St Columba’s History

The history of St. Columba’s

In the early years of the twentieth century a group of Anglicans from Brora and the surrounding area got together to petition the Bishop for the establishment of an Episcopal Church in Sutherland.  In their prospectus for subscribers to such a project they wrote:

The need for some settled Episcopal Church in the County has been increasingly felt of late years, and especially in “the season”, when the shooting lodges and the coast villages are full of English, Scottish and Irish Churchpeople. At Dornoch, services are held in August and September in a hall hired for the purpose – so serving a wide district. But between Dornoch and Thurso in summer, or Tain and Thurso in winter there is no centre from which the ministrations of the Church can be obtained.

Brora was fixed upon as a most suitable centre for what is likely to be for some time to come the Episcopal Church for the County. It has a considerable population resident or adjacent to it; it is an increasingly popular summer resort; and it has the considerable advantage of having a small number of resident Episcopalians forming a good nucleus for a permanent congregation.

It didn’t take them long to get access to a suitable site and start work:

A site for a Church was kindly granted by the Duke of Sutherland at a nominal fee. It is ¼ of an acre in extent, on the main road and less than a minute from the Station and Station Hotel, and central for the Village. On this site a small Church (iron and wood) has been erected and well equipped. It seats 100. It was opened for public worship on August 1st [1909] and full services were provided, and the attendance surpassed all expectation, completely justifying the venture.”

In total, the Church cost £322 – 4 – 0:

Grant Murray – Foundations 20 – 0 – 0
Speirs & Co – Iron Church 189 – 0 – 0
Nicol, Tain – Seats 40 – 0 – 0
Adams, Edinburgh – Carpet 9 – 14 – 0
Cork Matting – Door Mat 2 – 0 – 0
Bureau in Vestry 2 – 0 – 0
Church Wall 15 – 0 – 0
Material for Altar Hangings etc 15 – 0 – 0
Feu Charter – Recording and Registration 5 – 0 – 0
Prayer and Hymn Books 5 – 0 – 0
Hassocks 4 – 10 – 0
Architect – say – 10 – 0 – 0
Extras – say – 5 – 0 – 0
Total 322 – 4 – 0

A variety of people gave generously to clear the debt, including the then Rector of Tain, Rev Angus Cameron, who advanced a loan of £200 at 2% per annum interest.  There were many generous gifts of furnishings and “necessary equipment”

In spite of the aspirations of its founders, for many years it was only open from June to September. staffed by visiting English Clergy, and maintained by the estates. From 1951 until 1974 Brora was served by itinerant Priests (Revs Ivan Mavor, Brian Simpson, Kenneth Forrester, Stewart Mallin and Donald Strachan). except for the period 1958-59 when the charge was served from Tain. From 1974 to 1977 Brora was served by Rev James Bell based in lnvergordon and again by an itinerant Priest from 1977-1981 (Rev Stanley Bennie based in Ullapool). Since 1981 the charge has for most of the time been linked with Dornoch (from 1981-82 by Rev Donald Eales-White and from 1983-1986 by Rev Gordon Smith).

From 1987 to 2001 Rev Alex Gordon looked after St Columba’s, St Finnbarr’s in Dornoch and the Lairg Mission, combining that with being the full time pharmacist at Lairg. The first full time stipendary Priest-in-Charge was Rev Mel Langille, who came to us from Canada in 2003 and moved on to the Black Isle Congregations in Fortrose, Cromarty and Arpafeelie in 2009. In 2009 we celebrated our 100th anniversary of being an episcopal community with a consecrated church building. On 23rd August 2009, Bishop Mark, in spiritual communion with St. Columba of Iona, presided at the anniversary service.

Rev Chris Mayo was licensed as Priest-in-Charge of East Sutherland and of Tain in July 2012.  From July 2017, Rev James Currall took over from Chris as Priest in Charge of St Finnbarr’s Dornoch, St Andrew’s Tain and St Maelrubha’s Lairg, but St Columba’s remained with Chris.  From June 2019 St Columba’s returned to being part of that grouping with Rev James Currall as Priest in Charge.