AN effigy of St Fergus, the patron saint of Wick, has been returned to its original home at the town’s St Fergus Church.
The 16th century sculpture has – over the past 500 years – found many homes around the town, including spending some time reposing in the town jail before being placed standing upright in a garden next to the townhouse.
In 1908 it vanished for two weeks from the gardens on Bridge Street but just as mysteriously reappeared again. More recently the effigy was moved to the former museum in the library, and it has stayed there upstairs ever since.
With Wick Library soon to be closed, the way has been closed for its return “home”.
Hugh Simpson (Contractors) was called in to do the complex job of getting the heavy sculpture safely out of the library building, through the town and into the church, which was completed on Wednesday. The effigy can now be found lying to the right of the pulpit on an oak base made by Ian Maclean, a member of the church’s congregation.
The sculpture is of a man with long, tonsured hair, dressed in a loose, cassock-like garment with loose sleeves. His hands are folded across his breast and hold a cross with small round bosses, probably representing jewels, on it. His feet rest upon a crouched or sleeping lion.
Church elder and local historian Harry Gray said the church is delighted to have St Fergus home. The effigy originally came from the old St Fergus kirk, of which a fragment still stands and known locally as the Sinclair Aisle next to the current St Fergus Church.
The church will hold a reconsecration service soon, with a date yet to be set.
Mr Gray said: “St Fergus was a very important man. There were two or three saints who came here but he seemed to be popular.
“The first church built on this site was built some time before the reformation in 1560. Nobody quite knows where the first church was in Wick.
“The effigy was in the church for a very long time. Once the old St Fergus kirk was demolished, the authorities took him away and had him standing in the town gardens next to the town hall.”
The Northern Ensign reported in 1908 about the disappearance of the effigy from the gardens. No one knew how it had been taken, by whom or why. Two weeks later it just as suddenly reappeared.
Mr Gray said: “We have got Hugh Simpson’s men shifting it and it’s going to take a lot of them to do it so how in 1908 they managed to spirit a six hundredweight effigy away without anyone knowing – and return it – is beyond me.”
The effigy’s nose was broken when it was attacked in 1613 by Bower minister Dr Richard Merchiston but it has been fixed. Apart from that, it is in very good condition.
Mr Gray said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have St Fergus back. Not only have we got St Fergus but we’ve got the original baptismal font from the old kirk.”
The font was discovered in 1840 but disappeared again before being found more recently in the Bruce Buildings and returned to the church in 2011.
Mr Gray said: “We had people up from Edinburgh to look at it and they thought it was 15th, 14th or even an earlier century. They had never seen anything like it before.”