Dunollie Clan MacDougall Centre

A special thanks to our generous donors who made it possible for The MacDougall McCallum Heritage Foundation to provide over $12,000 to the MacDougall Preservation Trust.  With your help we were able to fund a room at the 1745 House to preserve and display family heirlooms properly in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.  Many Scholarship recipients have elected to spend time examining, preserving and cataloging items for this visitor center.

Plans to open an exciting visitor facility at Dunollie House in Oban are now at a point where members of the worldwide Clan MacDougall are invited to become involved. After considerable research into visitor requirements and markets, and issues of long term sustainability, the MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust believes it has devised a package which delivers access and facilities to members of the Clan MacDougall, while also meeting the needs and interests of the general visiting public. The Clan Centre and Museum will be in the original 18th century house and the North Wing. The rest of Dunollie House will continue as the Clan Chief’s private residence.

The story of the Clan MacDougall will include displays, artifacts and interpretation telling the history of the Clan MacDougall. Displays will be highlighted by the replica of the Brooch of Lorne which has been made. The original Brooch is of such rarity and value that adequate security could not be routinely provided, but the original may well appear on special, high profile occasions. There will be displays and interpretations showing life in ‘the Big House’, as well as stories of earlier chiefs and tales of Dunollie Castle. The place of the Clan MacDougall in Argyll will also be explored, with orientation to Gylen Castle and other MacDougall sites, and new links will be established with heritage centres in places such as the nearby island of Lismore, where there are elements of shared history.

A centre for genealogy and research will be created, aimed at personalizing peoples’ search for their roots, and beginning the process of making the superb archive held by the Clan Chief available to the Clan and other interested members of the public.

 

Dunollie Castle will also find a place in the new plans as part of Phase 2. Because of its status as a scheduled ancient monument, the medieval castle is subject to specific laws and processes, and the funding will by necessity follow a definitive route. The consolidation of the castle may take longer to action as a result, but the MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust, which owns the castle, has agreed that work should begin on planning for the castle to be brought into the overall Dunollie visitor experience. In any event, the work to Dunollie Castle will take time. It took a decade to consolidate Gylen Castle, and it is in the nature of the very detailed and careful process of consolidation of historic buildings that ordinary building timescales become irrelevant. Dunollie Castle will require patience, but work should be considerably quicker than Gylen simply because the location poses none of the same logistical problems of access.

The MacDougall Collection will continue to hold an important place in the visitor facility. Dunollie House was Hope MacDougall’s childhood and ancestral home, and she held the role of Clan archivist throughout her adult life. She was a key mover in the consolidation of Gylen Castle, and was committed and tireless in her responsibilities as a member of the Chief’s family. The MacDougall Collection was her personal quest, and became her life’s work. She was intensely interested in the skills, crafts, and way of life lived by all people across the Highlands and Islands, and which she saw vanishing among the people who lived on the Dunollie estate, on Kerrera, and in many similar communities across Scotland. This was essentially the way of life lived by your ancestors before they emigrated, and the inclusion of the MacDougall Collection in Dunollie House will recreate the story.

Education will also be a key area for development, using the displays, collections and heritage as a whole to inform people of all ages, from local schools through to adults, using methods ranging from role play and classroom projects, to guided walks and talks, and solid research. There is great scope for links between young people in Argyll and MacDougall descendents in the New World, and projects will be actively pursued.

Dunollie House is an old and important house, dating back at its earliest to before 1617. It is a warren of fascinating rooms, and some of you will have experienced its special historic magic on visits to the house. Some of the house will be retained as the Clan Chief’s private residence, but the oldest and most atmospheric rooms, which make up more than half of the house, will be open to the public. Facilities at Dunollie will be improved to include a tearoom and a shop will be established to sell books, CD-ROMs, jewelry and clan badges and a wide range of other goods which will be of interest to Clan members and the general public.

Other projects will be to develop the displays and interpretation, and provide facilities such as computers for virtual tours of Gylen Castle (maybe even a web cam). The tearoom is not an essential requirement, but it may well be a lifesaver after a visit to the castle and museum, and Madam MacDougall and the Trustees are very keen to provide the facility.

On top of all this, it is imperative that a small knowledgeable staff team is employed to run Dunollie House, both to enable the project to continue to develop, and also to meet the needs of day-to-day visitors. It is intended that a genealogist/archivist will be on the staff. We are confident that there will be a number of local volunteers working on site, as they have been for the past four years for the MacDougall Collection. It would be exciting to think that members of the worldwide Clan MacDougall might wish to spend time at Dunollie as part of the volunteer team. The John S. Carasik Scholarship Fund will enable U.S. students of all ages to participate.

The MacDougall McCallum Heritage Foundation will participate in the Dunollie project and put emphasis on the Dunollie Castle preservation, the creation of a Genealogy and Research Centre and the tea room.

This strong sense of place is one of the most remarkable features of belonging to a Scottish Clan. Whether you are directly descended from the first Dougall, or whether your ancestor gained their name from fighting for him and his Clan, your history will nonetheless be bound up with Dunollie and Argyll.

Your help and donations through the MacDougall McCallum Heritage Foundation will help to preserve and conserve our heritage for future generations.

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