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Material from the collection of artist Elizabeth Joy Steele
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The Crannog and Longboats found at Kilbirnie Loch
In 1868 a crannog, its causeway and up to four logboats were revealed at the south-west corner of the loch as a result of dumping of furnace-slag from the now closed ironworks, causing the lake-bed sediments to be pushed upwards so that the crannog and logboat remains were exposed above the surface of the water. A site known as 'The Cairn' was already recognised, being exposed during exceptionally low water conditions. The crannog and causeway are marked on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Ayrshire, sheet viii) at NS 3238 5356. Two of the boats were recorded in some detail. The most complete of the logboats was 18' (5.5m) in length, 3' (0.9m) in breadth and circa 2' (0.6m) in 'depth'; about 2' (0.6m) had been lost from the bow. The stern was 'square'. A tripod pit and a bronze ewer were found in one of the boats, now preserved at the Royal Museum of Scotland. These items were not contemporary with the logboat. The boat itself disintegrated rapidly on exposure to air. Part of a second logboat was subsequently found 'close by the island'; its fate is not recorded. This boat was worked from 'oak'.
In May 1952 part of a logboat was found on the west side of the loch and on the property of the Glengarnock Steelworks; slag-dumping operations were responsible for revealing it. Analysis of pollen from the mud found in the timber suggested that the logboat was from between about 3000 and 700bc. The surviving portion of the boat was donated to Paisley Museum.
The southern end of the loch was the site of infill with slag and other wastes from 1841 onwards, the greatest loss of open water being between 1859 and 1909. By 1930 the southern end infill had largely ceased, however infill from the west bank continued for some time.