Iom-air o, 'ill-ean mhara,
Iom-air o, 'illean mhara,
'Ill ean o horo eile.

(Iona Boat Song)
We will gladly e-mail a translation of the above to anyone who wishes it.


For many years, in ancient times, the tired bones of a number of royal families were buried at the Reilig Odhrain (St Oran's Shrine) just beside the monastery on Hy (Iona). It is a sign of the ancient sanctity associated with Hy that kings from so far and wide were brought here to be buried. The island is formed of the oldest rock of the earth's crust and was a hallowed place long before the coming of Colum Cille. This same timeless sanctity is echoed in the rune of foretelling preserved in the Carmina Gadelica collection of Gaelic lore:

Seachd bliadhna roimh 'n bhrath,
Thig muir thar Eirinn ri aon trath,
'S thar Ile ghuirm, ghlais,
Ach snamhaidh I Chaluim chleirich.

"Seven years before the Day of Doom,
The sea shall come over Erin in one watch,
And over blue-green Islay,
But float will Iona of Columba the cleric."


The list of Kings buried in the Reilig is as follows:

AD 685 - EGFRITH, King of Northumbria.

AD 693 - BRUDE MacBELI, High King of the Picts. He defeated Ecgfrith at the Battle of Nechtanesmere in 685. His father, Beli, was King of Strathclyde.

AD 778 - NIALL FROSSACH, High King of Ireland. He had been a monk at Iona for eight years before he died.

AD 791 - ARTGAL, King of Connaught. He had entered monastic life in 782 and then travelled to Iona where he died in 791.

AD 858 - KENNETH MacALPIN, King of Scotland. He reigned over all of Scotland for sixteen years having defeated the Picts.

AD 862 - DONALD MacALPIN, King of Scots. Reigned for four years. Died at the Rath of Inver-amon and was buried on Hy.

AD 877 - CONSTANTINE I, King of Scotland. Son of Kenneth MacAlpin. Reigned for fifteen years and was slain by "northmen" at the Battle of Inverdovat.

AD 878 - AED, King of Scotland. Son of Kenneth MacAlpin. Reigned for one year and was killed by Giric, son of Donald MacAlpin at the Battle of Strathallan.

AD 889 - GIRIC, King of Scotlad. Reigned for twelve years and died at Dundurn.

AD 900 - DONALD, King of Scotland. Son of Constantine, reigned for eleven years and died at Forres.

AD 954 - MALCOLM I, King of Scotland. Son of Donald, reigned for eleven years and was killed by the men of Moray by treachery.

AD 962 - INDULF, King of Scotland. Son of Constantine II, reigned for nine years and was killed by Norsemen at Inver-Cullen.

AD 966 - DUBH, King of Scotland. Son of Malcolm, reigned for four years and six months; he was killed at Forres and hidden away under the Bridge of Kinloss. But the sun did not appear so long as he was concealed there and he was found and buried at Hy.

AD 981 - OLAF SITRICSSON, King of Dublin and York. He went to Hy in penitence and pilgrimage after the Battle of Tara and died there.

AD 995 - KENNETH II, King of Scotland. Son of Malcolm, reigned for twenty four years before being killed at Fettercairn by Constantine the Bald, grandson of Indulf, and Giric, grandson of Dubh.

AD 997 - CONSTANTINE III, King of Scotland. Son of Culen, reigned for eighteen months. He was killed by Kenneth, Malcolm's son at Rathinveramon.

AD 1005 - GIRIC II, King of Scotland. Son of Kenneth, son of Dubh, reigned for eight years. He was killed by Kenneth's son (Malcolm II) in Monzievaird.

AD 1034 - MALCOLM II, King of Scotland. Son of Kenneth, a most victorious King. Reigned for thirty years and died at Glamis.

AD 1040 - DUNCAN, King of Scotland. Son of Crinan, abbot of Dunkeld and of Bethoc, daughetr of Malcolm, Kenneth's son. Reigned for six years and was killed by Macbeth, son of Findlaech in Bothngouane (Balnagowan, near Elgin).

AD 1057 - MACBETH, King of Scotland. Reigned for seventeen years and was killed at Lumphanan by Malcolm, son of Duncan.

AD 1058 - LULACH, King of King of Scotland. Lulach "the Fool", son of Macbeth, reigned for four months. He was killed at Essie in Strathbogie.

AD 1094 - DUNCAN II, King of Scotland. Was killed at Mondynes by Malpetair, earl of Mearns.

AD 1094 - DONALD III, King of Scotland. Was captured by Edgar, son of Malcolm, and blinded. He died at Rescobie and was first buried at Dunkeld. His bones were removed thence to Hy.

AD 1188 - GODRED OLAFSSON, King of Man and the Isles. Died in November in the Island of St Patrick, Man and his body was removed to Hy the following summer.

AD 1230 - UPSAK HAKON, Norse King of the Isles. Was struck by a stone and killed when his forces were trying to storm the castle on Bute.


Grave-slab of Angus Og, Reilig Odhrain.

As well as the royal tombs there are many old chieftains buried on Hy.

AD 1164 - SOMERLED, Lord of the Isles. His body was later removed to Saddell which monastery his son Ranald founded.

AD 1207 - RANALD MacSOMERLED, Lord of the Isles and son of the famous Somerled.

AD 1249- DONALD OF ISLAY, Son of Ranald MacSomerled. Founder of the Clan Donald.

AD 1292 - ANGUS MOR, Lord of the Isles, son of Donald of Islay. Died at Kilchoman, Islay.

AD 1327 - ANGUS OG, Lord of the Isles and son of Angus Mor. Led the Irishmen to fight beside the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314. Described as the noble and renowned chief of Innsigall. Died in Islay.

AD 1380 - JOHN OF ISLAY, Lord of the Isles. Died at Ardtornish.

AD 1422 - DONALD OF HARLAW, Lord of the Isles and son of John of Islay. He became a monk after the Battle of Harlaw. Last of the Lords of the Isles to be buried on Hy.


In addition, the chieftains of the the clans founded by the "sons of Somerled" are traditionally buried on Hy. These include the chieftains of the great families of MacIan of Ardnamurchan, MacLean of Duart, MacLean of Lochbuie, MacLeod of Harris, MacLeod of Lewis, MacNeil of Barra, MacNeil of Gigha, Macdonald of Kintyre and Macdonald of Keppoch.


Two clan grave-slabs.


Maclean of Duart.


Maclean of Lochbuie.


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