Strontian

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Coordinates: 56°40′59″N 5°34′01″W / 56.683°N 5.567°W / 56.683; -5.567

Strontian
Scottish Gaelic: Sròn an t-Sìthein
Strontian is located in Lochaber
Strontian
Strontian
 Strontian shown within the Lochaber area
OS grid reference NM8161
Council area Highland
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Acharacle
Postcode district PH36 4
Dialling code 01967
Police Scottish
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Scottish Parliament Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch
List of places
UK
Scotland

Strontian (/strɒnˈtən/ stron-TEE-ən;[1] Scottish Gaelic: Sròn an t-Sìthein) is the main village in Sunart, an area in western Lochaber, Highland, Scotland, on the A861 road. It lies on the north shore of Loch Sunart, close to the head of the loch. In the hills to the north of Strontian lead was mined in the 18th century and in these mines the mineral strontianite was discovered, from which the element strontium was first isolated.

The village name in Gaelic, Sròn an t-Sìthein, translates as the nose [i.e. 'point'] of the fairy hill, meaning a knoll or low round hill inhabited by the mythological sídhe. The nearby hamlets of Anaheilt, Bellsgrove, and Upper and Lower Scotstown are now generally considered part of Strontian, with Polloch several miles away on the terminus of the road to Loch Shiel. Strontian is the location of Ardnamurchan High School, the local fire station, police station and other facilities.

Mining History[edit]

The history of mining in the Strontian area dates to 1722, when Sir Alexander Murray discovered galena in the hills the region. A mine was opened in 1725, in partnership with Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk and General Wade.[2] Various materials have been mined here including lead, and strontianite, which contains the element named after the village, Strontium. While there have been inhabitants of the area for centuries, particularly in the woods north of the current village, the community as it exists now was established in 1724 to provide homes for the local mining workers.

Bridge in the centre of Strontian
Welcome sign at Strontian
Welcome sign at Strontian

Is was observed in the 19th century that there is granite on one side of the Strontian mines and gneiss on the other.[3] The glen north of the village is situated within the Moine Supergroup. The Glenfinnan Group lies on the west side of the glen, with Caledonian intrusions on the east side.

Lead mined at Strontian was used in bullets manufactured for the Napoleonic Wars. In the early part of the 19th century, part of the workforce was made up of captured forces from Napoleon's imperial army.

Discovery of Strontium[edit]

In 1790, Adair Crawford, a physician, recognised that the Strontian ores exhibited different properties to those normally seen with other "heavy spars" sources.[4] He concluded "... it is probable indeed, that the scotch mineral is a new species of earth which has not hitherto been sufficiently examined". The new mineral was named strontites in 1793 by Thomas Charles Hope, a professor of chemistry at the University of Glasgow.[5][6] He confirmed the earlier work of Crawford and recounted: "... Considering it a peculiar earth I thought it necessary to give it an name. I have called it Strontites, from the place it was found; a mode of derivation in my opinion, fully as proper as any quality it may possess, which is the present fashion". The element was eventually isolated by Sir Humphry Davy in 1808 by the electrolysis of a mixture containing strontium chloride and mercuric oxide, and announced by him in a lecture to the Royal Society on 30 June 1808.[7] In keeping with the naming of the other alkaline earths, he changed the name to strontium.[8][9][10][11]

The first large scale application of strontium was in the production of sugar from sugar beet. Although a crystallisation process using strontium hydroxide was patented by Augustin-Pierre Dubrunfaut in 1849[12] the large scale introduction came with the improvement of the process in the early 1870s. The German sugar industry used the process well into the 19th century. Prior to World War I the beet sugar industry used 100,000 to 150,000 tons of strontium hydroxide for this process per year.[13]

Conditions for Workers[edit]

In 1851, a miner named Duncan Cameron was killed by a rock-fall in the lead mine. A lengthy inquest followed for the office of the Procurator Fiscal of Tobermory. A number of witnesses to the accident testified that the workings were unsafe and that precautions for the workmen were insufficient. A case was brought against James Floyd, superintendent of the mines, for the culpable homicide of Duncan Cameron.

