The Carved Stones of Islay - Part 5 The Parish of Kildalton

This is the third and last of the Islay parishes, and like the two which we have been considering is very rich in antiquities.

Port Ellen has a good hotel, and it the best place for exploring the southern part of the island. The mail steamer from West Loch Tarbert calls here four days a week.

The parish takes its name from an ancient church dedicated to Saint John the Divine, Daltain being the diminutive of the Gaelic word Dalt, meaning the little foster-child or foster-brother - a poetical name for the beloved disciple. (This is the only Islay church with a scriptural dedication; all the rest are in honour of western saints)

There is little known about the early history of the parish. 'In 1548 Queen Mary presented Master Cornelius Omey, and in 1549 Sir Archibald M'Illwray, to the rectory of the church of St. John the Evangelist, called Kildaltane in Islay, which was vacant by the decease of Sir John Obrolchan. In 1551 the same queen presented Sit Henry Balfour to the rectory of Kildaltan, then vacant by the demission of Sir John Clerk.'

It is well worth while to drive to Kinnabus at the end of the road which goes from Port Ellen towards the Mull of Oa, if only for sake of the scenery which is very wild and beautiful.

About a mile and a half from Port Ellen this road passes near the ruined church of Kilnaughton, which lies half buried in sand near the shore. It measures 37 feet 8 inches by 15 feet 2 inches inside. It was dedicated to St. Nathalan, Nachlan, or Nauchlan, B.C. January 8, A.D. 678. The following account of him is given in Forbes' Kalendars.

'Nathalan is believed to have been born in the northern parts of the Scoti, in ancient times, at Tullicht, in the diocese of Aberdeen, a man of great sanctity and devotion, who, after he had come to man's estate, and had been imbued with the liberal arts, devoted himself and his wholly to divine contemplation.

'And when he learned that among the works of men's hands the cultivation of the earth approached nearest to divine contemplation, though educated in a noble family, with his own hands he practised the lowly art of cultivating the fields, abandoning all other occupations, that he might employ his mind, so as never to give place to the contagion of the base solicitations of the flesh.

'Meanwhile, as he warred his warfare against the devil and the perishing world, a terrible famine broke out among his neighbours, relations, and friends, so that almost the whole people were in danger of perishing by hunger and want of food. But God's saint, Nathalan, moved by the greatest piety, distributed all his grain, and whatever else he had, for the name of Christ, to the poor; but when the time of spring came, when all green things are committed to the bowels of the earth, not having ought to sow in the land which he cultivated with his own hands, by divine revelation he ordered it all to be strewn and sown with sand, from which sand, thus sown, a great crop of all kinds of grain grew up, and was greatly multiplied.

But, in the time of harvest, when a multitude of both sexes were collected by him to gather in the crop, a great tempest of rain and whirlwind was sent forth, so that these husbandmen and woman were forced to abstain from labour. Therefore he, excited by anger, along with the other reapers, murmured a little against God; but on the tempest straightway ceasing, feeling that he had offended Him, induced by penitence, he bound his right hand to his leg with an iron lock and key, and forthwith threw the key into the river Dee, making a solemn vow that he would never unlock it until he had visited the thresholds of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, which actually took place.

Having entered the city, approaching in meditation the monuments of the saints which are there on every side, and bewailing his sin, he adored that Creator whom he had heretofore offended. As he went through the most remarkable places of the city he met a naked boy carrying a little fish for sale, which he purchased at a low price. By the divine power, he found in its belly the key, unrusted, which he had flung into the Dee, and with it he opened the lock upon his leg. But the Supreme Pontiff, informed of this mighty wonder, and summoning him as a man of superior sanctity into his presence, made him in spite of his reluctance, a bishop. After many remarkable miracles, blessed Nathalan, full of grace given forth from God, on the 6th of the ides of Januray commended his soul to the Lord, and ascended into heaven above the ether, and being buried with great veneration at Tullicht, affords health to the sick who come to him piously and devoutly.'

The interior of the church is, like the churchyard, crowded with graves. Outside there are no sculptured stones, but within there are several.

