Inis an Ghaill Crabhthigh: the Island of the devout foreigner. This island was owned by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, until it was taken over by the Forestry. Within the graveyard, stands the ruins of two ancient churches, both of the small Irish type but of far different styles and dates. The church to the north is much older and plainer, and bears all the characteristics of the period.
It has a narrow headed doorway, with inclined jambs. “Teampull Phadraig” or St. Patrick’s Church, as it is called, is supposed to be of the age of St. Patrick. It is more likely to belong to the 6th or 7th century.
There is an interesting pillar standing near both churches. The pillar is known as ‘Lugnaedon Pillar’, a piece of Silurian grit stone, about two feet high with an incised cross on the north side, and two such crosses on each of the other sides. The stone bears an inscription “Lie Lugnaedon Macc Li Menueh”, translated, it means “The stone of Lugnaedon, son of Limenueh”, the sister of St. Patrick. The pillar dates back to the 6th century. This pillar is the remains of an Ogham stone, and was sanctified with crosses after it was purged of its pagan inscription, by the founder of the church.
An ancient flagged way, 79 yards long leads between the two churches. The Temple of the Saints is a charming little Hiberno Romanesque church. It has a lovely West doorway with several orders of arches, receding to its opening. This doorway is decorated with a variety of ornamentation. It has several heads carried on its archway. Unfortunately, these heads are suffering from erosion, as they are made of red sandstone. They are now full of pock-marks from the acid in the rain.
Inside, at the right of the entrance, there is a fine incised slab built into the wall and dates back to the 8th century.
There are three bullauns lying loose, together with an unattached stone in the form of a pillar, which is also embellished with a cross. A bullaun is a stone with the centre hollowed out. They were used as holy water fonts, or primitive baptismal fonts, and are just like stone holy water fonts of today.
Inside the church, there is a semi circular chancel, devoid or ornamentation, which places the erection of this part of the church earlier than the 12th century doorway, with its unusual heads.
There is a tomb on the island, believed to be that of Muirgheas O’Nioc, Archbishop of Tuam, who died there in 1128. The Kinnaveys, Conways, Sullivans, Murphys, Lyddans, Butlers and others interred their dead there. It is said that many a wild wail of the Irish Keen has floated over the surrounding waters, as the funeral procession of boats, and their picturesquely clad freight approached the shore of the sacred isle.
We should not leave this beautiful island, without reminding both locals and visitors to Oughterard, that Mass is offered each year on the island, to preserve from danger, the fishermen and others who go out on the lake, and to honour the Saints of the early Irish Church, who associated themselves with the Corrib Country.
The inauguration of the Annual Mass was a result of a wish expressed by some well-known Corrib fishermen. The first Mass was celebrated there on 3rd of July, 1960, and it was the first Mass celebrated there for over 400 years.
Visitors and locals can visit the island during the summer months by taking Corrib Cruises or by hiring a local boat and guide.