The Catholic Churches of the Enzie
St Peter's Church Buckie
Until 1832 the nearest place of worship to Buckie was Preshome, and in that year the
Trades Hall located in what is now Cluny Square, was leased and opened as a Chapel
on Trinity Sunday.
In January 1850, the Baronets of Letterfourie (both of whom are buried in the church)
gave Bishop Kyle the ground to build a new Church, and following the design conceived by
Bishop Kyle and Alexander Ellis, the foundations were laid in 1851 and completed irrWS1,
wit Fr. Clapperton as Parish Priest.
The resulting fine Gothic Church with its prominent west front (said to be based on
that of Elgin Cathedral) with its twin towers and spires, is now one of the landmarks of
In 1882 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Parish the Congregation presented Fr.
Clapperton with £200, which he spent in creating the two marble side altars.. This was
the beginnings of the interior marble work now such a feature of the present St
In 1906, the Chancel, was extended and a high altar and Baptistry were formed.
Many different marbles were used, also Caen stone in the beautiful HighAltar &
Reredos. The striking 13 foot diameter rose window was transferred intact from the old
gable to the new. In 1910, a new pulpit with handsomely carved timber canopy, was added,
complementing the decorative frames. of the Statio~s of The Cross, of the side aisles.
A few years later this elegant interior was completed anci enriched by the application
of inarble facings to the lower sections of the walls around the Church. During recent
interior redecoration works two large paintings , previously covered over, were
discoverein the Sanctuary, and and restored.
Following Vatican 11, to accommodate the new Liturgy, the altar and reredos were
skilfully separated, the altar~ being brought forward to the position it now occupies.
St Gregory's Church Preshome
Following the Reformation of 1531, the practise of the Catholic Religion had to be
carried out more or less in secret, but in 1788, Fr John Reid, the priest in charge of the
eastern Enzie, felt that it was now possible to build a "proper Church. Even
so, the site chosen occupied a most inconspicuous situation and a Church of stone &
lime, to hold 700 persons & costing £700, was opened on Whit Sunday 23rd May 1790,
and was the first Catholic Church since the Reformation to look like a Church. It is
rectangular in plan with, round headed windows, freestone dressings, and harled walls. The
west facade is Italian Baroque with flanking staircase pavilions. The gable features a
panel inscribed "DEO 1788", that is "To God 1788" above the door.
The Dedication to St Gregory the Great follows the gift of a copy of a painting of the
Saint, by Annibale Caracci to the Church by the last Earl of Findlater.
The ornate Sanctuary designed by Peter Paul Pugin was formed in 1896.
On the 23rd of May 1990, St Gregorys Preshome, celebrated the 200th anniversary
of its opening for divine worship.
In 1990, after extensive refurbishment, Presbome Church is now back into the condition
that it so rightly deserves.
Preshome is important in Catholic History for another reason. During his time here,
Bishop J. Kyle amassed a vast collection of books, letters and manuscripts and after his
death in 1869 they were transferred to Blairs College, Aberdeen, as part of the
"Blairs Collection", and now on in the Scottish Catholic Archives, at Columba
House, in Edinburgh.
In 1973, the last of the material from Preshome including 25,000 letters, now known as
the "Preshome Letters", was deposited with the Scottish Catholic Archives in
Edinburgh. and some 4,750 books, to be known as the "Preshome Chapel Library",
currently on a 30 year loan to the National Library of Scotland.
The Catholics of Bellie parish, having been deprived of the use of the Chapel at St
Ninians in 1725, gathered for mass when possible in a barn belonging to the Laird of
Tynet, which was later enlarged at the expense of the congregation, and remained in use
till 1146, when it, along with many Chapels, were gutted by the English soldiers whilst
returning from Culloden.
In the eighteenth century, the practise of the Catholic Religion still had to be
carried out more or less in secret, and in 1755, The Lai.rd of Tynet built an addition to
a small house at "Newlands" Tynet, ostensibly to be a sheepcote, but in effect
for use as a Church.