No. 74, Plate XXII. - An alto relief effigy of a warrior. From its position under the south wall I found it impossible to obtain a photograph. I am indebted however for a careful water color sketch to Mrs. Charles Hammond. The details of the armour are of the usual character. To the right of the helmet is a small figure, a pair of shears and a square object, presumably a book.

No. 75, Plate XXXII. - This stone lies at the north-east corner of the church. It is very much worn, but still much of the design can be made out. There is a sword and scroll-work which ends at the pointed head of the slab in a little mounted figure.

No. 76, Plate XXXII. - This stone lies under the south wall and touching No. 74. It is entirely covered with a network of leaves and stems. Though the pattern is one of the most common, much grace and originality have been obtained by the way in which it has been repeated and by the straightening out of the connecting lines. The scroll ends in a small cross, to the left of which there are traces of a pair of shears. There are two other small fragments lying in the church.

At lower Cragabus, about two and a half miles from Port Ellen, there is a large monolith and some burial cists formed of great stones. A little beyond this road branches off to the left and leads to Ballychatrigan, a shepherd's house on the east side of the promontory of Oa, and about a mile south of this are traces of the chapel called Cill Chomhan. It stands on a ledge on the hillside overlooking a wide sweep of coast and headland. The merest indications of its wall appear above the sward, and these show that it measured about 18 feet by 8 feet. It stands in an enclosure about 60 feet by 30 feet.

A little further south are the ruins of Strimnishmore, inhabited within the memory of man, but now merely a collection of stone walls. Though there are no trees in this wild and desolate region, crowds of rooks are to be seen, who have adapted themselves to the surroundings and build in the cliffs below.

Another church, of which traces remain, is at Cill Cathain on the west side and to the north of the Mull of Oa. Another ecclesiastical site, I was told, is Tockmal also in Oa, and not far from the curious rock formations at Crastle.

To the east of Port Ellen, and within the compass of a short walk, there are several objects of interest. After leaving the village, the road to Tighandron and Kilbride should be taken, and in the first field to the right, after leaving the Kildalton road, there will be seen a standing stone some 16 feet high. In the field above this, but out of sight from the road, is a place called Eaglais Tobar Lasrach, or the church of the well of Lasrach. The foundations of a very ancient church are visible here, a little to the north of the well. It is called Cill Lasrach on the map for the sake of brevity. I have to thankd Mr. C. Hay of Ardbeg for directing my attention to this place and have adopted his spelling of the name.

The chapel, of which a sketch plan is given, consists of a small Rectangular building, about 23 feet by 10 ½ feet internal measurement; inside this, and on the north side, there is an irregular piece of masonry. Plate XXII., Figure I, gives an illustration of the general aspect, the figure introduced in it stands in the middle of the chapel and faces north; the door was on the south side. The north and east walls of the building are continued so as to form a circular enclosure and there is an opening in this more or less corresponding to that in the inner one. On either side of this opening is an upright stone, one with a circular hole in it, the other with an oblong hole. Besides these there are some more pierced stones lying about, and these I have grouped together in Plate XXIII., Figure 2. There is a small trench to the west of the structure indicated by a short dotted line in the plan.

The road should now be followed until it reaches Torradal farm, and here, close to the road and on the right hand side, are the ruins of a very small and ancient building, probably a chapel. Some of the blocks of stone used in the construction are of great size.

A little further on and below the farm of Kilbride are the remains of the chapel from which the farm took its name. These show that the building was 30 feet long by 12 feet broad, inside measurement. There are one or two heavy blocks of stone lying inside the building, but there are no signs of any carved work. A cross (No. 77) formerly stood about eleven feet east of the ruin. It was removed first to the old manse garden and taken to Kildalton House in 1882. It is rounded at the top and has on it a Latin cross in a circle. The stone is 27 inches high, 9 ½ inches broad and 3 inches thick. A cast of it presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland by Mrs. Ramsay of Kildalton is in the National Museum of Edinburgh.

What remains of the walls is in no part higher than 3 feet. The entrance seems to have been on the south side. There are traces of an enclosure. The chapel is picturesquely placed beside a stream which works its way through a rocky cleft a few yards below it.

