This story appeared last Friday.
Copyright of The Herald, 19 August 2016
“New discoveries rewrite history of holy Iona
“IT has long been regarded as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, where the earliest missionaries gathered before spreading the Word of the Lord across the land.
“But now archaeologists have uncovered fascinating new evidence of those who lived on the island of Iona long before St Columba set foot on its shores during preparatory work for the building of an extension to the small school.
“The Hebridean Isle is home to a religious community, with an abbey founded in 563 by St Columba and 12 companions who had been exiled from his native Ireland.
“Yet when they arrived they would have already found an existing population with a recent dig revealing traces of buildings which take the island’s history back 2,500 years.
“And it seems as though they lived in decidedly un-Christian times with the remains of a two-metre defensive wall found among other remnants of Iona’s long vanished past.
“Excavations have also revealed pottery, flints and other prehistoric material, indicating a prehistoric village.
“Archaeologist Hugh McBrien, of the West of Scotland Archaeology Service, an umbrella organisation providing expertise to 13 local authorities, described the finds as “exciting”.
He said: “When finds like this come along it allows the past to speak to us. There are no written records, of course, so all we have to go on is what is in the ground.
“When we find something unexpected, as in this case, we have to stop and reconsider what we previously understood about the site.
“What is becoming clear is that when the ice sheets rolled back off Scotland some 1012,000 years ago the Mesolithic hunter gatherers moved onto the islands and followed the retreating ice.
“What we now have on Iona is evidence that people lived on the island, created boundaries and set up communities long before the lands were ‘discovered’ by St Columba.”
“The archaeological work was carried out by Dr Clare Ellis of Campbeltown-based professional archaeology company Argyll Archaeology Ltd.”
When I read this and a similar article in The Times, I was immediately reminded of Granduncle Dugald and the stories he would tell us young ones (me and my sisters Morag and Fiona) at our Grannie and Grandpa MacCormick’s flat at 25 Elmbank Crescent in Glasgow in the 1940s. You can get a real sense of his style in the link to his letter to Fiona provided in my first entry in this MACCORMICK series dated 4 January 2015, reachable by scrolling forever backwards on this site.
One of the most vivid images he described for us back then was the scene on the Iona beach when Columba landed.
According to Uncle Dugald, there was a MacCormick standing there, holding a sign reading “WELCOME TO IONA.”.
“Och Uncle Dugald, we may have looked a wee bit sceptical but we really believed your story” say Neil and Morag in 2016!
[The Times article includes a photograph of the school where I am aware Ewan MacCormick and Annabel [MacCormick] MacInness once taught.]