4. Dunkeld Cathedral 1908 Restoration


My name is Margaret and I am the daughter of the Rev. Thomas Rutherford.
When my father was the minister here, the church was in much need of repair. The potential cost and the challenge of organising and funding the repairs was a constant worry to him.

At the time I was working as a nurse and looking after Sir Donald Currie. Sir Donald was a shipping magnate formerly of Cunard Steamship Company before he established the ‘Castle’ shipping company in 1862. He was a Perthshire MP from 1880 till his retirement in 1900.

In 1884 he bought the Glenlyon estate, about 45 miles west from here, to add to the Garth estate he’d purchased in 1880. A generous landlord he built and improved churches, schools and cottages for his tenants and workers and helped introduce new breeds of sheep and cattle.

It was at Glenlyon that I first met him and with much care and prayer, nursed Sir Donald back to health. Sir Donald was a great conversationalist. We spoke about his travels all over the world, his ships and adventures at sea, and amongst our many conversations I happened to share my father’s concern over the state of Dunkeld Cathedral and his worries about how to restore it.

By 1908 Sir Donald had recovered and was so appreciative of my care, that in thanks he generously agreed to fund the restoration of the Cathedral. The imitation vaulted roof, elaborate pulpit, galleries and boxed pews were removed and the Church was restored to the simple style you see today. As part of the restoration he commissioned the beautiful stained-glass window that you can see on the East Wall.

To the right of the stained-glass window, you will see set in the wall some pink blocks of stone. These are reputed to be from one of the earlier stone buildings from around 600-700AD.

My father and the church were hugely grateful to Sir Donald for his generosity, and there is a bust of Sir Donald in the Chapter House which you can see later in the tour.

He died on 13 April 1909 at the Manor House, Sidmouth, Devonshire, and is buried in the churchyard of Fortingal, beside his much loved Highland home.

If you keep walking towards the east stained glass window you will find the next talk.