St. Serf's History
St Serf's Episcopal Church, Comrie
Some Historical Notes
The Episcopal Church in Comrie was established in the late 19th Century and was originally dedicated to St Fillan, and later to St Serf.
Accounts of the life of St Serf appear to confuse details of a number of men of the same name. However, we can speak with some certainty of the saint living sometime in the fifth or sixth century with his monastery at Culross in Fife, where he brought up young Kentigern, better known, perhaps, as St Mungo of Glasgow . St Serf's name is associated with parts of Fife , the Ochil Hills and western Perthshire. Dysart in Fife has his cave, his ‘desertum' (the Celtic Saints' equivalent to the physical desert of the Desert Fathers). Many of the Hillfoot towns recall his name in the dedication of their churches and wells - Dumyat , Tillicultry, Alva, Logie Airte. Over the hill at Glen Devon the bridge, which bore his name, is now under the reservoir. St Serf died in Dunning where, as legend has it, he had slain the dragon some years before. We find his name associated with our own locality; at Ochtertyre St Serfs Loch bears his name, as did the original Monzievaird Church on the site of the Mausoleum of the Murray 's of Ochtertyre.
Little is known of the life of Episcopalians as a group in the Comrie area until the end of the 19 th Century. However, the records of our congregation of St James, Muthill, are continuous from before 1698. Over three hundred years ago in Scotland the “Bishops in Presbytery” arrangement was designed to embrace both Episcopal and Presbyterian principles of Church Government. This collapsed in 1698 for political reasons. John Philip was expelled as Minister of the Parish Church of Comrie for his adherence to the House of Stuart when the Episcopal party in the Church of Scotland, to a large extent, found itself tied to the lost cause of the Jacobites.
Amongst the possessions at St Serf's Church in Comrie there is an old Prayer Book of 1788 given by the Stirlings of Strowan, which records that in future the Episcopal Church would pray for the Hanoverian Sovereign.
The Nineteenth Century
Until the late nineteenth century Episcopal Church services were held in houses on estates around Comrie and St Fillans, such as at Dunira and Lawers. Towards the end of the nineteenth century as the village attracted many summer visitors, the Episcopal Church in Crieff established a mission church, which functioned during the summer months in Comrie. Services were held in the hall of the Royal Hotel and congregations averaged about fifty people every Sunday.
In the late 1880s the Rev. A Grey Maitland, Rector in Crieff, together with several local Comrie people, investigated the possibility of building a church in the village. Land was leased from Colonel Williamson of Lawers (Father of Father Charles Williamson who founded St Margaret's Catholic Church opposite St Serf's across the River Lednock) and a church was built during 1884 and enlarged in 1888. The church was built of wood, had red Roman roof tiles, a small belfly and overhanging eaves, and was designed by the architect, Mr Ewing of Muthill. The building, with seating for 100, was built for £250 .
The church was dedicated to St Fillan on 5 August 1884 by Dr Wordsworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane. Visiting ministers from many part of Britain gave their services to this mission. In the 1888 season, visiting clergy included the Rev. W F Wilberforce of Fulford, York; the Rev. Cecil Hook of Leeds; the Rev. T B Harvey Brooks of London and the Rev. Robert Hey of Derby.
The ecumenical spirit must have been very active even in those days for the church had two choirs, one for mattins and the second for services in the summer afternoons. This second choir consisted exclusively of Presbyterians, six men and seven ladies and the afternoon services were filled by Presbyterians - so writes a visiting priest in 1891.
The Early Twentieth Century
The church became a charge in its own right in 1905 and was made an Incumbency (independent) in 1921. At this time it was known as St Serfs Church. In 1908 and 1909 there were about 35 communicants on Easter Day whilst at Whitsun the figure rose to seventy. By 1912, the roll of communicants stood at two hundred. However, numbers of communicants on individual Sundays were generally smaller than today. A major attraction in these early years was the Christmas Carol Service, which according to contemporary newspaper accounts became a village ‘institution'. The service regularly attracted congregations of over one hundred. The church's Christmas crib, which is still used today, dates from this time. It was designed by Georgina , Viscountess de Vesci who lived in the village. A plaque in the church commemorates her short life (1881-1930), and the oak Holy Table, lectern and candlesticks were given by the congregation in her memory.
Some internal alterations were made to the church in 1908 and the memorial window depicting ‘Justice, Fortitude, Caritas, Courage and Generosity' was installed behind the altar. The window made by Morris and Co. after a design by Burne Jones was given in memory of George Littleton Dewhurst. The windows in the north transept depicting St Gabriel and St Raphael were also installed at this time. The Dewhurst's son, Lieutenant George Littleton Dewhurst of the Rifles Brigade, was killed in action on the Somme on 1 July 1916, when he was aged twenty-four, and a plaque in the north transept is in his memory. The Dewhurst family lived at Aberuchill Castle.
In December 1919, another milestone was passed and the congregation finally bought out the lease for the church with Lawers Estate (Father Charles Williamson) and acquired the adjacent small field (the Glebe) at the same time as part of the setting of the church. The oak tree in the centre of the glebe, now an important focal point, was planted by Col Williamson of Lawers in 1902 to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII.
