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On Sunday, 15th On August, 1869, the Rev. Dr. Brander conducted the first service and service of dedication in the new Parish Church in the village of Duffus. On the previous Sunday his congregation had met for the last time in the old Kirk of St. Peter’s half-a-mile eastward in the direction of Gordonstoun. As early as the 12th century a church dedicated to St. Peter had stood on the older site.

In celebrating the centenary of their present church the congregation of Duffus are at the same time commemorating centuries of worship in a place recognized as the Parish Church.


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The old kirk though now a ruin and roofless is a picturesque and interesting building and since it came under the protection of the Ministry of Works in 1925 remains in a good state of preservation. Built in the usual form of a country church it possesses a number of unique features which entitle it to be classed as an Ancient Monument.

It is a fairly large, substantial building with walls in excellent condition.Dufch3.JPG (19054 bytes) It was probably rebuilt or part rebuilt in the 17th century when the medieval church which it replaced was for the most part demolished. What is preserved of the latter is the beautiful old Gothic porch which formed the principal entrance and which had been built about 1524 by Alexander Sutherland, Rector of the Church. The recess for holy water near the east side of the inner archway belongs also to the 16th century and the preaching cross which stands among the tombstones is of similar age.

Besides the porch there are four other entrance doors to the old ruin, two on the ground level and two entering off the stone stairs.

The west gallery was reserved for Burghead fisherman; an inscription on the front of this gallery was in the form of a prayer for the fisher people of that ancient port. (Hopeman was not in existence till the 19th century.)

Built in the exterior of the east gable is a stone bearing the date 1616 andDufch2.JPG (26961 bytes)commemorating a member of the Keith family whose castle of Inverugie stood on a cliff to the east of the present Hopeman Golf Course.






The history of the old Church is linked inevitably with that of Duffus Castle. In 1297 in the revolt against English domination both castle and Church were burned by the rebels. Sir Reginald de Chen, feudal lord of the castle, however remained faithful to King Edward I and that monarch made a grant of 200 oaks from the forests of Longmorn and Darnaway to help restore the two buildings. Later, in the 14th century, the barony passed to the Sutherland family.Dufch4.JPG (16465 bytes) The Alexander Sutherland who built the Gothic porch was a member of this family and held the office of Vicar of the Castle. The Sutherland lairds are buried in the vault built against the west gable of the Church.

Names and ranks of the early priests can be found in the old ecclesiastical records: 1190, Andrew, parson; 1224, Robert, canon; 1240, Peter, chaplain; 1294, Robert, vicar; 1398, John Innes, prebendary (later Bishop of Moray).

When Elgin Cathedral was the centre of religious life in the province, parish priests held offices and carried out duties in the Cathedral, living at times in houses in town. The town house of the parish of Duffus served on several occasions as residence for a royal visitor. Edward I used it on his second visit to Moray in 1303. James II again in 1455 and James IV at a later date.

The parson who entertained James II (James of the Fiery Face) was a Mr. David Stewart. Unfortunately in the bustle and stress of preparing the royal dinner the kitchen went on fire. “A quantity of dried fish and three bolts of pease, with casks, barrels, tubs and other vessels which had been provided for the king’s use were burned.” The king, however, made good for the damage his host had incurred and rebuilt his kitchen.

The form of worship in the old kirk passed Dufch5.JPG (19266 bytes)from Roman Catholic to Protestant, the later form alternating between Episcopalian and Presbyterian rule. No event is recorded which marked the change to the Reformed Church but in 1641 Rev. John Guthrie who had been presented to the living King Charles I was deposed for refusing adherence to the National Covenant. Later, in February, 1643, having subscribed the Covenant and preached penitential sermons before the Presbytery he was once more licensed to preach and restored to Duffus. However, in June of the same year he died at Guthrie Castle in Angus.

As the Marquis of Montrose, after his betrayal and capture, made his last sad journey south to Edinburgh in May 1650, he passed through Moray and there many loyalist friends came to greet him. At Elgin, we are told, he was greatly cheered by the sight of an old college friend, Mr. Alexander Somers, the Minister of Duffus.


After the Restoration in 1660, the Episcopalian form of worship appears to have generally accepted in the area, but when at the Revolution in 1688 the Establishment again became Presbyterian and the Bishops were deposed the congregation of Duffus seemed reluctant to change. The Rev. Adam Southerland died in 1695 and there was no settled minister till 1701 when the Rev. Alexander Anderson was ordained minister of Duffus.

This (according to an Episcopalian source) was done “in the face of the strongest opposition from the people.”

A ‘meeting house’ for the dissident section was opened at Keam village (long since vanished) and its first priest, appointed by William Hay, the exiled Bishop of Moray, was the Rev. John Stewart. This ‘meeting house’ was continued under successive priests but Episcopalians, being identified with Jacobites, suffered in the persecutions which the latter met at the times of the Risings.

In 1746 a company of Cumberland’s soldiers on their way from Spey to Culloden battlefield sought out the ‘meeting house’ and gutted it. “The books were taken out and burned and the incumbent was searched for but could not be found otherwise it would have been hard with him.”

The ‘meeting house’ was not rebuilt but a granary near by was taken over as a place of worship and continued to be used for many years. In the New Statistical Account (1835), Rev. Alex. Brander states that “an Episcopal Chapel near Keam is attended by a limited but respectable congregation.” A mound, overgrown with trees and ivy, on the roadside near the present Manse, marks the site of the old granary.


It is a peculiar circumstance that at one time there were four Parish Churches in the five miles from Duffus village to Lossiemouth. They were Duffus (St. Peter’s), Ogstoun ( now represented by the Michael Kirk), the old Drainie Church and Kinneddar (the original Cathederal Church of Moray).


