Friends of the Old High Church are holding an open day from 10am till 4pm on Friday 9 June, St Columba Day. There will be organ music at intervals during the day, and a short talk at 1pm about St Columba and his connection to the Old High and Inverness. Refreshments available. For information contact Christina Cameron christinajcameron6<at>gmail.com or find out more about Friends of the Old High Church here.
This summer, visit one of the landmarks of Inverness: the Old High Church, the original parish church of Inverness.
It is open to visitors on weekdays until September on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 10am to 12 noon and 2-4pm each day. Services are at 11.15am on Sundays.
Click here for more information about the Old High Church.
Whether you are a local or a visitor, you are most welcome to come and look around the most historic building in Inverness. You’ll be warmly welcomed by our volunteer guides.
We can always use more volunteers, especially to cover times when the regulars can’t make it – please contact us if you would like to help.
To find out how you can help the Old High Church of Inverness, please call 01463 250 802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Welcoming remarks at the opening of the Launch of the Friends of the Old High Church, Inverness
12 January 2016
Rev Peter W Nimmo, minister of Old High St Stephen’s
Deputy Provost, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the congregation of Old High St Stephen’s, I would like to warmly welcome you to our historic city centre building, the Old High Church of Inverness, for the launch of this new Friends Group.
This Sunday, 21 June 2015, at our 11.15 service, we welcome at the Old High Church members of the Highland Branch of the Royal Scots Association following the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Waterloo.
Ensign James Grant Kennedy, appears on his family memorial in the Old High Church. He was the son of Dr William Kennedy, who was one of the founders of the Royal Northern Infirmary. His inscription on the memorial reads:
JAMES GRANT, ENSIGN ROYAL SCOTS, BORN 13 JUNE 1800. FELL GALLANTLY CARRYING THE COLOURS AT LE QUATER BRAS, WATERLOO 16 JUNE 1815.
All of Doctor Grant’s three sons died in military service; James was aged 15 when he was killed at Waterloo. The Memorial is on the West Stairwell in the church, and all are invited to come and view it after the service at the Old High. The colours are currently on display at the Royal Scots Museum at Edinburgh Castle until August, after which they will have to be stored in order to preserve them.
The Royal Scots leaflet on the colours is available here.
Here is the Scotsman reporting the exhibition of the colours this summer at Edinburgh Castle.
Here is the website of the The Royal Scots Regimental Museum.
We’re grateful to Colonel Angus Fairrie, Secretary of the Cameron Highlanders Association, for providing this brief history note about the mobilisation of the military in the Inverness area at the outbreak of World War 1. It was read by Bishop Mark Strange (Scottish Episcopal Church) at the service to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War, held in the Old High on 4 August 2014
Inverness – August 1914
Many people in the modern City of Inverness take great family pride in forebears who served for King and Country in the Great War.
There are powerful reminders of the conflict, such as the elegant memorial on the south side of the Old High Church, commemorating the 61 members of the congregation who lost their lives in the war. But 100 years later, neither war memorials, nor the green farmland of Flanders, nor the immaculate cemeteries maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, can give any idea of how people felt when war began: when during the first week of August 1914 over 6,000 troops concentrated in Inverness, arriving by road, railway and ship.
The British Expeditionary Force
During the years before 1914, when it became clear that the likely theatre of war was the continent of Europe, it was planned that the Regular Army would form a British Expeditionary Force for service across the English Channel. Every county of Great Britain became part of a Regimental District, with well-defined military responsibilities. Inverness and Nairn formed the Regimental District of The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Its primary task was to maintain two Regular Army battalions, with the necessary reserves. These were the 1st Battalion stationed in Edinburgh Castle, and the 2nd Battalion on foreign service in India.
When war was declared on 4 August 1914, the order to mobilize was given, and a well planned procedure began. Over 1,000 Regular Army Reservists from Inverness and all over Scotland reported to the Cameron Barracks, where they were equipped and sent off to bring the two Regular battalions up to war strength.
If hostilities began, casualties would have to be quickly replaced. These reinforcements were to come from the volunteers of the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Recruited mainly from rural communities of the County of Inverness and the Western Isles, and largely Gaelic speaking, they had been trained in drill, marksmanship and fieldcraft, at annual camp. Nearly 1,000 of these Special Reservists also reported to Inverness.
The Territorial Force
Looking further ahead, Great Britain’s next line of defence was the Territorial Force. Formed in 1908 from the old Rifle Volunteers, the Territorial Force had the role of providing a duplicate Expeditionary Force for service on the Continent. It comprised infantry, artillery and engineers, and also their supporting services. It too was organized on a county basis.
Within the Town and County of Inverness the infantry element was the 4th (Territorial) Battalion The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, while the local territorials also included the gunners of the Inverness Battery Royal Horse Artillery, the mounted yeomanry of the Lovat Scouts, and were supported by the Highland Transport Column and the Highland Field Ambulance.
Seen in retrospect today, the size of commitment made so willingly by the people of the Town and County of Inverness is astonishing.
The Town and County of Inverness in 1914
In 1914 the Royal Burgh of Inverness had a population of about 22,000, about a third of the size of the City today. Although the County of Inverness was the largest county in Scotland in acreage, it was one of the least populated areas in Britain. But since the late 18th century Inverness had always had a strong tradition of military service. This was quickly apparent during the first year of the war when over 60% of the men of military age in Inverness-shire volunteered for military service.
The effect on the normal life of town and county was profound. The reservists and territorial soldiers came from every walk of life. They included skilled tradesmen and apprentices, crofters, farm workers, estate staff, mechanics, office workers, railwaymen, fishermen. Their officers included businessmen, lawyers, bankers, accountants, estate factors, hoteliers, schoolmasters, shopkeepers, excisemen and clergymen: the Minister of the Old High Church, the Reverend Donald MacLeod, became an Army Chaplain in the Territorial Force.
The Old High Church War Memorial and the War Grave in the burial ground tell their own stories. They highlight the fundamental role of the regimental structure which recruited the Expeditionary Forces, put them into the field, and provided reinforcements. Of the 62 names commemorated at the Old High Church, 31, exactly 50%, are Cameron Highlanders.
The record of the Old High Church (‘Tales of the Old High’) also gives a remarkable example of how the community of Inverness responded to the national cause. During the course of the war the Minister and 431 of his congregation, volunteered to serve their country.
1914 is a milestone in the history of both the Town and the County of Inverness. It is a reminder of public spirited response to the national need that has never been surpassed.
Our resident historian, Ross Martin, has written a quirky book of essays on aspects of the history of the Old High Church.
The Old High is the Town Church of Inverness, on a site dating back to Celtic times.
Tales of the Old High was launched on Friday 22 November when Ross spoke about his book and gave a tour of the building.
You can buy the book by sending a cheque for £5 made payable to Old High St Stephen’s Church to:
You can also buy it from Waterstones in Inverness, or online from www.waterstones.com .
It’s also available on Sundays at both of our places of worship. Or contact us for a copy.
Here’s the introduction to the book by our Minister: