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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 658454

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


NG44NW 3 4182 4850

(NG 4182 4850) Chapel (NR) (Site of)

OS 6" map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1904)

Skeabost Island is occupied by a churchyard containing the ruins of two churches, one of comparatively late date, and the other a Teampull, smaller and much earlier.

Both Muir (1885) and MacGibbon and Ross (1896-7), however, describe "a group of five or six chapels, the shell of two pretty entire, the others nearly reduced to the ground." The latter continues, "fragments of an enclosing wall or rampart can also be traced," and infers that it was probably a Celtic monastic establishment. The Statistical Account of Scotland (OSA 1795) supports this, saying it was formerly "a habitation of monks and priests" and was in all probability the "metropolitan church of the whole island of Skye".

The teampull is dedicated to St. Columba. In 1501 "Schir Nichol Berchame" was "chapellane of the parsonage of Sanct Colmez Kirk in Sneesford in Trotternish, in the lordship of the Islis, togidder with the annexis and vicarigis thairof, that is to say Kilmolowok and Kilmory in Walternes." (But see Simpson 1927)

The vicarage of Snizort and Raasay was received in 1526 by Sir Donald Monis. In 1561 the parsonage of Snizort pertained to the Bishop of the Isles.

The teampull is in a fairly good state of preservation, the S wall being somewhat broken down. It is orientated almost due E-W and measures 15ft 10ins in length and 9ft 4ins in breadth internally, the walls of stone and lime being 2ft 8ins thick.

The N wall, which is complete, stands 7ft high; the gables are about 11ft Both gables are intaken 5ins at the wall-head, indicating an early medieval not an old Celtic structure. The door is at the NW corner of the building.

The church which stands almost E-W and measures externally about 79ft in length and 26ft 9ins in breadth, is now represented by grass-grown mounds. It has been encroached on by walled private burial grounds, and the only piece of building visible is on the N side near the E end. It would seem to have had a chancel.

This site is associated with a Pictish symbol stone (Clach Ard - NG44NW 1), and is in all probability not to be assigned to St. Columba whose genuine foundations always bore the name Columkille (W D Simpson 1927).

Statistical Account (OSA) 1795; T S Muir 1885; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7; W D Simpson 1927; RCAHMS 1928.

The teampull and church on Skeabost Islands are substantially as described by the RCAHMS but deterioration of the fabric has taken place since the report and the SW corner is in a very unstable condition. The whole of the churchyard is in a neglected state.

Visited by OS (C F W) 11 April 1961.

NG 4182 4850 A topographic survey of the bishop's seat of Skeabost Island in the River Snizort was undertaken in March 2006. There were two elements: a total station survey of the entire island and a 1:200 scale plan of the cathedral. The cathedral appears to have a S transept and there may have been structures on the exterior of the N wall of the cathedral. Interpretation of the remains of the structure of the cathedral is complicated by later burial enclosures. Although there is little visible evidence for other buildings, the mounds on which the Nicolson Aisle and the MacQueen enclosure sit (at the W and E ends of the island respectively) suggest continuity of occupation.

Sponsor: the Carnegie Trust and the University of Glasgow's Faculty of Arts Graduate School Research Support Fund.

S Thomas 2006.

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