Monday, October 12, 2015

Wanderings on Sanday - St Edward's

Over the years I've visited Canna about eight times. On three of those occasions I made the long walk to Sanday to see if I could get inside St Edward's. Each time the church turned out to be locked. While on Canna again this August, I thought I'd make another try at getting inside. To my surprise, the church wasn't locked.

The church was in use from 1890 to 1963, and then for the next 35 years was neglected and vandalized. If you ever have the chance to go inside St Edward's, there is a book you should read first: Restoring Canna's Chapel, by Alasdair Ross McKerlich (2007). It is a fascinating book that details the restoration work done from 1998 to 2001. The author's company did the work, and his book is highly critical of the architects running the project; especially of the plaster mix they specified, one not appropriate to the climate and the porous stonework. Water ingress had been a problem since the church was built in 1890, and continues to this day.

I believe I met Mr. McKerlich in 1998. It was a Saturday, August 1, and I was on my way to Rum on MV Loch Mor (see book 1, chapter 25). We departed from Mallaig at 5 am, and the first stop was Canna. Aboard was a builder on his way to Canna - unfortunately I did not write down his name. Here's an excerpt from my journal for that day:

I met a builder this morning on his way to examine the old church (St Edward's). He said there was a project going on to refurbish it as a visitor centre, and was investigating how the locals got materials to the island. Will have to come back in a few years and see what they've done.

As it turned out, it took me more than a few years to see what they did, it took seventeen years. The work started in 1999, and when finished there was a grand opening ceremony with Princess Anne on June 5, 2001.

The church with construction debris
Since 2001 there have been several other efforts to stem the water ingress, none very successful. And at the end of Restoring Canna's Chapel there is a sad scene, when the author, who'd put so much time and effort into the restoration, returned in 2005 to find the church vandalized and stripped bare of furnishings.

Below are some photos of the interior of St Edward's I took on August 9, 2015. It was a sad sight. As you can see, even after some two million dollars of work, the walls are severely damaged by water ingress. The church was restored with the intent of being a study centre for all the Gaelic poems, songs, and books collected by John Lorne Campbell and his wife, Margaret Fay Shaw. But I doubt if that will ever happen.

Handicapped accessible bathroom - note the water damage
Steps to the upper floors
Rose Window and more water damage
Bunks on the first floor
More bunks
The original cross that stood atop the bell tower - what's on the tower now is a replica of this one
St Edward's today

1 comment:

  1. David & Margaret GartsideOctober 12, 2015 at 12:05 PM

    We have also visited Canna 3 times, but never made it to the chapel. Sad to hear that vandalism blights even such a remote and peaceful place. Can only be boating visitors, but who and why? Strand 'em on the Flannans for a few weeks if ever caught! (Keelhauling no longer acceptable, apparently).