The township of Tobha Mor – or Howmore – lies between the main North-South road on South Uist and the beach which forms much of the island’s west side.
In among the thatched houses of Howmore are the ruins of a church and four chapels. Writing in 1703 in his ‘A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland’, Martin Martin describes one of these churches as being dedicated to St Columba and one to St Mary. A stone slab incised with a cross was found on this site, indicating that there may have been Christian worship here in the 9th century.
Today the largest ruin is the east wall of the Teampull Mòr – or Large Church – of St Mary’s built in the 1200s as the local parish church. The wall contains two windows from the original church. Looking west you can see the position that the church used to occupy – stretching about 20 metres.
Behind the Teampull Mòr wall is a graveyard surrounded by a 19th century stone wall. Within the walled area is the ruined wall of another chapel – Caibeal Dhairmaid – St Dermot’s. It was probably 5.7 metres wide and 17 metres long.
In the far corner of the graveyard is Caibeal Chlann ‘ic Ailein – Clan Ranald’s Chapel – dating to 1574. The Clan Ranald stone commemorating John of Moidart – Chief of the Clan Ranald in the late 16th century – once stood in the chapel but is now in the Kildonan Museum just north of Daliburgh on the A865 before the turn off to Lochboisdale.
To the south of Teampull Mòr are the remains of Caibeal Dubhghaill – Dougall’s Chapel.
As with many of the coastal areas on this part of the Sli Cholmcile, the landscape has changed considerably over time. When it was built, the Teampull Mor was probably surrounded by marshland, creating the effect of an island.
Martin Martin writing in 1703, describes the language spoken here:-
‘The Natives speak the Irish tongue (Gaelic) more perfectly here than in most of the other Islands; partly because of the remoteness, and the small number of them that speak English, and partly because some of ‘em are Scholars and vers’d in the Irish language’
One of the thatched houses in Howmore is now a youth hostel.
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