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Church of  the Incarnation, Tombae

Front view 

In 1788 a small church and meeting place was built on the Livet about half a mile upstream from the present church, the location being described on various maps as Cannachyle, Caanakyle or Kynakyle. This church was swept away in the "muckle flood" of 1829.

By the mid 1820’s there was a great bustle of church building in the North East of Scotland in anticipation of the easing of penal laws against Catholics.


In 1799 the seminary at Scalan was closed, and the students were re-located at Aquhorties in more commodious and congenial surroundings. As there were at that time 1,800 Catholics in the Glenlivet area, the need for new places of worship was a matter of some concern. The celebrated Abbé’ Paul Macpherson had built a church at his own expense in the Braes of Glenlivet at Chapeltown in 1826, later replaced by the present building.


Mr Gordon, the priest at Tombae, was entrusted with the task of building a new church at Tombae, and the foundation stone was laid in 1827. It was ready just in time before the great flood, and the first Mass was said on Candlemas Day 1829. The church problem was eased but not yet completely solved, as the Braes people could only attend Tombae in favourable conditions.

The new church at Tombae was built to the design of Mr. John Gall of Aberdeen, and dedicated to the honour of the Incarnation of Our Lord, and stones for the construction were carted to the site from surrounding quarries. It is especially pleasing to note that, in this task the parishioners were helped by their non-Catholic friends. Bishop Paterson, who had studied at Scalan, and retained a great affection for the area  wrote to Mr Gordon about his new church at Tombae:

"The front must be and shall be what a chapel in Glenlivet, the ancient granary and nursery of religion on Scotland. ought to have, and the altar a commanding appearance".


The exterior front is indeed very impressive, and the setting, just above the Livet, is superb. On a fine sunny evening the stone takes on a mellow glow, and this is also an excellent time of day to view the interior The first impression on going into the Church of the Incarnation is one of spaciousness and light Large leaded windows enhance the elegant vaulted ceiling and Gothic pillars, and the absence of adjoining buildings on the west side enhances the light on all but the darkest of days.

In 1843-44 Bishop Kyle caused rooms to be built behind the altar, which somewhat reduced the church in size. Nearly a third of the church area was turned into a school, and the building was both church and school until 1904, when a more commodious building was erected about 300 yards away.



Mr Gordon, who had built the church, remained there as priest until his death in 1842, is buried in the precincts, as is his successor; Mr Robert Stuart, who died in 1861. In 1937 more renovations were carried out, a new altar replacing the old wooden one.


Another feature of the church is the pair of marble tablets flanking the chancel One is a memorial to the men of the parish who died in the two World Wars, and the other is to Captain, later Flight Commander, Smith Grant of Minmore who was killed in the last months of 1918. In the parish who served in the first World War, there we learn that 55 men served in the Forces,15 of them being killed, an amazing number for a remote rural parish.


A fine Connacher organ completes a tour of the interior of the Church of the Incarnation. The church is a listed building.


The gravestones in the adjoining Burial Ground are welL worthy of a Scrutiny Because of its size, the eye is drawn to the vault where rests George Smith of Minmore, founder of the world-famous Glenlivet Distillery together with many of the family. The stones in the churchyard give an idea of the size and location of the congregation in times past. Many of the place names have disappeared or are now holiday homes, such has been the depopulation of the Glen.



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