Pilgrimage To Historic Uninhabited Island Taking Place Tomorrow

Rev Canon Paul Miller

Rev Canon Paul Miller

A rare opportunity to visit one of Scilly’s most historic islands takes place tomorrow, with the annual pilgrimage to St Helen’s.

And it’s the first time it’s been led by St Mary’s new priest, Canon Paul Miller.

Paul’s joined the pilgrimage before, when he was a locum on Tresco.

But he says he’s been reading up on the history of the island and its famous resident, St Elidius, who came to live there in the 8th Century.

St Elidius is thought to have converted the Viking king, Olaf, to Christianity.

From Radio Scilly

Rev Canon Paul Miller talks about leading his first pilgrimage to St Helen’s

The pilgrimage used to take place on the nearest Sunday to St Elidius’ feast day on 8th August. The last islands’ priest, Peter Walker, changed this to the actual day, to avoid clashes with events during the busy fete season.

Paul says the island, which is now uninhabited, had a thriving community in the 13th century, under the control of Tavistock Abbey. Between 50 and 100 people lived there and the outline of fields, which were used to feed the population, can still be seen.

In the 18th century, the island was also used as a quarantine station for ships affected by plague and other diseases and the remains of the ‘Pest House’ and graveyard are still visible.

Tomorrow’s service will take place in the original chapel, which is still standing, with its altar intact.

Paul says it’s a fantastic experience to step back into Scilly’s past and to stand in over 1,000 years of history. And he’s pleased that the church continues to mark such an important date in its calendar.

A boat will be leaving St Mary’s quay at 2pm for the pilgrimage, and people are encouraged to bring along a picnic.