Cille Choirill

In Magazine No. 11, we reported on the Appeal Fund for the restoration of Cille Choirill Church, Achluachrach. Brae Lochaber. Funds in excess of the projected £20,000 were raised in a two-year period from early in 1986, including substantial donations from a number of religious, cultural and historical Trusts, and a series of sponsored walks following historical routes. The most notable were the contributions of the descendants of Lochaber emigrants to Nova Scotia, whose donations roofed the church in the early 1930s, and of those who, for the present restoration, have raised in excess of £3,000 towards the cost of essential structural repairs to secure a proper foundation for the building.

A party of 45 Nova Scotians, largely from Cape Breton Island and Antigonish, made a pilgrimage to Lochaber during the month of August, 1989 for a ceremony of re-dedication to mark the restoration of Cille Choirill Church, and to visit the sites of their ancestral homes and places of historic interest in the area. Prior to the Mass of the Assumption, which was celebrated by Bishop Colin MacPherson of Argyll and the Isles and Bishop Colin Campbell of Antigonish, a wall plaque, dedicated to the Rev. John MacMaster who was responsible for the fund-raising which made possible the rebuilding of the church in 1923, was unveiled. Mrs Ann MacDonell, originator of the Cille Choirill Church Restoration project, who supplied the information for this report, was presented by Miss Mary Campbell of Mabou, Cape Breton Island with a replica of the flag of Nova Scotia which depicts a blue St. Andrew’s Cross on a silver ground surmounted by a shield bearing the Lion Rampant on a gold ground.

In September 1988, two bronze plaques were unveiled in Cille Choirill Church. The plaques, on the inside wall of the church, commemorate Alexander MacDonell, 17th of Keppoch and his cousin german, Donald MacDonell of Tirnadris, who served as Colonel and Major, respectively, of the Keppoch Regiment, raised in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 and their clansmen, who, like them, lost their lives during the Rising. The ceremony was preceded by the playing of a piobaireachd by Tearlach MacFarlane of Glenfinnan House and a short service was conducted by the parish priest, Monsignor Ronald Hendry. The plaques, which had been draped in Keppoch tartan, were unveiled by Norman H. MacDonald, Historian for the Clan Donald Lands Trust and a Vice-Chairman of the 1745 Association who expressed his sense of the honour done to him as one whose family by tradition claim descent from the MacDonells of Keppoch, in having been asked to perform the ceremony.