no space by her husband’s grave

Church Of St John The Baptist In Bragar'; St John's Chapel; Teampull Eoin, Chapel,

St John’s chapel lies in ruins. The 15th century chapel in the Bragar cemetery stands on a much older site of which nothing can be seen any longer, it was a prehistoric settlement mount.

This cemetery has a peculiar atmosphere, the many marker stones give it an overcrowded feel, and it certainly is that, crowded.

As with almost all the cemeteries on the Isle of Lewis, the one in Bragar bears the graves of men who died in the Iolaire disaster, more than one was buried here. The cemetery is not small but over full with many marker stones, mostly taken from the ruin of St John’s chapel. Especially around the chapel there is hardly any space and when the widow of one of the victims of the Iolaire disaster wanted to be buried next to her husband, they could not grant her wish. She had to be interred in the newer part of the cemetery instead of by her husband’s side. As if she hadn’t suffered enough!

newer part of Brager cemetery seen from the chapel

One of the Lewis men remembered her in John MacLeod’s book: “ She was a Christian, but her mind went, it just broke. (…) Every year she took out her husband`s uniform, and she washed it and washed it, and she would dry it outside on the wall.” What a sad reaction to the loss she suffered. The tragedy ended so many lives but it also destroyed many more in the years after 1919. 

headstone of Norman MacLeod of 13 Arnold died in Iolaire disaster

MacLeod goes on: “Broken, half-deranged Mrs Norman MacLeod of 13 Arnold spent far more than she could have possibly afforded on a mighty gravestone for her man, complete with insert white-marble plaque and the ship’s name spelled wrong. She died in 1933, still only forty-nine, and is – rather pathetically – buried on the other side, the modern side, of the Bragar cemetery. Like Dolina Murray, and several other Iolaire widows, there was no space left for her by her husband’s grave.”


source and further reading:

John MacLeod: When I Heard The Bell. The Loss of the Iolaire. Edinburgh, Birlinn, 2009

Canmore Teampull Eoin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: