Kilneuair, St Columba's Church And Churchyard

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Alternative Names St Columba's Chapel
Canmore ID 22788
Site Number NM80SE 3
NGR NM 88923 03680
Former District ARGYLL AND BUTE
Former County ARGYLL
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Archaeological Notes

NM80SE 3.00 88923 03680

NM80SE 3.01 88904 03681 Oratory

(NM 88923 03680) St Columba's Church (NR) (Remains of)
OS 1:10,000 map, (1975)

The remains of a medieval parish church, dedicated to St Columba, with an oratory close by stand in the churchyard which was still in use as a burial ground at the end of the 19th century.
Of fine workmanship, the church is longer than is usual in the area, with two doors on the south side. There is a damaged table-tomb north of the altar site and a piscina with a trefoil arch. A font, now erected at the west end, was found in three parts nearby. Inside, to the east of the nave door, is a sandstone block bearing a now almost invisible five-toed print with nails on three of the toes and which is referred to as 'the Devil's hand'.
The church is said to have succeeded Killevin (NR 986 972) as the principal church of the Lordship of Glassary until, in the mid-16th century, the centre of the parish was moved to Kilmichael Glassary (NR 859 935). There is a tradition that the stones for the church were brought from Killevin and that no dressing was required, which suggests that the stones of Killevin church were re-used.
The name 'Kilneuair' which is applied to the site (Kilnewir, 1394; Killenevir, 1490; Killenure, 1671) suggests an earlier church, and an older, roughly circular enclosure can be traced inside the churchyard wall, especially on the west and north.
Campbell and Sandeman (1964) translates 'Kilneuair' as 'Coille-nan-Iubhair', ie 'Yew Wood' and suggests that this may be the Columbian site 'Cella Diuni' mentioned by Adomnan, which was certainly in the Loch Awe area and has not hitherto been identified.
There are many carved stones in the churchyard, but no very early ones are obvious, although, near the gate, a millstone sunk in the grass may have served as a cross base.
A village once lay round the church and a market, called 'A' Margadh Dubh' - 'the Black Market' - perhaps in contrast to the gaiety of Kilmichael Tryst, was held here. There are a few house ruins outside the graveyard.
New Statistical Account (NSA) 1845; Orig Paroch Scot 1854; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964.

The remains of the church and burial ground are as described. The church measures 21.1 by 5.7 metres internally within walls 0.8 metres thick and standing to a height of 4 metres. The oratory measures 3.3 by 2.2 metres internally within walls 0.5 metres thick and 2 metres high. There are two medieval carved grave-slabs in the burial ground. The footings of several buildings of indeterminate age survive to the west of the burial ground.
Surveyed at 1:10 000 scale.
Visited by OS (W D J) 2 March 1970.

Books and References

Campbell and Sandeman, M and M (1964) 'Mid Argyll: an archaeological survey', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.95
Page(s): 37, 73, 80-1, 93

NSA (1834-1845) The new statistical account of Scotland by the ministers of the respective parishes under the superintendence of a committee of the society for the benefit of the sons and daughters of the clergy, 15v Edinburgh
Page(s): Vol. 7, (Argyll), 685-6 Held at RCAHMS B.2.2.STA

OPS (1854) Origines parochiales Scotiae: the antiquities ecclesiastical and territorial of the parishes of Scotland,, vol.2, 1 Edinburgh
Page(s): 42-8 Held at RCAHMS C.3.2.BAN

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Charity SC026749