If ever there was holy ground, it surely is to be found on a small island of striking beauty and breathtaking light in the Ross of Mull: Iona, burial-place of the kings.
To many Iona is an overcoming experience. It was here that Christianity made its way into Scotland. Irish monasteries have existed for centuries on this small, rocky Hebridean island. The Irish Saint Columba, monk and religious legend, is assumed to have founded the first in 563. He sent his fellow monks to other places in Scotland, where they founded other monasteries and the Christian faith slowly replaced the old customs and ideologies of the Picts. Iona always remained the centre of the Christian monastic system in Scotland, the spiritual centre of a Nation.
In the 8th century a vast number of Celtic high crosses have been carved on Iona: Beautiful pieces of art and intricate symbols of faith. Unfortunately, more than 200 were destroyed and thrown into the sea by the Protestants during the Reformation. It would have been a sight indeed, 200 Celtic crosses on the lush green grass against the vivid blue skies of the Hebrides.
Iona has been part of the Kingdom of The Isles, and because the early Kings of Alba traced their origin to Iona, the Kings of Alba were subsequently buried there. The number of rulers that followed in death is astonishing. A 16th century inventory counts 8 Norwegian, 4 Irish and 48 Scottish kings amongst them Kenneth I, Donald II, Duncan I and Macbeth.
Sadly none of these graves has remained on this ancient burial ground.
In the restored remains of the 12th century chapel of St Odhran, a number of medieval ornamental stones are displayed, beautiful enough to grace the graves of kings.
Iona is an island of purity and peace. And it must have felt like that for many centuries: A worthy place for a king’s final rest.
This has been a small, fascinating journey for me, having done, a fair amount of history on the name, Hugh Donald Bain, born in 1810, marrying Janet Rutherford, later Isabella Edwards. Their son, Hugh Bain, was born in 1852, in Northumberland. Hugh, later married, Selina Wharton Hogarth. They moved to Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada. Their youngest daughter, Jessie Wharton Bain, was born in Hexham, Northunberland. Jessie Wharton Bain Jones, was my grandmother. I just recently located information on King Donald III (Donald Bane) son of King Duncan I. Donald, who was imprisoned, he died at Rescobie (near Forfar), and was buried on the Island of Iona. Am I, a very distant relative of King Donald III (Donald Bane) this I have not been able to establish. There are drawers full of printed family history, on the name Wharton, I was fortunate enough, with assistance, for other second cousins, to go back as far as the 14th., century. Anyway, I wanted to leave this small note or letter, to say how lovely this Island of Iona appears, with my small journey there today, I feel pleasantly relaxed and with you all well, for such wonderful records into the past life.