Parish of Barvas (1831-1845) - Civil History

Parochial registers.--The only parochial register extent in this parish, dates its earliest entry from the year 1810 ; since which time, baptisms, marriages, and distribution of poor funds have been regularly registered.

Antiquities.- Almost every populous village in the parish had formerly a small Popish Chapel attached to it, and adjoining there to, burying-grounds, which still serve their original purpose. They are all now crumbling into ruins, and one of them has already disappeared in the sand. The names applied to them were, St Bridget in Borve, St Peter’s in Lower Shadir, St Mary’s in Barvas, and St John’s in Bragar; but these appellations are now obsolete. Southward of Bragar, on the border of a loch, are the ruins of a circular tower (dùn) or Danish fort, well adapted for defence, built solely of large stones, three stories high, tapering towards the summit, with a double wall, bound by large flags,which at the same time form a winding staircase in the interior of the wall, by which one may go round the building. Three more similar ruins are to be seen between Shadir and Borve, two of them situated on small islands, in the centre of lochs, and causeways leading to each, or rather stepping-stones, so artfully arranged, that an enemy who ventured to attack them or advance to their fortress, must, from the zigzag direction, and the deep pits made purposely to intervene, have proceeded with the greatest caution, or been precipitated into one of those gulfs, and, should a band have been observed attempting to cross over, hardly any so exposed, during the delay thus occasioned, would escape the deadly arrows of the besieged. The third ruin stands at some little distance from the shore, with which it was supposed to have a subterraneous communication,-an opinion resting on no other authority than tradition. In a plain of moss between Barvas and Shadir, there is an immense stone 18 feet high, and nearly the same in circumference, standing almost perpendicular, and no other stone nearer than the shore, which is half a-mile distant. Unless it was placed there by some mechanical power; there can be no better proof that there were giants in those days. In either case, it was an effort infinitely surpassing the present stage of mechanical skill in this island. Some suppose it was erected in memory of a native chief who fell there. The tradition of a bloody battle between the native tribes having been fought in its immediate vicinity might seem to countenance this opinion. In those lawless times, when might was right, it is said that the inhabitants of the south end of the island, taking advantage of the absence of the chief warriors among their enemies, had made a ravaging incursion into their territories, and by night carried off considerable numbers of their cattle; but the absent champions the same night, hastily collected their forces, pursued the plunderers, and overtook them with their booty in the abovementioned plain, where they were all slaughtered without mercy, by the superior numbers of their foes; and, accordingly, there is a small eminence at a little distance called Druim nan Cairnan, or the hill of tumuli, where the remains of the slain are supposed to be interred. But as there is no other specimen of such monuments in the island, it is more probable that the stone was erected (as the foreign sounding name Clach an Trushial may impart, to commemorate the fall of one of those famous invaders, who were wont to commit depredations on this island; perhaps some mighty Dane, or one of those sons of Lochlin, of whom the Bard of other times delighted to sing, particularly when laid low by the hand of his father, the mighty Fingal.

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