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Isle Martin, St Martin's Chapel, Graveyard And Clach Fear Eilean-mhairtein

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross Slab(S) (Early Medieval)

Site Name Isle Martin, St Martin's Chapel, Graveyard And Clach Fear Eilean-mhairtein

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross Slab(S) (Early Medieval)

Canmore ID 12091

Site Number NH09NE 1

NGR NH 096 989

NGR Description NH c. 096 989

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Lochbroom
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH09NE 1 c. 096 989

The ruins of St Martin's Chapel are on the W corner of Isle Martin. There is also an old burying ground containing some ancient sculptured stones, among which is the grave of St Martin, surmounted by a high headstone on which is carved a cross with double arms.

The stone, about 4' high, stands near the burying ground at the SE corner of Isle Martin (J D Cairns 1913).

"Clach Fear Eilean-Mhairtein" - meaning "Stone of the Man of Isle Martin" (Name Book 1886) may refer to the foregoing accounts. (The Gaelic "feart" means a "grave". If the original surveyor missed the terminal 't', the name would mean "Grave Stone of Isle Martin".)

D MacDonald, A Polson and J Brown 1931; A C M Mitford 1936.

There is no chapel on the W side of Isle Martin. According to Mrs Easson (Isle of Martin, Ross and Cromarty) St Martin's Chapel is situated at the SE corner of the island at NH 0964 9895, where there is a roofless stone building 4.2m square, with its entrance in the W side, similar in design to the chapel in the graveyard at Ullapool. (See NH19SW 2). 20.0m S of this building is a cross-slab (? 8the c - (a).) 1.3m high, 0.5m broad, and 0.3m thick, which is plain on three sides and embossed on the E side with a rough cross, fitting the description of the previous authorities. It is traditionally said to mark the grave of St Martin. It was originally surmounted by a wheel-cross whose present whereabouts is not known. (Mrs Easson, Isle of Martin, Ross and Cromarty There are many grave-markers of roughly hewn stone in the area around the chapel; one of them bears the letters "D I".

To the SE, at NH 0976 9887, in an area of uncultivated ground, there is a small cairn of grass-covered stones, 4.0m in diameter and 2.0m high. Similar cairns occur about 50.0m to the SE of this, but as these border land that has previously been ploughed, they are probably no more than field clearance heaps.

Visited by OS (N K B) 2 October 1964

(NH 096 989) St Martin's Chapel & Grave (NR)

(Name: NH 099 989) Clach Fear Eilean-Mhairtein (NAT)

OS 6" map, 1969

There appears to be no convincing authority for the alleged dedication of this chapel to St Martin. Watson (W J Watson 1926) could find no evidence, nor is it mentioned in Orig Par Scot (1855)

Mitford gives it this dedication, but, as he also says that St Martin is buried there, he is obviously a very suspect authority. (St Martin died in 397 at Candes, near Tours, France, where his relics were preserved.) (D Allwater 1965) The old enclosure wall of the burial ground is visible on APs (Visible on air photographs RAF 58.794:4227-8, flown 1951) as is a small triangular enclosure on the W side of the chapel. If this structure is a chapel its position in the graveyard suggests that it is secondary, a central position being much more likely for a primary structure.

Information from OS Recorder (ES), 30 July 1974.

NH 0964 9892 [NH09NE 1]. This island lies about 0.8km from the coast of Coigach and is roughly triangular, measuring 1.8km along the N coast by 1.5km from N to S. Much of the island is rocky, rising to a summit of 120m, and the small population has always been concentrated near the landing-place at the S end of the E coast. The wall of the burial-ground situated immediately W of this bay is partly superimposed on a roughly circular enclosure about 60m across. This is bounded on the SE by a slope and on the W by a low turf mound up to 2m thick whose curve is continued at the head of the shore by a few kerb-stones. It encloses a square burial-aisle and a number of mounded burials with head- and foot-markers. Two early carved stones stand S of the burial-aisle.

(1) Small pillar of Torridonian sandstone, 0.35m in visible height by 0.24m in width and thickness. On the SW face there is a sunken equal-armed cross, 110mm in height and 100mm across the arms, which are about 40mm wide.

(2) Slab of Torridonian sandstone, re-erected apparently upside-down and broken at the original foot (a). It measures 1.39m in height by 0.34m in maximum thickness, and tapered downwards in width from 0.51m to 0.47m. On the NE face it is carved to a depth of 15mm, within a broad margin, with a grid of bars forming two overlapping crosses. The shaft of the lower one also forms the top arm of a cross 0.58m high, with the transom at mid-height, which fills the lower half of the slab. This appears to have risen from a curved base, but the detail at the foot is uncertain because of weathering.

(a) This is presumably the stone for which the name 'Clach fear Eilean-Mhairtein' ('stone of the man of Isle Martin') was recorded in 1875 (Name Book, Ross and Cromarty, No.35, p.26). The supposed connection of the island with St Martin is uncertain (Watson 1926, 291).

J D Cairns 1913; A C M Mitford 1936; M Brown 1994; I Fisher 2001.


Field Visit (May 1999)

NH 096 989 A survey was made of Isle Martin's graveyard which is noted for its 8th-century cross-slab stone. The survey revealed traces of a turf dyke to the N side of the graveyard and a cross-incised stone and 17 gravemarkers.

Report lodged with Ullapool Museum and the NMRS.

Sponsors: Ullapool Museum, Isle Martin Trust.

S Farrell 1999.


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