Welcome to the Ui Church

May 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 sea

May St Columba's Church Isle of LewisUrras 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 - the consolidation work is continuing as a very good pace and work on the internal and external walls of the eastern chapel is well underway. Information notices are being attached to the main gate off the Braighe and the one into the graveyard.

Problems with English – the Gaelic name of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe has not caused any problems, but the English translation has been variously Eye / Ui / Uidh Church. It seems that Aoidhe, meaning isthmus, derives from the Old Norse word 'ey' or 'øy', which has been translated as Eye or Ui in English; Uidh being a gaelicised version of Ui – just to further complicate things!

The Urras consulted the Gaelic section in the Comhairle, who were very helpful; their research indicated that the first mention of the area is made by Dean Monro in 1549, who refers to it as the "Eye Peninsula" and in Blaeu's Atlas in 1654 it is also referred to as Eye. James Johnson's Placenames of Scotland (1892) also refers to the area as Eye. However references to the church site and parish in historical/archaeological texts in the last two centuries most often refer to it as 'Ui'; for example:

"Certain it is, that the only place of worship in the parish was built on an isthmus. But, from time out of memory, the parish consisted of three districts; Stornoway, Gress and Ui. In each district, there was a place of worship erected; and the ruined walls of two chapels are still remaining, one at Ui, the other at Gress. It is only within the last forty years, that the ancient place of worship in Stornoway was levelled, for the purposes of building a safer and more commodious church for the increasing population. The church at Stornoway was dedicated to St Lennan, that of Ui to St Collum, and that of Gress to St Aula." (Cameron 1833, 115)

"Ui appears to have remained as an independent parsonage until immediately prior to the Reformation" (Mackenzie 1903, 521; Cowan 1967, 64)

The former parish church of Ui, dedicated to St Columba and under the patronage of the Macleods of Lewis, was the principal church of Lewis throughout the medieval and early modern period [....]. During the medieval period, there appear to have been only four parishes in Lewis, declining to two – Barvas and Ui – after the Reformation (Monro 1549 (1994), 521; Martin Martin 1703 (2003), 27-8; Mackenzie 1903, 524; Cowan 1967, 64, 136)

The recommendation of the Gaelic section was that Eaglais na h-Aoidhe probably ought to be Ui Church in English. Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe therefore decided that from now on Ui Church would be the translation used.

Future Plans – Work on the website is going well – we are aiming to have it ready by June so that it links in with the launch of Friends of Ui Church. The website will be invaluable in reaching out to people throughout the world. We are aiming to produce a variety of leaflets and booklets including a guidebook.

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.


Archaeological Survey – this is being prepared for publication

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 re-dedication 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.