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Caithness Field Club Bulletin
October 1985

Lyndall Leet

In mid August, the Field Club spent an interesting week-end at Tarradale House, the Aberdeen University Field Study Centre on the Black Isle, and visited many interesting monuments in this beautiful area, including St. Clement's Church in Dingwall which has a Pictish symbol stone (Fig.9) in the churchyard, and a vitrified fort at Knockfarrel, after being directed to it by a farmer with a rich Ross-shire voice, who delighted us by commenting that "Caithness folk never seem to lose their twang".

We also visited the Eagle stone at Strathpeffer with its striking Pictish symbols and the splendidly restored railway station, no longer used by trains but as a tourist centre with handicraft shops. Then we proceeded to the Block Isle to visit Fortrose Abbey and Rosemarkie Groam House Museum, which houses a splendid Class II Pictish stone, difficult to see or photograph as it is impossible to stand far enough away to do so. It is going to be moved to overcome this at a cost of 2,000. Tragically the some mistake is about to be made in Thurso Museum, in spite of protests by the committee which seems to have been ignored, so no doubt these stones will have to be moved too, in the future, at vast cost.

We then proceeded to Cromarty to visit Hugh Miller's house and grave. Hugh Miller as a stonemason to trade, who became a famous geologist and was a friend of Thurso's Robert Dick. His home is a delightful thatched roofed dwelling, looked after by the National Trust for Scotland. Cromarty itself is a delightful, relatively unspoilt little town, obviously suffering a recession in recent times.

The following day some of us visited the Clava Cairns near Inverness, the Pictish Stones at Shandwick and the old Parish Church at Nigg, then on to the ruined abbey of Fearn and the old church of St. Duthus at Tain. Some horrendous, recent works have been carried out at Fearn Abbey, lowering the ceiling and building a fake internal stone wall at the rear of the church, constructed of plasterboard coated with rough cement plaster to simulate natural stone!

It was a rewarding weekend and Leslie Myatt's slides and guidance were invaluable. The Church of St. Clement's in Dingwall was of particular interest being of a somewhat unusual design.

It was built in 1801, after the previous heather thatched church roof had been set on fire by a certain Kenneth Bayne, shooting at a pigeon over it. The roof was wisely repaired with states but eventually a new church was built by the bridge builder George Burn, who as far as we know, built no other church. It was mostly financed, rather reluctantly, by the landowner Davidson of Tulloch.

Fig 9

The building is somewhat strange in plan, due to four large windows for light on its south side facing the town but there is a false front and a steeple on the north side facing directly towards Tulloch's castle. So in effect Dingwall's church turned its back on Dingwall and its face to Tulloch. The then Presbytery accepted the design to maintain good relations with the landowner.

The basic plan is of a 'hall church', first used by Sir Christopher Wren, which consists of a hall with a gallery encircling the pulpit on all three sides.

In Dingwall the gallery is semi-octagonal with the pulpit in the centre of one of the longer sides, bringing the congregation closer to the Minister.

The exterior is interesting too, with four large Gothic windows on the south side and the north facade is of classical design with a triangular pediment surmounted by a stone steeple. The windows on this facade are Gothic in style but with Romanesque arches when double.

This unusual architectural combination gave Dingwall a parish church of character.

The Class I Pictish stone was discovered when church renovations were carried out in 1878, used as a lintel over a door. It is a rectangular stone with a double disc and Z-shaped rod symbol, below that two crescent and V-shaped rod symbols. On the back is a symbol consisting of three circles with a crescent and v-shaped rod symbol below. There are six cup markings on the side.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: to Mr. T.H. Rudge for allowing us to see inside the church.


MACDONALD, D. St. Clement's Looks Back Ross shire Printing & Publishing Co. Dingwall 1976