A road goes from Kilbride directly south joining the Kildalton road near Farkin cottage. Between these roads and near their junction are traces of another church, and near this on a little eminence there is sculptured on the surface of a rock a circular projection like an inverted saucer 5 inches in diameter and about half an inch in height. In the centre is a hole an inch deep. The circle is surrounded by a little trench, having an outlet at the west side. Near it are indications of very ancient buildings and I have been told that stone implements have formerly been found at this place.

The Island of Texa can easily be visited from Port Ellen. It is mentioned by Fordun in his chronicles, Book II., Chap. X., as 'Helant Texa with a monastic cell.'

Earlier still it appears in Adamnan's Life of St. Columba. 'On another occasion the same Cainnech above mentioned embarked for Scotia (Ireland) from the harbour of the Iounan island (Hy, now Iona), and forgot to take his staff with him. After his departure the staff was found on the shore, and given into the hands of St. Columba, who, on his return home, brought it to the oratory, and remained there for a very long time alone in prayer. Cainnech, meanwhile, on approaching the Oidechan island (Oidech, near Islay, probably Texa) suddenly felt pricked at heart at the thought of his forgetfulness, and was deeply afflicted at it. But after some time, leaving the vessel, and falling upon his knees in prayer on the ground, he found before him on the turf of the little island of Aithche (genitive of Aitech) the staff which, in his forgetfulness, he had left behind him at the landing place in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona). He was greatly surprised at its being thus brought him by the divine power, and gave thanks to God.'

Captain Thomas explains the transformation of Aiteach into Texa by the supposition that the Norsemen dropped the first syllable of the word which signified island, and added their own affix ey which had the same meaning. Thus Aiteach became Teachy and the change from that to Texa is simple.

The chapel measures 29 ½ feet by 13 feet inside, and the walls are 2 ½ feet thick. There are openings for windows on the north and south walls. The door is in the south wall, and this is furnished with a deep hole for the draw-bolt. All the dressed stones of the windows have disappeared, a few, however, are left about the doorway, and these are very plain. At the west end of the chapel is a square building, touching it at the south-west corner. It is about 17 feet square, outside measurement, the walls varying in thickness from 2,75 to 3,25 feet. The entrance is in the west wall. To the east of the chapel there is a mound, on which probably the cross used to stand.

There are no sculptured stones to be seen at Texa. The few that were there have been taken to Ardimersay and placed in the garden, where they are very much safer than in their former position. They will be referred to later.

The road from Port Ellen to the ruined church of Kildalton, distant seven miles, is one of the most beautiful on Islay. First it skirts a wild coast, against whose half-submerged rocks the waves at times break grandly, then it passes through the pleasant woods of Kildalton, where red and fallow deer may be seen in the early summer, grazing heedless of passers by. Kintyre, Rathlin, and the long stretch of the distant Irish coast, form a wonderful panorama when the weather is clear, and the Islay hills on the left present a rugged wildness which one generally associates with far loftier chains.

About two miles from Port Ellen is Lagavulin, and here are the ruins of Dunyveg Castle, a place of much interest in the history of the Western Islands. It was one of the many strongholds of the Lords of the Isles, and is mentioned by Fordun in 1400. It was not until 1615 that is passed from the hands of their descendants. The ruins as they now stand show signs of great strength. I have been tempted to reprint the account of them give in the Old Statistical Account, as although it was written hundred years ago, there seem few changes to be noted.

'At the cast side of this place (Lagavulin) there is a tower or castle known as Dun Naomhaic. This castle is built on a large rock, which is surrounded by the sea on all sides except the north. There are still on it remains of many old houses that had been built for barracks and store-houses; some of the cellars and a baker's house are still visible here. There is a very strong wall on the north side between the castle and the barracks, and the side walls of a large gate are still standing. This gate is called the iron gate, and it is reported here that the fort was supplied with water from a small river that ran past the end of the manse, and that it was conducted in pipes under the sea, across the bay to the distance of about half a mile.

There is a large stone room at the top of the fort, and here the gun ports are entire. On the north side of this room there is an earthen mound which is very thick; and it appears to have been built up to the top of the fort as a kind of defence to that part of the building, for the north is the only place where an enemy could make an attack on this fort.

