The date of Trumpan Church has not been established, but it could have been there back as far as the 1300s. When it was in use it was known to its Gaelic-speaking congregation as Cille Chonain (St Conan’s Church).
Located at the far north end of Waternish the ruins of Trumpan Church and the graveyard have several stories to tell.
Trumpan was once a thriving medieval township; and this simple rectangular church served as its focal point. The story of both the township and its church came to an end on the first Sunday in May 1578.
THE BATTLE OF THE SPOILING OF THE DYKE
On the first Sunday in May 1578, whilst the local MacLeods were gathered in the church for worship, the MacDonalds of Uist barricaded the church and set fire to the thatch. This was a revenge attack. Only one of the MacLeods survived, a young girl, who escaped out of a tiny window and ran to Dunvegan for help. An army of MacLeods came to Trumpan, having raised the Fairy Flag, and killed the MacDonalds, who were asleep from their exertions and drink. The MacDonald bodies were lined up beside a dry stone wall (dyke) and were buried by having the dyke pushed over on top of them.
THE STORY OF RACHEL CHIEIESLEY, LADY GRANGE:
Rachel’s gravestone can be seen in the Trumpan Graveyard.
Rachel Chiesley was born in 1678. She married James Erskine, the Lord Advocate of Scotland.
Lord and Lady Grange lived in Edinburgh until 1730 when their marriage broke down, mainly due to Lord Grange’s affairs when he was in London as an MP.
Rachel became an embarrassment as she used to stand outside his house shouting obscenities; she also threatened to reveal that Lord Grange had been involved in the 1715 Jacobite rising.
Lord Grange arranged, in April 1732, for Rachel to be kidnapped from her home in Edinburgh, she was taken to various places around the Highlands including Linlithgow, Polmaise Castle (near to Stirling), the island of Haskeir and then in May of 1734 to Hirta, St Kilda. Rachel was held here for the next eight years, in which time, her husband announced her death and there was a false funeral.
Rachel managed to communicate from St Kilda with her cousin, but before rescue could take place, Rachel was moved again, this time to Skye; here she was left to survive alone for three years in a local cave.
JOHN BOWLBY: THE FATHER OF ATTACHMENT THEORY
John Bowlby’s gravestone can be seen in Trumpan Graveyard.
He was an English psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst. He is known for his work on child development and his leading contribution to attachment theory.
He died at his summer home on Skye, aged 83 in 1990.
CLACH DEUCHAINN (THE TRIAL STONE)
Clach Deuchainn is a prehistoric standing stone, also known as the Priest’s Stone or the Heaven Stone; it stands in the grounds of the church.
It is said that if an accused person can insert their index finger into the hole near the top whilst blindfolded, they are innocent.
Thanks to Pat Myhill, Angus Mcghie & Gill Williams for photos.