Station 5 – Medieval Grave Slabs
The Kirkyard contains a mixture of several West Highland Medieval grave slabs which have been constantly exposed to weather and wear (footfall) and others that have had very little exposure and maintained their carved features and remain covered by turf. The style of carvings on the grave slabs give a date range, and indicate there are, for example, Iona and Loch Awe style carvings with single handed swords and two handed Claymore indicative of dates of pre 1500 and 1500-1560 respectively.
If you look into the railed enclosure in front of you from the south east side you will be able to see a group of remarkably well preserved heavily carved grave slabs with symbols typical of the post-reformation period. The reformation in 1560 halted the carvings and symbology associated with funerary memorials, but that slowly changed so by 1600 we start to see elaborate carvings on grave slabs and headstones. These carvings, even without inscriptions, now give us clues as to the occupation, pursuits, wealth and position in the community of those memorialised.
While looking into the railed enclosure, look down and you should see a recumbant slab which is an 1693 memorial to Alexander McDougall of Corrilorne (#29) who died in 1623. It has become very worn because of its exposure to weather and footfall. The carving originally comprised: an armorial flanked on the right by a female figure, to the left a kilted warrior spear one hand, the other hand on his sheathed sword. At the bottom, the hull of a galley can just be seen. Up here on the hill there are still several West Highland medieval graves to be uncovered or discovered. They are currently protected by the turf, but unavailable to be seen; however, that is not a long term solution as they will best be protected when raised and under a roof.
There are several effective ways to protect them while still making them accessible for viewing and research which include transparent covers, putting them inside a building or erecting a protective roof over them. Examples of these options can be seen at Ardchattan Priory, Kilmartin and Iona Abbey. It will be an exciting day when the history of the people who lived here, passed through and those who stayed forever can be easily seen and celebrated as our antecedents on whose shoulders we proudly stand.
When you are ready to move onto Station 6, return to the path and walk down towards the ruins, pausing when you have a clear view of them.
This voice clip was read by Bob Irving