'There is a high hill on the west side of the bay opposite to this fort, where there was also a tower for the defence of Dunnoamhaig, and as both places are nearly of the same height, and only about a distance of about a quarter of a mile from each other, it was an easy matter to prevent small vessels coming to this place, for no vessels that draw more than six or seven feet of water can come here at any time.'

A little further on, and above Ardbeg, there is a church site, Callumkill, and near it a well into which offerings were at one time dropped. Near Ardilistry, and close to the high road, there are two large blocks of stone, evidently part of an ancient grave. Tradition assigns this to a stranger princess called Iula, who died in Islay, leaving it to her name!

Kildalton Church is eight or nine miles from Port Ellen, and stands between the road and the sea. It measures 56 ½ feet long by 20 feet wide, and the walls are 3 feet thick. The masonry is peculiar, the side walls being composed of about ten courses of large rudely shaped stones with smaller ones between. There are doors both on the north and south side, and each door is provided with a long bolt-hole. There are two pointed windows in the east, and one small window high up in the west gable. There are also two windows in the north and south walls at the east end of the building. All the windows are round-headed with the exception of those in the cast wall. The doors and windows were originally faced with white sandstone.

On the north and south walls, just to the west of the chancel windows, there are holes both on the ground level and at seven feet up, which look as if they had been connected with a rood or chancel screen at some time. Traces of plaster are to be seen on all the walls.

No. 79, Plates XXIV., XXV. - The great Cross of Kildalton. XXIV. Shows the east side, XXV. Shows the west. The illustrations are not to scale. The cross stands 9 feet high and is, I believe, a monolith.

A cast of it, in Portland cement, has been presented to the Scottish National Museum of Antiquities by Mrs. Ramsay of Kildalton.

'Previous to 1882, when the cast of the cross was made, it had long stood in a roughly-dressed stone which had no sufficient foundation, and the cross had consequently fallen to a slanting position. To allow a proper foundation to be made for the cross, the stone in which it had stood was lifted, and immediately under the south-west corner of it the unshaped slab (cast No. 2) was found lying face downwards.

A number of water-worn stones, such as are to be got in the bays near, were also found, and among them a rough stone, nearly round, and about 6 ½ inches in diameter, one side of which had the appearance of having been worn smooth artificially. Below these water-worn stones, human remains, apparently of more than one body, were come upon. The cross at Kildalton now stands erect on the spot it formerly occupied, with the same stone as basement, though part of it is hidden by the new steps and built into the foundation, in the hope of making it more secure.'

Dr. Joseph Anderson has very kindly furnished me with the following valuable notes on this beautiful object.

'The fine cross at Kildalton, Islay, is one of two examples of the type with the encircling glory now remaining erect in Scotland, the other being St. Martin's Cross at Iona. This type is a common one on the cross-slabs of Pictland, and the high crosses of Ireland mostly show the same form. In its ornamentation, however, the Kildalton Cross is much more distinctly related to the Scottish group of crosses than to the Irish group, and most closely resembles the cross called St. Martin's and the two fragments at Iona figured in Stuart's Plates XLV. And XLVI., the cross at Keills in Knapdale (Stuart, Plate XXXII.), and to a less extent the slab at Nigg in Ross-shire. In the general scheme of decoration on the Irish high crosses the Crucifixion is the central subject on one face, and Christ in glory on the other, the spaces on the arms, shaft and summit being filled in with scenes from Scripture. It is characteristic of the Scottish crosses of dates prior to the twelfth century, however, that the representation of the Crucifixion rarely occurs, and the scheme of decoration is usually more largely composed of panels of ornament than of panels filled with figure subjects.

