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TITLE
Restoring a Grain Kiln in Bragar, Lewis
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_GRAINKILN_01
PLACENAME
Bragar
DISTRICT
Lewis
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Barvas
PERIOD
1980s; 1990s
CREATOR
unknown
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
1990
KEYWORDS
crofters
kilns
audio

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Bragar is a crofting township on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, between the settlements of Arnol to the north and Shawbost to the south. In this audio extract, a resident of Lewis describes how a former grain kiln at Bragar is being renovated.

Well, we're standing here in the rain, in the west side of Lewis, on the coast, in the village of Bragar and what you have here is the beginnings of a project, an M.S.C. Community Project, where two lads are working on renovating this ruin. This is the ruin of a kiln, where in the past people hardened the grain, and we hope to resuscitate it, to build it up, and have it roofed and - just as it was when people were using it. I'll take you through it.

Interviewer: Right.

As you come in the door, it was a fairly small building and there was a covered channel up there, where there was a fire, and the smoke went up the covered channel, called a 'teallach' in Gaelic, up to this cavity here. And I don't know the English name for that, we call it either a 'surrag' or a 'sòrn' in Gaelic. And it was covered with wood and with straw, and then the grain on top of that. So, in fact, the smoke came through and hardened the grain and the place used to be full of smoke and a nice smell and fragrance. A fairly simple idea.

Interviewer: It would be fuelled by peat, of course, would it?

Yes, fuelled by peat, from down here, and there would be a stone here, so that the - any sparks from the fire wouldn't set the kiln alight.

Interviewer: How old will this be, roughly?

Oh, it could have been used, say, after the last war, and when -

Interviewer: Is that right?

Yes. I remember the kiln at our own home being used.

Interviewer: That is really wonderful. It gives me the feeling of a sort of prehistoric sort of excavation.

Well, the boys have done it very carefully. It looks as if they were archaeologists. They had to dig down to the ground level and now it's at a stage where they're beginning to build up the walls and, so that it'll be just in a - just as it was when it was being used. And it's generated a lot of interest; people have come to ask these lads, 'What on earth are you doing, there?' And the lads themselves have learnt a hell of a lot about it; they probably had no idea what a kiln was before they started digging here. And they've uncovered a lot because this was just a green mound...

Interviewer: Yes.

...before they started. Now you can see the outline of where the kiln was.

Interviewer: Is this the sort of thing you could find anywhere in the Highlands?

I couldn't say. I only know that you can find them in any village in Lewis. And I'm sure that people'll be coming to look at this just as they come to the blackhouse in Arnol along the way there, and along the other way to the museum in Shawbost

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Restoring a Grain Kiln in Bragar, Lewis

ROSS: Barvas

1980s; 1990s

crofters; kilns; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: Bragar

Bragar is a crofting township on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, between the settlements of Arnol to the north and Shawbost to the south. In this audio extract, a resident of Lewis describes how a former grain kiln at Bragar is being renovated. <br /> <br /> Well, we're standing here in the rain, in the west side of Lewis, on the coast, in the village of Bragar and what you have here is the beginnings of a project, an M.S.C. Community Project, where two lads are working on renovating this ruin. This is the ruin of a kiln, where in the past people hardened the grain, and we hope to resuscitate it, to build it up, and have it roofed and - just as it was when people were using it. I'll take you through it.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Right.<br /> <br /> As you come in the door, it was a fairly small building and there was a covered channel up there, where there was a fire, and the smoke went up the covered channel, called a 'teallach' in Gaelic, up to this cavity here. And I don't know the English name for that, we call it either a 'surrag' or a 'sòrn' in Gaelic. And it was covered with wood and with straw, and then the grain on top of that. So, in fact, the smoke came through and hardened the grain and the place used to be full of smoke and a nice smell and fragrance. A fairly simple idea.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: It would be fuelled by peat, of course, would it?<br /> <br /> Yes, fuelled by peat, from down here, and there would be a stone here, so that the - any sparks from the fire wouldn't set the kiln alight.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: How old will this be, roughly?<br /> <br /> Oh, it could have been used, say, after the last war, and when - <br /> <br /> Interviewer: Is that right?<br /> <br /> Yes. I remember the kiln at our own home being used.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: That is really wonderful. It gives me the feeling of a sort of prehistoric sort of excavation. <br /> <br /> Well, the boys have done it very carefully. It looks as if they were archaeologists. They had to dig down to the ground level and now it's at a stage where they're beginning to build up the walls and, so that it'll be just in a - just as it was when it was being used. And it's generated a lot of interest; people have come to ask these lads, 'What on earth are you doing, there?' And the lads themselves have learnt a hell of a lot about it; they probably had no idea what a kiln was before they started digging here. And they've uncovered a lot because this was just a green mound...<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Yes.<br /> <br /> ...before they started. Now you can see the outline of where the kiln was. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: Is this the sort of thing you could find anywhere in the Highlands?<br /> <br /> I couldn't say. I only know that you can find them in any village in Lewis. And I'm sure that people'll be coming to look at this just as they come to the blackhouse in Arnol along the way there, and along the other way to the museum in Shawbost