The ruins of Trumpan Church stand at the far north end of the Waternish Road, at NG225612. The site has a whole lot of stories to tell…
The Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke
In 1578, Trumpan Church was the site of a revenge attack on the MacLeods by the MacDonalds of Uist. The MacDonalds crept up on the church, which was filled by a worshipping congregation. They barred the only door and set fire to the thatch, killing all the occupants save one young girl. She died of her injuries, but was instrumental in raising the alarm and thus securing the butchering of all the MacDonalds by the men of MacLeod of Dunvegan. The corpses of the MacDonalds were dragged back up the hill and then buried by collapsing a turf wall onto them – hence the conflict was named the "Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke". It is said that human bones are turned up here to this day.
The astonishing story of Rachel Chiesley, Lady Grange
The stone in the photograph above marks the burial place of Lady Grange in the graveyard at Trumpan. It reads:
Born as Rachel Cheisley in 1678, her remains were buried here following a terrible and barely believable series of events instigated by her husband - James Erskine, the Lord Advocate of Scotland.
Lord and Lady Grange lived in Edinburgh until their marriage broke down in 1730, at which point Lady Grange moved out, mainly because of Lord Grange’s affairs while he was away in London as an MP. After the separation, Rachel took to standing outside his house shouting obscenities and being a general embarrassment. She also threatened to reveal that her husband had been involved in the Jacobite rising of 1715.
In April 1732 her husband arranged, with help from other Jacobites, for Rachel to be abducted from her home in Edinburgh. She was first taken to Linlithgow and thence to Polmaise Castle near Stirling, where she was held for four months. After a time of being moved around the Highlands, she was put on the very remote island of Haskeir where she was kept for two years. In May of 1734 she was moved even further away, this time to Hirta, St Kilda. There she was held incommunicado for the eight years until 1742. During that time, Lord Grange announced her death and held a false funeral in Edinburgh.
Rachel managed to get a note out from St Kilda to her cousin, who sent a gunboat to rescue her. Before it arrived though, the poor woman had been moved again, this time via Assynt to Skye, where she was left alone to survive her final three miserable years in a local cave.
I hope she is resting in peace.
John Bowlby: The Father of Attachment Theory
Also buried here is the renowned English psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, John Bowlby. He is known for his work on child development and his leading contribution to attachment theory.
He died at his summer home on Skye in 1990, at the age of 83.
Clach Deuchainn (the Trial Stone)
Clach Deuchainn stands in the grounds of the church. It is a prehistoric standing stone, also known variously as the Priest's Stone or the Heaven Stone.
The cracks are jammed full of coins, I know not why. The story to go with the Trial Stone name is that if an accused person is able to insert their index finger into the hole near the top while blindfolded, they are innocent of the offence. There are other tales too…
Trumpan is the parking spot for the hike to Waternish Point. It’s a good plan to do both on the same day.