This parish includes the whole of the western section of Islay. It takes its name from ‘Comman C. March 18, a.d. 688. S. Commanus of Tyrconnell, called by Admanan ‘Honorabilis presbyter,’ was the brother of Cumineus Albus, Abbot of Hy, and of S. Becanus. Following their example, and that of his uncle, S. Fergna, he betook himself to Hy, and adopted the monastic life. He lived from S. Fergna’s time till that of S. Adamnan, as the latter intimates in his life of S. Columba, where he describes a miracle on the testimony of the same Comman.’
‘His church is Kilchoman in the Rinns of Islay. The name appears on the cross at Campbeltown. It is variously spelt – Comman, Comane, Quhowman, Homene, Connane, Quhoman, M’Comman, Chowman.’
The modern parish church stands among the sand-hills which rise above Machir Bay on the west coast. It is an uncompromising structure of the style of architecture prevalent in the Highlands at the time it was built, namely in 1825. A former church was pulled down to make way for it, but of this nothing seems to be known.
I will try to describe the objects of interest in which are to be met with in this parish, in two expeditions which can be made from Bridgend.
Carved Stones of Islay Chapters
Preface – Part I Introduction – Part II History of Islay – Part III Parish of Killarow – Part IV Parish of Kildalton – Part V Parish of Kilchoman
The first of these takes us round the head of Loch Indaal until we branch off near Blackrock. Following the north road, we ascend by a gentle incline for a short distance, and them descend into a region of bleak flats and peat bogs which gradually lose themselves in the shallows of Loch Gruinart, a beautiful expanse of water when the tide is high, though at other times a vast area of sand and ooze.
It was here that, in 1598, a great battle was fought between Sit James Macdonald of Islay and Sir Lauchlan Maclean of Dowart, the cause of quarrel being about the ownership of certain lands in Islay. This question had also led to the treacherous massacre of the Mull men at Mulindry, referred to in the last chapter.
The following description of the engagement is quoted from Pennant. ‘Reach the head of Loch Gruinart, a place celebrated for the battle of Traigh Ghruineard in 1598, between the lord of the Isles and Sir Lauchlan Mac-lean of Mull; the last, with fifteen hundred men, invaded Islay, with a view of usurping it from his nephew: the first had only eleven hundred, and was at first obliged to retreat, till he was joined by hundred and twenty fresh forces: this decided the engagement.
Sir Lauchlan consulted a witch, the oracle of Mull, before he set out on his expedition, and received three pieces of advice: first, not to land on a Thursday; a storm forced him into disobedience. The second, not to drink of a certain spring; which he did through ignorance. The third, not to fight beside Loch Gruinart; but this the fates may be supposed to have determined.’
Other stories there are connected with this fight. The New Statistical Account says, that after the leader of the Macleans fell in the action, ‘his followers gave way, a party of them took refuge in the church of Kilnave at a little distance from the field of battle. To this asylum they were pursued by the victorious Macdonalds, who, setting fire to the church, and at the same time preventing the flight of the Macleans, effected their destruction with the building, which stands to-day a roofless monument of the event.’
One story tells how a dwarf appeared to the Maclean as he was drinking at a spring before the fight and offered to help him. The chief spurned the assistance of the mysterious little being, who, in revenge, compassed his death.
Another tale connected with the same battle I heard in Islay. A chief came with his men from Arran to help Macdonald. He had to cross the Islay hills before reaching the scene of action, and from them he looked back and saw the jagged outline of his own mountains rising above the lower ranges of Kintyre, and he charged his men that if he fell in the fight they should bring his body there and bury it within sight of his home.
Near Gruinart farm there is a burial ground marked on the map. About eight and a half miles from Bridgend is the church and graveyard of Kilnave. (The name Kilnave comes from the Gaelic ‘Naomh,’ which means a saint, or, as an adjective, ‘holy.’) The church, which is in ruins, measures internally 29 feet 8 inches by 14 feet 4 inches. The walls are 2 feet 10 inches in thickness. The door which is at the west end is round-headed and very low, and its arch is constructed of thin slabs of whinstone. It is furnished with the long bolt-hole so common in the Highland churches, an arrangement by which a strong beam of wood could be pulled completely across the door on the inside while a sufficient length of the beam remained in the hole to keep it in a horizontal position. The church is lighted by a small round-headed window at the east end, and by a smaller one in the south wall near the altar. There are traces of the foundations of the altar, measuring 5 feet and 2 inches in length, and projecting 3 feet 2 inches from the east wall.
