Thursday, 22 May 2008

St Columba’s, Uidh,

Wednesday, 21st May 2008

St Columba’s Church is a 14th Century ruin sitting within its own Cemetery and located at the end of the Braigh. Commonly known as St Columba’s (Uidh) - Uidh being the Gaelic for isthmus - the Church is also referred to as the Eye Church or its Gaelic equivalent, Eaglais na h-Aoidhe.

St Columba’s (Uidh), is important, not only for its Church, but for its internationally significant Cemetery. Two intricately carved stone grave slabs adorn the internal wall of the Church, lifted from the ground to reduce the effects of weathering. One slab, depicting a warrior in mail armour wearing a pommelled sword and carrying a spear commemorates Roderick Macleod VII, the last of the Macleod Chiefs, who died in 1498 and is buried below the Church floor. On the opposite wall is another grave slab in a Celtic design with interwoven patterns of foliage and animals. The Latin inscription around the edge has long since become illegible but once read, “Here lies Margaret, daughter of Roderick Macleod of Lewis, widow of Lachlan MacKinnon, died 1503”. As many as nineteen Macleod Chiefs may be buried in Uidh. William Mackenzie, the 5th Earl of Seaforth, once lay below the pavement to the north of the Church but it is feared that his remains have now been lost to the sea. John Morrison, a lieutenant with Nelson at the Battle of Cape Trafalgar (1805), died in 1827 at the age of 49 and is buried within the Church.

Because entry to the church itself is verboten I don't have a photo of these gravestones but they can be seen on the church's webpage at
(Does putting all these notices on the church count as defacing it???)

Columba himself never set foot on Lewis but it is generally accepted that Catan, another early Irish saint, established a cell on the site at Uidh. The cult of Columba grew in Scotland in the Middle Ages, and many churches of that period, like St Columba’s at Uidh, were dedicated to the saint.

Latterly, St Columba’s (Uidh) was used as an Episcopalian place of worship until 1829 when a fiercely evangelical brand of Scottish Presbyterianism swept across the island and a new Thomas Telford designed Church was built in nearby Knock. In Rev John Cameron’s ‘New Statistical Account for Scotland’ of 1833, he states, “the chapel at Ui has strong walls still standing. The south-west end of it is roofed and slated; the minister of Stornoway used to preach there, once in six weeks, before the Government Church was erected”. Episcopal worship then moved to St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Stornoway while the name, St Columba’s, was assumed by a new Church of Scotland built in 1794 in the town. St Columba’s, Uidh, became a forgotten place.

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