Arran's Ruined Buildings


Arran Interiors - a new publication

The Civic Trust is at present working on a book which will complement our first publication - ‘The Buildings of Arran.’ Our aim is to promote the great variety of interior design which exists on Arran. We hope to include a full range of the treasures which exist inside Arran’s buildings. We will cover the wonderful Victorian and Edwardian plasterwork, old and modern glass and the skill of local craftsmen in making objects for everyday use. We do not have a publication date yet - but in the meantime we are publishing a small selection of the photos which we already have. We hope you will find these interesting - if you live on Arran and would be willing for us to include pictures of features in your own home for us to include in the book please do get in touch via the 'Contact Us' page.


Arran Civic Trust and Lamlash Co-op erect a “Blue Plaque” for Donald McKelvie OBE

McKelvie Plaque
Please click on the picture for more information.

A blue plaque has been erected outside the Lamlash Co-op to commemorate the life and contribution of Donald McKelvie OBE. Donald (1867- 1947) was born on Arran and trained as an accountant in Glasgow. He returned to Arran in 1894 to take over the running of the family bakery and grocery business, trading as D. McNeish and Son. The business had been established by his grandparents Daniel McNeish and Jessie Nicol. A bakery, grocery and dairy occupied the present Lamlash Co-op building. He also became interested in horticulture. He lived in Claveron in Lamlash, and spent a large amount of his time in greenhouses in his garden there, starting in 1907, to raise a series of “Arran Potatoes” by natural selection. These were trialled on fields now built on for the High School and housing opposite the stone barn. 21 different varieties in all were cross-bred, 8 of which won Lord Derby gold medals including for Arran Pilot and Arran Banner. Others that became well known were Arran Victory (a heavy cropper), Arran Chief and Arran Cairn. It was from Arran Cairn, another gold medal winner, that Maris Piper was developed. He was awarded the OBE for services to agriculture as the pioneer breeder of “Arran” varieties of potatoes, which were resistant to wart disease.

Donald was also renowned for the breeding of Highland Ponies, one of the three native breeds of the Scottish Highlands and Islands; the others are the Shetland pony and the Eriskay pony. Over many centuries the breed has adapted to the variable and often severe climatic and environmental conditions of Scotland. Their winter coat consists of a layer of strong badger-like hair over soft, dense underfelt, which enables this breed of pony to live out in all types of weather. This coat is shed in the spring to reveal a smooth summer coat. This essential hardiness is combined with a kindly nature and even temperament. In the earliest period of development of the domesticated breed, there were two types: the small and light pony of the Western Isles, and the larger and heavier mainland-bred type. The larger animals were commonly called garrons, and it was these that Donald bred highly successfully. Today, there is generally less distinction between the types within the Highland pony breed. However the phenotype of the smaller animal survives in the rare Eriskay pony.

The blue plaque is a cast aluminium plate with raised lettering, finished in hard, baked long lasting enamelled paint. The Lamlash Co-op has kindly funded the plaque from its community fund. These plaques can be found on buildings throughout the UK, commemorating people and/or events from the past.

Some of Donald McKelvie’s relatives attending

Despite stormy weather a Blue Plaque to honour the dedication of Donald McKelvie and his practical skills in breeding new disease resistant potatoes and also Highland ponies was unveiled on the wall outside of the Lamlash Co-op by Lamlash Primary School, represented by 8 pupils from the pupil council, Mr Douglas Auld and Mr Robert Halliday.

The pupils are engaged in growing Arran potatoes this spring under the direction of Mr Halliday, maintaining an Arran tradition. The plants are already showing healthy tops.

McKelvie originally trained as a chartered accountant in Glasgow but returned in later years to run his uncle’s bakery and merchant’s shop in Lamlash in what is now the Co-op store. Also present were relatives of McKelvie and Committee members of Arran Civic Trust, responsible for designing the plaque. John Inglis, chair of the Trust thanked the staff of Lamlash Co-op and in particular the local manager Hilary Crawford for enthusiastically supporting the project with financial assistance through their community fund and John Marshall, an expert on Arran potatoes, who had originally introduced the idea to Arran Civic Trust.


John Inglis chair of Arran Civic Trust and the Blue Plaque

The weather prevented the erection of the gazebo on the Green so the Glenisle Hotel kindly provided space for the display stand and welcomed the attendees. Over coffee John Marshall gave an introduction to McKelvie and his potatoes and also the status of potatoes in diets around the world. A surprising fact is that the new frontier for the ubiquitous potato is China where the staple is starting to replace rice. Mr Marshall also went on to talk to the primary school pupils in the afternoon where there was also great curiosity about the history of potatoes and the Arran role in their development.

Blue plaques are commonplace throughout the country and are valuable in raising awareness and adding to visitor interest. Maybe the success here in galvanizing local interest will promote opportunities elsewhere on the island.


Pupils of Lamlash Primary and Co-op staff

Sannox Church proposed development

Sannox ChurchHere is an artist’s impression of the proposed development at Sannox United Reformed Church which has been sold to a Christian group, now a charitable trust, under the leadership of George Hazel, a transport planner from East Lothian. A planning application has been made.

The group’s intentions are to make the church and surrounds a retreat, a place of worship and a social and creative centre with accommodation for about 22 people who will visit and stay for short period. George Hazel has stressed that the centre intends to be inclusive and encourage constructive relations with the local community.

Another part to the intended development will be a parallel Trust committed to affordable housing with the intention to buy existing houses rather than build new.

Sannox Development
The Arran Civic Trust is a registered Scottish charity, number 023504 and is affiliated to The Scottish Civic Trust