"Preserving the history of the parish of Sleat on the Isle of Skye"
Various sources suggest that the site of Kilmore Church was a place of pagan worship before the Christian era. There is a tradition that St Columba landed on the shore below the churchyard when he visited Skye around 585AD and that he climbed on to a rock to preach to the local people. Nearby on the shore there is a reef known locally as Sgeir Chaluim Cille – St Columba’s Rock.
The earliest recorded church at Kilmore is said to have been built by a priest called Crotach MacGille Gorm who was a canon of Beauly Abbey. It dates from the early 13th century. This church was in use until the early 17th century when it was burned down during a battle between the MacLeods and the MacIntyres, a sept of Clan Donald. The battle took place in a field near the church. The MacIntyres were put to flight and ran for sanctuary into the church. The pursuing MacLeods barricaded the doors and burned the heather-thatched church to the ground with the MacIntyres inside it. There is no trace now of this building.
The second church at Kilmore, the ruins of which still stand in the churchyard, was built around 1681 at the behest of Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat. This was the church visited almost a century later by Dr Johnson and James Boswell on their tour of the Hebrides. Boswell writes “I walked to the parish church of Slate, which is a very poor one.” However he was very impressed with the monument in the church in memory of the young late chief Sir James Macdonald (a monument later transferred to the present church). Boswell refers to Sir James as “this extraordinary young man , whom I had the pleasure of knowing intimately” and he quotes the inscription in full in his “Journal”.
The Old Church was in constant use until 1874, by which time the building had fallen into serious disrepair and Lord Macdonald agreed to the building of a new church. The third and present church at Kilmore was opened in 1876, large enough to hold six hundred worshippers. This church was in regular use until by the mid 1980s it was in a state of poor repair and was threatened with closure. However a group was set up to save Kilmore as a place of regular worship and as a result of vigorous fundraising, and awards from several Trusts, a sum of £40,000 was raised for the restoration of the church.
There is a plaque in the foyer of the church which commemorates the magnificent contribution made by the Friends of Kilmore, both at home and abroad, to the repair and restoration of the church.
Mission Churches in Sleat
St Columba Church, Isleornsay
The Mission Church at Isleornsay was built by Messrs Forbes & Macleod of Stornoway. It was formally opened on Tuesday 27 August 1901. Services in Gaelic and English were conducted by the Very Reverend Dr Norman MacLeod, Inverness, Ex-Moderator of the General Assembly.
Among many generous gifts for the new church was a Baptismal Font in Caen Stone given by Major and Mrs Kemble, Knock and a Communion Table in oak gifted by Lady Macdonald. Both of these are now in use in Kilmore Church.
A “time capsule” was placed with a memorial stone in the wall of the church. This consisted of a bottle containing records of fundraising, a newspaper cutting, church magazine pages and a coin of every denomination dated 1898 the year when the appeal for funds to build a church was launched.
A Beadle and a Precentor were appointed for the new church. John Nicolson was appointed as Beadle, Bellman, Fireman, and Caretaker of the grounds and church generally at a salary of £4 per annum.; Alex Macinnes was to be Precentor in Gaelic at £3 per annum.
The church continued in use until it was closed in the 1970’s and reverted back to the estate owner.
In 1906 a request was made by the parish minister, Rev A Cameron for a site for a mission church at the southern tip of the parish. This was agreed and the church was built and put on a feu in 1908. By this time the Kilmore minister had assistance from two missionaries, one stationed at Isleornsay and a second missionary serving Aird and Tarskavaig.
The church builder was a Mr Donald Fletcher from Tobermory and the cost was £499. The records show that “A supply of good stone has been found in the bank of the burn, close by the site of the church. Sand had, of necessity, to be won off the seashore, at the foot of croft 16; lime, slates etc were brought in a smack, landed with difficulty in small boats, and all had to be carried to the site, with great labour on pony-back.”
Aird church opened for Divine Worship on Wednesday 6 May 1908. The opening service was conducted by Rev Hector MacKinnon, Minister of Shettleston.
Mr Angus Macfadyen was the first missionary for Aird & Tarskavaig. He left for Canada in 1914 and was replaced by Mr John Macintyre.
The first Beadle to be appointed was Donald Macgillivray, Elder, No 18 Aird.
This church continued in use until finally closed and sold for conversion to a family home in the 1980s.
The Church and Manse at Ardvasar were built by the United Free Church of Scotland following the split in the Free Church. The church building was completed around 1910 and the manse soon afterwards. It was built on land which was tenanted by the MacIntyre family who had the Ardvasar Hotel at that time and who were strong supporters of the UF Church. In 1929 the United Free Church united with the Church of Scotland and from then on Church of Scotland Missionaries occupied the Manse helping the Parish Minister with his pastoral duties until 1979 when the last missionary Mr Vass was tragically killed together with his wife in a motor accident.
Both the Church and Manse were sold by the Church of Scotland and are now private dwelling houses.
Ardvasar Church and Manse