A number of complaints had previously been made to Sir James Riddell, local landowner and proprietor of the mines. One piece of evidence presented to the inquest notes, "This insufficiency arises from the want of proper props in the workings & in the removal by Mr Barrat of the Middlings or partitions left by the former Company for supporting the workings - a feeling of this nature given expression to by almost all the workmen has existed for the last three years and a number of men left the work altogether in consequence, as they said, of the insecurity of the Mines - I knew this myself but I had either to submit to work there or starve - Necessity with me had no law - The other mines in which I had wrought are worked in a different, safer, principle & more attention paid to the security of the lives of the workmen." It was noted elsewhere that because the miners were paid for piece-work, no one was able or employed to undertake safety procedures in the mines.[14]

In 1854, miners attempted to bring a case against the mining company, with many of those who presented evidence at the 1851 inquest involved in the action. The legal action failed and was ruled out of order by the sheriff substitute, with 4 pounds 15 shillings in court costs.[15]

Ariundle Oakwood[edit]

Ariundle Oakwood
Ariundle Oakwood

Ariundle, Gaelic Airigh Fhionndail, or "the shieling of the white meadow" (OS grid reference NM8464) is a part of the ancient Sunart Oakwood and is situated between the village of Strontian and the former lead mine sites. The wood is a remnant of ancient oakwood that once spanned the Atlantic coasts of Europe from Norway to Portugal. It is a temperate rainforest.

It contains remains from earlier settlements in the Strontian area, including charcoal platforms, pony tracks, enclosure dykes, potato runrigs, and old coppice trees. The people there were described as sluagh an torraidh bhain, or the people of the white hillock, with the settlement recorded as "Torban" in Clan Cameron records. Torban was abandoned to sheep farming in the early 19th century.[16]

From 1752, the wood was a source of charcoal for the Bonawe iron furnace on Loch Etive and locally in the lead mining industry. Managing the woodland brought about a thousand workers to the area. Lead mining fell off in the early 19th Century and the Bonawe Furnace closed in 1876. After this the woods were no longer needed to supply fuel, but were used as a sheltered area for livestock. In 1961, Ariundle Wood was designated a Nature Reserve.[17]

The main path through the nature reserve is the start of the most accessible route to Sgùrr Dhòmhnuill, a Corbett and the 17th highest relative peak in Britain.

Religious History of Strontian[edit]

Telford Parliamentary Church (Church of Scotland)[edit]

The village church was built in the 1820s by Thomas Telford, one of 32 "Parliamentary Churches" he designed for the Highlands and Islands. The government set up a commission in 1823 under John Rickman to build churches in some of the most thinly populated parishes. The project was funded by a grant of £50,000 and meant to include a manse with each church - each church and manse to cost not more than £1,500.[18] Telford decided that it would be most economical to build all the buildings to the same plan. The layout of each church was a simple T-plan. There were two doors and windows in the front wall, which measured 52' 6". One gable had a belfry of four plain pillars supporting a pyramidal top. The bell rope came down the outside of the gable. At each side of the building there were two windows. The exterior and interior were undecorated. There was a hexagonal pulpit against the inside front wall.

The church is still in use today. The Old Manse, former Church of Scotland Manse, was built to a standard H-plan by Telford in 1827. It is a category C(S) listed building[19] and is today a private residence which also houses the Sunart Archives.

Floating Free Church[edit]

Strontian was the site of reputedly the first moored boat church in the country.

