MHG39489 - Cemetery, Creagan A'Bheannaich Chapel


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Type and Period (2)

  • CEMETERY (Undated)
  • (Alternate Type) HOMESTEAD (Undated)

Protected Status

Full Description

Creagan a' Bheannaich (NR) OS 6"map, (1963)

'A round low hillock covered with stones, remains of a chapel and graveyard. No one of present age has seen anyone interred here, but some of them can point out two or three graves with rough flat stones over them shown to them by there forefathers. There is nothing of the chapel to be seen except a few large scattered stones. To whom it has been dedicated is not known unless, as some say, there has been a saint of name of Bheannaich. A large stone which stood on end somewhere near this place was broken down for building purposes. Part of it is still to be seen in a wall near Tigh a Bheannaich ('House of the Blessing': ND 040 577). Cut on that part of this stone which is in sight, is a cross and a small circle. Besides this there was an inscription on it, written in Hebrew, but that is not anywhere to be seen.'
Name Book 1873.

At Sandside House (NC 95 65) there is a stone with incised symbols which was found built into a stone dyke not far from Thigh a' Bheannaich, a name which suggests site of an ancient oratory or church. The stone is a rectangular sandstone block 2ft 5ins long, 9ins broad, and 8ins thick. On face is incised a small stemmed circle or orb, 4ins in diameter, containiing an equal- armed cross. The stem is 3.5ins long, 1ins broad where it joins the circle, and 1.5ns at base. Beneath, and occupying breadth of the stone is a plain circle with a diameter of 8ins.
RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910.

In Shurrery there is a chapel 'called Rheanauchan which seems to be St Benedict's, and it is observable about place that highland people have a great many expressions which seem to be Latin.'
W Macfarlane 1906-8; T Pennant 1774.

This is an oval grass-covered stony mound measuring 17m NW-SE by 14m transversely and 0.5m high. There are upright stones on E, S and W sides, but other than these there is nothing to indicate that a chapel and graveyard existed in area; and site strongly resembles the remains of a cairn being comparable with sites ND05NW 6, 7 and 11. Visited by OS (E G C) 11 April 1961.

Apparently the remains of a very early church, with associated structures, on a turf-covered mound. The mound is about 5ft high, stren with earthfast boulders, some massive, and a few orthostats. The possible church surmounts the mound and measures 22ft N-S by 17ft E-W, and has rounded corners and walls about 2ft thick which are new merely turf-covered footings of large boulders. There is a possible entrance E of centre of S wall. There are earthfast boulders all over interior, and at N end is a heap of stones and boulders which is possibly an altar platform, though it is not against the wall. There are indications of other small structures on mound.
W Macfarlane (1906-8) version of the name 'Rheanauchan' should be 'Bheanauchan' from 'Beannachd', 'benediction' or 'blessing', and the assumption of a dedication to St Benedict presumably derives from this, and so has no real authority.
A S MacDonald and L R Laing 1969.

There is strong evidence for a church or chapel in this position based on name Creagan a' Bheannaich (verified), discovery of a cross-slab, local tradition of a chapel and graveyard, and turf-covered footings of building itself, which is as described and planned by RCAHMS, although there are possible traces of a turf-covered wall extending 3-4m further S. However, alleged graveyard is a distinct stony mound, as described by OS field surveyor (EGC), and closely resembles Carn Liath (ND05NW 7) and other mounds in Shurrery area (cf ND05NW 11, 12), which may be pre-Christian homesteads. These mounds demonstrate upright slabs protruding through the turf in no recognisable pattern, and appear to be random exposures of the mound content; Creagan a' Bheannaich has four such orthostats which may have been thought to be grave-markers.
It is possible that a church or chapel was erected on an existing prehistoric mound; the quantity of stone in the mound is not commensurate with tumble from a building. Alternatively, the local tradition of a chapel and grave-yard may have developed from the false assumption that exposed slabs are grave-markers. The remains of building and mound are too indistinct to enable positive classification.
Visited by OS (N K B) 16 December 1981.

Sources/Archives (6)



Grid reference Centred ND 0408 5782 (20m by 20m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND05NW
Civil Parish REAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

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