This was the modest beginning of the "Long Chapel" at Tynet, which did not
assume its present shape until early in 1787, when the Priest, Fr. Mathieson enlarged and
repaired it. Slates from the ruined Chapel at St Ninians Church Yard were used to cover as
much of the roof as possible, but the rest was still thatched in 1803. A wooden floor was
laid, the windows were enlarged and eventually glazed. Instead of a Cross, a ball of stone
was placed on top of the west gable, a reminder of the dark days of persecution,during
which the Chapel arose. In 1857 the doorway was re-located, a wall built behind the altar,
and new seating installed.
By the early 1930s it was decided to abandon St Ninians due to its poor
condition, and build a new Church. It was however, in fact, restored and is arguably the
oldest post reformation Church in Scotland still in use today.
The Church is 121ft. long by 20ft. wide externally, with an internal width of loft. 3
ins. The ceiling height is only 13ft. 3ins.
That then is St Ninians Chapel, Tynet. While it may not be able to boast of
architectural beauty, but with its pristine simplicity, this quiet, peaceful building has
perhaps far greater claim to the title "House of Prayer" than many more
St Ninian's Chapel and Churchyard
The oldest still extant Catholic site in the Enzie is the Churchyard of
St Ninians. There have been two Churches on this site. A report in 1688 states" In
the midst of the country there is a large Chapel built, or rather building, capable to
contain 1000 persons, on the old found of St Ninians Chapel". It has been described as 80 feet long and 19 feet
broad inside the waits, not including the two arms required to make a cross.
The Chapel was built between 1687 and 1688, during a period of tolerance when James 11
was on the throne, and though not quite finished, was in use by September 1688, and
continued in use for thirty- seven years. There was a priest appointed to the Chapel up
until the death of the 2nd Duke.
In 1725, the Duke of Gordon refused to allow a local presbyterian preacher and his
followers access to the Chapel to preach the reformed religion; However they broke in on
the Sunday and conducted a service, and when a further service took place the following
week, a number of scuffles occured.
In .1728, the 2nd Duke died, and the last use to which the Chapel was put, was when
his body lay there, in state, surrounded by many candles; After this and following
Culloden, the Chapel fell further into ruin.
1787, the.siates were removed, and used in roofing the Chapel at Tynet. This of course
hastened the total ruin, and in course of time, nothing was left, but theKeystone from
above the door, bearing the date 1687.
In 1883, workmen engaged in taking down the pillars of the previous entrance to the
Churchyard, discovered the keystone. This has now been incorporated in the facade of the
Priests chapel at the south east corner of the site. The Churchyard itself has been
carefully preserved and possesses great interest to Scottish Catholics, in that here are
the remains of Bishop Nicholson, the first VicarApostolic in Scotland, and that of many
members of the Catholic Clergy of Scotland.
The Churchyard. is still used for interments, principally, though not exclusively, of
"The parish of Rathven," wrote the Rev.James Stothert,
extends about ten miles along the southern shore of the Moray Firth, from the
neighbourhood of Cullen, westwards to a small stream called the Burn of Tynet which
divides it from the parish of Belie. Its southern boundary lies in the vicinity of Keith.
This parish includes the greater part of the ruraLdistrict or Barony
known as The Enzie, a tract of country very celebrated in the history of Catholicism in
Scotland. for at least two centuries.
This situation, and the reason why so many of the population had
remained Catholics despite the difficulties presented since the Reformation, was due to
the fact that the Gordons, who owned most of the country around, were themselves Roman
After the death of the 2nd Duke in 1728, the main support for the old
religion passed to that branch of the Gordon family, who were the Lairds of
nearbyLetterfourie House, and who were to prove great benefactors to the Church in the
The parish of Rathven, has, in fact since the beginning of the 17th
century, not only given many priests, but no fewer than eight Bishops to the R.C.Church.