Close your eyes and imagine the perfect church. Stained glass windows, hand carved pulpit, tall white steeple, beautiful rows of flowers leading up to the steps, dead poets in the yard, ghosts, and drunken fistacuffs. Wait. What? Churches aren’t like that. Oh, ye of little faith. Have you never been to a Scottish church? Pardon me, kirk.
Situated high above the Spean River in Lochaber sits Cille Choirill, a fifteenth-century church with enough history to curl your hair. During my copious amounts of research for At Long Lass, I had the great luck of stumbling across this little gem and knew immediately that I had to include it because real life is so much better than fiction. How can you bypass a church said to be built by a Cameron chief who was told to do so by the devil himself in the disguise of a cat. I don’t know what I find most disturbing about this, but it’s probably the cat. I mean, why not a snake, or a sinister bat, or something with horns?
Cille Choirill has its fair share of undead problems. Many, many years ago a nearby priest heard a terrible skelloch happening late one night in the graveyard. Running out of the house so fast, the priest forgot his holy water and so ran down to the loch and scooped up a bit of water into his shoe, blessing it as he ran towards the shouting. No one knows exactly what happened there, but soon the noise quieted down and the priest returned home saying, “Everything is alright now. They had a strange grievance against this man but I’ve put them to rest.” So much for resting in eternal peace.
People deal with grief in unique ways, one being drink, and boy, do those Highlanders like to drink. An older Cameron gentleman was coming down the hill from a funeral when a young lad started kicking divots at him. The older man asked him to stop, but the boy refused. The Cameron swung back and punched him in the jaw, laying the boy out flat. Soon, everyone had jumped into the fray, but it was the Camerons who claimed victory that day. Having lost their bonnets in the row, one Cameron went back the next day to retrieve them. Those who saw him along the way ran back inside to let him pass just in case he was gearing up for round two. In fact, no one bothered them again.