History of St. Adamnan's Episcopal Church


"I die an unworthy member of the Episcopal Church of Scotland." (1)   So said James Stewart, better known as James of the Glen or Seumais a' Ghlinne, towards the end of his speech from the Cnap a' Chaolais scaffold on Wednesday, 8th. November 1752 prior to his judicial execution for a crime with which he was hardly, if at all, connected.   
On Friday, 6th and Sunday 8th July 1770 Robert Forbes, Episcopal Bishop of Moray and Caithness, confirmed over 400 people at Ballachulish including 55 from Duror. (2)  He also baptised about 150 people but where they came from is not recorded.   
In the First Statistical Account of Scotland (3) Rev. Donald McNicol, minister of Lismore, wrote "it is a difficult matter to ascertain exactly deaths, births or marriages, in these extensive parishes, particularly on account of the great number of Episcopals, and sectaries in Appin."
The history of the Episcopal Church goes back a long way but it was not until 1848 that an Episcopal Church was built in Duror. The site, one Scots acre, had been donated by feu-charter dated 7th. January 1846 by Charles Stewart of Ardsheal.   The charter was made "in favour of the Rt. Rev. David Low, Bishop of the United Diocese of Moray, Ross, Argyll and the Isles and his successors for the purpose of erecting a Parsonage House for Duror and Portnacrois, as well as a chapel for the performance of Divine Service according to the rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church, but for no other purpose whatever." The Church and Rectory had been built by July 1848 at a cost of £800 mainly by members of the congregation, most of whom were employed on the Ardsheal estate.
The original building was rectangular in shape and made of local granite with a roof of Ballachulish slate and an earth floor. It seated 80 people. It is probable that the vestry was built at the same time. Before consecration the new Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Ewing, got the laird of Ardsheal to annul some of the conditions of the feu-charter and this was done in a document dated 26th. July 1848.   It is presumed that the consecration took place in September of that year as St. Adamnan's Day is 23rd. September and it is after that saint that the church is named. Initially the church was run jointly with Portnacrois.
St. Adamnan was the ninth abbot of Iona. He was born in about 624 A.D. and died in Iona on 23rd. September 704 A.D.   He is famous for his Vita Columbae, the biography of St. Columba. He also wrote a description of Holy Places of Palestine from material gleaned from the French Bishop Arculf who had been forced to shelter in Iona from a storm on his way home from Palestine. In Ireland, he advanced civilisation by freeing women from active participation in war.
The porch was added in 1871 to the design of the rector of the time, Donald Rankin, who had appealed a year before for funds to carry out repairs to the Church and the Rectory. By that time the debts on the building had been cleared by the lairds of Ardsheal and Ballachulish.
The oak reredos was added in 1885.
The chancel and pulpit were added in 1911 as a memorial to Bishop Chinnery-Haldane who had preached his last sermon in the church on 24th. September 1905.   The architects were Messrs. Eden and Hodgson of London and the builder Mr. John Macinnes of Ballachulish.   As the granite quarries at Kentallen were no longer in operation dressed Aberdeen granite was supplied and executed by Mr. Edgar Gould of Aberdeen. The cost of £600 was defrayed by the congregation.   The church now seated 64 people.
The East Window, the tracery of which is shaped like a thistle, was installed in 1919 and was designed by Sir J. Ninian Comper who was the last of the great Scottish Gothic Architects and one of the greatest church architects of the 20th. century.   Other work by him can be found in Westminster Abbey. The centre panel shows the Virgin and Child.   This was paid for by the congregation. The left panel of St. Patrick is in memory of Alexander Patrick Cameron of Ardsheal who died in 1919 and the right panel depicting St. Columba is in memory of Charles Stewart of Achara who died in1916. In smaller parts of the window are several religious emblems such as a descending dove and a pelican.   On the right side of the chancel is another stained glass window probably also by Comber. This depicts, to the left, St. Bridget and to the right, St. Adamnan. This window was presented by Dean Burrows in 1929 in memory of his aunt, Mary H.A. Burrows. The south window showing the Good Shepherd was installed in memory of Angus MacColl and Elizabeth his wife, and their son Dugald, killed on active service in 1917. This was constructed by Abbott & Co. Ltd. of Liverpool in 1920.
A wooden floor was replaced with a concrete one in about 1950. Electricity was installed in 1953 when the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board supplied electricity to Duror for the first time.
The organ is probably the oldest pipe organ still in use in Scotland.   It is said to have been played on by Handel but there is no confirmatory evidence for this. When in Aberdeen in 1773 Dr. Johnson heard music on "an admirable organ." Although tradition says that this may have been our organ this is probably incorrect.   Bernard Smith was appointed King's Organ maker in 1681 and it was about this time that he built our organ. The present casework, much of the existing pipework and some of the mechanism can be attributed to him. It was altered by John Snetzler in the early 18th. century and by Donaldson of York later. It may have been installed originally in Edinburgh or Leith and travelled from there to Arbroath, Dundee and then to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Aberdeen in 1792 before being installed at the Rosse Episcopal Chapel in Fort William in 1817. When this was closed on the building of St. Andrew's church the organ was transferred to Duror in 1880. Originally constructed with two manuals at some time pedals were added and the keyboard was replaced by Mr. Wardle of Aberdeen on transfer to Duror. At this time the woodwork for the Pedalboard and Bellows was constructed on site by Donald Campbell of Fort William. The total cost of this was £100 and was paid for by Mr. Davy of Spean Lodge An electric blower was added in 1978 when the organ was restored by Michael Macdonald of Glasgow.   The original hand-blowing lever has been retained and can be used in an emergency or when authenticity is required. At present the instrument has one manual keyboard of 52 notes and 7 stops four of which draw in separate treble and bass sections. There is also a pedal keyboard with no stops of its own but is used to pull down the 14 corresponding keys at the bass end of the manual. There is a total of 376 pipes of which the largest 23 are displayed in the case.
