Saint Mary’s Church, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye
The west coast of Scotland is littered with the ruins of Churches (perhaps best named Chapels). St. Mary’s Church at Dunvegan is typical of many such once important places of worship. Locations near the coast is a significant clue as to when and why they were built in this far flung places. It was in the 6th century that Saint Columba arrived on the Isle of Iona and set up a religious community that still exists today. So it is no surprise that Pilgrims from Iona , just a short distance across the sea, found their way to the west coast of Scotland. There were of course many other peoples from other countries to this part of Scotland…. some settled, others stayed for awhile.
Standing on a high mound above the village of Dunvegan, surrounded by a stone wall, St. Mary’s is still a very notable feature of the landscape.
St. Marys is surrounded by a burial ground that tells many stories of the peoples of Dunvegan now long gone. But step inside the ruined Church and you find many more Memorial stones and Crosses. Like many of the Churches that fell in to disuse and disrepair they took on an additional roll. St. Mary’s like others became a safe custodian of these stones that were brought here for safety.
Highland Churches like this may well be ruins, but are still important historical links to not just the communities past but to the foundations of the Country. Whilst many of the memorials are tributes to Clan Members, others are to peoples from many countries who ventured forth, found themselves in this part of the world, settled and helped shape the countries future.
Why so many ruins…. there is no one reason. Larger places of Worship were often needed, then of course we had Clan disputes and much later divisions within the Scottish Church. Once a building fell into disuse the ravages of time and weather caused the Heather Thatched Roofs to collapse…. so with no roof any intentions of restoration was probably thought too daunting. But the walls still stand firm.
Post Script….. I personally find it strange that today there appears to be dislike to peoples from other countries that seek to share our lives in our communities and countries.
Yet we only have to look back at our own histories and recognise the very wide variety of cultures and peoples from far away that have created and shaped the very country we now enjoy.
Just a thought
(C) David Oakes 2017