ST MARYS CATHOLIC CHURCH
In former years the people of the area had four churches: St Ninians
at Chapelford; the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Dipple; St Marys at Orton and the
Chapel at Bog of Gight. The latter was attended by the Gordons who did all they could to
keep the Catholic faith alive from 1560 - 1728.
The Bog of Gight was known as a "Papist Stronghold" as there
many priests found safety at Gordon Castle in times of persecution. To make it safer for
Catholics to worship, eventually a Chapel was opened away from the castle in the old
Fochabers village; today there is no indication of where it once stood. Catholic worship
continued there until the untimely death of the Duke in 1728. The dowager Duchess was a
Protestant and the family, after Duke Alexanders death attended Protestant Worship.
After this time priests worked among the people in secret.
In 1825 four years before Catholic emancipation the foundation stone
of St Marys Church was laid by Father George Mathieson, who was born in the old
village near the Castle in 1756. After his Ordination he lived in Auchinhalrig as the
Presbytery was not built until 1 848 by Father William Coven who was the first priest to
live at the Chapel in Fochabérs "New Town".
In the following year 1826 the Church was completed. Built in early
19th Century gothic style, it has a handsome sandstone facade and rubble walls of many
coloured stones. It is adorned with pinnacled buttresses, fine traceried windows and a
large central door leads into a porch from which one enters the spacious church.
1858 brought Father Peter Weir to St Marys where he worked until
1909. He was responsible for having the present sanctuary added of which part of the
ceiling at the apex is done in panels of azure blue with a stenciled design in the middle
of each, depicting the medieval letter M. At this time the fine beautifully sculptured
cream stone altar was installed, which was used by Bishop McDonald for the first time in
May 1886 when he visited Fochabers for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Two small side
altars are adorned in the same manner and have magnificent statues of Our Lady and St
Joseph. During Father Weirs long stay in Fochabers he was able to have a stained
glass window set in position in memory of the Clapperton family. The subject is the
Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John at the foot of the Cross. Border panels include
passion flowers, roses and thistles emblematic of the Passion, along with a dove at the
top, trefoils at the sides and St Jane Frances de Chantal, St Barbara and St Teresa of
A year later another window was added. This window is six panels
illustrative of the Annunciation, Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the
Assumption, the Seven Dolours of our Lady and the Immaculate Conception. The windows look
best when the sun shines on them and picks out the glorious reds, blues and greens. The
firm of Mayer and Son, Munich, designed and supplied the order. At this time the fourteen
stations of the cross were installed; the figures are brightly painted and stand out in
relief plaster work with massive oak frames, each having a cross on the top.
St Marys underwent little change until the liturgical reform of
the 2nd Vatican Council (1962-1965). New pews were fitted giving a centre aisle and carpet
tiles were laid on the floor. A new Altar was placed in front of the existing one, using
the decorated scrolls taken from the altar rails no longer in use, to enable the Priest to
celebrate Mass facing the people. The organ was re-built and the front panel of the
Lectern was put in place. Much later in 1987 a second Lectern was placed at the other side
of the altar and a new Baptismal Font is nolv used. The present Paschal Candle stand was
donated in memory of a parishioner.
August 15th 1998 saw the installation of the new elegant Sanctuary
Lamp, donated by parishioners to Canon Bernard MacDonald parish priest on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee.
Over the years the long line of dedicated priests and parishioners
have worked hard to preserve and enhance the House of God, where all who visit may find
and leave with the Peace of Christ" amidst the beauty of creation in the
historic countryside of Strath Spey.
BOG OF GIGHT
The only early record of an ecclesiastical ediface is that JOHN HAY of TULLYBOYLE who,
in 1362 had a charter of the BOG OF GIGHT, founded a chapel there in honour of the BLESSED
VIRGIN AND ALL SAINTS. No trace remains but it was doubtless built
close to the mansion of the "GUDE MAN OF THE BOG"
DIPPLE was an ancient rectory and took in the southern part of Speymouth ESS1L and D1PPLE joined in 1743. The church at
DIPPLE, now demolished, was dedicated to the HOLY GHOST. The burial ground is still in
use. At the style of the churchyard stood a small house called the HOUSE OF THE HOLY
GHOST.People walked round this house with any corpse about to be buried. This custom ended
when the house was demolished. (no date is recorded)
In the 13th. century, MURIEL DE POLLOCK, heiress of ROTHES, had a bridge built at BOAT
OF BRIDGE and a hospital and chapel to GOD ,THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY and ST. NICHOLAS who
was patron saint of pilgrims crossing water. The buildings were for poor weary travellers
,many of whom would have been on their way to the well at ST. Marys. ST. NICHOLAS HOSPITAL
and CHAPEL stood until cleared to make way for the first iron suspension bridge there.
On the ORTON ESTATE there was a chapel dedicated to the VIRGIN MARY, also a sacred
well which was Sown for its miraculous cures of many diseases. Pilgrims came from far and
near; many would have crossed the river at BOAT OF BRIDGE and found food and shelter at ST
In 1844 a Gothic style Mausoleum was built where ST.MARYS CHURCH had been. The
architect found stone of Anglo- Norman style from which he could date ST. MARYS as having
been built between 1066 and 1135.
The Mausoleum is now the burial ground of the Wharton-Duff family. Pilgrimages to the
well stopped in recent years.