Texa - an Island south of Islay

The Isle of Texa is located just off the south east coast of Islay and a few miles from Port Ellen. The island is visible from Islay as well as from the Islay ferry just before you enter Port Ellen harbour. The island, 48 ha/119 acres in size and reaches a height of 157 feet (48 metres) at its highest point, Ceann Garbh (picture), is uninhabited except for some wild goats, otters and (sea)birds. Surprisingly enough the island wasn't always uninhabited. People did live here and in fact Texa was an ecclesiastical settlement and a chapel was built here centuries ago. The same was the case with Nave island on the other side of Islay to the north. In 1625 there was a population of 26 people on Texa and by the late 18th century there were only 8 residents left on Texa. Later in the 19th century the island became uninhabited. There is no regular access to the island, perhaps on arrangement at Port Ellen.

The island of Texa was mentioned by Fordun in his chronicles, Book II., Chap. X., as 'Helant Texa with a monastic cell' and even earlier the island appears in Adamnan’s Life of St. Columba. "Cainnech, or Kenneth, embarked for Scotia (Ireland) from Iona, and forgot to take his staff with him. After his departure the staff was found on the shore, and given into the hands of St. Columba, who, on his return home, brought it to the oratory, and remained there for a very long time alone in prayer. Cainnech, meanwhile, on approaching the Oidechan island (Oidech, near Islay, probably Texa) suddenly felt pricked at heart at the thought of his forgetfulness, and was deeply afflicted at it. But after some time, leaving the vessel, and falling upon his knees in prayer on the ground, he found before him on the turf of the little island of Texa the staff which, in his forgetfulness, he had left behind him at the landing place in Iona".

The Isle of Texa seen from the Ferry Continue reading...The chapel on Texa, which is located in the middle of the island, is believed to be built on the site of an even older one, and was built in the late 14th century by Reginald, son of John of Islay. The chapel was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. East of the chapel is a mound on which a cross used to stand. The shaft of this 14th century cross held the earliest sculptured stone portrait of a member of the house of Somerled. It was removed in the early 1900s and it can now be seen in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The portrait on the shaft is of Ragnald, eldest son of John the Good and progenitor of the MacDonalds of Clanranald. The inscription reads: "This is the cross of Reginald, son of John, of Islay". It was Ragnald's younger brother, Donald, who succeeded his father as Lord of the Isles.

The Isle of Texa

What looks like a wee rocky hump is in fact an interesting island with a history of its own. The island also has a jetty close to the chapel site and there is a renovated cottage not far from there. Evidence has been found of an agricultural settlement, and the island could support a population due to it's own water supply, Tobar Moireig (Mary's well). There are several caves on the island and Jeremy Hastings from Islay Birding uses the island for Bushcraft and Wilderness courses. In the last centuries three ships stranded on the treacherous rocks of the island. In 1884 it was the Barque Assyria, in 1895 the steamer Gannet and in 1934 the Steamer St. Tudwal stranded close by.

The copyright on the top image is owned by Paul Biggin and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. A large Panorama picture is available from the Islay Panorama Pictures page.

Tag: texa island history

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