On the Kildalton Cross the obverse alone presents figure subjects. These are placed in the four arms of the cross, almost equidistant from the centre. Taking them in their order from the top downwards, there are first two angels side by side, and below them David rending the jaws of the lion, with a sheep (to indicate the flock) in the background. The same subject occurs on the cross at Kells, and on that at Kilcullen, in both cases with a sheep in the background. It also occurs on the fine sculptured slab at St. Andrews, and on the slabs at Drainie, Aldbar, and Nigg, a harp as well as a sheep being added in the background in the two latter cases, to show that it was David and not Samson that was meant. Underneath again are two birds facing each other, and feeding from the same bunch of grapes - a very common emblem of early Christian times, though of rare occurrence in Britain. It does not again occur on the sculptured monuments of Scotland, though a subject akin to it not unfrequently appears in the decorative treatment of the running scroll as a tree bearing bunches of fruit, on which birds and beasts are feeding. The subjects in the two panels at the extremities of the arms of the cross are more obscure, but that on the right may be the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. There is an altar placed between the two figures. The smaller figure is in the act of placing something (the wood) on the altar. The larger figure holds a knife or sword in the right hand, while with the left he grasps the youthful figure by the hair, as in act to slay him. On one of the crosses at Ullard (O'Neill's Ancient Irish Crosses, Plate IX.), the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham is similarly placed. The subject is repeated,, with variations, on four other Irish crosses, the ram, the angel, and the thicket certifying the identity of the group. There are, however, early examples in which all the accessories are left out, and the group is reduced to two figures, on threatening the other with a knife or sword. The subject in the other arm of the cross seems to be also one of those which were represented by the action of two principal figures, with the accessories left out, thus rendering its identification so much the more difficult from the absence of distinctive features. The group in the upper part of the shaft - the Virgin and child, with two angels shadowing the central figure with one wing each, while the other wing droops by the side - is not open to doubt. The angels are clothed like those in the summit of the cross, and the Virgin seated and crowned.

But the ornamentation of the cross is not less interesting than its symbolism. On the obverse the ornamentation and symbolism are almost evenly balanced, while the other wing droops by the side - is not open to doubt. The angels are clothed like those in the summit of the cross, and the Virgin seated and crowned, while on the reverse the symbolism (if there be any) is entirely subordinated to the ornamentation, which is carried out with an intensity of elaboration and refinement thoroughly characteristic of Celtic work. The scheme of the decoration is on both faces similar. A rope work border is carried along the outline of the cross, and the central space is filled by a circular moulding of the same kind, which just touches the inward curves at the intersections of the shaft, arms and summit, and is, of course, concentric with the larger circle of the 'glory' which binds all together. The whole surface is then divided into fifteen panels (counting the central circle in each case as one panel) or separate spaces, each filled with a complete design. On the obverse six of these are filled with symbolic figure subjects, and nine with patterns of ornament. The central circle has a boss in the middle of the space, projecting fully 3 ¼ inches. This boss is formed of interlacements of the legs and bodies of four lacertine creatures, whose heads project at the four corners. Round the boss on the flat is an interlacement of two strands, with a figure-of-eight knot. Next to the central circle are three panels or spaces, two in the arms and one in the shaft, filled with patterns made up of bosses formed of the interknitted bodies of serpents, the anterior portion of their bodies escaping and curving away on the flat to form the borders and divisions of the patterns. Underneath the group of the Virgin and child is a long panel on the shaft, filled with a beautiful and most elaborate pattern, symmetrically formed of five groups of triple spirals, the members of which escape and re-enter, while the flat spaces between the principal members are filled with a diaper of escaping spirals derived from these, which run into bosses, wind up to their centres, and again escape to run off on the flat and form other bosses, so that the whole of the sculpture is built up on a kind of mathematical plan, and every detail is dependent upon and connected with all the rest in a system of spiral curves. The elaborate ingenuity of this species of decoration is only understood after an attempt has been made to reconstruct its details on the flat by the analogy of similar patterns, which may be studied in the illuminated pages of the Book of Lindisfarne, as shown in the Paleographical Society ‘s fac-similes.

