St Columba's History
A BRIEF HISTORY
In 1846 the Rev Alex Lendrum, incumbent of St James’, Muthill, launched a project to build an Episcopal Church in Crieff, consecrated in 1848 in the name of St Michael and All Angels. subscribers included Queen Adelaide, W.E. Gladstone, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Armagh and the Bishops of London and Gloucester. Within 14 years there was a falling out between Mr Lendrum and the Bishop of St Andrews, Bishop Wordsworth. Mr Lendrum resigned in 1862 and boarded up the church, which soon fell into a state of disrepair. Forced to worship elsewhere, the congregation raised the money to build another church on the site of the present St Columba’s to hold about 200 people.
Crieff was growing rapidly and a much larger church was needed. In 1877 the second St Columba’s was built and consecrated, the money being raised by Sir Patrick Keith Murray of Ochtertyre House. He also provided endowments to meet the feu duty and to secure part of the incumbent’s stipend, making it a condition that an equal sum should be found by the congregation or from other sources. In addition he gave the graveyard in Ochtertyre grounds, which belong absolutely to the church.
In 1883 the Mission at Comrie was begun by the Rev Gray Maitland, Rector of St Columba’s, when he conducted services at the Royal Hotel during the summer months. A year later the beautiful little church designed by RTN Speers of Culdees, was built on a site donated by Colonel Williamson. Linked with Crieff for 13 years, the church became an independent charge in 1896.
The appointment of Canon William Meredith as rector of St Columba’s followed 3 years later. He started the Boy Scout Movement in the town and was a fervent advocate of the Temperance cause. He guided the church through the period of the FirstWorld War and, after 27 years of devoted service, retired in 1926.
The advent of Canon Gourlay heralded a period of prosperity during which the music in the church flourished under the leadership of Mr James Anderson, the organist. There was a two manual water-driven organ which gave trouble from time to time, not least when some of the choir boys blocked up the overflow pipe on their way into choir practice. When the organist died, Charles Wilson, aged 16, took over the choir with about 16 boys and 8 men in it.
Girls were admitted to the ranks of choristers during the Second World War. One of them learnt to ring the bells which were plucked like a harp, but her enthusiasm for jazz tunes was thought to be inappropriate by the townsfolk. Children were recruited form the Episcopal School in the town and paid one penny per Sunday for singing. The school had about 60 pupils and numbers were boosted when Taylor’s Institute (now the British Legion) closed, but over time numbers dwindled and the school closed in the 1950’s.
The development of a strong amateur dramatics group, based in the church, took place in the 11970’s. Performances were given throughout the area and new members joined the church as a result of taking part. But a combination of events led to the demolition of the church by the mid 1980’s. The building was too big for the numbers attending and the heating costs were very high; the tower was in a dangerous condition. And so, reluctantly, the decision was taken to replace the church with a building in which to worship and hold meetings. The present St Columba’s serves this purpose admirably, and is well used by the community. As a result of its fuel economy, and blessed with land which has been developed into a prayer garden, the church is proud to have been recognised recently as an eco-church..