ON THE PILGRIM WAY
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North West Lochaber
Saint Kenneth and Eilean Choinneich
Eilean Choinneich, Island Kenneth in Loch Leven is a tiny uninhabited island visible from near the mausoleum on the low road from North Ballachulish to Callart. It may well be one of the many places in Scotland named after the sixth century Christian missionary Kenneth. This saint was a contemporary of Columba. He was the son of an Irish bard, he trained to be a priest in Wales, and after a time in Rome and in Ireland he came to Scotland around 562 AD. He was based initially in Iona and accompanied Columba to the mainland to help bring the gospel to people. It is said that he was a man of great spirituality, and that he aspired to live as a hermit on small islands, where he found solace in the company of birds and wild animals. He is remembered for his missionary zeal, for the example he set to non-believers and for the way he preached the gospel with great joy and love. His feast day is October 11th .
There is a modern hymn which begins:
‘How shall they hear, who have not heard news of a Lord who loved and came’.
May we have the zeal and the fire in our souls that inspired these noble Christians to carry the faith to our land.
Lord of all, give us the strength and the courage to live out the gospel by word and example. Increase our faith and let your Spirit influence us so that we better show the life of Jesus to others, in whose name we pray. Amen.
The present parish church dates from 1856 when the land granted by the crown enabled the construction of a parish church. The original church was attached to the Fort built by General Wade in 1729. The village took the name ‘Fort Augustus’ from the new fort named after William Augustus, second son of King George II. There is a rich history of the church’s ministry in the area. In the church building is a Roll of Ministers going back to 1580.
Before the arrival of the Hanoverian fort builders, however, Fort Augustus had been known by the Gaelic name of Cill Chuimein. The actual name means the cell or church of Chuimen, Cuimen Albus. St Cuimen the Fair was the 7th Abbott of Iona between 657 and 659 and was a kinsman of St Columba. He reputedly travelled through the Great Glen and established a church or cell midway. The later settlement taking the name Cill Cuimein.
The name Cill is important as it comes from the Latin cella, cell or church. This suggests a background of Christian religion and more specifically to the existence of churches, churchyards or, at the very least, hermit’s cells.
The beautiful area of Fort Augustus is of great interest to the pilgrim traveller not only because of the location close by to the banks of the famous Loch Ness. Even to the present, there is a rich and diverse spiritual history, which includes in more recent times Abbey buildings (previously housing a Roman Catholic school and community of Benedictine monks), St Peter’s & St Benedict’s Catholic Church, the Free Church and, dating further back a Covenanters stone may be found in the woods in nearby Jenkins Park.
REVEREND ANTHONY M. JONES, F.R.S.A.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and for evermore.
A short prayer for you:
God of the quiet wayside
God of the lofty peak, the storm tossed mountain.
God of the deep and swirling loch,
God of waters, still and placid,
God who reaches across the shores of time
Be with all who travel and thirst for knowledge of life that only you can give,
Be our abiding presence when we seek you
and close the doors of the troublesome world outside.
In the quietness of our solitude.
Speak to us, and be our peace.