Turning now to the reverse, the two lower panels on the shaft are treated as one design, symmetrically arranged in two parts, the one of which repeats and balances the other, but with some variations in the arrangements of the details. Each part consists of a pattern made by four larger and four smaller bosses in each of the spaces between the larger ones. Two of the four larger bosses in each case have an open concavity at the top, in the centre of which is a little boss, or prominence. All the larger bosses are constructed of the interknotted posterior portions of the bodies of serpents, the anterior portions of which escape from the bottom of the boss and curve away on the flat to form the interlacing border lines that enclose and complete the design. The wasting of the stone (though this side is less weathered than the other) makes it uncertain whether the smaller bosses are not also made up of the more attenuated portions of the interlacing serpents, but there is no doubt that this is the theory of the design (as shown by the similar work on the cross-slab at Nigg), and the Celtic sculptor never shrank from a detail which was clearly involved in the construction of his design. The upper panel on the lower part of the shaft is filled with a design composed of bosses, formed by a series of escaping spirals proceeding from a central boss, having a hollow in the top with a triplet of small bosses in its interior. In this case, again, every detail of the design is connected with all the others, the spirals, which form the diaper over the flat surface, rising to the top of each of the bosses and running the reverse way, to escape again at the bottom and curve along to form another boss.

Round the circle enclosing the great central boss are four lions, carved in very high relief, the two in the arms facing each other, but the two in the shaft and summit both facing upwards. The heads of all the four are gone, the tails of the two in the arms have the conventional wave over the back, while those of the two in the shaft and summit sweep down on the flat and curve away to mingle with the serpentine interlacements there. The four large bosses, viz., the great central boss and the three extremities of the arms and summit, are formed in the same way as the others, of the bodies of serpents interlaced or knitted up, the heads and anterior portions escaping to form interlacements on the flat. Four lacertine animals with heads turned backwards biting their own tails are added to complete the design in the summit of the cross. The ring or ‘glory' uniting the shaft, arms, and summit, which is less weather-worn on this side shows alternating patterns of interlaced work and fretwork in the four quadrants.

No. 80, Plate XXVI. - The east face of a standing cross to the north-east of the churchyard. The west face has similar carving, but is not in as good preservation. This illustration is not to scale. The cross stands about 6 feet 2 inches above the grass, and measures 2 feet 5 inches across from arm to arm.

No. 81, Plate XXVI. - This is the lower of the two fragments of a slab which lean against the north wall of the church. It bears part of the figure of a hunter with a huge horn hung around him. He has a spear in his right hand with which he is in the act of stabbing another an animal which is at the same time beset by two dogs. I have placed beside this a sketch of a huntsman from the standing cross at Kilmory, reproduced from Captain White's Archaeological Sketches in Knapdale. The treatment of the figures is so similar that they might well be the work of the same man.

No. 82. - Two parts of a broken slab bearing traces of carving. These also lie against the north wall of the church.

No. 83. - Part of a large font or basin which lies near the north door of the church.

No. 84. Plate XXXII., is the head of a slab with a foliated pattern.

No. 85. - A piscine, much more ornate than usual. It is composed of two stones, the lower one being the basin with its drain, the upper one forming a niche.

No. 86, Plate XXVII. - A slab with an armoured figure in very high relief, built into the south wall, and surrounded by a tall iron railing. No direct sunlight falls upon it, and this made it extremely difficult to photograph. To the left of the head are two lines of writing. The seem to be

HIC JAC ET MARI

To the right of the head is a small figure in a niche, and beneath the elbow on the right of the stone there is a dog.

No. 87. - The pattern on this slab has nearly all flaked off, but there are traces of a niche at the top, and a date 1716.

No. 88. - A slab with a very rudely indicated cross.

No. 89, Plate XXVII. - As in the case of numbers 8, 29, and 99, we have here a long cross resting on a semicircular base, and extending the whole length of the stone. To the right is a sword, and below it a circle, whether introduced merely to fill up a space, or for some other reason, I do not know. To the left is a scroll, of which only the lower part is at all distinct.

No. 90, Plate XXVIII. - A knight in armour. This is the only stone in Islay where a full length figure of a warrior is carved in low relief. The head rests on a cushion, which is also an unusual feature, though it occurs again in this churchyard (No. 101). I have failed to read the inscription, though I think there is IIIC JACET to the left of the helmet, ALAN (S)ORLETI to the right, and a name which might be Maclain running along the right side. I offer this suggestion however with the greatest diffidence.

