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Chapeltown

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With the departure of Rev James Sharp from  Scalan in 1808, the Braes of Glenlivet had no resident priest, and this was a real hardship in a Glen which was predominantly Catholic, with a population of over a thousand. The nearest Church was at Counakyle Tombae, but to get there the River Livet had to be crossed and this was quite often impossible. There were what was known as Mass Houses where Mass was said whenever a priest was available. Around this time the Abbe Paul MacPherson had retired as Rector of the Scots College in Rome and returned to his native "Braes". Due to services rendered to both the Holy See and the British Government, the Abbe was a man of private means. These he put to good use in building both Church and School also Cemetery on ground given to the Church by the Duke of Gordon, this extended to approx. 10 acres. The first Church was built in 1826. The Abbe during his time at Chapeltown was physically unable for the work of the Mission, and in 1834 at the age of 78 he was again called upon to take up the Rectorship of the Scots College in Rome, and there he remained until his death in. l846 at the age of 91.

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The first priest in charge was Mr McNaughton followed by Mr. Dundas and Mr Charles Gordon who was born at Clashnore. The longest and perhaps best known incumbent was Mr James Glennie who served the Mission for 33 years. He it was who persuaded the Duke of Gordon to build the present road from the Pole Inn, which elicited from a local person a parody on the General Wade doggerel;

"If you’d seen these roads before there were any,

you’d hold up your hands and bless Rev. Glennie".

 

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Mr. Eachran followed, and was succeeded by Rev. Cohn McKenzie. He decided the old church had served its purpose, and a slightly larger more imposing building was required. For this purpose he engaged the services of the architect John Kinross, The work commenced in 1896 and was completed by Autumn 1897. The official opening took place in 8th September on that year, and judging from photographs still in existence, it was quite an event One shows the vast congregation that was present, and the other the number of clergy, among whom were Archbishop Angus MacDonald of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and Bishop Hugh MacDonald of Aberdeen. Among the priests present, four were natives of the Glen.

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As stated, Mr John Kinross was employed as architect and was responsible for the building work. It is a very impressive building built of Stone with corner-stones of granite which were most likely quarried across in the Ladder Hills. With its rough harled walls and simple round headed windows it harmonises perfectly with the surrounding area. It is possible that Archibald MacPherson was responiible for designing and decorating the inside with colours of scarlet, green and gold. Starting in the Sanctuary, the Altar is reasonably plain, but is surrounded by a magnificent oak reredos, with a picture of Qur Lady of Perpetual Succour in the centre above the Tabernacle, supported by pictures of St. Alphonsus and of St Bernard on either side of Our Lady. The Communion Rail has been removed but is to be seen on either side of the Sanctuary. The same wood carving can be seen on the Communion Rail and Pulpit as on the Reredos.

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Along the bottom of the Sanctuary roof on either side can be seen Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. In the main part of the building round the same roof area, there we find the complete "Pater Noster". Lower down at window level are the Stations of the Cross, each of which had been donated by certain families in the area. Below each station is a small brass plaque. giving the donor’s name. The seating is of pine wood benches to seat approx 350. There is space at either side at the back On the right as one enters there is a granite Baptismal Font No doubt this had also been donated. Originally that side was dedicated to Our Lady, whilst the other side was dedicated to the Sacred Heart Above this area is the choir gallery which was used by the choir of children, which was presided over by a very strict schoolmaster. We have now reached where we should really have started the Entrance Porch.

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Here we find a plaque remembering the founder of the Mission, The Abbe Paul MacPherson. On the other wall is another recalling the Centenary of his death in Rome. Alongside is the Roll of Honour to those who lost their lives in the First World War. One last item to mention is the piece of furniture in the Porch. Many ask what it is... It is a "catafalque ", used during a Funeral Mass to bear the Remains of the deceased up at the Altar Rails. It was donated by a priest from the Glen.

 

The church has changed little over the years apart from the Sanctuary being painted a lighter colour, and the altar moved forward in line with present day Liturgy. Through the years there came quite a line of well known clergy to serve their time amongst the people of the "Braes" until the last resident one Fr John McCabe left in 1961. With fewer priests in the Diocese and a large decrease in population, Tombae and Chapeltown were amalgamated under the charge of Fr. Gordon Robson. On his departure to take charge of the Cathedral in Aberdeen his place was taken by Fr Hugh Sheridan. His sudden death in Dublin in 1965 led to Chapeltown and Tombae being joined to Tomintoul. Our present priest in charge is Fr Colin Stewart, who came in 1990.

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We have almost completed the circle from a large congregation with no Church, to a large Church with no Congregation.

1997 was the Centenary ofChurch and on the 14th of September Bishop Conti led a Celebration Mass with once more a full  Church. To mark the occasion the Sanctuary Aisle and all surrounding areas were carpeted.  The original altar was put back in place and a small one put in place lower down.

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