November 7, 2007
Hi! Back from my travels and logging on again – admittedly a little bit later than planned.
I recently gave a talk to Guild members in Dundee which gave me the excuse, while North of the border, to have a look at some Scottish slate quarries. I’d hoped to come home laden with slate for new work but in the event I came home empty handed. Nonetheless it was a worthwhile trip…..
I began at Ballachulish, which produces a beautiful gray slate with a lovely sheen. The quarry is no longer in use exept as an attractive walking and picnic site. I’d hoped to find plenty of industrial spoil to take home with me but sadly it has all been tidied away (and is now presumably lying flattened under the visitors’ car park!) Somewhat dissapointed I motored down the Argyle coast to Seil Island, arriving by evening at Ellenabeich….
Ellenabeich is a pretty spot at the southern end of Seil Island. Here again were signs of past quarrying, though as at Ballachulish all the interesting slate spoil has been tidied away. However there were some magnificently improbable walls built of large, vertically stacked slates:
I sketched this broken bit of wall while waiting on the pier for the ferry to take me on the three minute crossing to Easedale Island.
Easedale is a remote yet inhabited island that in the past was one large slate quarry. Tiny terraced cottages stand in rows and squares on the green grass – there are no roads or streets.
Easedale slate is beautiful and has a lovely gray sheen similar to Ballachulish. There is plenty of spoil lying about on the ground just asking to be taken home and made into something, but since the whole island is a conservation area taking chunks of it away is definitely not on!
My drive home took me through Kilmartin Glen, an area rich in standing stones and stone circles, cup and ring carvings and early Christian gravestones. I stopped for coffee at the museum and found a worn but particularly lovely 15 century Crucifixion in the church, and made a quick sketch:
Beside this carving stood an information panel which described the work as ‘somewhat stiff and crude’ – who writes this stuff? Though the piece is a worn and broken fragment the ‘hang’ of Christ’s body is exquisite. My sketch might be stiff and crude (I really haven’t done the piece justice) but not the original 15 century sculptor’s work!