Holocaust heroine church re-opens after refurbishment

A village church with close links to a brave Scot who died in Auschwitz has re-opened after a major refurbishment.

Nearly 200 people attended a re-dedication service at Dunscore Church near Dumfries on Sunday.

The building has been repaired and renovated - a project that took three years to complete – after water damage was discovered around the tower, roof and walls.

Dunscore
Nearly 200 people attended a special service to mark the re-dedication of Dunscore Church near Dumfries.

A heritage centre has been opened and partly celebrates the life of Church of Scotland missionary, Jane Haining, who grew up in the village.

She was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 for harbouring Jewish girls at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest, Hungary.

The 47-year-old was eventually taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Nazi occupied Poland where she died.

Photographs, a video, letters, a copy of her handwritten last will and testament and her Hero of the Holocaust Medal are on display among other items.

The exhibition also focuses on the history of Dunscore Church – the current A-listed building dates back to 1823 - and the village.

The heritage centre is open to the public on weekend afternoons from October 7.

A memorial cairn for Miss Haining, who was the matron at the boarding school between 1932-44 and looked after Christian and Jewish girls whom she treated equally, stands near Dunscore Church.

Jane Haining
Jane Haining

The service, led by Dunscore Church Minister, Rev Jannie du Plessis, was described as a “joyful occasion”.

It was followed by supper and a concert.

The minister said: “We are delighted by the transformation of our church building and pleased to have been able to share this with so many friends at our celebratory service.

“We now have a warm, dry and comfortable worship space that is suitable for all manner of services, whether traditional or less formal .

“We now have a suitable area for children during services and extend a very warm invitation to people to join us in our beautiful church.”

Welcoming

Winter storms of 2013 resulted in significant damage and water penetration in several areas of the church.

Investigations indicated that major repairs were required and the cost was well beyond the means of the congregation.

For many years the congregation had wished to make the church building more welcoming and for it to be used for more than just one service a week.

The need to carry out the repairs was the opportunity to achieve this aim.

Applications were made to the Heritage Lottery Fund and many other funding organisations and, in total, the congregation raised nearly £200,000 through grants and fund-raising events.

Dunscoreservice
Dunscore Church is the focal point of village life.

Dunscore Church Session Clerk Colin Mitchell said: “It is amazing that over three years of very hard work is now coming to such a wonderful conclusion.

“When we discovered the extent of the damage to the building, it was clear that it would be a major job to source the funds and to manage the project but we had no idea how big a job it would be.

“We are thrilled by the outcome and the work undertaken has been to a very high standard, enhancing the internal architecture of the church.

“In addition to a weatherproof building, we have a much improved interior space and the heritage centre will be wonderful addition to the life of the village.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors both to our church services and to the heritage centre.”