Welcome to the Ui Church

April - Eaglais na h-Aoidhe

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 seaSt Columba's April 2012
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

Consolidation Work - major consolidation work started in 2011 to prevent further deterioration and to make the church accessible once again to the local community. The main path has been replaced and work is continuing on the masonry. A temporary wooden roof and floor have been erected in the western chapel; these are completely free standing so that they won't damage the historic walls yet they have allowed work to continue throughout the winter months. Also external timber platforms have been put up; these give a good base for access to walls and the erection of scaffolding as well as protecting graveslabs from any damage during the work.

Ground probing has been carried out to assess the stability of the site, especially on the seaward side. We are waiting for a final report to see whether any further work to the foundations of the church is required.

Archaeological Survey – before the consolidation work started a very detailed survey was done; the final report is not published yet, but as Colin Scott Mackenzie told us in his recent talk to the Stornoway Historical Society, the roof in the main part of the building (the older, eastern chapel) did not fall in; it was deliberately and carefully removed, possibly as long as 250 years ago, probably to let this part of the church be used as a burial place. In the meantime the western chapel continued to be used as a place of worship until about 1845. The other fascinating information from the survey is the age of the earliest part of the church. The earliest documentary evidence dates from 1426; however it is now clear from the survey that part of the north wall dates from before that; possibly 13th century or earlier.

St Columba's April 2012Future Plans – Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe is developing a website and planning Friends of Ui Church; with both of these we aim to engage with people throughout the world. We are aiming to produce a variety of leaflets and booklets including a guidebook. Interpretation boards are being updated and eventually we will promote tourism by having our own trained tour guides for visits to the church.

We have also invited Comunn Eachdraich an Rubha to chose an appropriate theme for a replacement stone for the external east gable. The archaeological survey identified an important but previously unrecognised feature near the apex in this gable. This was a small block of fine sandstone set in the centre of the upper gable, contrasting with the surrounding masonry, projecting slightly from the face of the wall, and which had presumably originally been carved, although it is now eroded beyond recognition.

Plans are afoot to establish an annual award, related to Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, which would be open to all pupils in Sgoil an Rubha. We are also hoping that in the future we can develop suitable educational materials to fit in with Curriculum for Excellence.

What the Urras is doing now is only the start of a huge project; we would like to record every grave, we want to research into the roles of the Macleods, Mackenzies, Mathesons, Nicolsons and others in the history of the church; we may be able to get funding to roof the western chapel in the fairly near future and eventually for the eastern part as well. We must also raise enough money for the necessary on-going maintenance of the church and graveyard.

Oral History – once the website is up and running we aim to have space for oral history. We are aware that many people, both on the island and abroad, know of people buried in the graveyard and other associations with the church. We would love to hear from you; our registered address is at the top of this article; please write to us if you have anything which might be of interest – especially if it can shed light on grave stones which are no longer readable.

FORTHCOMING EVENTS

June 2012 – the next big event is on Friday 8th June 2012 in Sgoil an Rubha. It will be a lecture by Mr Sandy Matheson, the Lord Lieutenant, with the launch of the website and Friends of Ui Church. Hopefully it will be possible to have guided tours of the church the following day.

Spring 2013 – once the consolidation work is finished there will be a rededication of the church.

Slighe Chaluim Chille – it is our hope that Eaglais na h-Aoidhe will be part of St Columba's Trail.

June 2013 – we are planning to have an annual lecture as near as possible to St Columba's Day, which is on 9th June.

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