Dunlichity is a Parish church. There was an older building dating back to the 16th century but the faithful have worshipped here for much longer. The close-by loch and its fishing right belonged to the church. It is called Loch a’Chlachain, the lake of the church.
Very still with a very remote feel to it, it was indeed once home of John the Hermit. King William the Lion had given the small lake (at that time called Lunnin) to John on his first visit to the area in the 12th century. According to the charter there had been a small island on the lake once. It is no more.
Dunlichity graveyard is just a short walk away from the Loch and the burial-place for the clans and septs of the area.
Moss and lichen have turned some of the stones into colourful reminders of the dead.
The walls in the graveyard have allegedly been used by Highlanders on their way to Culloden to sharpen their swords. Not unlikely, they had campaigned for a long time and their weapons probably needed attention. But of course any marks on the stones could be of different origin.
But the sword marks are not the only Jacobite connection in Dunlichity graveyard.
It is said that in 1746, when the Highlanders under Prince Charles found themselves at a loss for balls, they meditated a resurrection of the chiefs and their ladies, with the view of converting the leaden coffins into bullets. (1)
The clan chiefs and their ladies had been buried in coffins made of lead as was the custom in those days. Many chiefs and their ladies were laid to rest within the enclosure.
Dunlichity that is the hill which is in the middle of and bisects the territory of the Caiti. The descendants of this ancient, numerous, and warlike people, under the various appellations of Mackintosh, Macgillivray, Macbean, Macqueen, Shaw, Macphail, Smith or Gow, Davidson, Clark, and others, who are all followers of Mackintosh of Mackintosh as their chief, and Captain of Clanchattan. (1)
The old watch-house is still in very good condition. In the infamous days of the body-snatchers there would have been guards watching during the night to make sure none of the newly buried corpses (that were not safely interred within lead coffins) were doug out again and sold to medicals staff at universities nearby.
The building consists of two apartments, with a loft overhead in which were stored various pieces of furniture required for the open air communion. The night watchers were plentifully supplied with fuel and refreshments, so that their duty was regarded as of a sociable and even convivial character. In those times, the meal mill close by was often set a-working at the dead hours of night to grind malt for illicit distillation, and many are the legends that tell of the artifices employed to smuggle into the burgh town as much of the whisky as was not required for home consumption. (2)
Liked the read? There’s more here...
Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years.
Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.
sources and further reading:
The New Statistical Account of Scotland. William Blackwood & Son, Edinburgh, London, 1845 (1)
Tales from Loch Ness’ East (2)
Technically, a loch is not quite the same as a lake. It is a geological, and even geographical in most cases, difference between a lake and a loch.
Lakes are fresh water pools formed in land depressions without walls, often fed by streams, springs and hill run off water. I don’t know of any salt water lake off hand.
Lochs were carved out of the rock by the retreating ice age sheet (the reason why all major glens run in the direction of South West to North East). Unlike lakes, they are all steep walled, fed by the sea or fresh water, streams, springs and rain run off from the surrounding hills.
Lochs have more in common with Fjords than they do lakes.
Given the punishment for desecrating graves, I suspect that lead coffins being abused to make musket ammo is complete fiction. The lead on the church roof would have been more likely. They were also pressed for time and, digging a grave in many parts of North Scotland can take longer than a day by hand tools. I also seriously doubt the story you were told about sharpening swords at a holy site, also strictly forbidden.
An interesting read all the same.
Thank you for your contribution.
I do disagree about the difference between a loch and a lake. This is a mere linguistic or geographical difference and has no geological significance. Scotland has fresh water Lochs as well as sea Lochs. The work lake is used in England.
As to the sharpening of the swords, that was supposed to happen on the outside of the wall surrounding the graveyard and is well documented.