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Southend Community Council, Argyll

Southend - It's Amazing History

The original name was “Kilcolmkill”  but in 1671 became Southend.  Some people believe it to be one of the most historic sites in Scotland, in fact the birthplace of Scotland.  Man first settled here about 6,000BC they came from Ireland after the last ice age and it is the first known locality in Scotland to receive human colonisation.  From about 600BC to 400AD a settlement of about 6 acres on Cnoc Araich on the hilltop above High Machrimore Farm known as Epidion Akron “The Land of the Horses”.  The Romans called them the Scotti(Pirates) so the land of the Scotti became Scotland.

St Columba arrived in 563 and lived for a short time in the caves at Keil before moving on to Iona.  On the hilltop next to the caves are two footprints carved into a large stone, these are known as St Columba’s footprints(but only one is old).  From this spot St Columba preached to the people.  In later years it was used by the Lords of the Isles to show themselves to the people.  Nearby is St Columba’s well, a source of good fresh drinking water.

The castle built on the impressive rock of Dunaverty has been a stronghold since about 712, Robert the Bruce was sheltered here in 1306 before he went to Rathlin Island.  Ownership changed hands many times, it was controlled by the MacDonalds up to 1647 when it was besieged by Campbell forces under General Leslie.  The water supply to Dunaverty Castle was cut off and the MacDonalds had to surrender, having been promised by General Leslie he would see “no man be harmed”.  That night before the surrender a nursemaid and the baby son of Archibald MacDonald was reported to have been lowered down the cliff  into the edge of the sea.  She made her way around the rock and up the beach but was stopped by a Campbell officer.  She claimed the baby was hers and as it was wet and cold, the officer cut a length from his plaid to wrap the child, she now had a baby wrapped in Campbell plaid and was allowed to walk through the camp and escape.  The next morning the men in Dunaverty Castle surrendered and 300 were taken prisoner.

The chaplain to the Campbells preached a hellfire and damnation sermon, stating that “if these heathens “were allowed to live, God would never forgive them”.  General Leslie left the camp and his men slaughtered the prisoners in cold blood, so he kept his word as “he did not see anyone harmed”. One man was spared when he asked to read his bible before he was killed.  This is thought to be the largest cold-blooded massacre in Scottish history.

Many years of violence followed as Campbells and MacDonald forces both claimed ownership of the land. The castle was demolished around 1685 and very little remains today, only a small section of the wall remains near the top.  Locally Dunaverty Rock is known as Blood Rock from the red sandstone and the legacy of the massacre.

The potato famine in 1840 reduced the population, between 1831 and 1881 the population fell from 2120 to 955.

The remains of Keil House can be seen next to the sea, built in the 1860’s for James Nicol Fleming; this was a very large impressive house. The trustees of William McKinnon bought the property in 1915 and opened it as a boys’ school, to help local boys get a good start in life, however it was destroyed by fire in 1924.

Today Dunaverty Rock is peaceful and the site of the massacre is now a golf course.  It’s hard to imagine that this lovely village has such a turbulent past.