COLONSAY CHURCHES - Parish Church Windows Appeal



The situation

Owing to the dangerous state of two windows on the western side of the church, Colonsay Parish needs to raise £10,000 by May 2015. The active congregation is quite small, but the church does play an active part in the life of the community and it is available to all, not just for worship but for baptisms, weddings, funerals and also for cultural purposes - lectures, recitals and study groups are all welcome. It was built in 1802 at a time when Colonsay had a population not far short of one thousand people, and today there must be upwards of a million people worldwide who have some link with the building through the marriage, baptism or funeral of one or more of their forebears.

The work required

The Parish Church, which is a Listed Building (Grade B), was recently the subject of a professional inspection and it was noted that BOTH the western windows are in a very poor state; one of them is actually so fragile that it has had to be strengthened as a temporary measure, to minimise any risk of implosion in high winds.

The new windows must be in hardwood and it is clear that the other windows must also be subjected to serious conservation treatment as regards treatment of bare wood and putty, prior to normal protective and decorative paintwork for all of them. One or two minor repairs of a long-standing nature must also be addressed; the roof was stripped, felted and re-slated about thirty years ago, and if use of a cherry-picker can be arranged this will be a good opportunity to secure or replace any loose or missing slates. The vestry roof was not re-slated at that time and now requires attention.


Unfortunately, this important work will be expensive. The new windows will cost £5,200 and the total costs including freight, preparation, installation, glazing, ancillary works plus transport and accommodation of the contractors means that parishioners must try to raise £10,000 in all. This is a huge sum for a tiny congregation and all help will be warmly appreciated. It is very encouraging to report that before this appeal was even launched (7 February 2015) one islander came forward and contributed £100. Will there be another ninety-nine?

How to contribute

Please note that any UK taxpayer can use Gift Aid to boost their contribution by 25% (assuming 20% tax rate) if they are happy to complete the simply but necessary declaration. This is of huge significance, here is a copy of the relevant Gift Aid form. Incidentally, donors can save on postage stamps, bank charges and administrative costs if families find it convenient to make a joint contribution, but the parish is of course deeply grateful to receive contributions in whatever way they come.

The results of this appeal will be published here and updated until the work is completed - please note that contributions by BACS or via Just Giving may take a few days to appear as we have to wait for the monthly paper statement to arrive. We will be delighted to publish brief dedications on this page if any donor cares to nominate any forebear(s) with a Colonsay or Oronsay connection.

FIRST UPDATE to 23 February:

Good News: We have £771.01 already in hand, also at least one cheque in the post; anything donated by BACS or by TextGiving will only be known when the statements are received. We have also received advice of one particularly generous offer which we will record in due course, and House of Lochar has agreed to fund the monthly subscription to JustGiving for one year. We hope to use the JustGiving as an ongoing conduit to permit occasional contributions to the Fabric Fund, to help meet regular costs of maintenance and perhaps avoid the need for a special appeal whenever some future emergency arises. Also, Hazel Smith, who has expertise in the area, has kindly offered to assist the parish by investigating possible grant-giving sources.

Also Good News: The joinery firm in Edinburgh have started work on the construction of the two new hardwood windows; unsurprisingly, they have now issued an invoice for 50% of their work (which is of course for the timber frames, and does not include glass, freight or any part of the prepatation and installation). So, the parish has to pay £2,400.00 this week, and the balance just after Easter. Bridging funds are available, but contributions are especially welcome at such a delicate moment.


SECOND UPDATE to 4th March 2015

Good News again: The total funds now in hand have reached the hugely encouraging sum of £3,771.01 and parishioners are most grateful to all who have helped so far, including one particularly generous donor. This figure does not include any GiftAid, to be recovered from HMRC, and there is always the hope that the Bank Statement may reveal one or more contributions by BACS. In addition, Hazel Smith has prepared two applications for possible aid from grant-giving bodies, and these will both have been submitted by next week.

