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This article is not specifically about Ballachly but about St Triuana.  The article gives an indication of where the chapel might be located at Ballachly.

A. S. Cowper

Information about the cult of St. Triduana is scarce. What is known is that the centre of devotion to her was at Lestalrig, now Restalrigg part of the city of Edinburgh, and that in other parts of Scotland there were local shrines. According to legend she destroyed her beautiful eyes in order to rid herself of the unwelcome attention of a Pictish prince Nectan, and thereafter she was associated with curing eye disorders. Authorities differ in dating her life - sometime between the fourth and eighth centuries. In the Aberdeen Breviary it is stated that her bones rested at Restalrig.

Her name takes various forms. At Rescobie near Forfar where she first settled on coming from Constantinople there was for long a fair held in her name - St. Trodline's fair. In the most northerly parts she was St. Tredwell. A chapel was dedicated to her in the parish of Loth, Sutherland, a short distance north of Brora and here her name survives in the place name Kintradwell. In Orkney at Papa Westray there was St. Tredwell's chapel (vestiges remain) on an island in St. Tredwell's loch to which the sick resorted to wash in its curative waters.

The Norse version of her name was TrØllhaena and as such she features in the Orkneyinga Saga (Joseph Anderson's edition 1873: reprint 1973: chap. CXV). When William the Lion was king of Scotland Earl Harald came (1201-2) to Scrabster in Caithness where Bishop John had his residence {borg). John had refused to exact from the people an annual levy of one penny (the silver denarius) for every inhabited house. This house tax Harald had assigned to papal funds (Peter's pence).

So Harald took his revenge on the Bishop, ordering him to be blinded and his tongue to be cut out. The Saga writer relates that during the torture John prayed "to the holy virgin TrØllhaena" and that later he "was brought" to her "resting place" where he regained his sight and speech. The description "resting place" led to general acceptance of Bishop John having come from Scrabster to Restalrig.

In recent times, however, Mr. Ian MacIvor writing about Triduana and Restalrig (PSA Scot. XCVI, 247) and noting her association with Sutherland and Orkney expressed the thought that the healing of Bishop John's eyes might have taken place at some local northern shrine dedicated to her.

It is, therefore, interesting to consider the tradition of a chapel to Triduana having existed in ancient times at Ballachly, roughly twenty miles from Scrabster.

Visitors today to the site at Ballachly find an overgrown burial ground in the midst of an extensive moor but close to an oasis of well cultivated farmland and a farm steading. Coming from the South the traveller takes the A9 either to Latheron or further on to Lybster. The Latheron to Thurso road (A895) is joined by a secondary road from Lybster at Achavannich (a single house). A short distance before this junction there is Loch Rangag on the Latheron road and Loch Stemster on the Lybster road. Beside Loch Stemster there is a group of ancient standing stones.

From the gate at Loch Stemster a rough tracts signposted Private Road runs across the moors. This unmade road leads to Ballachly farm approx. 4 miles distant. Near the farmhouse, across a cultivated field, on the left of the road is the walled and tree shaded Ballachly burial ground. Here was the chapel of Triduana in medieval Caithness. Part of the adjoining land was anciently known as Croit TrØlla, the croft of St. TrØllhaena.

These are the meagre facts. That the area had some religious association would no doubt account for its becoming a burial place in later times. A few inscribed stones that could be found among the rank undergrowth in the summer of 1980 belong to the 19th century. There is one to the Sutherland family of Rhianacoil whose "ancestors resided there two centuries previous to 1912". There is a stone to Donald Mackay of Clashcreggan 1767-1848), one of the good and godly "Men" of Caithness recorded in Alexander Auld's Ministers and Men in the Par North 1869: reprint 1956. There rests also the law clerk and genealogist who died at 34 and the schoolmaster and literary writer who lived to 85.

On a fine summer day when the sky is blue and the crop in the field is blowing green and all around the moor stretches for miles in uninhabited silence the thin spun thread of history that links Bishop John and Triduana with Ballachly and Restalrig shines brightly in the tapestry of time: and past and present come together in the mystery of life and the knowledge that here we see through a glass darkly. Could it possibly be that this Caithness shrine possessed, as was common practice in medieval times, a relic, a bone of St. Triduana and so would have qualified for the description "a resting place" of the saint? If only the writer of the Orkneyinga Saga had named "the resting place of the holy TrØllhaena" to which Bishop John of Caithness went "to mend" his "ene".