I think it was in the late 1980s when, with my eldest son, Neil, my mother, Jenny MacCormick, and my sister, Morag, we made the multi-part journey from Gourock to Fionnphort where we would get the ferry to Iona. We parked the car and strolled by the shore. My mother pointed to one of the row houses up from the pier and told me to take young Neil and knock on the door. I felt a bit embarrassed because I did not know anyone in the hamlet. The door opened and an elderly gentleman greeted us. . It transpired that he was delighted to meet two Neil MacCormicks, namesakes and descendants of a well known local figure. Over a cup of tea and some cake, he told us a few tales of Neil of Tormore of which the most memorable was this one.
He pointed out of his window to the huge rock standing alone on the shore. (From my rudimentary knowledge of geology I knew it was termed an ‘erratic’ deposited there during the melt of the retreating Ice Age.) “See that split in the rock, well that was made by Neil Tormore.’ The villagers wanted to know if the rock could be used as building material and asked Great grandfather Neil to assess that possibility. The quarrymaster brought some explosives to the site and inserted them in holes he had bored. Alas, after the test, he declared that the rock had faults in its grain revealed in the split that would make it unusable for building.
And so the Split Rock of Fionnphort has remained solitary on the beach, a curiousity for visitors and one whose origins might not otherwise be known.