St Clement’s Chapel

Context
The site, located on the western coast of North Uist, is marked on the OS 6-inch map as Site of St. Clement’s Chapel with ‘Burial Ground (Disused)’. The remains of the chapel and graveyard are fragmentary (Beveridge 1911, 295). According to the OS Name Books (OS1/18/6/115): ‘This name is applied to the site of an ancient chapel and burying place, situate[d] near the coast 19 chains south from Manish Point. It is dedicated to St. Clement and was the christening chapel and place of worship immediately preceeding Kilmuir (the present parish Church). A stone was recently removed from the site of the above chapel which had a small cavity in it said to be a font.’

Discussion
As discussed under Calmag and Clement, although in its current form, the site is dedicated to St Clement, it originally appears to have been dedicated to St Calmag, as evidenced by its early forms. This is also supported by Watson (2004 (1926), 279) who writes that ‘In North Uist is Kilchalman, “Colman’s Church”’. Since there is a large number of saints named Calmag, it is not clear who the saint in question is, but two possible candidates are St Colmán of Dromore and Bishop Colmán of Lindisfarne (see Calmag). The dedication to St Clement should not be entirely dismissed since at some point, someone clearly made the connection between this saint and the chapel-site, but since the earliest date for the connection is in the 19th century, it is difficult to say when it was made (also see Clement).

If the OS Name Book assertion that St Clement’s Chapel preceded Kilmuir as the parish church is correct it would mean that its use as the parish church pre-dated the 18th century when the new parish church at Kilmuir was built. It may imply that this was a church of some significance in the past, but gives little indication of its medieval origins. Additionally, this would be in contrast with existing evidence which suggests that Kilmuir may have been a site of some importance in the post-medieval period (see Kilmuir). It is worth pointing out that St Clement’s Chapel forms part of a cluster of sites on the western North Uist coast which appear to have strong evidence for medieval (if not early medieval) ecclesiastical activity. In particular, the evidence for Norse interactions with Christianity in this area, centred on Paible to the south, may indicate the existence of Christian sites here before the arrival of the Norse (also see Kilmuir and Paible).

Other Sources
RCAHMS (1928, 50) St Clement’s Chapel, Tighary: ‘At the head of a small bay on the western coast of North Uist, about 400 yards south of Manish Point, and about ½ mile north-north-west of Tighary, within a small disused kirkyard surrounded by the remains of a stone dyke, the foundations of St Clement’s Chapel are still discernible. The building has been oblong, lying almost east and west, and measuring about 14 feet 6 inches in length and about 10 feet 9 inches in breadth internally. The door has been in the western gable. Within the building is a quarter portion of a hollowed stone, possibly an old font. The deep cavity is more conical and narrow at the bottom than that of the usual knocking stone; it tapers downwards from 7 inches at top to 2 inches. On Blaeu’s map (1654) this church is Kilchalma and in Orig. Paroch. Kilchalman. These forms suggest a dedication to Colman, who has been confused with Clement.’

OPS (373): ‘There appear to have been churches or chapels also at Balmartin, Killipheder, Ardavoran (where a cemetery remains), Kilchalman, and Hougary, and in the island of Valay’.

Other Resources
Canmore ID 10102
Saints in Scottish Place-Names (DoSH)‘Kilchalma, eccl. North Uist’