No. 91, Plate XXXII. - A small slab with traces of a wheel pattern and a short sword.

92. - This is only a fragment with traces on it of a stag and hounds.

No. 93. - The tombstone of Charles MacArthur, who died in 1692. (The illustration is traced from a rubbing.) It bears an incised outline of a gun, with the curiously bent and carved stock

Of the period, also a dog, and an object which probably represents a powder horn. The stone is of the unusual length of 6 feet 6 inches. The following inscription surrounds it: HEAR LYES CHARL MC ARTHOR WHO LIVED IN PROAIK AND DEPARTED THIS LIFE THE FIFTEN DAY OF FEERVAREY 1696 YEARES

Proaik, or Proaig, is four and a half miles north of Kildalton Church, and not far from MacArthurs Head where the lighthouse now stands.

No. 94. - A little cross carved on an irregular slab of stone. What is left of it measures 20 inches in length, the arms are 12 inches across, and there is a halo or circle round the transaction. It lies under the west wall of the church.

No. 95. - On this slab are the figures 1716, with an inscription TO HEW M'LEOD. It has a rudely carved wheel ornament of earlier work, and a crowned heart, probably of the period when the date was added.

No. 96. - A slab bearing a rapier in incised outline, with an inscription to James Steward.

No. 97. - On this slab there are little more than traces of sculptured work.

No. 98, Plate XXVII. - Besides a sword and scroll-work, there is on this slab a large fish followed by an otter, a common enough pattern in other parts, but this is the only example I have found in Islay.

No. 99. - This slab shows a long cross extending the whole length of the stone. On the right of the shaft is a sword, on the left a scroll. The carving is in excellent preservation, but the design is so similar to that of stones already illustrated that I will only refer the reader to them. It appears to be a late piece of work, copied in nearly all aspects from No. 89, Plate XXVII. The top of the cross is different, however, but is much the same as that on No. 8, Plate III., and No. 29, Plate IX.

No. 100, Plate XXVIII. - A cast of this stone is to be seen in the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh. The scroll-work is of an ordinary type save at the top, where the device of plaited circles is, though simple, very ingeniously arranged. The figures on either side of the hilt are curious, and so is the hideous monster, partly man and partly animal, to the left of the blade. A similar grotesque figure appears twice on gravestones at Kilmory.

No. 101, Plate XXIX. - The upper part of this slab shows two warriors, each in a very richly canopied niche. Their heads are supported on cushions; one has his hand upon the hilt of his sword while the other holds up a weapon of some sort. At the bottom of the slab is a galley, of which the sails is set instead of being furled as is usually the case. Between this and the figures there is a fine foliated device. An inscription - divided by little circular ornaments at the corners and on the sides - surrounds the design. I fear, however, that is illegible. There is in the aisle of the cathedral at Iona a fine slab, very closely resembling this, with an inscription to John Maclain of Ardnamurchan. A drawing of it is to be found in Drummond's Sculptured Monuments in Iona, and it has the melancholy interest of being the last of his lovely reproductions of West Highland sculptures.

A Mile beyond Kildalton Church is the farm of Trudernish - The Enchanted Cape - and in the woods above it there is a little chapel, probably one of the most ancient in Islay. It is called Cill Chuibain, a somewhat puzzling name. The late Hector MacLean who lived at Ballygrant and who was a great authority on Islay lore derived this name from Saint Kevan, but a more probably derivation has been suggested to me by the Rev. O. Hunter Blair, O.S.B., who thinks Cill Chuibain is connected with the Gaelic word Cobhan and means the Church of the Hollow or Recess. Though the ruins are only half a mile from the high road they are hidden in thick copse-wood and are somewhat difficult to find.

The dimensions of the building are as follows: - Length over all 31 feet, breadth 19 feet. The walls are built without mortar and in the rudest way. They are 4 feet 9 inches thick at the base; but the outside of the wall slopes away inwardly, so that at four feet from the ground the breadth is reduced to three feet. The corners of the building are rounded off. A door enters in the south side near the west end; no windows can be traced, but there are recesses in the west, north, and south walls; two of these are situated on either side of the altar, one to the right and the other to the left. The foundations of the altar itself can still be traced and measure 5 feet 7 inches in length. To the south-east of the chapel is a mound of stones, which looks as if it had formed at one time the foundation of a cross, but no cross or other sculptured stone has been found here.

