NL6697 : Carved crest at Kisimul Castle

taken 6 years ago, near to Castlebay/Bgh A'chaisteil, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Great Britain

Carved crest at Kisimul Castle
Carved crest at Kisimul Castle
Above the door of the Thanist's or heir's house. The motto VINCERE VEL MORI is that of the MacNeils and is translated as 'Victory or Death', 'Conquer or Die', 'Buaidh No Bas'. The crest is that of the Clan McNeil [there are variant spellings MacNeil, MacNeill, Macneil et al.], 'on a chapeau Gules furred ermine, a rock Proper'[a rock on a red hat trimmed with ermine], and the clan flower, which is Mountain Avens [Dryas octopetala], although as far as I know it does not occur in the Outer Hebrides. The initials 'RE' might refer to Robert Lister MacNeil [45th Chief of the Clan] and his third wife Elizabeth, whom he married in 1953. Thanks to Mac McCarron and James Yardley for information about the crest and motif.
Caisteal Chiosmuil/Kisimul Castle

Dating from probably the 15thC, this castle is 160m from the shore at Castlebay and accessible only by boat; at low tide it is surrounded by a rim of rock, but at high tide only the walls of the castle are visible. A 1427 charter records that Barra was given to Gill-Adhamnain Mcneil by Alexander MacDonald, the Lord of the Isles, and the oldest parts of the castle that remain seem to date from then, although the rock may have been occupied earlier. After the collapse of the Lordship of the Isles in the 15thC there was much lawlessness and conflict in the highlands and islands, and the Macneils acquired a reputation for piracy. By the 18thC the clan chief had moved to a more comfortable house on Barra, and the castle fell into ruins, and its walls were stripped by boats for ballast. In 1837 the insolvent chief sold the island and his ancestral seat.
Robert Lister MacNeil succeeded as clan chief in 1914 and in 1937 he bought Kisimul and the restoration began, and continued until his death in 1970. It was not clear how the castle had originally looked, and some modern techniques and compromises were used to make the castle a home, while keeping to the spirit of the old building. Since 2000 the castle has been in the care of Historic Scotland under a lease.

Its restoration began in the early 20thC and in 2000 it was put into the care of Historic Scotland under lease.

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NL6697, 82 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Monday, 3 August, 2015   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 12 August, 2015
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Islands 
Primary Subject of Photo
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NL 6650 9794 [10m precision]
WGS84: 56:57.1220N 7:29.2632W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NL 6650 9794
View Direction
WEST (about 270 degrees)
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Other Tags
Historic Scotland  Macneil  Bagh a Chaisteil  Barraigh  Castlebay  Outer Hebrides  Barra  Kisimul Castle  Na H-Eilanan an Iar 

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