Clanranald Armorial Stone

Clach Chlann ‘ic Aileann

The   panel   came   from   an   ancient religious settlement at Howmore, the most  ancient  Church   site  in  South Uist, and was thought to have been originally built into the wall of one of the Chapels.    As the Chapel fell into disrepair, the panel was left lying against a remaining wall in  the graveyard.

Howmore's origins may go back over a thousand years,  to the dawn  of Christianity in the Western Isles - the era of the Celtic Church.    The site consists of two Churches and three Chapels although only two Chapels can now be seen.

According   to   Martin   Martin,   the Churches  were  dedicated  to  Mary and to Columba respectively.    One of  the   surviving   Chapels   is   called Caibeal   Chlann  ‘ic  Ailean, Clanranalds'  Chapel.     It is  to this Chapel that the armorial panel belonged.

The MacMhuirichs say that the famous Clanranald chief, lain Muideartaich left funds to erect the Chapel at Howmore where he was buried in 1574.

Stone Goes Missing 1990

It was  noticed that the stone was missing from the site, early in 1990. The police were notified, but said no action could be taken as no ownership could be established.

The  Chapel  where  the   stone had been lying is in Howmore Township common grazing.  Neither  South Uist Estate  nor the  local  authority  had responsibility. The Department of the  Environment had  "listed'   the walls of the Chapel,  but not the stone. There  appeared  to be  no criminal case for the defacement of the Chapel nor for desecration, as the stone was not a grave marker.

Appeals   by   the   local   community, press publicity, etc. were to no avail. The stone  appeared to have disappeared without trace and  lost for good!

Stone found 1995

In late 1995, the stone turned up at a flat in Euston, London. A Mr & Mrs Maben had come from Canada to clear out the flat which had been occupied by their son who had recently died. They found the stone, and photos of the stone being removed from Howmore. Their late son along with an unnamed friend was the mysterious stone taker. Mr Maben, noticing the ornate carving of the stone, contacted the British Museum who recognised the stone from his description and they in turn contacted the Scottish National Museum.

The stone was undamaged in spite of the 600 mile journey, and three house moves. The stone was cleaned up, returned to  Uist in 1999, and handed over to the South Uist Historical Society, representing the people of the Island.

The stone is now on permanent display at Kildonan Museum.

The Myth

The news about the stone's recovery, first reported in the Stornoway Gazette, was picked up by a local "stringer" and passed to the national papers, one of which ran a sensational story about the "curse of the stone" having "claimed this young man's fife'.

In South Uist, tales of a legendary curse began to surface. Folklore has it that anyone who desecrated the ancient grave place would be doomed to meet an early death.

It is said that the "Curse" was responsible for the death of Lawrence Mabon at the age of 33 years. Apparently, Lawrence had lived a somewhat hippy lifestyle, and died in his sleep.

A verdict of death by misadventure was recorded at the inquest into his death.

Made     from     Sandstone     from  

     Carsaig, Isle of Mull.

Approx  75cm  x  80cm  by  15cm thick.

Weight About 160kg (350 Ibs).

Date late 16th or early 17th century.

Carved with Arms of Clanranald.