No. 33, Plate XI. – A beautiful standing cross at the west end of the church. This illustration is not to scale. The following are the dimensions:
From centre boss to top 38.5 inches, from centre boss to unbroken arm 20.5 inches, from centre boss to broken arm 19.5 inches and from centre boss to lowest part of patter 55.5 inches.
The thickness of the stone tapers from 2.5 inches at the base to 2 inches at the top. This cross is carved on one side only, and very little remains of the design; indeed, it requires a very good light to decipher what is left. Mr. Romilly Allen has called my attention to the resemblance between this cross and that at Kiells in Knapdale. The long panel on the shaft of the Kilnave cross is very similar to the lowest panel on that of Kiells, and they both have a central boss with a depression in the middle, a peculiarity also to be found on some of the fragments of crosses at Iona, and characteristic of this group of monuments.
I would call the reader’s attention to the scroll work at the very top of Kilnave cross; here there is a little piece of work which has hardly suffered at the hands of time, one can form some idea of the elaboration and beauty of this cross in earlier days.
There is one sculptured gravestone in this churchyard.
No. 34, Plate XII. – The top end is pointed, and across it runs the following inscription: HIC JACET DONALDUS. Below there is a sword with a rectangular guard. Horses are introduced on either side of the hilt, a most unusual subject. The scroll work and animals which cover the rest of the stone are extremely rude – probably the stone is a late one.
Almost touching the south-west angle of the church is a long plain slab with a little incised cross on it. The cross measures 5 inches by 2 inches. Near this lies an oval stone about 2 feet by 11 inches, with a depression of about 3 inches in the middle, which looks as if it might have been a receptacle for holy water. Close beside it is a small erect stone forming the foot of a grave. This has a round hole in it very much of the same character as those in the plinth of the Kilchoman cross.
Almost at the same spot I found half of a plinth, most likely that of the adjoining cross. It had evidently been cut in two lengthways, and this piece had been used as a gravestone. It is 4 feet 8 inches long, and judging from the position of the hole would have been about 3 feet wide. It is plain save for a groove running all round it three inches from the edge.
After leaving Kilnave the road goes on to Tayvulin where there is a small wood-built settlement of herring fishers, and to the farm of Ardnave where it stops.
Nave Island lies to the north of Ardnave Point, a mile or two from the farm. Though it is less than half a mile from the mainland, the island is not easy of access, from the difficulty of obtaining a boat, and also from the strong current. Under the name of Elena Insula, this island is mentioned by Adamnan, who states that Lugneus Mocumin was priepositus of the monastery or church dependant on Iona, to which also belonged the neighbouring lands of Ardnave.
There are the remains of a chapel on the east side of the island. It is in a very ruinous condition. There seem to have been entrances both on the north and south sides, on which sides there are also windows. A furnace with a tall brick chimney has been built into the north-east corner; the building having been at one time devoted to the burning of ‘kelp.’ No vestiges of tombstones are to be seen on the smooth grassy surface of the enclosure in which the chapel stands, and of which traces are still left.
Sir John Sinclair’s New Statistical Account was published in 1844, and the writer of the chapter on Kilchoman mentions that there are five churches in the parish, to each of which a burial ground is attached. He says, ‘one of these is on Nave Island at the north point of the parish, and distant from it about one mile. To this a very extensive burying-ground is attached. The gravestones are made of clay slate handsomely formed, many of them beautifully cut, and several with figures in relief. These mark the resting place of persons of some notice in their day, but of whom no other memorial is known.’
Perhaps when the chapel was put to secular uses, the tombstones may have been destroyed or hidden away; if the latter, there may still be an interesting find to be made at this place.
That there were sculptured stones existing in Islay not long ago, but which have now disappeared, may be inferred from Campbell of Islay’s Popular Tales of the Western Highlands. On the back of this book is printed an interlaced pattern which the writer says was taken from an Islay slab. This slab is nowhere to be found now. It may have been amongst those mentioned in the New Statistical Account as being at Island Nave in 1844. The illustration in the text is copied from the binding of the book referred to.
In returning from Kilnave to Bridgend, it is well to turn off to the right at Aoradh farm, and to take the road which leads from there to Loch Gorm and Kilchoman. A little above Aoradh a stone is pointed out where Sir Lauchlan Maclean fell at the battle of Gruinart. On Loch Gorm there is an island on which stood formerly a castle of the Macdonalds. It seems to have existed as late as 1615, for we find that in that year Campbell of Calder, empowered by the Privy Council to take possession of the island of Islay, landed with a cannon and attacked and took the castle of Dunyveg and the fort of Loch Gorm. Macculloch describes this place as ‘an island on which once stood a square fort or castle, with a round tower at each angle.’
A little more than a mile to the south of Loch Gorm we reach the Parish Church of Kilchoman. The churchyard is extremely rich in specimens of crosses and sculptured stones.
No. 35, Plate XII. – lies near the south-east corner of the church. It is said to have been contained within the walls of the earlier church; though in the position is now occupies. It is also said to mark the resting-place of Sir Lauchlan Maclean, but if so, and existing slab must have been put to this use, as it is not only earlier than the end of the sixteenth century, but it bears the effigy of an ecclesiastic. It is of unusual thickness, nearly one foot, hence it was very heavy and had to be photographed as it lay.
No. 36. – A priest in high relief.
No. 37. – Indications of scroll-work nearly obliterated.
No. 38. – Traces of a sword nearly obliterated.
No. 39, Plate XIII. – This beautiful cross measures 8 feet 4 inches in height, and with the exception of the inscription it is in a very perfect state of preservation, though the design is in places obscured by lichen. An illustration of it appears in Dr. Stuart’s Sculptured Stones of Scotland.
Beginning with the east face we find on the circular head a representation of the crucifixion. The upper part of the cross-head is filled with plaited scroll-work, in each of the arms is the figure of an angel, while to the right and left of the crucified Saviour are four figures in the attitude of adoration. The upper figure on the right is winged and below it is a fragment of scroll-work like that at the top. Below this group and at the top of the shaft are two figures in a niche, and they have probably some connection with the inscription immediately below them. The same arrangement of niche and lettering is to be seen of the Campbeltown Cross with which this has many points of similarity.
I think the following can be fairly made out of the inscription. The illustration shows that all that can be obtained from a photograph of the cast. The cast itself is naturally easier to make out, though extremely difficult at the best.
Below the inscription there is foliated scroll-work surmounting another niche which contains a mounted figure, and below that again there is a panel of simple but effective interlaced bands.
The reverse of the cross-head is singularly rich and the combination of bands more elaborate than is generally to be met with. The image on the right shows the way in which these bands interlace. It will be seen that the design consists in part of a series of circles each complete in itself: there are five of these counting from top to bottom, six counting from arm to arm. Again, there is a continuous band crossing in the centre and forming four heart-shaped loops, in the direction of the circular segments of the cross-head. Again, close to these segments and forming the outer part of the design are eight more loops complete in themselves, not circles this time, but arranged to work into the geometrical pattern already arrived at; within the scalloped pattern formed by the inner edges of these eight loops there is another complete band of an octagon form. The whole design is completed by the scroll which forms into loops at the extremities; this can be traced working its way in and out through the maze of circles and loops about half-way between the octagon band and the edge of the design. (In this band is the only inaccuracy in the interlaced work. It is to the left and below the arm. It will readily be noticed both in the engraving and in the enlarged diagram.) It will thus be seen that no less than twenty-three different bands are introduced into this elaborate composition.
The cross-shaft is adorned with foliated scroll-work which springs from the tails of two animals at the base.
The cross still stands in its original three-stepped pedestal, of which the two lower steps are protected with concrete; but the top one is untouched, and at its angles may be seen four curious depressions varying greatly in depth, as one is only a slight hollow while another goes through the entire thickness of the stone.
A pear-shaped stone which tradition says was used to form these depressions is kept at the manse. At one time it lay in one of the holes, but it has had many vicissitudes. Once it was thrown into the sea, but in a short time was found again lying on the shore. At another time it was buried in a grave, but before many years had passed it had found its way to the surface.
What the object of these holes was is unknown, but a local tradition gives the curious explanation that they were made by expectants mothers anxious to secure male offspring.
