Teampull Chriosd

Context
Teampull Chriosd is located on the tidal island of Baile Sear (‘East Town’) on the south-eastern coast of North Uist. The OS Name Books (OS1/18/8/80) record that:

This name is applied to the remains of an ancient chapel said to have been built by the “Lady Amie” at its north-west [end] a portion of it stands about 7 feet high and a few feet in diameter. Sticking tenuously together, with the mortar which was used in the ancient times. The other parts of it are nearly level to the ground and partly covered with grass. An old grave yard (disused) surrounds it and is filled with grass. Situated a short distance to the north by Eachkarnish in the Island of Baleshare.

MacDonald (2010, 163) has highlighted that early charters record a Baillenakill (‘The Town of the Church’) which appears to refer to Teampull Chriosd. This includes ‘the landis of Balnakelie in Illera’ in 1575-6. Here, it important to note that although it now refers to the northern part of the island, in the 16th century (and presumably before that) the name Illeray appears to have referred to the whole island of Baile Sear.

The modern OS map records the site of a cross 300m north of Teampull Chriosd which according to Beveridge (1911, 290) was locally known as Crois Mór. The lack of a surviving cross makes it difficult to draw any conclusions regarding its antiquity.

Discussion
Some sources (see OS Name Books above) record that Teampull Chriosd was founded by Amie (14th C), daughter of Rúaidrí, including Capt. Thomas (1871, 235) who writes that: ‘Mr Carmichael informs me that Christ’s Temple is also believed to have been built by the Lady Amie.’ Several sites in the Western Isles are alleged to have been founded by, or associated with, Amie, but it is often difficult to substantiate these claims. Unlike sites such as Teampull na Trionaid, where claims of a direct association are made from at least the 17th century, traditions do not emerge for this site until the 19th century.

On the other hand, a charter from 1389 which confirms the grant of Teampull na Trionaid to Inchaffray abbey also includes quatuor denariatas terre in ylara inter hussaboste et kanusorrarath ‘four pennylands in Ylara [Illeray] between Hussaboste [Husabost, approx. at NF7762 (see Gammeltoft 2001, 125)] and Kanusorrarath’. It is not clear what the name Kanusorrarath refers to and a different reading giving Kanerrarach has been proposed (Lindsay, W.A., Dowden, J., & Thomson, J.M. 1908, 136). The original name may have been *Camas Bhorogaigh, referring to the island of Bhorogaigh NF782640 to the north of Illeray. This does not necessarily mean that Amie had a direct influence on Teampull Chriosd, but it supports a potential link between the two churches through their connection with Inchaffray abbey and Clann Ruaidri in the medieval period. Additionally, both Baillenakill and Carinish (where Teampull na Trionaid is located) were held by Iona by the end of the sixteenth century MacDonald (2010, 163-5). In light of this, it may have been a connection between these two churches which led to the belief that Teampull Chriosd was built by Amie.

Crucially, although the existence of a church is attested from the sixteenth century, the name Teampull Chriosd is not visible until much later, the earliest map form being the OS 6-inch one. Furthermore, G teampull ‘church’ needs to be considered in the wider context of hagiotoponyms in Uist. The use of teampull as a generic element in place-names in the Outer Hebrides is generally not recorded until the 18th century. Other sites with this element that have earlier forms reveal a consistent pattern where an earlier name in G cill ‘church’ has been replaced by teampull (see for example Teampull na Trionaid and Teampull Chaluim Chille). Therefore, it is very likely that at some point after the Reformation, teampull replaced an earlier form in cill, making it possible to hypothesise that this name would originally have been *Cille Chrìost.

Other Resources
Canmore ID 10020, 10025