Saturday, 7 March 2015

Archaeology of St Comghan's Churchyard

We've had some 40mm of rain in the last 24 hours, brought in on a strong westerly wind, so today wasn't a great day for the course on graveyard archaeology, run by our friends Cara Jones and Phil Richardson at the 'Adopt a Monument' section of Archaeology Scotland.  Fortunately, most of the learning was done at the Kilchoan Learning Centre before we set off for St Comghan's.

St Comghan's dates back to at least the 13th century, and there was probably a church on the site well before that.  The area is now a scheduled historic monument, the last burials here being about twenty years ago.  Highland Council cuts the grass, but Historic Scotland is responsible for repairs - and the first thing the group noticed was that a wall of what we take to be a small family mausoleum has fallen down.  This will be reported to Historic Scotland and, hopefully, a repair will be effected, but it serves to illustrate the danger of rapid deterioration of many of the graves.

The project which is planned by Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology will be to map the graveyard, record the location of each grave, and add as much information as possible about the person interred there.  It's hoped to put this on-line so it's accessible to people who cannot visit the church.

In places in the churchyard there are these metal markers, which suggest that, at one time, a record of burials was maintained, but we don't know where that record is held - if it still exists.  If anyone has any suggestions, we'd be grateful.

The churchyard has some nationally important monuments in it, including two grave slabs of the Iona school of carving, dating back to the 14th or 15th centuries - see the MacIain website here.  However there are several other slabs of stone which might be overturned grave slabs.  Because the whole site is an historic monument, we cannot move them, but the carvings on some of them might be accessible with a bit of ingenuity.


  1. Mary McLauchlan7 March 2015 at 20:23

    Hi Jon, I don't know the cemetery you are looking at, but if it comes under the jurisdiction of the local council, they should have a record of all graves, if they maintain it still. It maybe that the cemetery is far to old for that.

  2. Many of these graves are looked after by family members to this day and it is worrying to see a place where these families have relatives at peace being a place of interest by an amateur archaeology team. The recording of burials is very insensitive, my grandparents lie here.
    Repairs are one thing, has any of your amateur archaeological team got relatives here?

  3. We have talked to people in the community who have close relatives buried in the churchyard, and have not encountered opposition until this comment. Historic Scotland and Archaeology Scotland have encourage us to carry out a sensitive recording of the location of burials, not least because it makes them accessible to people who cannot come here to visit the site.

    It is not intended to touch anything. Historic Scotland is being approached about the wall that has collapsed. Usually, they bring in a contractor to repair such damage. Otherwise, the only maintenance is by Highland Council, for whom a contractor cuts the grass.

    If, despite these assurances, you are still concerned, please email me at and I will suggest to the group that we reconsider the project.


  4. Its far to soon for this kind of interest from any group to carry out this kind of project.It is very close to a lot of people from the area, not only were my grand parents interred but cousins, aunties, uncles & close friends. Whom you spoke to in the community is of no relevance as they do not carry the memories of myself, & others in my age group.
    With respect.

    1. john mac gillivray19 March 2015 at 17:55

      i have family in that graveyard and i am raging at photo of DAVE CASH doing what he in doing i think it is Sacrilege.if you were a bit younger and in a city you would be classed as Vandals especially when you are not PROFESSIONALS.that is total disregard for locals who still have relatives there. i will say that i thought Jon had more compassion