Stunning donation from Catholic community to safeguard future of historic Kirk

Two Roman Catholic congregations have donated £10,000 to help repair an historic Kirk in the Outer Hebrides.

Rev Dr Lindsay Schluter, said the “stunning” act of generosity to safeguard the future of Howmore Church on South Uist had left the congregation speechless and overwhelmed.

Built in 1858 by local craftsmen, the B-listed building sits on a site that has seen a Christian presence going back to the 6th century and was one of the key centres of learning in Scotland during medieval times.

South Uist Howmore
Cheque handover - Father Michael Macdonald and Angus MacIntyre, parish treasurer for St Michael’s and St Mary’s, together with Seonaid Crabtree, session clerk, and Isabel Macdonald, treasurer, of South Uist Parish Church.

Located on small hill and visible from the sea, it has been used by local fishermen as a reassuring point of reference for generations.

But its exposed position has meant that winter storms rolling in from the Atlantic have taken their toll on the fabric of the building and it needs about £230,000 of repairs to make it wind and water tight.

The donation from the congregations of St Michael’s Church in Ardkenneth and St Mary’s Church in Bornais means that total has now been reached.

Recognition of Christian heritage

Dr Schluter, minister of Barra linked with South Uist churches, said: “The congregation was left speechless and overwhelmed by the overflowing generosity of their two Roman Catholic neighbours.”

The church is an attractive white harled masonry-built structure, it is a plain three bay rectangular building with a gallery.
There are simple stained- glass panels in the windows of the two gable ends.

It has a unique liturgical and architectural layout with a pine lined interior and enclosed communion table, painted to resemble marble, running down the centre of the church.

Howmore Church
Howmore Church on South Uist sits in a site that has seen a Christian presence dating back to the 6th century. Anne Burgess.

The congregation, led by treasurer Isabel Macdonald, managed to raise most of the funding required for renovation and refurbishment work through applications to various trust funds.

“The building sits right on the coast – next stop Canada,” she said.

“So the problem is basically dampness.

“It needs to be stripped out and dried out, and then some internal modifications are going to take place to make it more visitor-friendly, and the kitchen and toilet facilities updated.

“It needs about £230,000, which with the help of the Catholic churches we have now reached.”

Rev Dr John McPake, Ecumenical Officer for the Church of Scotland, said: “The generosity of the Roman Catholic community is a recognition of the Christian heritage that we share together in Scotland today and a marking of the significance of an historic place of worship.”