The JustGiving facility is now in operation at and can accept donations from anywhere in the world and in any currency. Meanwhile, the Congegational Board has made a firm decision to move away from reactive repairs and onto a proactive programme of preventative maintenance. It is felt that this will make much better use of financial and physical resources, will be environmentally friendly and will ensure sound stewardship into the future. There are implications - not least, we hope that there will be no need for special Appeals in the future. It is planned to establish an ongoing and dedicated Fabric Fund, to have a detailed annual inspection of both the church and manse each autumn, and to place an annual contract for whatever works are required, to be conducted each springtime. Part of this plan is already being developed - details will follow shortly. In the meantime, please do support this current round of works - we aim to have our church open, safe and fully-functional by early June and all vital outstanding work completed. After that, it is to be a new and dynamic approach to ensure that our buildings remain in good heart for generations yet to come.

THIRD UPDATE to 15th March 2015

Still optimistic : One grant application has been submitted and two others are in preparation; in the meantime, a Church of Scotland parish in London has been in touch and the mere contact is very encouraging - we were delighted to hear from them, whether or not they can provide practical support their interest is most welcome.

We now have a new website, and it is shared with our friends at the Baptist Church - please tell people about which already has news, lists of services and some history; it will develop to carry lots more information. Once again, it is a vehicle through which we hope to maintain contact with Colonsay's diaspora.

It really is important that the Parish Church remains functional and available to all. Our target is to raise £10,000 by the end of May and the known figure date appears below, plus anything that just might have been contributed by BACS - we are nearing halfway! We are very grateful to those who have made use of JustGiving at (or simply use Google to find JustGiving, and then search for Colonsay). No less than £450.00 plus $250.00 have been contributed already via that site.

FOURTH UPDATE to 23rd March 2015

Starting to worry - work starts in barely 8 weeks and we are barely halfway - we still need to raise ca. £5,000. Hopefully, some well-wishers have not quite got around to mailing a contribution just yet.

On a brighter note, we are delighted to have been gifted a picture by artist Sara MacCulloch in support of our project. This is a most generous gift and it will be awarded to one of our donors on or after May 4th.

FIFTH UPDATE to 30th March 2015

Splendid News - we have had completely unexpected word from the congregation of St. Columba's Church of Scotland parish in London with news of a gift of £3,000; subject to due consideration of our own parochial accounts. This is incredibly encouraging - needless to say, our accounts are on the way south even now. We hope that this tremendous boost will encourage all our well-wishers... we are definitely within sight of our target and may even manage to make a start on one or two of the deferred tasks.

The next update will be delayed until after 20th April as the updater will be away. Have a happy Easter.

SIXTH UPDATE - 20th April 2015

This page is updated by the Session Clerk and Fabric Convenor - I have been away and returned today to the amazing a gratifying news that the target of £10,000 has now been achieved. I do not have exact figures yet but will try to post them here a.s.a.p.. This is a wonderful result and parishioners are most grateful - but the appeal will not close just yet! We are now safe in our need to carry out the important, crucial work but we are resolved to go the extra mile and to put the church maintenance onto a pro-active basis. Any additional sums received will go towards that aim - we hope to re-fettle the vestry, rake and seal all cracks in the masonry render, improve rainwater drainage and to repaint the exterior. Once everything else is in order we can turn our thoughts towards the provision of toilet facilities and further improvements to disabled access.

This excellent news goes a long way to countering the letter received today from the VAT authorities, which indicates that we are unlikely to be able to reclaim VAT on the matterials for this work; it seems that the relief scheme was quietly dropped in 2012, despite the fact that we are talking of a listed building, open to everyone and to be preserved for the nation. Their letter needs to be read carefully but at first sight it seems like an additional burthen of ca. £1,500.


As far as one can see, once pledges and GiftAid have come home to roost, we have reached £11,361 to date. The appeal does remain open, because the congregation is anxious to get all outstanding work completed as soon as possible, so as to move onto a preventative maintenance footing. It is essential that the church is in a worthy condition as it passes into the care of the upcoming generation.

