Work has begun to repair the ravages of centuries on one of North Uist’s most important historic buildings.
The fragile walls of Teampull Na Trionaid (Trinity Temple) in Carinish will be consolidated in a £200,000 rescue mission by specialist masons.
The ancient seminary and centre of pilgrimage is thought to date back to the 12h century, and is one of few churches in Scotland to have survived the Reformation.
The building, which was in use until the 17th century fell into a state of decay so precarious that it was felt the next major gale could bring some of the walls crashing down.
Concerns about the ancient scheduled monument prompted community members to form the Teampull Na Trionaid Conservation Association to seek funding to carry out essential work to slow down the building’s deterioration, and to create access tracks and interpretation panels.
The association garnered the support of Historic Scotland, and went on to have a comprehensive scheme of works drawn up by architect Robin Kent for consolidating and lime-mortaring the walls. The lion’s share of the funding came in a grant of £194,000 from the SRDP Rural Priorities programme.
For the next 16 weeks, Aberdeenshire specialists, Laing Traditional Masonry will carry out the conservation work, beginning with rubble clearing.
They will dismantle and rebuild some of the most fragile walls using traditional techniques.
Teampull Na Trionaid Conservation Association chairman Willie MacDonald said: “It’s great to see the work started.
“Archaeologists are on hand throughout, and the clearing process has already yielded some interesting finds, such as significant amounts of sandstone, which is not local to here. Some of it is carved. It’s thought it might be part of a previous structure, having been brought in from Mull.”
Mr MacDonald added: “We have scheduled monument consent also to straighten the gravestones in the graveyard, and it will henceforth be looked after by the council. The access road will be tarred and made appropriate for the disabled.
“It’s a huge project, but one which the community has been committed to and thrown its weight behind with all manner of support.”