No. 40, Plate XIV. – A beautiful old stone; the pattern to the right of the sword is extremely quaint and as far as I know unique. The stone is much injured by the introduction of later armorial bearings, a skull and cross-bones, and the lettering 1678 D.C.
No 41, Plate XXXI., is also a fine stone. I regret that after attempts I failed to get any illustration of it beyond a rubbing.
No. 42. – This stone has a wheel pattern and sword. The scroll along the sword has been removed to make room for a later inscription: HEER : LYETH : COLIN : CAMPBEL : OF : SINDERLIN : DECEASED : MAY : 6 : 1663 : Sinderlin is Sunderland whose laird entertained Pennant in 1772.
It is broken in two, and a huge head-stone which has blown down a few years ago lies on the top of it.
No. 43. – Slab with sword and wheel pattern – much worn.
No. 44, Plate XIV. – This stone is pointed at the base, where there is the representation of a galley, the mast of which runs up to the point. The rest of the stone is covered with a sword, scroll-work and animals, and with an inscription of three lines of which only isolated letters can be made out.
No. 45. – A stone dated 1681 in large well-cut characters; an inscription runs round three sides of it: THIS STON BELONGS TO ALEX, CAMPBELL SON TO DONALD M’ALESTER ROY IN ILA AND MARY CAMPBELL HIS WYF. There is a plainly cut sword and galley, perhaps a seventeenth century imitation of earlier work.
No. 46. – A slab with faint traces of a sword.
No. 47, Plate XV. – The front and back of a small cross-shaft, standing upright. On the front there is a small figure of a bishop or abbot, while above there appear to be traces of the lower part of the crucified figure. The back of the shaft is covered with a very simple and beautiful scroll which looks almost as fresh as when it was first cut. The edges of this cross are also decorated.
No. 48. – A slab with a very large sword, the guard at right angles to the blade.
No. 49. – On this slab there is a priest in high relief. The hands are joined and there is a chalice on the breast. The stone is lettered both above and below with a later inscription: HERE LIES THE CORPES OF DUNCAN M’LACHLAN WHO DIED 1732 AND MARRIAN CLARK HIS SPOUSE WHO DIED 1755 AGED 66 YEARS.
No. 50, Plate XVI. – The two fragments of this, one of the most beautiful crosses in Islay, are used to mark a grave; consequently one side cannot be seen without lifting them. The right arm of the cross is lost and there is a small piece missing where the shaft is broken across. On the obverse is a crucified figure of great dignity, foliated scroll-work surrounds it closely, fitting the circular head of the cross and its arms. The stems of the scroll-work occupy the whole length of the shaft, and spring from the tails of two animals at the base. One of these has a cat-like face; the head of the other is much mutilated. Between the hind legs of these creatures is a small and grotesque human mask. The head of the cross on the reverse is filled with very rich scroll-work, while the shaft has much the same design as that on the obverse. At the base are two quadrupeds, one beaked and winged, the other furnished with a pair of arms and holding a bell in one hand and a rod in the other. This bell is the shape of the early Irish altar bells, or of the ordinary cowbell still used in Switzerland. This animal and its attributes are almost identically reproduced on the Campbeltown cross, as may be seen by anyone who look at the cast in the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh. I have not seen it very clearly shown in any drawing. On the edge of this Kilchoman cross is an inscription. (See Plate XVI.) It begins on the rounded part below the left arm of the cross, and is continued down that side of the shaft. The latter part of the inscription is on the other edge. It runs as follows, save that there are no stops or spaces between the words.
HEC EST CRUX FAC(TA) PRO ANIMABUS DONCANI MEC INNERL (OR INNERI?) ET IN ET MARI ET MICHAELIS. The lettering is on the left as far as MAR or MARI, the rest is on the right.
It is possible that ‘IN’ can be a contraction for ‘IAN’? Perhaps Mec Inneri may stand for MacHenry, a name we find connected with the family of the Isles, though at a much earlier period that the erection of this cross.
‘Clan Ian Abrach of Glenco. – The founder of this tribe was John, surnamed Froach, natural son of Angus Og, of Isla, and brother of John, first Lord of the Isles. His mother is said to have been a daughter of Dougall MacHenry, then the leading man in Glenco, where John Froach afterwards settled as a vassal under his brother the Lord of the Isles, and where his descendants yet remain. The early history of this family is very obscure’
Not only are there marked similarities between two of the Kilchoman crossed and the great cross at Campbeltown, but Dean Howson, describing the latter about 1842, states on the authority of Campbell of Islay that it was taken from this island.
The date assigned by Dr. Reeves to the Campbeltown cross is about 1500. This he gives on the strength of a resemblance to the dated cross (1489) of Abbot Mackinnon at Iona, and also from being able to trace one of the donors, Sit Andrew MacEachern, who was rector of the church of Kilchoman in Ardnamurchan, and died in 1515. The name of MacEachern is not found connected with the Islay church of Kilchoman at this time, but curiously enough in 1535 James V. presents Master Roderic Farquhar Hectorissone (the English form of MacEachern) to three Islay churches of which Kilchoman was one.
No. 51. – This slab bears a sword and scroll, and has also and eighteenth century inscription; it seems to have been appropriated by the same family of M’Lachlans whose names appears on No. 49.
No. 52, Plate XV. – The front and back of a cross head. There are two little figures standing at the foot of the cross. The work on the back is very rich. This stone is preserved in the porch of the church.
No. 53, Plate XVII. – Part of another cross also kept in the porch. The arms have disappeared but the crucified figure carved on the shaft and the wide circular head is complete. The treatment of the subject is very rude, and there is a most unusual absence of decoration about the cross. This cross, as well as the two following ones, has been reproduced in Dr. Stuart’s Sculptured Stones of Scotland.
Nos. 54 and 55, Plate XVII. – These are two crosses standing in fields near the Church of Kilchoman. That shown in the map is on rising ground to the north-east, the other is in a field to the south. They are supposed to have marked the limits of a sanctuary, but I could not find out where the others stood.
The return drive from Kilchoman to Bridgend is about nine miles.
The second expedition to which I alluded is by Port Charlotte, then across to the west coast at Kilchiaran, then by a wild and beautiful mountain road to Portnahaven, returning by the east side of the promontory of the Rhinns in order to visit the stones at Nereabolls, which are among the finest on Islay.
Between Bridgend and Port Charlotte there is nothing to be noted until the Kilchoman road leaves the shore. Near this is a place called Traigh an Luig – beach of the cave or hollow. Pennant, writing in 1772, refers to it as follows: – ‘At Tralaig on a heathy eminence that faces the sands are three deep hollows; their insides lined with stone; these have been the watch-towers of the natives, to attend the motions of any invaders from the sea. Observe near them a great column of rude stone. Pass by two deep channels at present dry: these had been the harbour of the great Macdonald; had once piers with doors to secure his shipping; a great iron hook, one of the hinges, having lately been found there.
Between Conisby and Bruichladdich, and near the road is a burial ground; it has not been generally used for a long time, and there are no sculptured stones.’
The road from Port Charlotte turns inland, rising about three hundred feet, then descending to the coast at the wild and beautiful little bay of Kilchiaran. This is one of the few harbours on the west side of the Rhinns, and is open to westerly gales though otherwise protected. Near the shore stands the ruined chapel of Kilchiaran. It was dedicated to Saint Queranus or Ciaran.
‘He is the well-known Ciaran Macantsaor, or son of the carpenter, abbot of Clonmacnois. Beoaidh was his father, and Darerca his mother, descended from the poet Glas. He died at the age of 33, A.D. 548, and was likened to Christ both on account of his age and that his father was a carpenter like Joseph Cele Muire.’
St. Columba is said to have carried some clay from his grave. On getting into the eddy of Corryvreckan he threw it into the sea and he was saved. We find him –
1. In Strathmore in Caithness.
2. At Fetteresso.
3. 3. Near it in Glenbervie, where is his well.
4. At Kilkerran, Kintyre
5. At Kilchiaran in Lismore.
6. At Kilchieran or Kilkeran in Kilchoman in Islay.
7. In Barvas.
8. At Dalkerran or Dalquherran in Dailly.
Little remains of the chapel save the east gable, which is entire. In it are two small recesses, one square-headed, the other pointed; while to the right of where the altar stood there is a projecting stone hollowed into a little basin as if for containing holy water.
On a piece of rising ground east of the ruin stands the unornamented shaft of a cross. A modern burial enclosure has been attached to the east end of the chapel, and there is another similar enclosure within the walls.
In the latter of these there are two ancient stones, on one of which thee are traces of a sword (No. 56).
The other is No. 57, Plate XVIII., an alto relief effigy of a priest. The face of the design is much worn, but on the edges of the figure a good deal of detail is to be seen, the delicate carving of the hair, ears, and embroidered collar showing that the stone must have been very highly finished. It measures 5 feet 1 inch by 1 foot 5 inches.
An object of great interest is in the north-east angle of the chapel, namely, a font (No. 58). It is also shown in Plate XVIII., where it lies to the right of the priest’s slab. It is surrounded at the base by a plain round moulding, and the same moulding is carried up perpendicularly, dividing the circumference into four panels.
The measurements of the font are as follows:
Diameter: 2 feet 2 inches.
Thickness of rim: 3 inches.
Depth of Basin: 9 inches, about
A man who helped to remove the font for purposes of photography, told me that it had once been transferred to Nereabolls, and that it took many horses to draw it across the intervening hill; as long as the font remained there the people of Nereabolls had no peace, and in consequence it was at length returned to its former position, one old mare dragging with case the stone which had proved so heave before.
There are two more sword-bearing slabs lying at the east end of the chapel of which rubbings are given (Nos. 59 and 60, Plate XXXI.). Beside these are some fragments not illustrated.
There are indications of carious ancient buildings near the chapel, and to the west of it there is a curious cupped stone, of which a sketch is given. The holes vary in depth; two, which are shaded, pierce the whole thickness of the stone.
The road from Kilchiaran turns inward and mounts another weary hill before descending on Portnahaven at the extreme south of the Rhinns.
Portnahaven is a most picturesque fishing village. Its harbour is protected from the full fury of the Atlantic waves by the islands of Orsay and Mhic Coinnich, which are about a quarter of a mile from the mainland.
On Orsay there are the remains of a church. It measures 65 by 12 feet, and has, I think, indications of having been at one time lengthened, as there is a break in the masonry of the north and south walls about twelve feet from the east end. Between this break and the end there are four windows, two in the north wall and two in the south; of these windows, two are placed high in the walls and two very low, indeed, the top of the latter are not more than four feet from the ground. It almost looks as if the upper windows had given light to a raised chancel, while the lower ones lighted a room or vault below. The east wall is thicker until it reaches the top of the lower windows, which also looks as if the chancel had a raised floor. There is a window in the east gable, and two more windows in the north and south walls. All the windows are round-headed, and are formed of undressed stone. The door is on the south side.
I was told that when the present lighthouse was built on Orsay, the graveyard surrounding this church was levelled, and that the tombstones were disposed of in some of the crannies of the adjoining rocks. Whether this is true or not I do not know, but there are now no signs of sculptured or other gravestones about the building. There is, however, a rudely-built tomb at the north-east corner of the enclosure.
‘Before the year 1380, John the first Lord of the Isles is said to have roofed and furnished the chapel of Eorsay-Elan, or the island of Oersa (the Oversea of Buchanan and Blaeu), situated near the point of Rinns.
‘In 1535, and again in 1541, King James V. presented Sir Donald Makintagart to the chaplainry of Ilaneoirsay, vacant or when vacant by the resignation, promotion, or decease of Sir Christopher Makwia (or Makvia).’
‘At the west point of Ilay,’ says Archdeacon Monro in 1549, ‘Lye sane iylle callit by the Erische Ellan Ouersay, ane myle in lenthe. It hath ane paroch Kirke, and is very guid for fishing, inhabit and manurait, with ane right dangerous kyle and stream callit Corey Carrache; na man dare enter in it bot at ane certain tyme of the tyde, or ellis he will perish.’ ‘In 1556, Queen Mary presented Sir Neil M’Cawla chaplain to the chaplainry of the chapel of Illanorsay and Grigydill, vacant by the decease of Sir Donald M’Intagirt.’
Four miles from Portnahaven, on the Port Charlotte road, and between the high road and the sea, are the three adjoining graveyards of Nereabolls or Nereabus as it is generally called.
The first of these, which is marked A on the plan, is on a slight acclivity. It is roughly enclosed, and has a few private burying places round it.
No. 62, Plate XIX. – this is the head of a cross. It bears, in very high relief, the head, arms, and upper part of the crucified figure. The head is encircled by the crown of thorns. The arms of the cross are very irregular, the left being longer and narrower than the right. At the top of the crucifix are indications of scroll-work, of much the same character as the tracery on the reverse, and possibly there may have been an intention of filling in the whole background with ornamentation. The reverse of this cross (also engraved on plate XIX.) is of unusual freedom and beauty, stems and foliage adapting themselves to all the irregularities of the border.
No. 63, Plate XIX. – Shaft of a cross, most likely the same as No. 62. It shows a bishop or abbot, his right hand raised in the act of benediction, his left grasping a pastoral staff. He wears a mitre and is dressed in an alb and chasuble; the latter decorated with the Y-shaped orphrey so often seen on western sculptures. The inscription is unfortunately lost, though probably other parts of the cross lie in the ground hard by. Two lines of lettering alone remain, apparently NIC : I : ODON :
No. 63, Plate XIX. – The back of this shaft. The surface of the stone is very rough and unsuited for casting. There is an interesting little figure of a mounted soldier at the bottom, his lance, reins, and a good deal of detail can still be traced.
In the engraving of No. 63 it will be seen that the contour of the reverse does not correspond with the obverse. The cast was made under great difficulties, and consequently only the pattern of the reverse is accurately reproduced.
There are two other slabs in this graveyard. Nos. 64 and 65 on the plan. There are very faint traces of carving on No. 64.
No. 65 is also very much worn, though I should have illustrated it, were it not for its great resemblance to No 72, Plate XXI.
At the place marked 66 lies a hollowed-out stone which probably was part of a font: it is now used to mark a grave.
In the second graveyard, marked B on the plan, I noted in 1890 one carved stone, No. 67, the end of a slab, on which the radii of a circle were worked into a succession of the little arches at the circumference. Since that time this stone has entirely disappeared, nor can I find a sketch I made of it.
The third graveyard, marked C, lay round the original church, of which there are a few fragments left. It contains some very fine examples of carved stones.
No. 68, – Slab with scroll and sword, nearly effaced.
No. 69, Plate XX., shows a priest wearing an alb, chasuble and maniple. The figure is in high relief, and is contained in a niche. Above his head and to the right is a chalice, and beneath it a scroll. There is a good foliated cross at the top, and at the base there is scroll-work ending in animals.
No. 70, Plate XX. – Oak leaves form the sole decoration of this stone, and are grouped with marvellous taste. The absence of any adjuncts, warlike or ecclesiastical, points to this being the monument of a woman.
In Graham’s Antiquities of Iona, plate 26 shows an oak leaf cross below the figure of an ecclesiastic, and Plate 49 in the same book shows one of the stones in the nunnery where there are similar leaves, but the treatment is stiff and conventional as compared with the stone before us.
No. 71, Plate XXI. – The details on this slab are such as are often to be found, but the drawing and cutting are exceptionally good. The galley is almost identical with one at Kilkenzie.
Both stones show the little helmeted figure forward of the mast – the Nereabolls’ shop, however, has a second figure climbing a rope. On the right of the sword-hilt is a bird attacking a lamb; on the left is a combat between two nondescript animals. Below the latter are the remains of an inscription. The first line runs, HIC JACET . . RL, the second line is blank, and only one letter, a D, is legible in the third line under the A and C of JACET.
No. 72, Plate XXI. – This slab is broken across diagonally. The top part has a cross pattern and the handle of a sword with blank spaces on either side. The lower part shows the blade of the sword with surrounding designs of considerable originality. The execution of the work is absolutely perfect; the scroll to the right of the sword might be reproduced in gold for a bracelet without the slightest alteration.
No. 73, Plate XXII. – I found this stone almost buried under the turf, and probably its wonderful state of preservation is due to this. All the scroll-work is so clear that it hardly requires description. Still I would point out (as a special feature of this exquisite piece of work) the delicacy of the stems, and, in the top panel, the elaborate way in which the stems forming the four circles are intertwined, more especially in the lower circle where they are involved in an upright stem which springs from the top of the sword. I think that this stone (though far more highly finished) is probably the work of the same hand that carved the slab, No. 40, at Kilchoman, and shown on Plate XIV.
Carved Stones of Islay Chapters
Preface – Part I Introduction – Part II History of Islay – Part III Parish of Killarow – Part IV Parish of Kildalton – Part V Parish of Kilchoman