The Slate HouseThe last people to live here called this building ‘The Slate House’ – it is the only building in the township with a slate roof. Inside, there are standings for two large working horses. The building is now home to our flock of hens.
It was probably built in the 1860s, when the McCallums of Auchindrain had a contract to transport ore at two nearby mines. The countryside around Auchindrain and Inveraray may seem an unlikely place for mines, but pockets of valuable metal ores are present in the area. In the 1860s, the nearby mines at Craignure and at Coille-bhraghad, were the largest source of nickel in the British Isles. These mines also produced copper.
The McCallums saw a business opportunity, and got the job of carting the ore from the mines to the sea at Inveraray, Furnace or Crarae. There, ships took it away for refining. The horses needed for this work would have been much bigger and heavier than those used on the land. They would have been too big for the horse standings in the township’s byres, so a new stable was needed.
The carting contract only lasted a few years. By the late 1860s, the pockets of nickel ore had been worked out and the mines had closed. We don’t know if the McCallums kept the horses, perhaps doing haulage work for other customers, or how the building was used after this. From the 1950s, Eddie MacCallum kept the township’s bull here.
[caption id="attachment_22887" align="alignnone" width="659"] The Slate House, with a thatched roof, in the 1890s photograph.[/caption]
The building is on the 1871 map and, with a thatch roof, in the 1890s photograph. In 1897 the slate roof was added. This was done by Duncan Stoner Munro. He had been a stonemason and builder before he got married, and moving into what became known as Stoner’s House with his Uncle Malcolm in 1892. On the north side of this building, there is a stone marked “D Munro 1897”, with his mason’s mark.
Duncan Stoner was helped by (the unrelated) Edward Munro, who was then 14 years old and living in what later became Martin’s House. Scratched into one of the larger stones of the building is ‘E Munro, Thornfield Manor, 1897’. Thornfield Manor is how young Edward Munro translated ‘Auchindrain’ from his native Gaelic into English. To read more about Edward speaking Gaelic, click here.
[caption id="attachment_21690" align="alignnone" width="1024"] E Munro 1897 Thornfield Manor[/caption]
If you look closely at some of the other stones in the walls of The Slate House you may be able to spot several more sets of dates and initials, including JMC, John McCallum.
The old whisky barrel at one end of the building catches rainwater, which we use for our hens. The water is very clean and pure compared to the water in the burn. Where they could, the people of the township would have collected rainwater for drinking, washing and cooking. To read more about water sources click here.
[caption id="attachment_22888" align="alignnone" width="533"] Collecting water from the barrel.[/caption]