The congregation wishes to see the church in use for appropriate secular activity as well, and would like to host PowerPoint-style presentations on matters connected with natural history, ecology, conservation and the environment. The church is ideal and afterwards participants could repair to the hostelry opposite to continue with further discussion. We are looking for qualified speakers who might be visiting the island - at present we cannot offer expences or a fee, but that might come later. The church is also freely available for recitals, readings etc., and we hope that people will start to use it more imaginatively.


This appeal was launched on 7th February, and in some trepidation. The tiny congregation was faced with the urgent need to find £10,000 for repairs and was not certain of the outcome. We are thankful and delighted at the position to date - it is a little difficult to be precise but if all pledges are redeemed the total raised so far seems to be a fraction more than £12,000. This is a magnificent result and it means that we can achieve more than the bare minimum. It had been our attention to follow up on the urgent works with a start upon a serious programme of preventative maintenance and it now seems likely that the desirable follow-on programme will commence immediately. So, if you had thought of making a contribution but held back, please join in now and catch the following wind. Meantime, we are happy to announce that the water-colour donated by Sara MacCulloch has found a new home with Dr. Roddy MacLeod, a longterm friend of the island. Also, we understand that the contractor, Gregor Deans, will arrive with the new windows on 28th May; Colonsay Estate have kindly volunteered the loan of some specialist equipment which will be very helpful in part of the work. Thank you all, and please do not hold back... the Windows Appeal will shortly become the Pro-active Fund for Fabric Maintenance!


An important week has arrived - the new windows have been built, and the joiner has been paid; the contractor will bring them to Colonsay on Wednesday and the installation and associated work will be completed over the next seven days d.v.. Many thanks to Sophie & Nico Furze who have kindly lent us their house to accommodate the contractor and his team. There will be an update here when the work is complete - architect Richard Hill has kindly agreed to keep a professional eye on the project. When all the bills have been paid, we intend to produce a report to be published here, to give an account of monies raised and spent, any money available as seedcorn for future proactive maintenance and an outline of outstanding priority work.

We are very fortunate to have had news of support to the tune of £3,000 from the Baird Trust, subject to satisfactory professional confirmation that the work has been properly done. Also, we have just received a very generous offer of three treasured first editions which are to be sold to boost the ongoing Fabric Fund - details will be made widely available in due course but the books are "Colonsay & Oronsay" by J. de Vere Loder, "Summer in the Hebrides" by Mrs. Murray and "Colonsay" by Murdoch McNeill.


The contractors came as planned, and ran into a week of truly appalling weather, despite which they completed all the scheduled work. The new windows were installed and glazed and look magnificent; all other windows were stripped, re-primed and puttied and painted. The vestry roof was stripped, felted and re-slated. The "sword of Damocles" (a scimitar-shaped section of wood dangling over one of the pews) was properly secured. The vestry walls were stripped of distemper and given two coats of emulsion, the handrail at the steps was secured, the outside light was renewed, a broken length of guttering was renewed, all guttering was cleared, tested and resucured as required and all missing or defective slates were replaced. Quite a number of less remarkable but important minor tasks were undertaken - and a few new problems were identified, which will be addressed in late August. By then, the putty will be firm enough to complete the painting of all the exterior woodwork, and all exterior ironwork and masonry will also be painted. It has been discovered that the south window has rotted, fortunately of modest dimensions and simple construction, and this will be replaced in hardwood; the jambs and lintel of the vestry door will also be replaced in hardwood, and an exterior grade door and frame will be fitted to the exterior "shed" in the southwest corner, the intended site for a composting toilet when funds permit.

Other work has been undertaken by parishioners - all pathways and approaches have been attended to, and a start has been made upon thistle eradication (no poison). All grass and soil has been removed for a six-inch gap around the entire footing of the church exterior, so as to expose the whole of the exterior render, and all drains are being checked and, where necessary, renewed. All moss is to be removed from the render, which will then be treated with anti-fungicide as soon as possible, so as to ensure a good surface for the repainting in late August.