At the celebration of the Jubilee of the church in 1934, the church reverted to its original dedication of St Fillan. This name was used until 1957 when the church was once more dedicated to St Serf because of potential confusion with the neighbouring village of St Fillans.
Writing in 1944, Canon Gourlie, formerly Rector of St Columba's, Crieff, noted - “the congregation is numerically small but the loyalty of its members, the ready willingness of its voluntary helpers and the congregation‘s generous giving to both local and central church funds, make it an important unit in the Diocese".
The survival of the church at that time was dependent on the generosity of the congregation. Members provided funding for the construction and maintenance of the church; contributed to an endowment fund and to the clergy stipend fund, and donated gifts of furniture, vestments, linen and to the general running costs of the church.
A number of houses in the village were used to house clergy over the years. Until 1905, the house known as ‘Coneyhill' was leased by Colonel Williamson as a residence for the clergy. After that date the villa ‘Ontario' was leased as the parsonage until 1919 when the house known as ‘Glenbuckie' was gifted to the congregation by Mr Walter Jones. In 1921, a portion of the field between the church and the railway line was purchased from Father Williamson by Mrs Watson and gifted to the church. Later, in 1963, the old rectory and the field in Dalginross were sold and the house known as ‘ Inglewood ', directly opposite the church, was bought to act as rectory.
The Renovated Church 1954 - 1977
Proposals to renovate the Church put off by the advent of World War II were resurrected in 1954 when the Vestry proposed applying to the Diocesan Joint Board for a grant to build a new church. Later that year an anonymous gift of £1,000 was given to the church building fund and it was decided not to apply for a grant and to place the matter of rebuilding before the congregation at a special meeting in the WRI Hall in August 1956. Following this meeting, Mr Beaton, an architect from Perth , was appointed and work began on the up-grading of the building in June 1957.
The old wooden church was encased with bricks and harling and the red Roman tiles were replaced by green Cumberland slates. The possibility of building a small free-standing belfly on the River bank, similar to one at Aberdalgie, was considered but lack of money led to this being abandoned. The church was enlarged in 1957, the porch made more spacious, the vestry enlarged and the clear glass put in the windows - all for £3,057. The new Church was consecrated and dedicated by the Bishop of the Diocese on 22 January 1958.
In 1962 the stained glass window in the south transept depicting Saints Ninian and Columba, was given in memory of James Heriot Balfour Melville and his wife Mary Louisa Dundas. Other gifts at this time included the organ from Mrs Dundas; the violet frontal given in memory of Lady Dundas; the veil and burse given in memory of Mrs Stanley Clarke; the chasuble and wafer box given in memory of Miss Maria Dalrymple Maclagan; the wrought iron gates designed by Hew Lorrimer, given in memory of her sister, Miss Haya Maclagan; and new altar rails from Mrs Walter Jones. The new font was given in memory of George and Matilda Dundas in 1946.
By the early 1970s it was becoming increasingly difficult to meet the expenses of funding a separate church in Comrie. The future of the church was discussed with the Bishop at a meeting on 28 August 1977 and it was decided that St Serf's should become a joint charge with St Columba's, Crieff.
1977 to the present day
1989 marked another turning point for St Serf's with the sale of the Church of the Holy Spirit at St Fillans (To read about the history of The Church of the Holy Spirit please click CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.) The St Fillan's Room at St Serf's was built with the funds raised. The room was dedicated on 17 November 1991 and has since provided a much appreciated facility for meetings, social and fund raising events, and for and small ecumenical gatherings.
The stained glass windows on the west wall of the church were installed at the time of the demolition of the old St Columba's church in Crieff. They had been gifted by the Murrays of Ochtertyre.
The tapestry kneelers in St Serfs were worked by members of the congregation in the early 1980s and the wall hanging depicting buildings and ‘special places' in the village was completed in the 1990s.
The path across the Glebe to the Lagan Park car park for use by worshipers and by members of the public was established in 2007. The oak circular bench around the 1902 Coronation oak tree was commissioned by the Comrie in Bloom Group in recognition to the importance of the glebe to the amenity of the village – the Red Oak beyond was planted to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of our present Queen in 2002.
We give thanks for the rectors who have served our Church:
- Rev. John Harrison 1899 - 1904
- Rev. Harold Mayell 1904 - 1914
- Rev. E F W El1iot 1915 - 1916
- Rev. N Dundas 1917 - 1919
- Rev. W R Brown (Locum) 1920 - 1921
- Rev. T C Knox 1921 - 1923
- Rev. Herbert Stuart, M.A. 1928 - 1943
- Rev. Canon Gourlie, M.A. 1943 - 1945
- Rev. G Halsey, M.A. 1946 - 1955
- Rev. C G T Colson 1956 - 1964
- Canon Dr John Perry, PhD 1965 - 1976
- Canon John Fowler 1977 - 1978
- Rev. Brian Gant 1979 - 1980
- Rev. John Simmons 1980 - 1986
- Rev. Hugh Lee 1986 - 2001
- Rev. Charles P. Sherlock 2001 - 2007
- Rev. David Cameron (Priest in charge) 2007 - 2008
- Rev. Paddy Allen 2008 - 2018