Still no sign of medieval bell stolen from Loch Shiel island

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Nearly three years after it disappeared from an island in Loch Shiel, Police Scotland says there is still no sign of a rare medieval bell.

The theft of the bell from St Finan’s Isle – Eilean Fhianain in Gaelic and also known as the Green Isle – is believed to have occurred in late June or early July in 2019.

Asked if there had been any developments in the investigation into the theft, a Police Scotland spokesperson told the Lochaber Times recently: ‘Nothing major I’m afraid – nobody was arrested in connection with the theft and the bell has not been recovered.’

Experts from Moidart History Group (MHG) believed the bell was taken by thieves who would have had to launch an amphibious raid, possibly involving kayaks or canoes, on the tiny islet in the loch made famous in the Harry Potter movies.

St Finan’s Isle has been a Christian burial ground since the days of St Finan, a Columbian-trained monk who died in 661 AD.

Loch Shiel is famous the world over, not just for its place in history when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard at Glenfinnan, which sits at one end of the loch at the start of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, but also for its role as the ‘Black Lake’ in the Harry Potter films.

For centuries, the altar stone in the roofless chapel held the missing early-medieval hand bell, which is said to be of great religious and cultural value, and of a particular type found in Scotland and Ireland, perhaps even brought here by St Finan himself more than 1,000 years ago.

The missing bell stood on the altar in the ruined chapel on the island, which is remote, and which until only four or five years prior to the theft, was visited by just a handful of people each year.

However, at the time of the discovery of the 2019 theft, MHG said the growing  popularity of kayaking saw these numbers increase to an estimated 2,000 by 2016.

It is believed the thief or thieves would have needed heavy bolt cutters, since the flimsy chain that attached the bell to the altar was replaced by a hand-forged bronze chain in 2017, so the theft was likely to have been a planned affair.

CAPTION: The bell which was stolen in 2019 from a tiny island in Loch Shiel in Lochaber. Photograph: Moidart History Group NO F31 stolen bell