The Kirk Session of Old High St Stephen’s have recently set up the new Friends of the Old High Church, which will launch on Tuesday 12 January 2016 at 7.30pm within the Old High Church.
We are delighted with this initiative, and look forward to working very closely with the Friends to develop this building, which is so important to the civic, artistic, spiritual and historical life of our city.
Here is the press release which went out about the event.
Lovers of the Highland Capital’s historic heritage are invited to gather at the Old High Church, Inverness, on Tuesday evening, to promote its welfare and conservation for present and future generations.
Enthusiasts have already formed a new organisation to raise funds for the ancient building’s improvement, and to advertise it as a local cultural and tourist destination.
The Grade-A listed church stands on the site where St Columba is said to have converted the Pictish King Brude to Christianity in 565.
The new group, Friends of the Old High Church, is to hold an open meeting to launch itself formally and to welcome those wishing to join, with a talk from the Old High’s historian and author of the informative booklet Tales of the Old High, Ross Martin, musical entertainment including a recital on the church’s magnificent Willis Organ, choral items, a virtuoso demonstration by the Handbell Ringers and refreshments.
Friends of the Old High Church is a separate entity from the congregation, and is inviting membership from members of other churches, religions or heritage enthusiasts with no religious affiliation, besides those who worship within its own walls. The site has hosted a place of worship since the Sixth Century.
The group has received the endorsement of minister the Rev Peter Nimmo and his Kirk Session.
Church elder Christina Cameron, who has led the bid to found the group, and who has been elected its first chairperson, said that the oldest church in Inverness was a vital part of the City’s heritage, but like all historic buildings was very costly to maintain.
“It’s a wonderful building which was for centuries the only place of worship in the town, and a focal point of the community,” she added, “but It’s now like an old lady that needs some tender loving care.
“Our group’s mission is to ensure that the building will be secured for future generations and continue to contribute actively to the spiritual, cultural and social life of the city. This is why we invite all who love the long and varied history of Inverness to join.”
Despite an already busy civic workload, the City’s depute provost, Councillor Jean Slater, has volunteered for the time-consuming task of Friends’ secretary.
The group has set up its own website, separate from, but loosely linked to, the official website of Old High St Stephen’s congregation, which worships in the Old High and in its sister church on Southside Road.
While the congregation is responsible for financing the general maintenance of the church, Friends’ members believe there is much a strong, secular supporters’ group might achieve to enhance it.
One of its early priorities is to keep it open for several hours each day between Easter and autumn, to give the City’s many visitors the opportunity to visit it.
In recent years there have been many visitors from all over the world, but regular opening has sometimes been curtailed by lack of volunteers to welcome and supervise them, despite appeals to congregation members.
Ms Cameron and her colleagues are anxious to ensure that tourists from cruise ships visiting Invergordon, as well as those staying locally, should be aware of the church’s significance, and enjoy easy access to it, particularly in view of proposals to turn nearby Inverness Castle into a tourist attraction.
Rev Nimmo said: “If people would like to be involved in activities like being guides in the church, or in stewarding events organised by the Friends, they’ll be very welcome.”
Among more mundane projects the group might hope in time to fund is much-needed improvement of the building’s toilet facilities – there is at present only one toilet, in the vestry.
Tuesday’s meeting begins at 7.30pm.
Historical note: St Michael’s Mount, the little prominence overlooking the River Ness on which the old High Church stands, may arguably be described as the cradle of Christianity in the Northern Highlands. Here, according to local tradition, the pioneering Irish missionary St Columba first preached in 565, and converted the Pictish King Brude to Christianity. There has been a church on the site since shortly after that date. Much of present building dates largely to 1772, although the tower is between four and six centuries old.