Let there be more light at St Conan’s

Friends of St Conan's secretary Liz MacKay and chairman Peter Hennessy.

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Scaffolding has gone up inside historic St Conan’s Kirk as specialist electricians start to shed new light on some of the church’s previously hidden gems.

Towers of scaffolding have filled the church’s nave and south aisle reaching 40ft up to the timber ceiling so lights can be installed along the high-up ledges illuminating carvings and other features that have been lost in the shadows until now.

The work means visitors have no or limited access to inside the kirk from now until November 15 for health and safety reasons, says Friends of St Conan’s Kirk chairman Peter Hennessy, but the grounds are still open.

The lights will also be illuminating the recently restored gates to the tombs of the church’s designer and builder, Walter Douglas Campbell, and his sister Helen. The wooden ceiling will also be lit up.

Money from the LEADER EU Rural Development Fund has paid for half the cost of the lighting programme at £20,000 – the other half was match-funded by the Friends of St Conan’s.

The old brass chandeliers  above the pews have also been removed and sent away to be cleaned and rewired before being reinstalled.

A specialist in architectural lighting has drawn up a plan for the whole building that will eventually follow, making sure the church’s atmospheric light and shade loved by so many visitors is ‘enhanced’ and not lost. Multiple control settings means light levels can be turned up and down.

Visitors will be able to see the first phase of the new lights for themselves when St Conan’s opens its doors for this year’s Christmas Tree Festival.

More than 60 trees have been pledged for weekend event, starting on Friday November 29.

Last year’s festival was a great success with 62 trees and 1,600 visitors.

Other  work being tackled in 2019 has included repairs to leaks and the removal of the Rose window so it can be refurbished while its gable wall was repointed. The window will be returned in the new year.

And in August the conservation of the Robert the Bruce effigy was completed after three weeks, carried out by a team from Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation with £5,000 funding help from the River Lochy Hydro Electric Scheme Community Benefit Fund, added to by Friends of St Conan’s Kirk fundraising.