Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Islay, Nereabolls

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Islay, Nereabolls

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Nereabolls 1; Nerabus

Canmore ID 37357

Site Number NR25SW 2

NGR NR 2249 5490

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilchoman
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR25SW 2 2249 5490

(NR 2249 5490) Chapel (NR) (In Ruins) (NAT) Burial Ground (NR)

(NR 2254 5495) Burial Ground (NAT)

(NR 2253 5491) Burial Ground (NAT)

OS 6" map (1900)

The remains of a pre-Reformation chapel of whose history and dedication nothing is known. There appear to be three burial grounds associated with the chapel; the one in which it stands containing 15th to early 16th century monuments while that at NR 2254 5495 contains at least two early 16th century monuments as well as a font or basin. The third burial ground contains one fragment of slab with what may be a 'marigold' symbol which is usually dated to about the 7th century AD.

Name Book 1878; T S Muir 1855; W D Lamont 1972


Field Visit (12 May 1978)

NR 2249 5490. The remains of a chapel measuring 15.0m east-west by 8.5m over grass-covered walling spread to 2.5m and surviving to a height of 0.8m. It contains a number of ornate cross-slabs and has, immediately to its south, the remains of a burial ground 20.0m by 15.0m now covered by large field clearance stones. A grass-covered bank can be distinguished but its exact form cannot be determined.

The other two burial grounds are enclosed by and incorporated within the modern graveyard. That at NR 2254 5495 includes the ruins of a building, of uncertain age but probably a chapel, with its south-west gable end standing to a height of 3.4m and its side walls 0.5m high.

There is no trace of a font at the burial grounds but a stone with a deep depression in it stands in Nereabolls farmyard at NR 2254 5511. It is roughly circular in cross-section measuring 0.5m in diameter and

0.3m high with a 'cup' 0.3m in diameter and 0.15m deep. This is probably the stone referred to above but whether it was a font is speculative. The slab with the possible 'marigold' symbol is in Islay Museum together with two ornate cross fragments from the sites.

Surveyed at 1:10 000.

Visited by OS (BS) 12 May 1978.

Field Visit (May 1981)

The foundations of this medieval chapel stand unenclosed in a field close to the right bank of Abhuinn Ardnish, about

50m W of the S angle of the walled upper burial-ground. The building is of elongated rectangular plan measuring 13.9m

from E to W by 4.7m transversely within walls about 0.9m in thickness. It is constructed of local random rubble masonry, and the visible stretches of walling preserve traces of lime mortar. The entrance-doorway probably occupied a position towards the W end of the S side-wall, and there is a mural recess of indeterminate purpose further to the E in the same wall. The floor of the E end of the building is set slightly above the general level of the interior, probably as a result of later burials and field clearance, and the band of stony debris that demarcates the change in levels appears to have no structural significance. In the area immediately to the S and lying parallel to the chapel are the turf-covered vestiges of an oblong building, associated apparently with a low crescentic enclosing bank which consists mainly of field-clearance material.

The chapel, which lay within the medieval parish of Kilchoman (RCAHMS 1984, No. 366), has no recorded history, but is locally believed to have been dedicated to St Columba. (information from Mr G Clark, Port Charlotte) The remains can probably be ascribed to the later Middle Ages, when the five merklands of Nereabolls belonged to the Augustinian abbey of Derry. (Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum 1882-1914)

The upper burial-ground, which in the late 19th century comprised two separate enclosures round knolls some 40m

apart, (Graham 1895) is now fully enclosed. It contains a number of private burial-enclosures of 18th- and 19th-century date, and it is probable that the medieval stones now or formerly in this area (infra, numbers 1,3,9, II) were appropriated at that period.

Funerary Monments and Cross

Of the following medieval stones, numbers 2, 4-6 and 10 are inside the ruined chapel but not in the positions shown in

Graham's plan, and numbers 7 and 8, recorded by Graham in the same area, could not be located at the date of visit.

Numbers 3 and 9 remain in the upper burial-ground, while numbers 1 and 11, with a surface-flake from number 2, are

now in the Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte. The earliest identifiable post-Reformation monument in the upper

burial-ground bears the date 1746.

(1) Head and lower part of the shaft of a free-standing cross. The front is bordered by a single and the back by a

double moulding. The upper fragment measures 0.66m in height, the diameter of the disc being 0.46m and the span of

the arms 0.61m; the left arm is noticeably narrower and taller than the other. The lower fragment measures 1.36m in

height, including a tapered 0.57m butt. The shaft itself tapered from 0.28m in width at ground level to 0.22m at the

neck, and the height of the cross when complete was probably about 2.7m. The front of the cross-head bears the

upper part of the figure of the Crucified Saviour, on a rood with roll-moulded margin whose upper arm terminates in triple leaves. He wears the Crown of Thorns, and His hair falls over the shoulders in tresses. At the foot of the shaft,

within a foliated niche, there is the figure of a mitred abbot (?St Columba) or bishop in Eucharistic vestments, raising his

right hand in benediction and holding in his left hand a crosier. Above the niche there survives part of a Lombardic

inscription, which probably read:


'[This is the cross] of Niall son ofAed'.

