Hugh Smith’s Letter from Islay

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Open air worship
Worshippers from the various congregations throughout the island will take part in an open air service at the foot of the Kildalton Cross on Sunday August 13, beginning at 3pm.

This now annual act of worship continues a long tradition at one of the island’s most historic and sacred sites.

The Kildalton Cross dates from the second part of the eighth century and is widely regarded as being the finest surviving cross of its kind in Scotland. Specialists also consider it to be the most perfect monument of its type to survive in Western Europe.

It stands in the burial ground which surrounds the former parish church of Kildalton (Cill Daltain), the Church of the Foster Son, and which most likely refers to St John the Evangelist, one of the 12 disciples and writer of the Gospel that bears his name.

The Kildalton parish is of medieval origin and early records date it to around 1425AD. The church building is certainly older and probably dates from the late 12th to the early 13th centuries.

Following the Reformation in 1560 the Kildalton Church continued as a place of worship and served a parish which stretched from MacArthur’s Head in the north to the Oa peninsula in the south. The eventual drift of the population to the Ardbeg settlement and surrounding districts led to the discontinuation of worship at Kildalton and the formation of a new place of worship at Lagavulin at the end of the 18th century.

The open air ecumenical worship at this hallowed site recalls the allure of and the ethereal nature of the Celtic Church where the accent was on the telling connection between people and creation and the heightened awareness of time and seasons.

All denominations will be welcomed at the service at the cross where midge repellent is not compulsory but is highly recommended.

Art exhibitions
An exhibition of works by the Aviemore-based artist Ann Vastano has opened at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle and will continue until the end of September.

The St Columba Gaelic Centre display is entitled ‘An Tilleadh’ (The Return) which is an apt description as the artist was born on the island when her parents lived at Bushmill Cottages in the Gruinart district where her father was a dairyman with the farming Epps family. She left these shores when she was six years old and spent her formative years at the Grant family’s Rothiemurchus Estate before studying at Gray’s School of Art at Aberdeen.

She has also exhibited at the Scottish Parliament and one of her commissioned paintings graces the walls of Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s parliamentary office.

‘An Tilleadh’ is subtitled in Islay Gaelic and also available at the venue are Gàidhlig Ìle calendars which showcase the exhibition content. Proceeds from calendar sales go to the Islay And Jura Sick Children’s Fund and sponsorship has been received from Caledonian MacBrayne and the catering equipment specialists New Concept who have been involved in the design and supply at Bowmore’s latest eatery and piazza outlet.

As well as being an Ileach the artist is a goddaughter of Berneray’s Mary Sinclair who now lives with her husband Finlay at Bridgend.

Another art exhibition by an artist who hold island life in high regard is currently running at the Outback Gallery on the north west of the island at Sanaigmore.

This features works by Fiona Charis Carswell who has a long association and a paternal connection with the neighbouring isle of Jura.

Fiona, who lives in Chester and is also well known as a children’s author and book illustrator, spent long summer holidays on Jura when she was child. She adored the island way of life and its people and this enchantment has remained as she still regularly visits the island and is heartened that her own family share her enthusiasm for the ‘deer isle’.

The Outback Gallery, owned and operated by Petra Pearce, is open seven days a week from 10am to 4pm and, exhibits apart, also provides splendid cakes and coffee.

Hugh Smith, 4 Flora Street, Bowmore, Islay PA43 7JX Tel: 01496 810 658

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