burial place of the drowned

Cladh nam Paitean

Cladh nam Paitean burial ground has an ususual look about it, foreign, extraordinary. This is down to the style of the Macalister of Glenbarr burial enclosure, which seems an odd mixture between gothic revival and Mexican desert in the middle of a field in rural Kintyre. It is nevertheless the striking feature of this burial ground that owns its existance to fate and the tides.

Macalister of Glenbarr burial enclosure

bodies washed ashore

“Claogh nam Paitean is a modern burial place enclosed by a stone wall. It was first used as the resting place of some shipwrecked mariners, who had been washed ashore and gradually by the peasantry of the adjacent country (P MacIntosh 1861). The name was collected as Claogh nam Paitean and was authorised in this spelling by MacIntosh and by three local authorities. It appears to have been changed to Claoidh nam Baithtean – Burial Place of the Drowned People – to fit the explanation of its origin. () This burial-ground was evidently in existence as early as 1699, when it was reported that several of the graves were overlaid with white pebble-stones (J L Campbell and D Thomson 1963).” (Canmore)

Macalister of Glenbarr

The Macalisters trace their origins back to the 16th century. They owned the Strathaird estate on the Isle of Skye and then built the Glenbarr estate and Glenbarr Abbey in Kintyre. The latter being given to the Macalister clan in 1984 to be used as a clan centre.

Charles MacAlister of Strathaird and his nephew John MacAlister drowned when the paddle steamer Comet II sank half a mile off-shore after colliding with the Ayr near Gourock in 1825. The nephew’s dog however not only seems to have survived, it also saved others. “16 year old Jane Munro reported that a dog ‘belonging, it is believed, to Mr M’Allister’ came up beside her in the water and ‘materially aided’ in her own survival.” (Macalister History)

The sea has taken lives all around Scotland and many bodies have been washed on her shores over the centuries. This is a burial ground that takes its origin in lives lost at sea, situated closely to the dazzling and deadly blue waves of Scotland’s shores.

graves by the sea

soiurces and further reading:




2 thoughts on “burial place of the drowned

Add yours

  1. I love the attention to history. I feel some traditions mentioned are overstated. There are extremes that are from an Ancient Christian Church perspective from certain regions. Having grown up on a croft in a tiny hamlet (Badcall,Scourie) as well as being born and bred in a Norse town (Dingwall) We Highlanders do not adhere to any one system of burial or ceremony. I carry a military flag for our Fallen, I have sent friends to burn through their own request. My family
    (not all) is in the ground. Some have had an open coffin and a lament from loved ones but nothing ceases to function, in life, for our departed. They would be furious if we downed tools for longer than a dram and disposal takes place. I read your blog with delight and thank you for it. I would love to tap your knowledge if you have the time.
    Kevin Angus MacLeod

    1. Thank you for your contribution Kevin. I do agree with you, customs will vary and they also change with time. It is always an advantage to be able to check with those who actually follow them. Feel free to get in touch if you have a question. I hope I will be able to answer it. I still have to write about your cemetery in Dingwall. Hector the hero is a great story to tell. All the best, Nellie

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