name of the bay was “Innean nan Gailleann” (Innean or Bay of Storms) and this name fits it perfectly in formation and character. Innean is an amphitheatre-shaped bay and there are several of them along this coast. The Gauldrons extends from the headland at Bun an Uisge to the South Skerry at Fionnport and has been formed by the sea wearing away the foot of the softer aqueous rocks till the upper part of the cliff fell, leaving the debris still to be seen on the beach. As the Kintyre land is gradually riding above sea level, this action has long since ceased and any downfalls are now due to weathering.
The towering cliffs, forming the background, are unique to the student as they show Igneous, Aqueous and Metamorphic rocks in close formation, making a perfect illustration for a text book on geology. We find at the base, a foundation platform of Mica-schist in sea or in land. Deep down in the crust of the earth these ancient rocks have been so altered by heat and pressure that they no longer look like the simple aqueous rocks they were at first, so are called Metamorphic (changed in structure form) – like slate.
Resting on them we have the formation known as Upper Old Red Sandstones (Red because stained with haematite, meaning red oxide or iron) of which layers or strata can be clearly seen. They are aqueous rocks laid down layer by layer in water – conglomerates, reddish sandstones, coloured or grey sandstones, with whitish calciferous sandstones at the top. The last layer is called cornstone and is 50% silica sand and 50% calcite. It may be noted that the building at the top is an old lime kiln where they used to burn the cornstone to get lime for their fields.
Above the calciferous sandstones we find a thick layer of Basalt lava and this introduces us to the next geological formation – the carboniferous or coal – bearing formation is faulted up against the older Schist’s, which shows that the sandstones were laid down in a basin-shaped hollow in the schist’s and the faulting point took place at the lip or rim of the basin.
We also see that an intrusion of Markle Basalt, from 12 to 15 feet thick, has been driven through the strata, like a wedge or wall, at the south end of the series and another intrusion of Dolerite (Diorite) has been forced up at the north end.
Parts of these intrusions are to be seen lying on the beach at the water’s edge, showing that they are probably dykes, and how far then cliff has been eaten back since their fall.
Most of the rocks and reefs from here to the black basalt rocks below the first tee at the golf course are the weathered remains of lava flows, so there must have been considerable volcanic activity hereabout during the carboniferous age.
There is no doubt of the wonderful attraction and charm the Gauldrons has for the summer visitors, who never tire of going there during the long warms days – Painters, poets, students, bathers, campers and picnic parties.
Though easy of access, there is, in addition to the beauty of its surroundings, a sense of remoteness and restful seclusion that is soothing and pleasant. Making one feel in tune with nature – truly a real “Faerie Place.”
If we risk visiting it on a stormy winter day however, we shall see why it was called “Innean nan Gailleann” – Bay of Storms. Giant waves, tipped with flying spray, and driven by a fierce “North-Wester” crashed in thunder on the beach, hurling sand and shingle before them, to form a mound 6 to 8 feet high.
Then receding waves then dragged back a stream of gravel, the rolling stones rubbing and grinding each other, with a deafening roar and rattle, in the round and polished shapes we find on the beach.
In the bygone days of sail and wooden ships, hapless was the plight of any vessel caught on the “Skerrivore” in such weather. Next morning the bay, littered with wreckage, showed why the old Gaelic-Speaking folk gave it its name – “Innean an Gailleann”
|*see the Wee Toon Tellers album for the song|