On ground rising above the north end of upper Tobermory's Breadalbane Street lies an unassuming red wooden building. This is the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Mull's only RC Church. It is normally accessed by steps rising from Breadalbane Street, but for the less mobile a paved pathway from Victoria Street cuts out all but the last two steps into the church.
The Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, was built here in 1973. The name, and the associated dedication to the Virgin Mary, is doubly apt. Churches dedicated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea are traditionally associated with fishing ports. And somewhere not very far from the the church in this upper part of Tobermory is the ill-defined location of an ancient holy well dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Mary's Well, whose Gaelic description, tobar-mhoire, gave rise to the name of the village.
Because the exterior of the church is simple and unassuming, more suggestive of a scout hut than a church, the interior comes as quite a surprise. In large part this is down to church's collection of beautiful stained glass. This is the last thing you expect as you walk through the door and into a light, airy and welcoming interior whose effect is emphasised by the light wood furnishings.
The most striking individual stained glass window is one depicting Our Lady and the Child Jesus looking down over Tobermory (see image on the right). This beautiful window was commissioned in 1998 by the Muldoon family, in the USA to mark to the silver jubilee of the building of the church. It was produced by Californian artist Pat McCoy and dedicated on the last Sunday of June 1998.
In some ways, though, it is the series of stained glass panels framed by the church's other windows that do most to create its atmosphere. Eight panels depict the "Eight Days of Creation" in most cases using scenes and images drawn from Mull itself. Subjects depicted include the Northern Lights shown on "The First Day", a golden eagle flying past Ben More on "The Fifth Day", and an almost abstract theme implying the Algerian Desert (as a memorial to a notable member of the church community) on "The Eighth Day".
These panels were produced by stained glass artist Felicity Hansen and installed in Our Lady, Star of the Sea on 23 March 2003. Efforts are underway to raise the funds needed to replace the building, and if these are successful the panels will be moved to the new church.