War Memorials Trust

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Our Lady Star of the Sea

Town or City: Castlebay, Isle of Barra
County: Western Isles
Country: Scotland
WMT Reference Number: WM5039

Value of grant: £10000.00
Type of memorial: Non-Freestanding
Type of work: Restoration
Grant scheme: Small Grants Scheme
Year: 2011

UKNIWM reference number: 61387

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Our Lady Star of the Sea war memorial window © Benjamin Tindall Architects, 2011This stained glass memorial window is located on the west gable of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Castlebay, Isle of Barra on the Western Isles of Scotland. The window is lancet shaped and composed of three lights. The external lights are mirror images of one another showing an angel descending towards what appears to be a warship. The central light depicts Our Lady Star of the Sea (the Virgin Mary) with the baby Jesus in her arms looking down on more historic ships and ascending to heaven on a shooting star. The Church is Category B listed.

In 2011, War Memorials Trust gave a grant of £10,000 towards conservation and repair works to the memorial. WMT Trustees agreed to a larger grant under the Small Grants Scheme in this case due to the large cost of the project which was in excess of £30, 000, as well as because of the urgent requirement for the works.

Due to the location of the window in the Church it receives significant exposure to the elements in this coastal location. A major problem facing the window was that there was water ingress which in places was severe because in places the putty was falling out. In addition, some pieces of grass had cracked. This condition in addition to the memorial’s exposure to the weather meant it was high priority for the works to be undertaken otherwise further damage would be caused.

Our Lady Star of the Sea war memorial window © Paul Harding, 2012The works to the memorial were both to the glass as well as the surrounding masonry. The works to the glass included its removal for conservation work at the conservators’ workshop. Best practice work with historic glass means that the glass is thoroughly recorded before any works are undertaken to ensure that all pieces are returned to their original location as well as ensuring there are records of the original condition and materials should any replacement be required. The glass was cleaned with minimal methods; cracks to the glass were repaired; the glass was re-leaded to the original details and sizes and the lead was soldered; the panels were sealed with putty and tied and the window was returned to its original position.

Our Lady Star of the Sea war memorial window © Paul Harding, 2013The masonry works consisted of protecting the window whilst the glass was removed for conservation work. Previous inappropriate paint was removed and the stone was re-painted with a conservation ‘breathable’ paint. The use of household non-porous paints on historic stonework can be damaging as they do not allow the transfer of moisture in and out of the stone. Stone repairs and indents were undertaken where there had been previous damage from rust expansion of ferrous elements. Re-pointing was also undertaken where required and following re-introduction of the window.

The memorial was installed in 1952. It was paid for from parents’ separation allowances for their sons in World War II. The window was made by the John Hardman Studios and designed by Patrick Feeny who was the Studio’s chief designer at the time. In the Studio archives it is noted that the design was to make the figures stand out for miles when the lights are on inside the Church. During the wars the island had a population of approx. 1,100 people and 125 men were killed in both World Wars; 95% were members of the Navy and of these 75% were Merchant Navy.

Our Lady Star of the Sea war memorial window © Benjamin Tindall Architects, 2011The only inscription on the window is in Gaelic and reads:


The translation of which is ‘Star of the Sea’.

The top section of the central light with the figures of Mary and Jesus were completed to be exhibited at the ‘Art in the Service of the Church’ exhibition at Lambeth Palace in the summer of 1951 (in connection with the Festival of Britain).

The Church also contains a brass memorial to those killed in World War I but unfortunately those from the Merchant Navy were not considered eligible to be included at the time. This is part of the reason it was considered important to have a memorial for all those killed, and various types of boats are depicted to remember all those who died.

Further information

War Memorials Trust reference WM5039
UK National Inventory of War Memorials: 61387

War Memorials Online: 64915

Historic Scotland Statutory List: 5896

In Memoriam 2014

If you have a concern about this memorial please contact the Trust on conservation@warmemorials.org

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