Old Rendall Parish Church – 6th February 2022

By Bernie Bell

Just some pictures, because it’s such a good place to be……

‘Leave nothing but footprints – take nothing but pictures.’

Lichen = clean air….

Even the Kirkyard has a stoat trap these days….


The steps were built into the wall so that people could get into the Kirkyard, but animals, couldn’t….

February = Snowdrops……

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  1. these steps are known as the devil’s gate when seen around churches and graveyards, but often take the place of wooden styles outwith Orkney – there is a fine example for the gollf course as you continue up from the Muddisdale Trail

    • Thanks Martin – in this article…………..


      ……………..I mention a similar flight of steps in the wall of a church by Lough Talt, County Sligo, Ireland….

      “I remember a similar arrangement by an old church near where my family are from in Ireland. The idea was that folk could get in and out to the churchyard even if the gate was kept shut, to prevent livestock from getting in.”

      And that reminds me of a tale my Mum used to tell. The church by Lough Talt is small and there were no confessional boxes, so the people confessing their sins had to just kneel by the priest. One man regularly knelt down and said “Bless me Father, but I hate the livin’ sight o’ Biddy.” Maybe he thought he was being quiet – but it was a running joke in the Parish. Poor bloke – I suppose it was the only vent he had for his feelings.

      Back to the Rendall Kirkyard – Bruce Mainland – who I believe to be from Rousay – sings a song called ‘Ever Since The Day My Dog Ate Auntie Bella’. https://www.allcelticmusic.com/music/786859f4-13c2-102d-a3b4-12313b000932/The_Lang_Road_Doon.html
      In the Rendall Kirkyard there’s a headstone to Isabella Mainland – tucked into the ruins of the Kirk – and I like to think she might be ‘Auntie Bella’! Not being disrespectful – to me it’s just – people – lives lived and being lived.

  2. I have a clear memory, from over seventy years ago, of seeing a funeral in the old Kirkyard in Wyre. I was up at the farm of Hawn with the women because, of course, at that time only men attended funerals.
    I remember being fascinated by the sight of the black-clad men handing the coffin over the Kirk steps and when I asked why they didn’t just use the gate I remember being told something like ‘there’s no a gate / we need tae keep whit’s in in and whits oot oot’! Nothing to do with animals! More about keeping the living in the living and stopping the spirits of the dead from wandering……

    • Thank you for adding this Morag – I’m very taken with the idea – a very ancient idea of, as you say, keeping the dead where they should be, and the living where they should be.
      If I ever get to Wyre, I’ll be looking at the Kirkyard steps, and thinking……

      Your description of…..” the black-clad men handing the coffin over the Kirk steps” is very evocative – I can see them, clearly, in their black Sunday suits – Sundays, Weddings, Funerals. Then the old ‘best suit’ becomes the everyday work suit – with a lot of years in between.

      You’re bringing back a lot of memories!

  3. It’s a different place now – or was when I last visited. An opening had been knocked in on the other side of the Kirkyard and animals had wandered in, wreaking havoc. A group of us, all cousins, arranged to have the gravestones of James and Mary Flaws, our grandparents restored, as well the stone for their daughter, Maggie, our aunt, who died young.
    There is an interesting tale, told as truth, of robbers from a passing ship opening the grave of the wife of The Bu, overlooking the Kirk, who had died in childbirth. When they tried to cut the ring from her finger, she awoke from her trance and walked home in her shroud! The robbers scattered and the wife went on to have more bairns……
    Lots of stories about this mystical old kirk are told…..

    • Goodness me – but – that could be so – folk were sometimes buried, thought to be dead – there’s at least one Edgar Allan Poe story based on that idea. If she hadn’t been buried long, maybe that could have happened?

      Or – their guilt haunted them.

      Either way – good for her, sorting them out.

      Would you consider writing down the stories? They get lost so easily in these days of telly and Internet.

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