Township: Balephuil

Map Reference: Am Bail Ur 4

Name Type: fort

Meaning: Fort of the girls or nuns

I spent days and weeks in digging at the dun ... called Dun a' Nighean ... on a peninsulated rock ... Bones of small sheep, short-horned cattle, and of swine were abundant. I found many tusks of boars – one of them measuring, although the point seems to have been rubbed off, seven inches in length. Large quantities of limpet and periwinkle shells were amongst the rubbish, which lay to a depth of four and five feet on the floors of the citadel, and on the sides of the rocks. I found a crotag ['mortar'] and a pestle, which had been used for grinding (as I infer from the smoothness of the cavity) and not for pounding grain. This shows that the ancient tenants of those forts used meal to a certain extent ... I found pieces of the bones of a whale bearing the marks of a tool on the ends. I found no implements of bronze or iron, and I think if such had been used, I could scarcely have failed to discover a specimen ... I found innumerable flakes of stone, many of them ground flat on one side, which had apparently been used as saws and knives; I found a stone hammer and two pieces of bone that may have been the heads of spears. Every dish seems to have been decorated, and some with great taste and delicacy. The patterns are various, although the zigzag predominates. I found three clay whorls. (Sands 1881-2, 460)

See Dùnan Nighean in Longships on the Sand.

Other Forms: Dùnan Nighean - ONB, p224, "significance 'Daughter's Little Castle'."

Related Places:

Information:There were seven nuns living in this fort. They were murdered by a priest from Barra after they became pregnant - DMcC and NMcC.

Ceit Chailein in the Bail Ur had Dùn nan Nighean above the door of her house. The story was that a priest had got seven nuns in Dùn nan Nighean pregnant while the men were away fishing. Two men waited to see if the priest would return. When he did they killed him. David McClounnan, Balephuil, 6/2005.

Local Form:

Languages : Gaelic

Informants: David McClounnan, Balephuil, 2/1994