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Re-Dedication of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe

The Opening and Re-Dedication of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe was a great occasion for all concerned. After a doubtful start to the day, the weather on Saturday 26th April brightened up as the day progressed and by 2pm it was bright and sunny, albeit cold.

 

Over 100 people gathered outside the ancient church. Cllr Alasdair Macleod, the Master of Ceremonies, began by welcoming everyone to this historic and very important occasion. The afternoon started with a vigorous rendering of Psalm 24 led by Campbell McKenzie to commemorate the beautifully gilded Gates at the entrance to the graveyard. The gates were designed by architect, Campbell McKenzie and constructed in the Ravenstar Forge, Vatisker by the blacksmith, Dave Eastwood. They depict a range of individuals who were significant to Ui Church over the centuries, including St Columba, St Catan, Somerled, Roderick 7, Margaret Mackinnon and William Mackenzie, 4th Earl of Seaforth.

Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie, vice chair of Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, performed the actual opening ceremony. In view of the cold wind he cut the ribbon first and led the assembled people into the relative shelter of the church. Once inside Colin give a summary of the significance of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe over the centuries, explaining that the ancient ruin was on a site which had a Christian presence for perhaps 1500 years. He then described how the building had fallen into disrepair, with time and the sea taking their toll and that it was only the energy and generosity of the people of Point, who had developed a particular affection for the old stones, who, through the Community Council, launched Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe. The Trust has been able to raise over £300k to stabilise and secure the building. Colin expressed the gratitude of the Trust to Historic Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, LEADER, Point Community Council and The Stornoway Trust for their generous funding, advice and support. A huge amount of work was carried out, mostly unseen, and now the building should be expected to remain standing for many years to come. Colin went on to thank the many people who were involved and who had supported the Urras during the project.

Rev Dr Iain D Campbell, Point Free Church, led the re-dedication service; he read from and reflected on a passage from the book of Ezra and said a prayer of dedication. He also commented on how delighted and moved he was to be taking a Christian service once again in this ancient building. He expressed the hope that this would be the first of many services.

Then Alasdair invited Tom Clark, vice-chair of Point Community Council, to launch a new book - "A Guide to Point". Tom explained that the book, the first ever specifically about Point, was written as a joint project between the Community Council and Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe. It is written by a range of local experts and includes chapters on Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, Archaeology, Natural History, Crofting, the industrial heritage of Point, its maritime history and the book concludes with a Coastal Walk round Point. Tom thanked Liz Chaplin, the editor, and commended everyone to buy copies for their family and friends. Copies are available in Bùth an Rubha and a range of outlets in Stornoway, prove £7.50.

The afternoon ended with a beautiful rendering of Gaelic songs by Caileagan Beag an Rubha. The members of the group are: Allison Mackay (Swordale), Anna Mactaggart (Garrabost), Alice Macmillan (Shader), Rebecca Gearty (Sheshader), Hannah Nicolson (Flesherin) and Laura MacLeod (Broker). Caileagan Beag an Rubha are tutored by Cath Fish and the girls are also members of Coisir Og an Rubha. The songs they sang were Gaol na h-Oige, Beinn a Cheathaich and Ailean Donn. Gaol na h-Oige was written by William Mackenzie from Point for his wife Mary, who is buried just outside the door of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe.

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