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1824-1843 Rev Alexander Macleod

In 1824 the Reverend Alexander MacLeod, was appointed at the bequest of Lady Stewart Mackenzie and he was admitted to Uig 21st April 1824.


Rev Alexander Macleod 1786-1869 (Uig, 1824-1843)


Mary Elizabeth Frederica Stewart-Mackenzie


Photograph of painting by

Sir Thomas Lawrence (Link)


James Alexander Stewart-Mackenzie (1784 – 1843)

Photograph of painting by Sibad (Link)


Within a short time of Macleod’s arrival he wrote to Lady Stewart Mackenzie requesting a larger church.

Extracts from the letter (as focused on the need for a new church) (Link)

“Manse of Uig 30th November 1824;

Honourable and Dear Madam,
………….. The repairs and additions to the Manse and Offices are still going on and I trust that one our present inconveniences will be over we will comfortably situated.  My greatest regret and inconvenience now is the want of a church; the attendance at divine services is so regular and the population to great that up to this date I have not preached within doors but once since my settlement in the Parish; and though I was apprehensive
e that preaching in the open air might prove injurious to my health being not in the habit of it.  Yet blessed the God I feed no bad effects from it.  I am convinced that I would be disposed to put up with inconveniences to oblige you so far as possible but with many more from the consideration of being made the honoured instrument gaining souls to Christ, yea to go through any difficulty in the strength of divine Grace for the sake of preaching the Everlasting Gospel successfully to immortal souls; and for attending the Dominion of Immanuel’s Realm and sure I am to say the least of it, that no place in this kingdom stood in most need of hearing the Gospel trumpet than this corner.
Now on the subject of a new church, I think it quite unnecessary for me to say anything as I firmly believe that you and Seaforth are warmly disposed to promote Zion’s interest in this place and as this request of building a church with the least possible delay is so reasonable it being indispensably necessary and through confidence in your Christian zeal and humility, I would humbly suggest that I conceived, and do believe that you will deem it your honoured duty to meet the Lord’s work and people in this place by giving the accommodation so much needed. ………………………
I am Honoured Dear Madam with much affection and esteem your unworthy correspondent
Alexander Macleod” (Link)

1826, January to March; Taken from John Macleod’s ‘A Brief Record of the Church in Uig’, pages 10 to 12, concerning a new church;

‘A pro re nata meeting of Presbytery was called to consider two Petitions as follows:

“January 18th, 1826. Unto the Reverend the Presbytery of Lewis, the Petition of the Rev Alexander MacLeod minister of Uig. Humbly showeth that the Petitioner was inducted and settled as minister of the Parish of Uig about two years ago, and that hitherto, he and his Parishioners had laboured under the greatest inconveniences for want of church accommodations whereby it became unavoidable on the part of your Petitioner to preach in the open air during the summer and winter Sabbaths of the said period to the danger of his own health and that of his people. That there are no sacramental accommodations in said Parish, by which means your Petitioner and his people are deprived of the benefit of partaking of the Lord’s Supper these two years past, and that it cannot be dispensed among them till these accommodations are provided in the Parish. That the number of examinable persons presently in the Parish amounts of 2,100. May it therefore please the Reverend Presbytery of Lewis to fix an early day for holding a Presbytery Visitation at Uig in order to take proper steps for providing said accommodations for your Petitioner and his people’s mutual comfort and edification, and your Petitioner shall ever pray …“

Such a visitation was agreed by Presbytery and it took place over two days, 1st and 2nd March 1826. The ministers were Messrs Simson (Lochs) MacRae (Barvas) Cameron (Stornoway) MacLeod (Uig). Mr James Adam, Chamberlain, was present representing Seaforth. He made certain proposals regarding enlarging the church, but Presbytery decided that they needed a report from two craftsmen, John Loban and John MacLeod, before coming to a decision. They reported that they found the church to be 55 feet 3 inches in length, and 16 feet 3 inches in breadth giving accommodation for 205 persons. The walls were not sufficient to be built upon, being parted owing to not having proper bands. In view of the insufficiency of the walls and the inadequacy of the accommodation of the existing church, Mr Adam agreed that a new church be built on the site of the old one, of the same length and double the width of the old one with a gallery. The Presbytery declared their satisfaction with this proposal.
The Chamberlain said that the new building would be begun with all speed. Rev MacLeod stated that he and Mr Adam would manage all the details connected with the new church between them. The Presbytery in view of this cordial state of affairs left them to it.
The church was indeed built to accommodate 1,000 persons, but not on the site of the old church. The church occupied in 1829 and still in use occupies a commanding position at the top of the rise above Timsgeary.’

