Kirkidale

Context
Similarly to other Uist sites with names coined in Norse denoting some form of Christianity, there is no archaeological evidence for early Christianity in the vicinity of Kirkidale. Attempts have been made to identify remains, but only certain Neolithic and nineteenth-century remains were found (Raven 2005, 167).

Discussion
Although the name certainly denotes Christian activity in the Scandinavian period, it begs the question of whether Kirkidale actually denotes an early church site in the area. OPS (366) records that ‘there were chapels at Kilbride in Boisdale, and at Kildonnan and apparently also at Clachan of Branagh, Clachan Cuay, and Kirkidale, in the other and larger portion of the parish.’ Dòmhnall Iain MacDhòmhnaill (1981, 13) similarly states that there was a small church or community house at Kirkidale:

Bha an eaglais mhór ann an Cille Pheadair air taobh an iar an eilein, is bha na tighean-pobuill, no na h-eaglaisean beaga, an Cille Bhrìghde, an Cill Donnain, an Circeadal, taobh a deas Loch Aoinert, agus aig Clachan a’Chumhaig.

Here, it seems likely that MacDhòmhnaill derives his information from OPS, and the tradition of a church having existed here may ultimately originate from the name Kirkidale and a belief that there ought to have been a church here. There are no traces of such a chapel in the vicinity of Kirkidale onomastically (other than Kirkidale itself) or archaeologically. On the other hand, following surveys of Kirkidale West Moreland (2012, ch 4) argues that the presence of ‘cell-like’ structures ‘is close to what one would expect an early historic monastic site to look like and, given its isolated location and the local tradition and place-name evidence already mentioned, it is possible that, in its earliest phases, this is in fact what it was’. However, this is far from conclusive evidence of an early monastery of church site in the area.

Nevertheless, being coined in Norse, this name clearly reveals some form of medieval Christianity which now appears to have only survived in the place-names. Thus, these names raise important questions regarding what Norse toponyms actually denote. Are they a sign of early contact, indicating a pre-Norse Christian site or, perhaps more likely, were they coined at a time when the Norse had converted to Christianity? Do they indicate the existence of a church in the vicinity at some point or is it more likely that they simply reflect church lands? Ultimately, there is a strong possibility that both Kirkidale and *Crosgard denoted church lands during the Scandinavian period and that they were associated with one of the other church sites on Uist.