Croick Church is not everyone’s list of places to visit on a trip to Scotland. Edinburgh and Sterling Castles, yes. Loch Ness, definitely. The Isle of Skye if we have time. John O’Groats? Perhaps next time. What church?      

  Croick Church was built in 1827 at a cost of 1,426 pounds sterling. Robert Williamson was the first minister and he performed his duties there for 12 years before immigrating to Nova Scotia (New Scotland) in the Canadian Maritimes. Several of his parishioners made the one-way sea-crossing with him. Perhaps they foresaw what was coming to their birthplace.

  The phenomenon known as The Clearances did not reach Croick Parish until 1842 due to its distance north. In that year landlord James Gillanders began the process of evicting tenants in order to make way for sheep. In 1845 some 90 people were forcibly removed from their homes in Glencalvie where their ancestors had lived for generations. Prior to their departure from the region many took shelter in Croick churchyard. They did not seek refuge inside the church as, being a God-fearing people, they would have believed that to be disrespectful. The incident would have gone unnoticed, as most evictions did, was it not for the fact a newspaper correspondent from London happened to be visiting the region. His account of the events can be read in copies of the newspaper to this day. The tenants of the land, who paid a high rent, made their living farming pieces of arable land on which they raised sheep and black cattle, and grew potatoes and barley. Though the rents were exorbitantly severe the tenants owed nothing to the landlords and were peaceful-living people who caused no problems. Neither their virtuous lifestyle nor the newspaper publicity prevented the unfortunate people losing the homes several generations had lived in.

  The minister of Croick Church helped the people as best he could but his recourses were extremely limited. There is little doubt he listened to their plans, ideas and thoughts. Perhaps he offered snippets of advice. Little by little the families left and made their way to who-knows-where. Perhaps some found a place where the landlord was not clearing the land of people to make way for the raising of sheep. Some probably made their way to towns and cities where, as was the way for rural people in such situations, they lived in slums and performed unpleasant jobs for little return. Ones that had sufficient funds no doubt immigrated. Perhaps to Nova Scotia.

  Wherever they went they left a mark of their presence at Croick Church that is there to this day. Some of the temporary churchyard residents scratched their names along with messages on the east window. Some names are still discernible as are part of the messages. Plexiglas panels now cover the etched glass to protect it from weather, vandals and accidents. The visitor’s book at the church shows it is visited by hundreds of people from around the world despite its remoteness. It was surviving on donations from visitors for many years until 1977 when it was found the church roof was in need of major renovations. It has to be remembered the building was by then a century and a half old. There was a generous response to the appeal for donations to carry out the necessary work. The work took until 1983 to complete at a modest cost of 20,000 pounds.

  A limited service is held there throughout the summer months.

  Croick Church is located west of Ardgay in Sutherland County.

  Croick Church may not be on the list of the top ten most popular Scottish tourist destinations but is an extremely fulfilling experience.

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Tags: Castle, Church, Clearances, Croick, Edinburgh, Isle, John, Loch, Ness, Nova, More…O’Groats, Robert, Scotia, Scotland, Skye, Sterling, The, Williamson., of

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