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Canisbay Kirk gets a facelift

By David G Scott

THE historic church at Canisbay is surrounded by scaffolding while it undergoes a transformation a decade since it was last painted.

Dating back to the early 1600s, the category A listed building is visited by Prince Charles on his annual trips to the Castle of Mey but its façade was pockmarked by 10 years' worth of dirt and algal growth.

Canisbay Kirk is getting a facelift. Picture: DGS
Canisbay Kirk is getting a facelift. Picture: DGS

The Rev Lyall Rennie, minister at the church, part of the Pentland parish, said: "Because it's a grade A listed building we had to go over a lot of hurdles to get the work done. For instance, we needed approval from Historic Environment Scotland and the local conservation planner before we even started."

After all the red tape had been sorted, scaffolding was erected and the work began.

"On the tower part of the church there's no guttering so the water just runs down the face of it and that's why there's so much algae and growth on it," Mr Rennie said. "We're going to put gutters around it so the rain will be channelled away and there won't be so much algae taking hold."

However, because the church did not historically have gutters, special permission had to be sought from the relevant bodies.

"It has to be cast-iron guttering and we got the permission for that but then had to find the funds. Thankfully, we have the Stroupster wind farm fund, which normally wouldn't be able to give to religious bodies, so we asked for the money to refurbish the building as a popular tourist attraction."

Together with the church's own funds, enough money was raised to instigate the work which began with jet-hosing the exterior walls to remove the algae before specially approved paint was applied that is resistant to algal growth.

The Rev Lyall Rennie is overseeing the work at Canisbay Kirk before he retires.
The Rev Lyall Rennie is overseeing the work at Canisbay Kirk before he retires.

"It's not quite finished yet but already there's a big difference in the church," Mr Rennie said. "We hope to get funding for some of the other churches in the parish too. Dunnet Church is similar in style and age to Canisbay but is not so much of a tourist attraction so it might be a bit harder to get the funding."

Canisbay Kirk supplanted a medieval church and Jan de Groot, the man who founded John O'Groats, is buried in the cemetery – his mural tombstone, erected in1568, sits in the church building and is a popular tourist attraction.

Mr Rennie said he was pleased to finally see the transformation take place on the eve of his retiral from ministerial duties next month.

Mr Rennie is looking forward to creating a model railway during his retirement – an ambition he had for many years but was unable to fulfil due to work commitments. His last service at Canisbay will be at noon on September 1.

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