The original altar is of bevelled granite and is built into the wall of the chancel and is held in front by two pillars. The oak reredos was added in 1885 and has a tabernacle in the centre. A separate communion table has been installed fairly recently and enables the celebrant to face the congregation.
On each wall of the chancel there is a wooden cross. That on the right is in memory of "Capt. Bertrand Stewart, West Kent Yeomanry. Brought from the graveyard in France."   Capt. Stewart of Achara was the first TA Officer to be killed in the First World War. It is possible that he was the rather shadowy character in Erskine Childers' "Riddle of the Sands."   On the left is the memorial for "L/Cpl Dugald MacColl, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Missing, September 20th. 1917."   He is also remembered in the south window. 
On the left wall of the nave is a memorial tablet to "Charles Stewart VIII of Ardsheal, his niece Anna Rebecca Charlotte Stewart, wife of Miles Lockhart and of her grand-nephew James Haldane Stewart Lockhart, K.C.M.G., Ll.D. James was born at Ardsheal 1858. Died in London 1937." On the right wall is a small memorial tablet to the Stewarts of Achara.
The font, made of granite, was made by a member of the congregation in the first half of the twentieth century. The cover is solid oak.
The silver ewer is inscribed "Rosse Church, Fort William, 1817.   Presented to St. Adamnan's Church, Duror, after the erection of St. Andrew's, Fort William, 1880."
The Oxford Chalice and Paten was presented by Mrs. D. Macintosh, West End Hotel, Fort William and her friends per Canon MacColl, Fort William in memory of Miss Mary Cameron, who died at Cambridge, 26th. May 1897. Also at the same time a pocket Communion Set of vessels consisting of a silver chalice, paten, breadbox, spoon, two glass cruets with silver-mounted stoppers, in pious memory of the Rev. Donald Rankin, late incumbent of St. Adamnan's Church, Duror, from 1862 - 1879 was presented.   There is also a paten to the memory of Peter Parnell who was drowned crossing the Tasman Sea. His sister-in-law and niece live in Cuil.
Pewter Chalice and Paten. This chalice holds a pint and the paten is in proportion. They were probably used to celebrate Holy Communion in caves and houses in the days of the Penal Laws.
The Pulpit Cushion is blue silk velvet, panelled with gold and cream diamond lace, edged with old silk cord with tassels was bought by Canon Benwell in 1912.
At the back of the Church can still be found the foundations for the Episcopal School. This was a corrugated iron structure lined with wood. It came originally from Portree where it had been the temporary Episcopal Church before the building of St. Columba's there. It had accommodation for 50 pupils. It was not under government inspection and the sole supporter was Bishop Chinnery-Haldane. The mistress was Miss Marian Sara Mackenzie who received a salary of £20 a year. In 1905 it received a good report from the Diocesan Inspector (Rev. G.R.Vallings) who "doubt[ed] if any better results could be produced out of the children who attend it." On the death of the Bishop the school was closed and the structure transferred to Kentallen where it can be seen on the right side of the entrance to the Ardsheal Drive. Before the erection of the Kentallen and Duror Community Centre it was often used as the community hall but now stands idle.
The church celebrated its centennial in 1948 with the publication of a pamphlet from which much of the above information has been drawn.    Also available at that time were several photographs of the church.   Further information has been obtained from the draft document of Mrs. Fiona Rice, wife of the recent rector.   The rectory was sold 2005.   In 2009 the church became part of the linked charges of the West Highland Region along with St. Paul's, Kinlochleven, St. Mary's, Glencoe, St. John's, Ballachulish, St. Bride's, Onich and Holy Cross, Portnacrois.
All but four of the rectors are commemorated by photographs. Of the first two, Rev. Duncan Mackenzie (1841-1854) and Rev. Donald Mackenzie (1854-1862) there are no photographs. Nor are any known of two during the latter part of the Second World War; Rev. W. Sillery (1943-1944) and Rev. F.R.C. Palmer (1945-1946).
The other rectors are Rev. Donald Rankin (1862-1879); Rev. Canon Dugald Mackenzie (1879-1905); Rev. Canon E.J.H. Benwell (1906-1929) Synod Clerk; Very Rev. C.W.R. Lloyd (1929-1940), Dean; Rev. Canon C.L.Broun (1941-1943); Rev. J.H. Benyon Hopkins (1946-1959); Rev. R. G. Paterson (1959-1962); Rev. R. Callow (1962-1965); Rev. R. Hutchinson (1965-1970); Rev. Canon B.S.T (John) Simpson (1970-1980); Rev. R.F. Graham (1980-1984); Rev. Canon David Day (1984-2002); Rev. Peter Rice (2003-2008); Rev. Adrian Fallows (2009-).
Among the many priests who have helped out over the years one was the Rev. W.V. Awdry, author of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories who spent part of his retirement nearby.
1.         Hunter, J. (2001).    Culloden and the Last Clansman. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing.
2.         Craven, J.B. (1886). Journals of...Rt. Rev. Robert Forbes. London: Skeffington & Son.
3.         McNicol, D (1791)    First Statistical Account of Scotland. United Parishes of Lismore and Appin.
Neill Malcolm. May 2009
with thanks to the Centenary Brochure of 1948 Mrs. Fiona Rice for her updating of this and Kerr Jamieson for his history of the organ.

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