Outer Hebridean Saints (Northern Part)

9 05 2020

A common misconception held by people from the wrong side of the Minch is that saints play no part in the religion of the islands North of Benbecula.

Yus, we’ve got all the well known saints of the old Celtic church – St Columba’s this and St Ronan’s that – but fleek all from the 8th century onwards. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Northern half of the Outer Hebrides has been out of the saint business since the Vikings arrived.

So, we’ve put together a handy (and free) cut out guide to all your favourite (Northernmost)  Outer Hebridean saints

In no particular order, here they are in all their ecclesiastical and/or hermetic glory.  

St Ornoway-The patron saint of townies. Originally from MacKenzie St, he took holy orders in 543AD with a Free Church (Considerablyearlierthanthought) Religious Order of Monks called The Fleekin Skint Brothers of Penury, who specialised in begging on Cromwell St. In an effort to make the town more upmarket and attract a better class of Viking, he was said to have driven the maws from the town and established the first cattle-grids.

St Ornoway was trampled to death in 657 AD while cursing a flock of Laxdale sheep that had jumped the grid and were eating his hydrangeas. 

He makes a miraculous re-appearance once a year, on St Ornoway’s Day, when he flies around the town with a big crozier and smites anybody heard to speak Gaelic within the city limits.

St Einish -This native of Tong was the Patron Saint of Quicksand, following his discovery of the notorious Steinish quicksands. And he was also the first person to disappear in the Steinish quicksands, following a disastrous ‘shortcut’ after a Ceilidh in Sandwick Hall.

St Rùpag – Patron Saint of tea and scones (and dodgy Mòd folk bands circa 1984). It was rumoured that a great Holy Relic, his actual teaspoon, ended up in the Coffee Pot cutlery drawer.

St EpwegaiIyonwego -The patron saint of Lewis wedding dances. It is said that Epwegailyonwego was a Viking dance tutor from Trondheim, who introduced the social convention of all the coves standing round the walls of the dance hall, until they had partaken in a sufficient quantity of mead to give them the courage to ask a blone for a dance. He was trampled to death after trying to teach 200 Icelandic berserkers the Vinland Barndance.

St Oneyfieldfarm – Patron saint of farmers on the outskirts of Stornoway. Like nearly all the Saints listed here, Oneyfieldfarm claimed to have a piece of the ‘One True Cross (Inn)’, after it was involuntarily demolished in 792AD  following a heated debate by its clientele over the best way to cross the Barvas Moor.  If every claimed piece was put together you could rebuild the Inn 100 times over.   

St Ockinish – Patron Saint of Lobster Creels. He lived in a hermitage made from discarded lobster creels. 

St Rond – Patron Saint of Nice Views Over The Sound Of Harris.

St Onecircle – Patron Saint of new age solstice hippies.

St Arinn – Patron Saint of excessive drinking.

St Armore – Patron Saint of posh knitting.

St Amper -The Patron Saint of Harris Tweed Inspectors. Said to have driven out the electric motor, thus condemning the islands to a peat and paraffin lamp existence until the electric came back in the 1950’s. 

And although not a northern Saint, we shouldn’t forget St Affa,  the Patron Saint of funny shaped rocks. Legend has it he drove the normal rocks away.

Bizarrely, all of the above Holy men were on the go around about the same time. They were all keen crofters and did much to sow the seed that grew to be the passion for small scale agricultural holdings that prevails throughout the islands to this day. Either that or they imparted the great love for subsidies which makes the crofting world go round today. 

The Saints even considered setting up a crofting collective (for Saints only, obviously) and even went as far as applying together for grants to build new agricultural buildings. However, the schism gene kicked in and they all fell out, but not before they managed to get hold of a template for a decent sized building to keep their cows. A popular song is rumoured to have been written about this – ‘When The Saints Got Matching Byres’