Following the Disruption of 1843 in which the Church of Scotland Free (later the Free Church of Scotland) walked out of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, a congregation of 500 members around Strontian petitioned Sir James Riddell, who then owned the entirety of Ardnamurchan, for land and permission to build a new church. A number of attendants affirmed, in testimony to the Select Committee on Sites for Churches, illnesses contracted by worshippers attending services held outdoors in inclement weather. A letter by Riddell to Graham Speirs, Esq., notes "I find it impossible, conscientiously, to grant sites for churches, manses, and schools, which would imply a sanction on my part, and give a perpetuity on my estates, to a system which I believe to be anti-social and anti-Christian."[20]

With permission refused, subscriptions were taken from the local congregants of £1400 to have a suitable craft built in Clyde. A floating church was established 150 meters offshore in Loch Sunart in 1846.[21] Eventually a site was obtained in nearby Acharacle and a Free Church was built there in 1868.

Village Life[edit]

Strontian and Sgùrr Dhòmhnuill viewed from the south shore of Loch Sunart
Strontian and Sgùrr Dhòmhnuill viewed from the south shore of Loch Sunart

Demographics[edit]

Strontian is a hamlet with a population of 200 recorded in 1991. This represented a decline from earlier recorded populations of 803 in 1871 and 691 in 1881.[22] The population has since rebounded to a current estimate of ca. 350.[23]

19th Century[edit]

According to John MacCulloch in his descriptive letters to Sir Walter Scott during the 1820s, Strontian is described as "a wild and uninteresting country, though there is some grandeur in one scene, in a deep valley which is terminated by the fine form of Scuir Donald ... Strontian possesses now an excellent inn."[24]

An 1830 source describes it: "The village of Strontian is very pleasantly situated, directly at the head of Loch Sunart, the hills adjoining to which are crowned with beautiful and very thriving plantations. The Loch itself is here extremely picturesque ... [i]n a neighbourhood civilized and populous it would speedily become a favourite retreat."[25]

In the 1830s, residents from Strontian and the surrounding area were among the first to use the "Bounty Scheme" to emigrate to Australia. The Brilliant, a Canadian-built ship, sailed from Tobermory to New South Wales in 1837 with 322 passengers, 105 of whom were from Ardnamurchan and Strontian.[26] The Bounty Scheme, which ran from 1835 to 1841, was proposed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield as a way for Australian settlers to subsidise the emigration of skilled tradespeople from Britain.[27]

In the 1850s more emigrants left from the Strontian and Anaheilt area. The Allison sailed from Liverpool in 1851 for Melbourne with a number of Highlanders from the area aboard.[28]

Strontian Today[edit]

Shopping centre in Strontian
Shopping centre in Strontian

'Strontian House' was built for Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope in the late 1720s and was named after Colonel Horsy, Governor of the York Buildings Company. Latterly known as the Loch Sunart Hotel, it was still referred to as 'Horsy Hall' and sometimes misspelt 'Horsley Hall'.[29] The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1999.[30] A hotel was later opened in an existing building in the village.

In 1968, Strontian was listed among 2000 "moribund" Highland villages and selected to receive government funding for regeneration. This resulted in the shopping centre, cafe, and information kiosk which are located in the centre of the village.[31]

In 2002 a high school was built in Strontian to serve secondary students of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Previously local students had to travel to Fort William, Mallaig, or Tobermory for high school, often staying in hostel accommodation and making journeys of up to 4 hours round-trip.[32]

Other villages[edit]

Anaheilt (Scottish Gaelic: Àth na h-Èilde, meaning Ford of the Hind) is a village one mile north of Strontian. The population in 1723 counted eight families with 8 men, 10 women and 20 children, total 38. In 1806 its area extended to 953.720 acres, 42.100 acres ploughable land, 56.835 acres cultivated with the spade, 9.170 acres meadow and 845.615 acres moor and pasture. Much of the cultivated and plougable land was turned to 28 crofts by 1828.[33]

Bellsgrove, and Upper and Lower Scotstown are other historic villages, now considered part of Strontian.

