The burial ground of Cladh Manach, located on the small island of Boraraigh off the northern coast of North Uist, shows evidence of early Christianity, primarily through the presence of early medieval sculpture in the form of a cross-marked stone (Fisher 2001, 112). The island of Boraraigh does not have any obvious candidates for an early church and the site in question may best be viewed as linked to one of the medieval churches on mainland Uist with St Columba’s Chapel perhaps being the most likely contender.
It would be nearly impossible to ascertain the accuracy of Martin’s (1703, 68) claim that ‘all the Monks that died in the Islands that lie Northward from Egg were bury’d in this little Plot’. Perhaps the key question to ask is whether the burial ground was associated with one specific church or used more generally by the monks of a particular familia (as implied by Martin). In either case, an Iona association seems to be the most likely here considering the proximity of St Columbas Chapel. Stephens (2017, 180) records an additional cross-marked rock ‘on the foreshore at a’ Gheodha (NF 8578 8050)’, not included in Fisher, and his proposal that the early medieval cross incised rock may have ‘marked the landing place for the Cladh Manach burial ground’ is an intriguing one which may lend further support to viewing this site as a detached burial ground. According to MacKillop (1989, 484-5) there was a church or chapel on Boraraigh called Caibeal Bhororaigh. He also gives two nearby features as Bodha na h-Eaglais (‘Sea Rock of the Church’) and Rubha an Teampuill (‘Point of the Church’). However, any existing chapel is likely to have been post-medieval in date and may relate to the later use of this site as a family burial ground MacKillop (1989, 484).
Martin 1703, 68: ‘The burial-place near the houses [on Boraraigh] is call’d the Monks-Field, for all the Monks that died in the Islands that lie Northward from Egg were bury’d in this little Plot: each Grave hath a Stone at both ends, some of which are 3, and others 4 foot high. There are big Stones with out the Burial-place even with the Ground; several of them have little Vacuities in them as if made by Art: the Tradition is, that these Vacuities were dug for receiving the Monk[s’] Knees, when they pray’d upon ‘em.’
Fisher 2001, 112: Isle of Boreray, North Uist: ‘On the E slope of a low (23m) grassy summit at the SE corner of the island there is the traditional site of a burial-ground known as Cladh Manach […] The cross-marked stone is an irregular earthfast slab measuring 0.44m in visible height by 0.72m in width and 0.12m in thickness. On the W side face there is a much-worn sunken cross, 200mm high and having at mid-height a transom 100mm in span. The terminals are expanded and may originally have been barred.’
Canmore ID 10395, 355243, 319371