The History of Dunnottar Church

During the 5th century, St. Ninian of Whithorn established a chain of churches throughout eastern and central Scotland. One stood 2 km south of Stonehaven on the great storm swept Rock of Dunnottar. That strategic site became an important fortress frequently besieged and stoutly defended throughout the ages. A new church was built on the rock in 1276 and was dedicated to St. Ninian by Bishop William Wishart of St. Andrews. In this church, a garrison of English soldiers died where William Wallace burned it down in 1297. A fragment of the church still remains in the structure of the ruined 16th century chapel on Dunnottar Kirk.

In the latter part of the 14th century, Sir William Keith, the powerful Earl Marshall of Scotland build a new church in a safer and more convenient location for the congregation. The present site of Dunnottar Kirk is where he chose to build a church in 1394. The church was a sanctuary away from the constant military activities.

He dedicated it to St. Brede (St. Bridget's) an Irish saint who came to the Mearns with her sisters around 503 AD. It was rebuilt in 1593 replaced by a much larger building in 1782 and was added to in 1869. In 1903 the church was completely restored and extended to its present structure and so far, it remains as it stands today.

The Reopening of Dunnottar Kirk
(Extract from the "Stonehaven Journal" of June 25 1903.)

“On Tuesday afternoon 16th June 1903 the picturesquely situated parish kirk of Dunnottar which had been almost entirely reconstructed, was re-opened by the Very Rev. Dr Gillespie, Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

The kirk was crowded by a congregation which included the various denominations. The Town Council of Stonehaven, preceded by their Officer carrying his halberd, and headed by Provost Mowat, walked in procession from the Town Hall and took their seats in the front pew of the north gallery, while the Fordoun Presbytery and the Session of Dunnottar Kirk occupied the seats in front of the pulpit.

A considerable time before the hour fixed for the opening, the wooded avenues leading to the Kirk from Stonehaven, were crowded by a stream of well-dressed people of all classes, attracted not only the desire to see the renovated kirk, but possibly also to see and hear the Right Rev. Gillespie of Mouswald, the popular Moderator of the General Assembly, and to agriculturists, the Minister of Agriculture for Scotland. The restoration which had been carried out with marked success, owned its origin to the energy, zeal and liberality of the respected minister of the parish, Rev. Dr D G Barron, the successor of the late Alexander Silver who died in 1884 and for 40 years held t he benefice.

Mr J Douglas, the talented organist, composed the tune for a special anthem that was sung during the service, the words of which were composed by Dr. Barron and was entitled "Of Old in Jewish Salem" which was rendered with taste and expression by the choir, Miss Louise Porter singing the solo part. The lessons were read by Rev. J Robertson of Fetteresso and Professor Cowan of Aberdeen.

After a prayer of invocation by Dr. Barron, the Moderator delivered a stimulating address and congratulated the congregation and thanked them for raising that beautiful House of God.

After the service the Town Council were invited to the Manse where they were introduced to the Moderator.”