The pipe-organs


The community of Duror and Kentallen is fortunate in housing two historic pipe-organs within its boundaries.

The more ancient of the two is in St. Adamnan’s Episcopal Church, Duror, the organ of which dates from the late seventeenth century, long before the building itself was constructed (1848).   The instrument has been in several previous locations and has been altered several times over the years, but is thought originally to have been built by one of the greatest organ-builders of his day, namely Bernard Smith, a German craftsman who was induced to settle in Britain after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, a period when the services of organ-builders were very much in demand to replace the many instruments which had been destroyed during the preceding 16 years of the Civil War and the Commonwealth.   Smith was no ordinary organ-builder, as is demonstrated by his appointment as the King’s Organ Maker in 1681, not long before he is thought to have built the instrument which forms the basis of the Duror organ.   The present casework, much of the existing pipe-work, and some of the mechanism can be attributed to Smith, but I know of no evidence to support the otherwise attractive claim that the instrument was ever played by Handel.   The organ came to Duror in 1881 from the Rosse Episcopal Chapel in Fort William, which at that time had just been superseded by the present St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, but the instrument had also previously been in use in Arbroath, Dundee, and possibly Aberdeen.   The organ had an electric blower fitted in 1978, but the original hand-blowing lever was retained, and can still be used in an emergency:  indeed several members of the present congregation can recall serving as organ-blowers in years gone by.   The instrument presently has 1 manual keyboard of 52 notes, and 7 stops, 4 of which draw in separate treble and bass sections;  there is also a pedal keyboard, which has 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 23 largest metal ones are displayed in the case.

The more recently-built organ is in St. Moluag’s, Kentallen, originally built as the private chapel of the Ardsheal Estate, where the instrument was installed in 2006.   The organ’s early history is undocumented, but the characteristics of the instrument itself suggest that it was probably built by John Renton while he was working for the Edinburgh organ-builder James Bruce the 1830s.   The later history of the instrument is clearer, and involves even more locations than the St. Adamnan’s organ:  firstly two unidentified places, then Kirkcaldy, Dundee, Aberfeldy, Leithen, and Largs.   There have been some alterations to the original organ, such as the treadle-type blowing pedals and the knee-operated expression-lever (both features more commonly associated with reed-organs).   This organ has 1 manual keyboard of 56 notes, and 7 stops, 1 of which draws in separate treble and bass sections;  the pipes of 3 of the stops are enclosed in an expression box with hinged shutters controlled by the above-mentioned knee-lever.   There is a total of 331 pipes, none of which is visible, as the case contains only wooden imitation pipes.

Duror Parish Church has never had a pipe-organ:  instead reed-organs were probably used there before the days when electronic instruments were available to provide instrumental music in the services.

Kerr Jamieson

duror churchofscotland
Duror Parish Church