BY Ryan McDougall | August 2 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

stolen bell thingy

Sacred symbol of Faith stolen from remote isle in Highlands

A bell 'of great significance' to Catholics in Argyll and the Isles Diocese has been stolen from an ancient Christian burial ground on a Highland island.

Locals, historians and Catholics alike were shocked to hear that a bell chained to the altar of St Finan’s Church on its namesake island was taken by thieves during late June or early July.

The Loch Shiel island is a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics and other Christian denominations, with the bell often viewed as a symbol of the land’s spirituality.

Fr Michael MacDonald, parish priest of St Michael the Archangel’s Church, Ardkenneth, said: “The bell has significant religious and cultural value.

“The fact that it has been stolen is very sad, frankly. It’s been there since around the 7th century and it’s held in great affection by the people of the surrounding district.

“It’s not just a historical artefact; bells are a symbol of calling people to prayer and it can’t be disassociated with that fact.”

Spreading the word

Fr MacDonald believes spreading the word is the best strategy for retrieving the stolen bell.

He added: “Maximum publicity is the best way to recover these things, because if it turns up somewhere people will know what it is and nobody will buy it.”

Fr Roddy Johnston, vicar general for Argyll and the Isles, commented: “It’s absolutely awful. That bell has been there for hundreds of years and it’s horrible that somebody would steal it.”

St Finan’s Isle, also known as the Green Isle, has been visited by Catholics from all over the world.

Symbol of Faith

People tend to visit the island in small boats as the pier has fallen into disrepair over the years. To date, funerals are still conducted on the island and it is thought that thousands are buried there.

Rosie Frampton of Loch Sheil Cruises, a company that organises trips around the loch several times a week, said: “The island is seen as a particularly holy place for Catholics.

“I think that it will remain a sacred and special place, but I think that bell was a symbol of their Faith there. It’s a pretty massive loss to the loch.”

 

It is believed locally that the thieves had planned the crime and sailed out from one of the nearby communities such as Glenfinnan.

Premeditated

The Moidart History Group, a non-profit community organisation, is currently working to spread the word about the stolen artefact.

A spokesperson for the group said: “The thief would have needed heavy bolt-cutters, since the flimsy chain that attached the bell to the altar was replaced by a hand-forged bronze chain in 2017, so the theft was likely to have been a planned affair.

“There is a curse on whoever takes the bell off the island. It was stolen by a British soldier in the 1740s but returned after a chase along the 17-mile-long Loch Sheil. The thief was flogged severely, and the bell returned by his officers.”

 

Police Scotland have confirmed inquiries are ongoing. A spokesperson said: “The bell was removed from the uninhabited island sometime between late June and early July.

“Anyone with information about the theft or the whereabouts of the bell is asked to call 101, quoting incident 2838 of July 18, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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