Points of Interest: St. Tears Chapel

Chapel of St Tears

Originally published in the Sinclair’s Bay Trust Community Newsletter #2

You’ll find this monument showing the location of the Chapel of St Tears, or St Tayre, roughly halfway between Castle Sinclair Girnigoe & Ackergill Tower. The foundations are still roughly visible, although overgrown.

Chapel of St Tears
Photo credit: Carol Gunn

It’s dedication comes from the tears shed by the mothers at Bethlehem over their children that were slain by Herod, referenced in the Gospel of Matthew.

Traditionally it was customary for people to visit the chapel on the morning of the Feast of the Holy Innocents’ day, the 28th of December. They would say prayers and leave bread and cheese in the chapel as an offering to the souls of the children slain by Herod.

However, it’s famous locally, not for its religious qualities, but for a much more devious act.

Following a long time of quarrelling between the Clans Keith and Gunn, most likely in 1464, the chiefs of the clans decided to meet once and for all to settle their differences at St. Tears Chapel. Each clan was to take men on 12 horses.

The Gunns were first to arrive & the 12 men took their place.

Shortly after, the Keiths arrived but they had, rather  sneakily, mounted 2 men on each horse, greatly outnumbering the Gunns.

A fierce and bloody struggle ensued but even with astonishing courage the sheer numbers against them saw the defeat of the Gunns.

It was said that the blood of the combatants could be seen on the walls of the Chapel 150 years on.

In 1978, after over 500 years, the clans finally signed a treaty of friendship, ending the feud!

Points of Interest: St. Tears Chapel

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