References[edit]

  1. ^ G.M. Miller, BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (Oxford UP, 1971), p. 143.
  2. ^ "Corrantee Lead Mine History". 
  3. ^ The Edinburgh review: or critical journal, Volume 52 (1831)
  4. ^ Adair Crawford (1790) "On the medicinal properties of the muriated barytes," Medical Communications (London), vol. 2, pages 301–359.
  5. ^ Thomas Charles Hope (1798) "Account of a mineral from Strontian and of a particular species of earth which it contains," Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. 4, no. 2, pages 3–39.
  6. ^ Murray, T. (1993). "Elemementary Scots: The Discovery of Strontium". Scottish Medical Journal 38 (6): 188–189. PMID 8146640. 
  7. ^ Davy, H. (1808) "Electro-chemical researches on the decomposition of the earths; with observations on the metals obtained from the alkaline earths, and on the amalgam procured from ammonia," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 98, pages 333–370.
  8. ^ "Strontian gets set for anniversary". Lochaber News. 19 June 2008. 
  9. ^ Weeks, Mary Elvira (1932). "The discovery of the elements: X. The alkaline earth metals and magnesium and cadmium". Journal of Chemical Education 9 (6): 1046–1057. Bibcode:1932JChEd...9.1046W. doi:10.1021/ed009p1046. 
  10. ^ Partington, J.R. (1942). "The early history of strontium". Annals of Science 5 (2): 157. doi:10.1080/00033794200201411. 
  11. ^ Many other early investigators examined strontium ore, among them: (1) Martin Heinrich Klaproth, "Chemische Versuche über die Strontianerde" (Chemical experiments on strontian ore), Crell's Annalen (September 1793) no. ii, pages 189–202 ; and "Nachtrag zu den Versuchen über die Strontianerde" (Addition to the Experiments on Strontian Ore), Crell's Annalen (February 1794) no. i, page 99 ; also (2) Richard Kirwan (1794) "Experiments on a new earth found near Stronthian in Scotland," The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, vol. 5, pages 243–256.
  12. ^ Fachgruppe Geschichte Der Chemie, Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (2005). Metalle in der Elektrochemie. pp. 158–162. 
  13. ^ Heriot, T. H. P (2008). "strontium saccharate process". Manufacture of Sugar from the Cane and Beet. ISBN 978-1-4437-2504-0. 
  14. ^ "Strontian Mines Inquest". 
  15. ^ "Miners Legal Action Fails". 
  16. ^ "Ariundle Oakwoods". Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  17. ^ "Scotland's Landscape: Ariundle Oakwood". 
  18. ^ "Telford's Parliamentary Churches". 
  19. ^ "Strontian Old Manse listed building record and plans". 
  20. ^ Reports from the Select Committee on Sites for Churches (Scotland) (1847)
  21. ^ Annals of the Disruption; with extracts from the narratives of Ministers who left the Scottish Establishment in 1843, by Rev Thomas Brown (1893).
  22. ^ "Strontian". Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  23. ^ "School Catchment Area". Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  24. ^ The highlands and western isles of Scotland: containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history and ancient manners, and of the origin, language, agriculture, economy, music, present condition of the people, &c. &c. &c. Founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821, and forming an universal guide to that country, in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart, Volume 2 (1824)
  25. ^ Walk through the Highlands, The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 148 p. 312 (1830)
  26. ^ "Full text of The History of the Highland Clearances". 
  27. ^ "Australia's Early Immigration Schemes". 
  28. ^ "Highland and Island Emigration Society, "The ALLISON" Ship List information". 
  29. ^ "Lost Placenames of Sunart". Retrieved 2012-08-16. 
  30. ^ "Hogmanay guests flee as hotel is gutted by fire". Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  31. ^ "Strontian first of the dying Highland villages to be regenerated," The Glasgow Herald, 22 May 1968.
  32. ^ "Ardnamurchan High School". 
  33. ^ "Lost Placenames of Sunart". Retrieved 2012-08-16. 

External links[edit]