Parishioners are frankly delighted and relieved by this progress and most grateful for all the support. One new and remarkable challenge cannot be ignored - we simply must recognise that the belfry is in a parlous condition! It is a simple structure, described as of birdcage design - four stone uprights support a stone canopy with a football-sized stone finial. The four uprights hold the structure together by iron pins at top and bottom, and in the course of 200 years these pins have corroded, expanded and burst the stonework. The Session Clerk has already written to the conservation officer of Argyll & Bute Council and will also be approaching Historic Scotland for advice... qualified stonemasons will be needed but there is some slight hope that assistance might be obtained from funding organisations e.g. the National Lottery.


It was always envisaged that the Windows Appeal would be the precursor to our ongoing Fabric Fund, whereby parishioners are resolved to be proactive in the care and maintenance of our parish church, so in due course a new page will appear on this site to report upon the belfry and ongoing work. All the same, first things first - further reports will appear on this page until such time as all the work scheduled for 2015 has been completed.


The contractors are still on schedule to return at the end of this month, the preparatory work (application of fungicide to external surfaces) is almost complete and the paint is on order. Happily, the whole project has continued to benefit from generous support from islanders and friends of the island. Colonsay Fire Brigade is aware of the problems with the belfry and members have decided to hold their special annual ceilidh in 2016 to assist the funding aim.

Meanwhile, the General Trustees have very generously assisted the parish by hosting a visit by conservation architect Rebecca Cadie, who will make a site visit on August 22nd d.v., and whose work will be assisted by Colonsay Estate, who are providing invaluable technical assistance with access and scaffolding. In addition, local architect Richard Hill has kindly volunteered to act as Rebecca's "eyes and ears" on the ground between her own visits. After Rebecca's first visit, a new page will be created on this site to follow the story of the belfry, but we will also update this existing page with a report and photographs to confirm the successful conclusion of the original programme of work. As things stand, all necessary work should be completed by early September and the only known outstanding problem will be the expensive but engaging and interesting project to restore the belfry. Parishioners are most grateful for all the support to date, and we hope that the ongoing nature of maintenance will be supported by the continuing support of the whole community.


We have created a special page with some photographs which seems to be the best way to give a feel of our church and to illustrate the work that has been achieved with the generous support of all who contributed. We are not resting on any laurels - we will create a proper Memorial page, to celebrate the memories that our visitors and supporters wish to notify. Also, we will fulfil our pledge to move from reactive to proactive maintenance, and indeed we have already agreed a program of work for next springtime, to ensure that we stay ahead of any future wear and tear. We will also be starting a new page shortly, in connection with the Belfry. Fortunately, it is a fairly modest affair, but it has been condemned and must be restored; the pre-planning work is already in hand and full details will appear as soon as we have information from our architect. We hope that we may receive up to 75% of the cost as grant-aid on grounds of architectural merit, but we suspect that the parish will still face a shortfall of ca. £10k. In the meantime, we offer heartfelt thanks to all individuals, families and groups who so generously supported us in our hour of need - the belfry is desirable and exciting, but the windows were essential. Without your support, worship could not have continued on a regular basis.

In Memoriam

This page will become a permanent feature of our site; please feel free to mention anyone whose name you would wish to see remembered. Obviously, no donation is required - the feature is merely to honour and remember those who went ahead.

Callum, Joan and Barbara McIntyre

Barbara McIntyre Moodie & Catherine McNeill Moodie

Dr. Andrew Hall-Gardiner

William Henry Boland, H.M.S. "Viknor"

Peter and Maryann MacAllister

7 February 2015
£100.00 (£100.00)
23 February 2015
£771.01 (£200 plus)
4 March 2015
£3,770.01 (Gift Aid t.b.a.)
15 March 2015
£4247.02 + $450.00 (Gift Aid t.b.a.)
29 March 2015
£8,738.29 + $450.00 (Gift Aid t.b.a.)
20 April 2015
£10,000 target was passed! Exact detail follows asap.
23 April 2015
7 May 2015
£11,611.00 + $450.00 + at least £165.00 Gift Aid
25 May 2015

The Church of Scotland parish of Colonsay and Oronsay (No. 211300) is a registered Scottish Charity No: SC031271


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