And concerning a glebe;
‘The Presbytery went on to consider the question of a Glebe. Mr Adam, on behalf of Seaforth placed proposals before the Presbytery. After mature deliberation the Presbytery rejected his proposals, and determined to design a Glebe with the aid of two honest and discreet men, Malcolm Nicolson tenant at Capidale and John MacLeod tenant at Valtos, who had been cited to attend the Presbytery. These men were asked if they knew the extent of a soum of grass. They replied that it was what was sufficient to maintain one cow and her calf till it was a year old, during the four quarters of the year as practised in the Parish of Uig. They were then asked to perambulate the farm of Baile na Cille and to set apart a quantity of ground equal to 16 soums of grass and also pasture for 2 cows and a horse.
The men reported back that they had done accordingly, whereupon the Presbytery accompanied the discreet men and having viewed the ground so set apart declared their satisfaction with it. So with the assistance and advice of these two discreet men the Presbytery proceeded to design a Glebe as follows:
Eastern Boundary –
Commencing at the bay opposite the manse called Tràigh Mhor Uige, and proceeding northward along the burn flowing into or flowing by the spring – well called Tobair Nic-Fherguis and which burn hitherto formed the boundary or march between Balnakile and Timsgeary – which burn has been recently diverted to another channel by the Proprietor, and from thence by and along the feal dyke which formed the march between the late Rev Mr Munro and his tenants, until it comes to a point in the said dyke at which an angle is formed and from which the dyke stretches in a North Easterly direction, pointing towards the farm of Valtos.
Northern Boundary –
From said angle in a straight line, as nearly as the eye can form in a westerly direction, defined by marks formed of stone and feal placed in pits in various places and passing along the very large stones or rocks on the surface of the ground, beside which a similar mark of stone and feal in a pit is made, and from said mark and large stones in a line similarly defined between the loch called Loch Stesal, and an eminence or place called Cnoc Stesal, and from thence across a feal dyke called Gàradh Stesal to a point marked as before in a spot called Bealach-Ghearrie-Mhic-Cor.
Western Boundary –
From said point or mark last defined proceeding southward along a glen called Gleann-Gearrie-Mhic-Cor by similar marks, as nearly as may be in a straight line, till it goes into the head of the bay between Balnakile and Crolasta, which bay is named Traigh-na-Stroupan.
Southern Boundary –
The bay or arm of the sea denominated Tràigh Mhor Uige. Pasture for 2 cows and a horse – A straight line as nearly as it may be commencing at said Tràigh na Stroupan and proceeding in a South Easterly direction through a spot called Trenol, to a large stone above the ground on a place called Creag Threnol and from thence across a spot called Leôb a Bhraid to the head of a piece of ground called LeOb Mhor where the burn called Allt-nic-Fherguis has been this winter, diverted from its original channel. The space included between the Southern, Eastern, and Western Boundaries as above defined and marked and this last described line, forms the pasture for 2 cows and a horse, over and above the 16 soums.
In the Glebe as above defined, marked, and bounded, the site of the manse and offices, church and garden is not included.
The Presbytery declaring this to be the Glebe did by their Moderator
“Infeft the said Mr Alex MacLeod in his own name and in the name of his successors in office, serving the cure of the Parish of Uig in all time coming, in the same, by giving him earth and stone as the symbols of possession.” ‘

1827, Friday 18 May, Inverness Journal – Lewis – Contractor wanted to build an addition to the church of Uig in the island of Lewis;


We do not know by what design or architect the church was planned or which builder was engaged. However John Loban and a John Macleod were attended the 1826 Presbytery Visitation in 1826 (see later section) to consider Rev. Macleod’s petition of a new church.

Loban was the Stornoway stone mason who built St Columba’s Church, Stornoway, in 1794 and Loban is credited with design of Cuithir House, Barra, 1814 -16 (‘Loban was brought to Barra for “estimating manse” and the design is probably his.’) and its twin, Scarista Hs, Harris, 1827, linked to Leurbost Manse. Sources:

It therefore possible that further research may clarify who built Baile na Cille.

What seems clear however is that Baile na Cille does not have any significant similarities with the 32 Telford parliamentary churches that were erected around the highlands around 1820s and 30s. Although, as the church was altered in 1878 with a addition of a vestry and galleries, it is possible that the impending redevelopment may yet uncover clues as to its original construction that have remained hidden for 130 years.

That said, whilst a T shape is a common feature of many churches it is, in fact, the most economical way to maximise the number of people that can be accommodated in a building where there is a single focal point, the pulpit. The solum (the ground below the suspended time floor) gives no indication at present that the church floor was originally earthen or paved stone, a distinct difference from the standard Telford church. And the bell housing on the side has more similarities with a school than any church, contemporary or otherwise.  Mary Miers did propose the idea that this may have been a deliberate decision in response to weathering that the more common belfry would have suffered.

It is likely that Baile na Cille was built by a master builder or stone mason who was sufficiently experienced in design to dispense with the need for an architect.

1828 – ‘some 9,000 people are said to have been present at the communion’

1829 – The original bell was bequeathed in 1829;
“Dec 17, 1829
Roderick Nicolson Esq residing in Stornoway most respectably expressed his attachment to his native Parish by making a present of a Bell valued at twelve pounds stg for the use of the new church of Uig, built anno domini 1829.” (Link)

See 1878 for note on existing bell.

1833 – Rev Macleod writes an account of the parish. (Link)

1843 – From the Diary and Sermons of the Rev. Alexander Macleod;
“Rev. Alexander Macleod, at the Disruption in 1843, joined the Free Church, and was followed by his congregation. In the course of time the parish church at Balnekill, which had witnessed within its walls days of the Mediator’s power in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, was beginning to fall into a state of disrepair. The doors were locked, the silence of death reigned within, and the grass could be seen growing n the aisles and among the pews.”

1843 – ‘The Church of Scotland Baile na Cille was declared vacant by the Presbytery on the 11th July 1843.’

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