Pabaigh is described in the OS Name Books (OS1/18/12/81) as ‘an island of considerable size situated in the N.W. of Lochboisdale, at high water it is divided into a number of small islands, but at low water, they are all accessible’. Eilean nan Imireachan NF776185 (G eilean ‘an island’ + G imrich (pl.) ‘procession’) is located ca. 1km to the south of Pabaigh (Papar Project; Dwelly), but it is uncertain if an ecclesiastical function is implied here.
Raven (2003, 135) has identified a potential early monastic settlement on the southern part of the island consisting of several cellular structures.
For an introduction to the study of papar-sites in the North Atlantic region, see Paible. The Papar Project survey notes several key-differences between Pabaigh and other papar-sites assessed in the project, concluding that:
This ‘papar’ island in S.Uist is an anomaly among all the known Pabbays and Papays. It is of no agricultural value, and situated in a totally different type of location, in the sheltered inner reaches of Loch Boisdale/Baghasdail. This opens onto the Minch, and is therefore easily accessible by boat, but is not on any sort of sailing route. The islands are tidal and so accessible in a way that no other papar island is. (Papar Project)
This is in contrast with Paible in North Uist which follows the pattern of papar-sites in the North Atlantic region more closely. On the other hand, as Crawford and Simpson (2008, 9) point out, this Pabaigh (in South Uist) may have ‘had some useful strategic qualities, being in a very sheltered natural harbour and with easy access to fertile machair lands to the west.’
We should perhaps also look to the east to find a possible explanation for the location of this papar-site. Pabaigh is located ca. 2km west of Cladh Choinnich, the traditional site for *Cill Choinnich on the western slope of Beinn Ruigh Choinnich. There may be reason to believe that the dedications to St Coinneach in Uist represent an early phase of Christianity in Uist (see Coinneach) and there could be a link between Pabaigh and *Cill Choinnich. If this is the case, the access to fertile lands to the west through Pabaigh may be a key factor.
Canmore ID 270752
Grid reference: NF778197
Also see the island south of Pabaigh (Eilean nan Imireachan ‘The Island of Processions’ NF776185)
ON papi/papar* + ON ey ‘an island’ = *Papa-ey
*for a full discussion of the linguistics of the term papar see Crawford (2005, 2.3).
?1825 Bald Pabbay
1832 Thomson Pabbay
OS 6-inch Pabbay