New Roman bench in Old Kilpatrick to highlight area’s heritage, but still no sign of St Patrick

St Patrick’s connections with Dumbarton and Old Kilpatrick are recalled in the names of the churches and schools named after him and on occasion  by Churches Together at Dumbarton Castle where there is a chapel named after the saint. Pictures by Bill Heaney

NOTEBOOK By Bill Heaney

A new stone bench and sculpture has been installed in Old Kilpatrick as part of a project to promote the area’s Roman heritage.

But Saint Patrick has been ignored yet again by West Dunbartonshire Council.

Despite being urged to give recognition to the great saint in order to attract visitors to the village where one of the world’s best known saints was captured by brigands and caught up in the human trafficking of that era, the council appears reluctant to accept Old Kilpatrick as his birthplace.

A number of previous councillors have tried in vain to have St Patrick recognised by the authorities here. One time Labour council leader Danny McCafferty for one and Independent George Black for another, both of whom pointed out that there was already an unmarked, undistinguished place called St Patrick’s Well in the village.

This has been given no recognition and no prominence despite the fact that the site of St Patrick’s Chapel on Dumbarton Rock with Churches Together and local school pupils was visited in recent years by Provost Douglas McAllister to pay tribute to St Patrick and other saints, including St Columba.

And that it was now generally recognised by eminent historians and the Catholic Church, who named a number of their local parish churches and schools after him, that St Patrick was born the son of Roman Decurio who came here with the invading Roman Legions and was brought up in a villa situated beneath the Old Kilpatrick Hills.

The saint’s father was the paymaster for the centurions and soldiers who marched this far north and a significant finding of coins and other artifacts have been discovered by archaeologists in Old Kilpatrick. The legions are also said to have been in Drymen and other parts of Loch Lomondside.

The installation of the stone bench at Lusset Glen, which is now a World Heritage site,  was created by sculptor Gardner Molloy, and sits where the Antonine Wall passed through West Dunbartonshire.

Gardner’s design focuses on amphora storage pots, which were used by the Romans to store a wide variety of liquid and dry goods. They were popular at the time as they were robust, cheap and easy to make and could be stacked neatly into the holds of ships.

The bench legs are comprised of three stacked amphorae, and alongside it stands a carved figure who is picking up an amphora.

The feature was commissioned as part of the wider Rediscovering the Antonine Wall Project, which is being led by West Dunbartonshire Council in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland and the other authority areas the wall runs through.

The aim of the £2.1 million project is to improve awareness and engagement with the site among local communities along the line of the Wall as well as from visitors from further afield. It would have been no bad idea to nod in the direction of St Patrick.

Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, Chair of Planning at West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “I’m extremely proud to see our area’s Roman heritage recognised as part of this project, and hope this will lead to increased knowledge of this fascinating part of our history.

“This sculpture and bench is a great draw to Lusset Glen, and adds to a number of fantastic initiatives put in place to attract more people to learn about the Antonine Wall.”

Stephen Balfour, Rediscovering the Antonine Wall Project manager, said: “This installation was only made possible through the participation of our partners.

“We are thankful for the support of Action Old Kilpatrick who were keen to highlight the area’s Roman heritage and were the driving force behind marking it in Lusset Glen.

“West Dunbartonshire Council Planning and Greenspace colleagues also provided assistance to help deliver the hand-crafted installation and we are delighted it has been so well received by the local community.”

West Dunbartonshire Council joined forces with Historic Environment Scotland and the other Council areas the wall passes through – Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Falkirk – to bring the Wall’s fascinating story back to life with the Rediscovering project in 2018.

Since then, number of attractions have been installed along the Wall’s route including Roman themed play parks, designed with local schoolchildren, so children and young people can explore and play while finding out about its history; replica stone distance slabs and a giant Roman head sculpture.

It seems a shame though that none of the public authorities or other organisations involved with this project have given recognition to the Scottish shepherd boy who became a saint and whose feast day on March 17 each year is celebrated the world over.  He was one of ours after all.

Pupils of St Patrick’s Primary School in Dumbarton who attended a local schools quiz about the life and times of St Patrick and his Dumbarton connections.

Leave a Reply