Saturday, 20 April 2013

A Lost Cottage

At the end of the Ormsaigbeg road, beyond the last house and through the fence that marks the boundary of the township's common grazings, there are some broken stone walls (top right of this picture) which we'd noticed before without, if you understand, really noticing them.  But the other day we took a closer look and were surprised at what we found.

The nearer and smaller rectangular walled structure is very broken but shows all the signs of being an old stone byre or, possibly, a 'but and ben' house.  It looks out across a shelf of land to a slope which drops steeply away to the beach, some 30m below.  The further of the two rectangles is interesting only because, from the profusion of flags growing within, it contains soil which is far richer than the land surrounding it.

The structures are clearly visible at bottom left in this satellite picture.  A wall runs northeast-southwest along the back of them, beyond which the land rises in a steep scree slope.  The remains of another, less well-built wall encloses much of the 'shelf' below the structures.

In the middle of this enclosed area is a pile of stones.  This is very likely to be a 'field cairn', a pile of stones and rocks which were thrown there as someone cleared the land for cultivation.  While it isn't evident from the photographs, it's also possible in some lights to see the characteristic undulations of lazy beds.

Someone who has lived in Ormsaigbeg all his life says that this was once the home of a shepherd who was employed by the crofters of Ormsaigbeg to care for the sheep which they kept on the common grazings in the hills above the township.  They paid him for his services, but he also had a small piece of land which he farmed and upon which he had a small house.  Since this story came from our informant's mother, and she never knew the shepherd, it's likely that the house was last occupied some time before 1900.   While he couldn't be sure, he thought that the shepherd's name was MacKenzie.

An interactive map showing the location of the building is here.

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