Clachan Village Church

Ian McDonald This small Scottish country church is a rectangular building, facing east west with a bell cot on the south gable. The location is between two streams and it is thought that this has been a place of worship since the sixth century. The church serves the Parish of Kilcalmonell, dedicated to St. Colmonella or St. Columbanus, a follower of St Columba. The original entries were to the north and south, the two main windows and side windows face east, and there was also a much larger arched aperture beneath the west end of the church. (Royal Commission of Ancient Monuments Volume 1)

The History of The Church
According to Clan Donald by the Rev. A McDonald, Volume 1 a charter for the erection of a church was granted from The Lord of the Isles to the monks of Paisley in 1455, who owned land in Clachan. An entry of Loup Estate Papers reads that the church was in ruins, without a roof in 1695 and the date of the present church is supposed to be around 1760. As one enters a tiny porch, added in 1952, the rectangular pulpit with arched backboard, communion table, carved chairs and wooden seat come into view. The pulpit, to the design of that of a Free Church, is made of beautiful dark wood from East Africa. This together with the other furnishings were donated by Sir William McKinnon during the 19th century, who was a member of the Free Church. Above the pulpit the figure of a pale blue dove symbolises eternal peace, the spirit of God and, to the left, the Christening Font, it also serving as a stand for decorative flower arrangements, the words SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME carved in a circle around it. A plaque reads that the font was presented to St. Kieran Church, dedicated in 1920 and, in fact, this and the two wooden chairs were bought from a Glasgow church, the pews appear older and are arranged so that the deeper rows are situated to the right and left of the pulpit. The unusual gallery reaches far into the room and gives an impression of a false ceiling. Only if one stands in the centre of the church does one become aware of the true ceiling, a small rectangular wooden area, built in medieval fashion. The gallery holds as many people as the congregation downstairs and it is thought that it was added during the early 19th century. The reason for this arrangement could be because this small church had to serve rather a large area, namely the main part of North Kintyre, Kilberry including some members from Tarbert Although in 1753 Skipness and Saddell had been separated off. One has to keep in mind that the population of Scotland increased during the second half of the 18th century. (Smout) In 1821 the population of the Parishes of Kilcalmonell and Kilberry counted 3578 members and in 1891 the number was 2289. (Statistical Account Argyll & Bute) However Clachan provided three places of worship during the 19 th century: Kilcalmonell Parish Church, the Wee Free Church and a United Free Church Hall.


Within the church walls a soldier is buried. The grave is supposed to exist below the arch to the vestry, dating back to the battle of Culloden in 1746. When alterations to the church took place members of his family insisted that this grave should not be disturbed and as a result it was included into the building. The two plaques on the east wall are in memory of • Captain William Mackinnon, Younger of Balinakil and Loup, killed in active service in 1917. • Sergeant-Navigator Alexander McAuslan McKinlay, son of the farmer at Corran farm. Alexander was the only person from the parish to lose his life in active service in the 1939 - 45 war.

Graveyard Surrounding Clachan Village Church - The Parish Church of Kilcalmonell
As one approaches the church one becomes aware that the gateway serves simultaneously as a war memorial of World War I. Above the iron gate a stone carving can be seen, depicting the setting sun behind mountains and faint outlines of figures and animals on either side. An incised cross stands high above and below the letters GUS AM BLO AN LA can be read. The names of soldiers lost between the years 1914-19 are carefully carved into the stone pillars on either side of the gate. Two plaques, depicting an ancient galley and a knight on horseback, saved from an older construction, are fixed to each half of the gate. The funeral monuments, which are still recognisable, can be divided into early Christian, Medieval, 18th Century, early, late 19th Century and 20th Century stones. Of particular interest and mentioned in Volume 1 Kintyre (Royal Commission of Ancient Monuments) are the early Christian and Medieval stones as well as the grave of Donald McGill tenant in Carinmore, who died in 1757. The latter bears a presentation of a four horse plough team. The former stones are protected by a roof stand against the west wall of the churchyard. However some are so worn that the fine decorative carving can hardly be recognised.

Stones of The Early Christian Period
This is a roughly dressed slab, bearing a deeply incised hammerhead cross. The arms and stem of the cross are open at the ends, (Volume 1 Kintyre) Another stone, situated on the far right, bears a Latin cross and a ring cross on one and the same stem. The Latin cross is in false relief. It has incised circles at the centre and on each of the side arms. (Volume 1 Kintyre) This stone is of particular interest as it combines the two early Christian cultures that of Rome and that of Celtic people in a very simple form.

Stones of The Medieval Period 14th - early 17th Century
The medieval stones display swords, straight quillons, bulbons, terminals, foliage and beasts. At the bottom of one stone a pair of shears can be found and further below two plain tablets can be seen. On the same stone a secondary inscription of the late 17* or early 18th century has been cut, partly on the blading of the sword and partly on the adjacent slip. This reads Archibald McAlister of Dun Skeig, brother to Ronald McAlister. (The stone is attributed to the Kintyre school of Stone Masons, dating from the 15th century) It is thought the Ronald McAlister of this inscription is the person named on the next stone. This has a bevelled edge on which is a debased form of nail-head moulding. On the upper surface there is a wide margin, subdivided by a grove and within this is a single row of foliage ornament, comprising two intertwined stems, enclosing leaves of symmetrical palmette form. On the stone there is a secondary inscription reading - This is the burial place of Ronald McAlister of Dun and Mary McNill (McNeil) and their children 1707. (Iona school of Stone Masons 14 th - early 16th century)


Among the medieval stones depicting swords one has the hilt of a sword centrally placed at the top of the stone. This stone is very worn and broken into two pieces. Down the right side of the slab is a secondary inscription reading - Here lies the corps of Duncan Mc ( achan) Tenant in L (o) up who died Jan. 16(93). A third line is completely illegible. (Circa 15th century)

Post - Reformation Grave
This grave is situated near the entrance of the church and the inscription reads - Here lies Mulmorich Darroch, person (parson) in Kilcalmon, he died 10th March 1638 aged 63. He was instituted to the charge of the Parish in or before 1629.

Early and Late 19th Century Stones
The early 19th century stones up to the first half of the century demonstrate fine craftsmanship in script and decoration. They provide a valuable source of information of a by-gone age. In many cases names, dates and occupation are still legible e.g. the grave of the shoemaker. The later 19th century monuments become more substantial in size and ornaments, including urns and drapes. The most outstanding ones are of the McKinnon family of Balinakil and Loup.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful