Posts Tagged ‘Church of Scotland’

Iona – the Abbey

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Every time I peel an onion, something I do several times most weeks, it reminds me of our stay at Iona. As paying guests of the Iona Community at the Abbey we took our part in the daily chores which kept the place running, and each morning after breakfast I went with the other ‘Otters’ – the work group to which I had been assigned to the kitchen to prepare vegetables. My part in this job seemed always to be one of two or three of us peeling onions – and you need a lot of onions to cook vegetarian meals for around 50 or 60 people.

There are a lot of dodges that people advise to avoid tears when peeling onions, and I think I tried them all. They may help if you are only peeling one or two, but none help if you have a mountain of them to get through. You cry, and crying only makes it worse. Still, I think I preferred it to cleaning the lavatories and washrooms that my partner was assigned to.

The Abbey is essentially a twentieth-century reconstruction carried out by teams of volunteers from the Iona Community after the site with its ruins was gifted to the Church of Scotland by the 8th Duke of Argyll in 1899, with more modern living accommodation built alongside it in a matching external style.

The Duke is still present – in marble, lying beside his wife.

As well as the abbey, alongside it is a small church, the oldest building on Iona (c 1150) with an ancient graveyard where 48 Kings of Scotland were buried. They were joined more recently by Labour leader John Smith; a boulder marks his grave with the message “An Honest Man’s The Noblest Work of God”.

There are ruins of another chapel in the grounds, as well as those of a former Bishop’s House, and splendid views across the sound to Mull, enough to drag me out of bed for a short walk before breakfast (and onions.) And of course there were a number of short religious services, optional but an important part of the experience, though with too much unaccompanied singing for my taste.

More pictures in and around the Abbey from our visit 12 years ago on My London Diary.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr