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St Molios Church stands next to the main road through the village of Shiskine, the only significant settlement on the Isle of Arran not sited on the coast. Popularly known as the "Red Church", for obvious reasons, it was built in 1889 by the architect Sir John James Burnet.
The process by which the church came to be dedicated to St Molios is a complex one. Molios was an Irish monk who, from about 590AD, lived as a hermit on Holy Island in Lamlash Bay, on the east side of Arran. Las or Lais was more usually knows as Molas or Molias or Molio or Molios, and the Gaelic name for Holy Island became Eilean Molaise.
Tradition suggests that when he died, Molios was brought across Arran to a church at Clachan for burial. This is not a name you will find on all modern maps, but the ruined church of Clachan lies next to the Clauchan Water at the head of Clauchan Glen: in what is now Shiskine and less than a mile from St Molios Church.
The Clachan Church whose ruins still stand today was built in 1805, to replace another built in 1708. These seem to have been only the most recent in a line of churches on the same site, because one of the features of the churchyard was an effigy of a monk carved onto a grave slab popularly believed to mark the grave of St Molios.
When the replacement church was built in 1889 for a cost of £1900 (plus £70 for the bell) it seemed appropriate to dedicated it to St Molios. At the same time St Molios' grave slab was moved from the churchyard at Clachan and set into a buttress on the west wall of the new church tower, where it is now protected from the elements by a transparent screen.
There is a nice symmetry about this, which is only slightly weakened when you realise that the effigy carved onto the grave slab moved from Clachan is very similar to others found at Saddell Abbey on the Kintyre peninsula. These only date back to the 1300s or 1400s, and certainly not to St Molios' death seven or eight centuries earlier.
Irrespective of the identity of the cleric whose grave slab adorns the outside wall of the tower, St Molios Church is one of the most attractive you are likely to visit. Internally it is dominated by the exposed woodwork of the ceiling, which perfectly matches that of the pews and the panelling of the lower walls. Once you become accustomed to this, the most striking aspect of the design is the Romanesque or Norman arches used in the construction of the windows. These succeed in giving the church a sense of age much greater than its years suggest.