The following historical facts were kindly contributed by Fr. Michael J. MacDonald, PhB, STL (1978), parish priest of St. Michael’s RC Church, Ardenneth, Iochdar, and St. Mary’s RC Church, Bornish, South Uist, (all part of the RC Diocese of Argyll & The Isles). Besides his work in the parish community, Fr. MacDonald is known as a local historian with some knowledge of South Uist and the surrounding area.
“The history of Cladh Hallan (Hallan Cemetery) is not easy to chart since there are so few sources to ‘tap into’ on that subject. The medieval church was, of course, "Cille Pheadair" (St Peter’s), located in the present township of Kilphedar. It certainly had a burial area attached although this has now substantially been lost due to coastal erosion. This burial area may have been in use up until the early part of the 18th century and perhaps a little beyond that period.
There is a story, probably quite plausable, that the burial area was moved to Hallan on the insistence of a priest because mourners at Cille Pheadair were engaging in extended drinking sessions!
Opposite the current graveyard at Hallan, to the east (part of Garryhallie), is a peninsula called ‘Rudh’an t-Sagairt’ (the peninsula of the priest) with what is believed to be a Mass stone on it.
We have to remember that at that time (the early part of the 18th century) Loch Hallan extended all the way to Kilphedar and that the only trackway was the current machair track. The lochs were used for communication and transport and it would be, therefore, sensible to have a place for celebrating Mass adjacent to a waterway and a trackway.
Another story, received from Fr Alastair Campbell, parish priest of Bornish 1870 – 1883, is that Hallan burial ground, Loch Hallan, and Garryhallie, are all named after a priest, Fr Hall. Taken in conjunction with the Mass stone, all this information appears to show that the area east – west from Garryhallie to Hallan was a residential area for a priest at some time or another.
There was only ever one priest on the Scottish Mission who went under the pseudonym of Hall and that was a Fr. James Carnegie, who ministered in Scotland between 1700 and 1729. A known Jacobite, he travelled widely and was in communication with the Old Pretender, who was resident in Paris. He had a very good reputation and was highly esteemed. It is not recorded that he was ever in South Uist but he may have been. It certainly ‘fits’ that he was the priest who insisted on the burial ground being moved to Hallan - there he could keep a closer eye on activities!
On the six inch to a mile map of the area, published in 1878, it is clear that there are two burial areas at Hallan: the first is the old part at the north east of the current graveyard; the second is a marked area to the south west about 400m distant putting it around the south west corner of the present graveyard. This second is likely to be older than the first. However, it is more than likely that the Hallan area was used for burials before walled enclosures were built. Consequently, the use of Hallan as a burial area probably goes back to the early part of the 18th century.”