In 1768, a year after building commenced on the new Kilarrow Parish Church, now better known as The Round Church, the village of Bowmore came into being as a planned village, of which several of similar layout can be found in other parts of Scotland. Such villages have wide streets laid out on a grid-iron pattern with the church dominating the main street. On School Street, near its junction with Main Street, can be seen Bowmore House, the first house to be built in the village.
Bowmore was built to rehouse those of the population of the village of Kilarrow, near Bridgend, who were not directly involved in the work of Islay Estate, the first residents being, in the main, agricultural workers and weavers (Islay being, at that time, a centre for woollen and linen manufacture). In common with most coastal planned villages of the time, Bowmore was provided with a pier and harbour area, to enable the residents to provide for themselves by fishing.
In 1779, ten years after the completion of the Round Church, additional employment came to the village when the island’s first distillery was founded.
Historical Information Regarding the Round Church
Daniel Campbell was the second of ten children of Captain Walter Campbell of Skipness in Kintyre, and a descendent of Archibald, 2nd Earl of Argyle. He became a wealthy Glasgow merchant, with considerable experience in trade and imports, and acquired the estate of Shawfield in Lanarkshire in 1706. He was a signatory to the Act of Union between Scotland and England in 1707, and became a member for the City of Glasgow in the first United Kingdom Parliament
One of his main interests in supporting the Union was to ensure that the previous embargo on Scottish trade with the Americas would be broken, and new trading advantages thus gained for Glasgow and the Clyde.
However, with his family background it was natural for Daniel Campbell to wish to acquire property in his native Argyle as and when the opportunity arose. This came about after several years of negotiation with Sir John Campbell of Cawdor and with Tacksmen in Islay, to whom the Cawdor family had granted sundry lands. Eventually, for a total purchase price of £12,000, Daniel Campbell became Laird of Islay in the year 1726.
In 1747 Daniel Campbell approached the Synod of Argyll, pointing out that he did not consider two ministers, based at Kilarrow (near Bridgend), and working over country served only by cattle tracks and strands, to be sufficient for the needs of an island with a population over 5,000. He made an offer, which was accepted unanimously by the Presbytery of Kintyre and the Synod of Argyll, to erect three parishes and supply the ministers with stipends, communion money, manses and glebes.
The three parishes, each served by one minister, were to be : Kildalton and Oa; Kilchoman and Kilchiaran; and – with two churches, since it was the area which was most heavily populated – Kilarrow and Kilmeny. However, due to various difficulties, the proposals were not carried out until many years later.
Daniel Campbell, 2nd Laird of Shawfield and Islay
In 1753, when only 16 years old, Daniel Campbell, known as The Younger, inherited his grandfathers estates, Great Daniels son, John, having pre-deceased him.
He was sent abroad to complete his education and to make Le Grand Tour of Europe. During his travels he became acquainted with John, Lord Lorne, whose father, the 4th Duke of Argyle, was preparing the plans for a new village at Inveraray. In 1770, when John succeeded his father as 5th Duke of Argyle, these plans, which had never been implemented, became part of his inheritence.
It is fairly obvious that discussions had taken place between John (when still Lord Lorne) and Daniel The Younger, with regard to the creation of planned villages, and when John Adams design of a round church for Inveraray was discarded (because it did not provide a division – one half to house the Gaelic- and the other the English-speaking service) young Daniel, who had been impressed by Italian hilltop villages, with their prominently situated churches, adopted the round church design as the focal point of his grandfather’s projected village of Bowmore, planned many years previously but, for various reasons, never commenced.
In 1762, with the previous obstacles to the adoptions of the three parishes proposal now having disappeared, Daniel The Younger renewed his grandfathers offer and reached final agreement with the Synod of Argyle and the Kintyre Presbytery, resulting in subsequent ratification a year later, by Acts of the Argyle Synod and of the Presbytery of Kintyre on 5th August and 18th October 1763 respectively.
Building of the Round Church commenced in 1767 and the Church was completed and opened for worship in 1769. The building contractor was Thomas Spalding, brought from the mainland by Daniel Campbell The Younger for the specific purpose of building the Church.
The two-storeyed circular body of the Round Church has an outside diameter of 60 ft (18.29 metres). The walls of the Church are 2 ft 9 ins (0.84 m) thick.
The main central pillar, which is 19 ins (0.48 m) in diameter at the base, is of timber, possibly hemlock oak, harled and plastered. The base has been scorched (to seal the wood against decay) and rounded, to fit a saucer-shaped recess in the supporting sandstone slab.
This slab, supported in turn by a stone base, is only four inches below the actual flooring of the Church and has a drain hole to prevent water collecting and rotting the base of the pillar. The squared top of the pillar, above the coved ceiling, supports a radial king-post roof truss, into which eight major beams are jointed, which, in turn, are tenoned into the principal rafters at their outer ends.
Outside, above the main entrance door, on a sandstone tablet set into the face of the square tower, there is the following Latin inscription:-
IN PIETATIS STUDIUM : VERI HONESTIQUE CULTUM : HOC TEMPLUM : DEO OPTIMO MAXIMO SACRUM : DANIEL CAMPBELLUS : HUIUS INSULAE DOMINUS : ANNO MILLESIMO : SEPTINGENTESIMO SEXAGESIMO SEPTIMO : PROPRIIS SUIS SUMPTIBUS POSUIT
which may be translated:-
With pious intent, and to promote truth and honour, Daniel Campbell, lord of this island, built at his own expense in the year 1767, this church dedicated to the supreme God.
The gallery of the Church, which is ‘U’ shaped in plan, was added c1830, and is supported by eight plastered (pitch pine) plain timber columns, of a simplified Tuscan order. The gallery, which has a panelled front, is bow-ended at the NW end to accommodate the special ‘laird’s pew’, which, in earlier times, would be for the use of the laird and his family when attending public worship.
The arrangement of the bench-pews on the ground floor reflects a remodelling of the internal layout to its present arrangement, probably in or about 1890, the year the original organ was installed.
Other Points of Interest
1) The porch, which has a stoned flagged floor, contains two monuments to the Campbells of Shawfield and Islay :
(i) A white marble, obelisk-headed mural monument, which commemorates Walter Campbell, who died in 1816
(ii) A marble tomb-chest (accommodated in an alcove beneath the spiral stair to the vestry and gallery), which commemorates Margaret Susan Campbell, who died in infancy in 1822, and who was a daughter to Walter Frederick Campbell (see next item).
2) The twin-chambered sarcophagus, inside the Church, was erected to commemorate Walter Frederick Campbell (who died in Normandy in 1855), and his first wife, Lady Elinor Campbell, who died in 1832, after whom Port Ellen is named. (Only Lady Elinor is entombed within the sarcophagus – the second chamber is empty, as Walter Frederick died away from Scotland).
On the wall above is a memorial plaque to the same Walter Frederick Campbell, whose mother was the daughter of John, 5th Duke of Argyll, mentioned earlier as friend of Daniel The Younger.
3) The Pulpit Fall, gifted to the Church in 1989. Designed and made by Hannah Frew Paterson MBE, the beautiful pulpit fall depicts a Celtic Cross, the upright line of which represents the central pillar of the Round Church, and with, as a background, the view across Loch Indaal from the Church steps.
4) ‘The Disruption of the Church’.
This picture, hung on the SE wall inside the Church, dates back to 1843. David Octavius Hill was commissioned to prepare the picture to record the Disruption Assembly of the newly formed Free Church of Scotland, after approximately 470 ministers had seceded from the established Church of Scotland. To ensure that all ministers were depicted (even those not present on the actual day in the Tanfield Hall, Edinburgh, where the new Free Church Assembly took place), Mr Hill used the recent invention of photography to prepare portraits of each minister for insertion in suitable placings.
Each person is recognisable, including the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, the first Free Church Moderator, seen in the centre of the print, and Hugh Miller, Editor of the Church Magazine The Witness, depicted in the right foreground.
5) The Rev. Dr. Donald Currie Caskie, MA, OBE, OCF (1902 – 1983)
A native of Bowmore, Donald Caskie was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris when France was invaded by the Germans in 1940. He stayed on to organise the escape of British civilians from France, but later found himself as a vital link in an escape route for British and Allied servicemen, for which service to his country he was awarded the Order of the British Empire, the medal for which is displayed in the Round Church. His autobiography, published in 1951, is entitled The Tartan Pimpernell.
Dr Caskie’s funeral service took place in the Round Church, following his death in December 1983, and he is interred in the adjacent cemetery.
6) High up, within the tower, is the Church Bell, which was cast in 1845, (possibly as a replacement for the original bell), and hung in October of that year