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Ui Church Past

LAND ACQUISITION APPEAL FUND

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August News and Events

URRAS EAGLAIS NA H-AOIDHE
The Ui Church Trust
Innis Mara, Garrabost, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0PN

Eaglais na h-Aoidhe or Ui Church is a medieval ruin at the eastern end of the Braighe on the shore of Broad Bay; it is a beautiful location within a large graveyard where many islanders have been buried over the years. The church was originally in the centre of the graveyard, but due to coastal erosion it is now beside the sea

Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe or the Ui Church Trust was established to:
• Safeguard, consolidate and carry out necessary repairs
• Safeguard and enhance the management of the historic cemetery
• Enhance physical and intellectual access to the Church and Cemetery
• Enhance intellectual access to the ecclesiastical heritage of the wider area

Eaglais na h-Aoidhe is very important historically not just to Point, but to the whole of Lewis and the Outer Hebrides. The Urras is hoping for the support of people throughout the world to ensure the church and graveyard get wider acknowledgement of their historic significance both locally and nationally.

Consolidation Work
August 2012 Ui ChurchThis continues to go very well; work on the stabilisation ties in the western chapel has begun; during this work the archaeologist discovered a grave in the centre of the chapel, just below the surface of the ground (see photograph). This has been recorded and re-buried. Nic Boyes, the stone conservator, will be working in August and the Urras will soon have to make decisions as to how the project will be finished.

A site, above and to the right of the main entrance, has been agreed for the commemorative stone which Comunn Eachdraich an Rubha has designed. Their theme is oats and fishes to recognise the importance of crofting and fishing to the area.

Graveyard – once the church consolidation has been completed and it is fully open to the public again the Urras is very keen to start making a record of all the burials in the graveyard. In the meantime a squad of volunteers are going to cut the grass and generally improve the look of the graveyard.

Problems with Ownership
When Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe was planning the project to consolidate the church, one of the biggest, and unexpected, problems they had was to do with who actually owned the site. In order to receive certain public funding the Urras had to take formal title to the ground and buildings involved. This was not expected to be a problem because both the Urras and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the local authority) assumed that the Comhairle was the sole proprietor and they had been very helpful in agreeing to the transfer of title to the Urras. However, once the Urras actually tried to progress the matter things proved more problematical.

Everyone concerned had thought that, following the Church of Scotland Act 1921, all Established Church properties had been transferred to the General Trustees, including Ui Church and graveyard. However Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie's investigation showed that when the massive re-organisation of church properties was carried out that year apparently the old church at Ui was forgotten and not included in the necessary schedule of transferred properties! The nearby Telford Parliamentary Church at Knock of 1827 was included, correctly, but was also referred to as the Ui Church. This was understandable as this was where the local congregation had moved from.

Under the Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act 1925, section 32 all graveyards and burial grounds were transferred to the then local district councils (now the Comhairle) thus the Urras could receive title of the graveyard, but not of the ground on which the church itself stood. It soon became clear that the buildings had not been included in the transfer to the District Council. The Urras eventually discovered that the whole site, including the buildings, was still in the ownership of the Stornoway Trust as successors to the original heritors. With time running out rapidly, due to the time constraints of the public funding, the Urras had to start negotiations with the Stornoway Trust. The Trust had to first be persuaded that they did really own the site. Obviously without the Stornoway Trust's agreement the Urras could not continue with the project.

Furthermore the Urras was left wondering about the position of the Established Church of Scotland – could they still have some residual interest in the buildings – after all they were the intended recipients in 1921. Did they still want it? It was looking very complicated.

At this stage none of the three potential owners of the site - the Established Church, the Comhairle or the Stornoway Trust – were very keen on claiming any kind of responsibility for the site. They all approved of what the Urras was trying to do, but did not want to be part of it. Eventually, on behalf of the Urras, Colin Scott Mackenzie managed to convince all concerned that the Stornoway Trust held the title. The Trust, having been persuaded they owned the land, had then to be persuaded to make it over to the Urras for, hopefully, a nominal sum. Fortunately the Trust and factor could not have been more helpful; they realised the need for a speedy decision and they agreed to give title of the property to the Urras for £1.00. Furthermore the Church of Scotland declared that it had no intention of making any claim on the Ui Church, so all was well at the end.

FRIENDS OF UI CHURCH

Why you should become a Friend – by becoming a Friend you are supporting the on-going consolidation, preservation and maintenance of one of the oldest and most interesting historical sites on the Isle of Lewis. Eaglais na h-Aoidhe is of prime historical and archaeological significance, being one of the best preserved pre-Reformation churches on Lewis.

In addition, as a Friend you will get free access to in-depth reports and minutes of Directors' meetings in the Friends Section of the website, you will receive regular newsletters and you will get discounts on future publications.

You can become a Friend though the website – www.uichurch.co.uk or by sending your contact details (including e-mail address) plus £10.00 to Friends of Ui Church, Innis Mara, Garrabost, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0PN.

FORTHCOMING EVENTS

Saturday 11th August - Open Day at Eaglais na h-Aoidhe - come and see the work that has been done and meet the project manager, the archaeologist, the stone mason and the stone conservator. This will be a good opportunity to discuss the project with the experts and to find out more about the site. The church has been unsafe for many years and the public were excluded for safety reasons; this will be the first time it has been open to the public since then.

Annual General Meeting – the AGM of Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe will be held later this year. If you are interested in attending and/or becoming a Director please contact Liz Chaplin (contact details above).

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