Clan Donald Magazine No11 (1987) Online
Cille Choirill Church Restoration
Cille Choirill Church, a small building
perched high on a Lochaber hillside, less than three miles east of
Roy Bridge, and overlooking the main A86 road, has a place, out of
all proportion to its size, in the hearts of thousands of people
scattered throughout the world. This building commemorates St.
Cairell, Lochaberised Coirell, a 7th century Irish missionary who
established a place of worship in its vicinity.
Cille Choirill is where recorded
Christianity began in Brae Lochaber, and an ancient symbol of home
for many bearing Highland names. Generations of MacDonalds,
Mackintoshes, Campbells, Boyles, Mac Arthurs, Camerons, Macphersons,
Kennedys, Grants, Rankins, MacKillops, MacFarlanes and Macmasters
are buried there alongside Keppoch chiefs, the latter traditionally
interred in and around the church. Two famous Keppoch bards lie
there, Donald son of Finlay of Glencoe origin fl. 1600, and Iain
Lorn, only Gaelic Poet Laureate, who recorded the heroic deeds of
Clan Donald in the turbulent 17th century.
The first recorded building on this hallowed site was built or
restored in atonement for his pillaging by Ailean nan Creach, Allan
of the Forays, a 15th century Cameron who married Mariot daughter of
Angus of Fersit, 2nd chief of Keppoch. Centuries of storms and frost
took their toll, and by the 1920s the church had become a
low-walled, ivy-clad, roofless ruin, its inside filled with rubble.
It had always been a special place to the local inhabitants, but
just how much it meant to those who had left Lochaber for the far
corners of the globe was demonstrated, when Lochaber descendants in
Nova Scotia, inspired by the Rev. John Francis Macmaster, raised
enough money to completely restore the church, which was reopened in
1932 by Bishop Alexander MacDonald of Victoria B.C. another emigrant
After 54 years of attracting thousands of people, and serving the
local people on occasions, several disturbing cracks have developed
in the walls. A preliminary survey has revealed that inspections
costing about �1,000 will have to be carried out over the next four
or five years, and that the price of fully repairing the building
will he in the region of �20,000.
On February 1st 1986, 14 men, most of them able to trace their
Lochaber ancestry back for centuries, undertook a sponsored
re-enactment of the Marquis of Montrose's epic march to the battle
of Inverlochy in 1645 and raised �700. This has been deposited in
the R.C.D. - 1986 Cille Choirill Church Repair Fund, which has been
opened with the approval of the Bishop of the Diocese, the Parish
Priest and people of other denominations.
Other activities are being planned, but this parish of less than 300
souls, realises the impossibility of raising such large sums without
outside help. Lochaber people love and are most anxious to preserve
this soul-stirring monument to their ancestors and to ours, and so,
albeit reluctantly, appeal to your clan sentiments and generosity.
If you would like to help, please make cheques payable to R.C.D. -
1986 Cille Choirill Church Repair Fund and send to:
Mrs Ann MacDonell, Hon. Treasurer,
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