The back of the cross-head bears foliaceous ornament plaited at the centre and linked to a plant-scroll which has

Filled most of the shaft. At the foot of the shaft the Figure of a horseman, wearing a bascinet and long aketon and holding a lance, has been carved on the vertical axis. This cross was probably erected by a member of the local family of MacKay of the Rinns, several of whom bore the forename Aed (GAGM cast (shaft only) no. 187; Steer and

Bannerman; Graham 1895; PSAS, 61 (1926-7), 151 and fig. 10, no .4). lona school,14th-l5th century.

(2) Tapered slab bordered by a triple moulding, 1.84m by 0.51m. It is not broken through, as stated by Graham, but

the surface of the lower half is preserved separately as a detached flake, while the upper part is much worn. At the top

there is a foliated cross, followed by a central sword with lobated pommel and inclined quillons slightly expanded at

the terminals. At each side of the hilt is a panel for an inscription, but no letters are now visible. The sword-blade is

flanked by plant-scrolls, that on the right terminating in a leonine creature and the other in a griffin. (Graham 1895). lona school, 14th-15th century.

(3) Tapered slab bordered by a triple moulding, 1.66m by 0.47m; the top left corner is damaged and the foot much

worn. The decoration of this slab closely resembles that of number 2. (Graham 1895). lona school, 14th-15th century.

(4) Tapered slab bordered by a triple moulding, 1.84m by 0.54m. At the top there is a foliated cross, followed by a

central sword resembling that on number 2, flanked by plant-stems. lona school, 14th-15th century.

(5) Tapered slab bordered by a triple moulding, 1.86m by 0.49m; the bottom left corner is missing. At the top there is a

foliated cross with plaited centre, linked to plant-stems flanking a sword similar to that on number 2. The plant-stem at the right is of undulating type while the other has a central stem flanked by pairs of leaves. At the foot there is a rectangular panel, perhaps intended for an inscription. (NMAS cast; Graham 1895). lona school, 14th-l 5th century.

(6) Tapered slab bordered by a triple moulding, 1.76m by 0.47m. At the top there is a foliated cross, followed by a

cusped niche containing the figure of a priest in Eucharistic vestments, his hands joined in prayer. The ornament of the

chasuble is almost completely obliterated, but the amice bears an incised grid-pattern. To the left of the niche are a

chalice and a strip of interlace and to the right a blank panel, probably intended for an inscription. The lower part of the

slab is occupied by three animals whose tails are linked to plant-stems. (Graham1895). lona school, 14th-15th century.

(7) Tapered slab bordered by a triple moulding, about 1.62m by 0.36m. At the top there is a foliated cross, followed

by a central stem from which pairs of oak-leaves branch out. The leaves, which closely resemble those on the slab of Prior MaeGillescoil at lona, may refer to the association of Nereabolls with the monastery ofDerry (supra) whose name

is derived from the Old Irish Daire (modern Doire) (oak-wood).'* (Graham1895). Probably lona school, 14th-early 16th century.

(8) Tapered slab bordered by a double moulding, about 1.90m by 0.51m. At the top there is a galley with sail furled

and pennons flying at stem and stern, the pole of the latter being surmounted by a shield. There is a helmeted figure

forward of the mast, and a smaller figure climbs the rigging. Below the galley there is a central sword resembling that on

number 2, and to the left of the sword-hilt is a leonine beast attacked by a ?dragon from whose tail issues a plant-scroll

which changes at the bottom to interlace. To the right of the hilt are two confronted animals with foliated tails, followed

by an inscribed panel, a hare and hound, and a strip of interlace. At the foot of the slab two hounds pursue a stag.

The inscription, which has been in three lines of Lombardic capitals, is illegible on the cast except for the first line, which reads:

HIC lACET [?T]ERL/[?ETUS] . . .

'Here lies PTearlach...'

(GAGM cast, no. 188; Graham 1895). Kintyre school, 15th century.

(9) Tapered slab, bordered by a double roll-moulding, I o86m by 0-46 m. The only decoration now visible is a sword

with lobated pommel and inclined quillons on the right side of the slab. (Graham 1895). 14th-15th century.

(10) Tapered slab bordered by a roll-moulding,1.87m by 0.40m; much worn. At the top there is a foliated cross,

followed by a sword resembling that on number 2, flanked by plant-scrolls which on the right issue from the tail of a griffin. At the foot there is an inverted galley with furled sail and a figure in the stern, 14th-15th century.

(11) Lower part of a tapered slab, 0.54m long, bearing a circular pattern of sixteen rays separated by grooves, the end

of each ray being defined by a triangular notch. This motif may be derived from the circular foliated patterns found in

the work of the lona and Oronsay schools, and the slab was probably produced locally in the 16th century.


Visited May 1981



For crosses, see NR25SW 2.01.


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions