Trumpan Church, Isle of Skye.
High on the cliff top, at the tip of the Waternish peninsula, overlooking the sweep of the beautiful Ardmore Bay. All located towards the north end of the Isle of Skye. Take the narrow roads across open crofting country and you will stumble upon these ruins of Trumpan Church. Even though the ruins are a skeleton of a building, it must have been substantial for its time, which all came to a terrible end in 1578.
Its history is much more tied to Scottish Clan rivalry and battle, than any religious foundation. It is a part of Scottish History…… so here you have a precis of some very bloody events that occurred in this remote and tranquil setting.
Scottish history is littered with accounts of violent feuds between the Clans, in this case it is the MacLeod’s of Dunvegan, Skye and the MacDonald Clan. In 1577 the MacLeod’s raided the Island of Eigg where a community of MacDonald’s were in residence, outnumbered the MacDonald’s took refuge in a cave and this was their undoing. The MacLeod’s set a great fire to burn at the entrance to the cave and all 395 MacDonald’s in the cave suffocated.
Revenge was much in the minds of Clan MacDonald of Uist who waited till May the following year 1578. They picked the time well, waiting for a large gathering of MacLeod’s in a service in Trumpan Church. They approached by boats and moored in Ardmore Bay, in the shelter of the cliffs on which the Church is located. Whilst the MacLeod’s worshiped the MacDonald barricaded the door and set fire to the Thatched roof…. all but one within died. The one to escape was a young girl, she managed to squeeze through a narrow window, but not without losing one of her breasts. She ran 10 miles to Dunvegan, the MacLeod’s Clan Chiefs home, to raise the alarm.
On hearing the news, the MacLeod’s gathered a large force with revenge once more on their minds. They caught the MacDonald’s on the beach where their ships were moored, their escape foiled due to a receding tide leaving their ships high and dry. All the MacDonald’s were killed. The bodies of the dead MacDonald’s were lined up beside a dry stone wall (known as a dyke) and were buried by pushing the dyke onto the bodies….This battle was recorded in Scottish History as ‘The Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke’.
The township was abandoned . The Church ruins and the record of yet another Clan Massacre are all that remain.
Despite its bloody past it is a place of beauty. Surrounded by crofting hay meadows that are full of wild flowers and herbage in the summer months, it can look idyllic. Even on a wild and windy day it has a magical atmosphere .
When you stand in the ruins, you may well experience a feeling a calm, spiritual tranquillity….. also very hard to comprehend the brutality of those past events. Then again, maybe not so hard to believe, not when you consider all the violent atrocities that have and still do continue across our world
And now more than ever
Please Remember ….
Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other
(C) David Oakes 2020