Cille Bhrìde

Context
Located on the southern coast of South Uist, at the time of the OS Name Book survey, the exact location of the church of Cille Bhrìde was uncertain and they record that: ‘This name is applied to the Site of an ancient burying ground it is situate[d] a short distance to the S W [South West] of Kilbride House nothing remains to shew the exact site but it is well known through tradition as an ancient burying ground and in confirmation of the above belief human remains were found here when excavating previous to building the offices in connection with Kilbride House which are partly built on the site’ (OS1/18/12/114). The name now applies to the settlement of Cille Bhrìghde, located just north of the original church site. The name Ceann Tràigh na Croise NF756141 (The Head/end of the Beach of the Cross), located ca. 1km west of the church site gives evidence of the Christian landscape of the past, despite the fact that no such cross now remains. Following excavations at the large mound at West Cille Bhrìgdhe NF753142, Raven (2005, 480-81) concluded that there may have been ‘medieval occupation at the site, but the overwhelming weight of the ceramic evidence suggests that this settlement was predominantly Middle Iron Age in date.’

Discussion
There can be no doubt that the saint commemorated here is St Brìde of Kildare, but beyond that very little can be said with any great certainty. In similarity with sites such as Kilmuir dedicated to Mary, Brìde’s universality as a saint makes it difficult to trace the history of the site precisely, both in terms of dating and association. Although her cult is sometimes viewed as having a particularly ‘pastoral’ character, we should be cautious of making such assumptions since her cult may equally reflect distinctly international characteristics (Clancy 2013, 24-5).

The abundance of early map forms indicates a relatively early coining, but it is not clear at what point in time the name appearing on the maps began referring to the settlement rather than the church. It is worth noting that Pont uses the symbol for a settlement rather than a kirk on his map, but it would be conjectural to draw any definite conclusions regarding chronology based on this. This name may represent a pre-Norse dedication to Brìde, but other alternatives should be considered. It has recently been argued that Brìde’s cult may have been particularly attractive to Scandinavian Christians in the North Sea region, including the Gall-Ghàidheil (Clancy 2013, 29-30, but also see Edmonds 2013). If viewed in this context, it is possible that the Cille Bhride reflects a dedication from the Scandinavian period in the Hebrides. Also see Brìde for further discussion of this saint.

Other sources
OS Name Books (OS1/18/12/115): ‘This name is applied to the Site of an ancient burying ground it is situate[d] a short distance to the S W [South West] of Kilbride House nothing remains to shew the exact site but it is well known through tradition as an ancient burying ground and in confirmation of the above belief human remains were found here when excavating previous to building the offices in connection with Kilbride House which are partly built on the site.’

Other resources
Canmore ID 9802