A little below Kilchuibain is a well of beautifully clear water to which tradition assigns healing powers. Votive offerings were here deposited until late times. A man, who cleaned it out not very long ago, told me that he found in it a large collection of worthless odds and ends, which he did not fail to put back again when his task was down.

The only carved stones which remain to be described lie in the beautiful gardens ar Ardimersay, cared for and protected. Besides a very fine cast in concrete of the Kildalton Cross, there are here:

No. 102, Plate XXIX. - A broken slab from the island of Texa, having on it the figure of an ecclesiastic in a niche. In his hands there is a chalice, and the chasuble is very richly ornamented. There is an inscription round the edge, which rosettes at the corners, as in No. 101 at Kildalton.

Nos. 103 and 104, Plate XXIX. - Two female figures forming part of a plinth. One of these has her hands crossed; in the other figure one hand is raised. The illustrations only who the figures; the shape of the stone not being accurately indicated. It was also found at Texa, broken in two. In 1882 the fragments were removed to their present situation, and the cross - another texa relic - was at the same time placed in the reconstructed plinth.

No. 105, Plate XXX. - The front of the Texa cross-shaft referred to above. At the bottom of this fragment there is an armed figure; his hands holds a battle-axe, while he grasps his sword with his left. Above the head is the following inscription - HEC:E ST:CR X:REGN ALDIJO HIS DE ISLA Or, Hec est crux Regnaldi Johannes de Isla. This was probably Ranald, the son of John the first Lord of the Isles and of Amie Macruari. Ranald acted for some time as guardian to his half-brother Donald, who succeeded to the title. The first Lord of the Isles died in 1380, and Ranald only survived him a few years. From this we can form a good idea of the date of the cross. The reverse of this cross-shaft is also shown on Plate XXX. On it is a galley very elaborately finished. The sail is set, and there are two figures visible. Even the holes for the oars are indicated, but this hardly shows in the engraving. Above the galley is a stag attacked by dogs.

No. 106, Plate XXX., is a curious group near the top of a large slab which stands near the Texa cross-shaft. The sone bears the usual sword, and is 6 feet long. The impression which I hae reproduced shows traces of two figures in the act of meeting. It is a pity that the design is so nearly obliterated, as it is a rare subject to find on these western stones. It appears once at Iona, where on the base of a priest's slab two monks are shown in this attitude.

No. 107, Plate XXX. - A cross-bearing slab found at a place called Doid Mhary or Mary's Croft, near the Port Ellen distillery, many years ago. It stood for a long time in the old distillery garden, but was finally brought to Ardimersay, where it now is. A cast of this, with many others, was presented to the National Museum of Antiquities by Mrs. Ramsay of Kildalton, and it is thus described in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol. V., New Series, March 12th, 1883, p. 277: 'Cast in Portland cement of an erect slab and the edges being left in their natural condition. On the sculptured side is a Celtic cross in relief, very rudely executed, with a circle connecting the arms, and the spaces underneath filled with rudely executed interlacements, with scroll-like terminations. The slab is interesting, as being the second known in Scotland which has the conventional representation of the sun and moon over the arms of the cross. The other specimen which was found at Craignarget, Gillespie, Glen Luce, is also in the museum, and is figured in the Proceedings, Vol. III., New Series, p. 251. This one is from Doid Mhari, near Port Ellen, Islay.'

The other Chapters




Islay History | Standing Stones | Finlaggan | Islay Carved Stones | The Campbells | John Francis Campbell | Islay Clearances | Leaving Islay | Islay Genealogy | Islay in 1703 | 1869 Baptist Letter | Islay Shipwrecks | Exmouth Tragedy | Troopship Tuscania | Otranto and Tuscania | Dougie MacDougall | Ferry History | Cultoon and Ballinaby | Sunderland Flying Boat Tragedy | Kilchoman Bards

 

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