Attached to the kirk was the kirkton but no trace of that old hamlet remains. Cromwell’s soldiers were stationed here and are believed to have built a paved roadway round the village. The slight rise of ground to the North was the Hanging Hill of the lairds of Duffus.

The old Manse stands a few yards to the east. Abandoned in 1830 when the present Manse was built it was later renovated and made into an attractive residence by the late Sir Edward and Lady Dunbar.


At the beginning of the 19th century when church-yards in parts of the country were being violated by ‘body snatchers’, action was taken by many congregations to thwart the raiders. At Duffus, a Committee was formed, subscriptions were raised and a Watch-House was erected; the funds extended to the provision of a Bible for the use of the watchers. No incident seems to have taken place at any time but the Watch-House with its inscribed date 1830 is still there at the east side of the old Churchyard.


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The village of New Duffus had been built to replace the kirkton: the Statistical Account described it as a model of planning. It was natural that the Church to replace the old Kirk should be built in this new centre of population. In October 1868 when the work was well ahead a violent gust of wind blew down the high west gable. Fortunately this happened at the masons’ dinner-hour and no one was injured.

Looking at the sturdy walls of the old kirk which have stood so well those hundred years and at the ideal setting of the old Kirk as we see it now in the glory of the summer we may wonder why the building (like the Manse before it) was abandoned so readily. Dr. Brander had no misgivings in his address on that first Sunday he described the Church they had left as “the meanest, the most wretched and most comfortless in the North of Scotland.”


Rev. Alex. Brander who had been ordained and inducted to the charge in 1828 and who contributed the account of the Parish to the Statistical Account had conferred on him in 1855 the Degree of Doctor of Divinity. He remained in office (and able to enjoy his new church) till his death in 1880; his long ministry of 52 years is commemorated by a tablet in the vestibule.

He was succeeded by Rev. William Masson who had returned to this country after 23 years as a minister in Canada. He retired in 1907 at the age of 76 and Rev. Henry R. Chalmers, remembered still by older members, began his ministry in Duffus. While the acts of long and faithful miniseries are not altogether forgotten certain events of some national connection tend to be more particularly noted. In August 1913 Prime Minister Asquith and his daughter were on holiday at Hopeman Lodge and on Sundays during their stay came to worship at Duffus Church. Two suffragettes who had been following them around and had actually assaulted Mr Asquith on the Lossiemouth golf course, appeared at the Church one Sunday. Mrs. Chalmers met them and showed them into the Manse pew; her entreaty that the Sabbath peace should not be disturbed must have had some effect as Mr. Asquith and his daughter, apart from hostile glances during the service and some words of abuse as they left the Church, were not further molested.


The silver paten now used in the Church as a baptismal vessel has a remarkable story. In 1912 it came to the knowledge of the Rev. Mr. Chalmers that a 17th century communion plate that had once belonged to Duffus was in use at St. Patrick's Church in Howe, Sussex. Efforts were made at this time to redeem the plate but these proved unsuccessful. In 1925, however, through a renewed effort and the generosity of Sir Edward Dunbar the paten was purchased and restored to Duffus Church.

The Paten had inscribed on it the words from John VI, 51, “The bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for ye life of ye world.” The inscription underneath reads, “Deo at. Ecclesiae M. Johannes Guthrie, Duffus, consec” and the plate bears the hallmark “Edinburgh” and date “1616”.

The original donor, it would appear, was the same John Guthrie who was deposed in 1641. How and when the paten was removed from St. Peter’s Kirk and what happened to it before it was acquired by the Church at Hove must remain a mystery.


The Rev. Alexander G. Catto became minister of Duffus in 1926 in succession to Mr. Chalmers. Mr. and Mrs. Catto and their four sons who were brought up at the Manse are remembered with great affection. In 1951 the semi-jubilee of Mr. Catto’s ministry was marked by special service, a social evening and presentations to Mr. and Mrs. Catto. In the Third Statistical Account (1965) Mr. Catto contributed the account of the Parish he loved so well. He retired in 1954 and Mrs. Catto and he set up house in Edinburgh: his death in June 1967 was mourned by many in the Parish.

In Rev. Benjamin Sibbbald’s ministry there took place the linkage of the Churches of Duffus and Spynie, an arrangement that has proved a happy one, Kirk Sessions and congregations meetings and working together in harmony. The Duffus Manse is now the Manse of the united charges and joint services are held in one or other of the Churches at special times in the year.

On re-trial in 1963 Mr. and Mrs. Sibbald moved to Newport-on-Tay where we are happy to know both enjoy good health.


Ever since the old mansion House and offices of Gordonstoun were taken over and converted into school buildings, Duffus Church has had close association with the Public School which came into being under its first headmaster, Kurt Hahn.

For a number of years the School held its main church service at 8 p.m. on Sunday evenings in Duffus Church, while Hopeman Lodge boys are regular attenders at the normal morning service. Latterly the practice has been that the seven Houses of the School in turn attend Duffus Church one Sunday morning during the Session. On the Sunday in 1966 when the boys of his House, Windmill Lodge, attended the Church, Prince Charles was present and read the lesson.

Gordonstoun boys who wish to join the Church of Scotland are after a period of preparation, confirmed and admitted to membership at Duffus.


At the end of this record and at this time of rededication our thought must be this.

For a hundred years now in the present Church and for many centuries before, congregations have borne unfailing witness to the faith; generations have been trained in the knowledge and love of God and the Church has indeed been a power for good in the Parish in which it was set.

So much for the past; what now of the future? With Mr. Donaghy’s ministry now in its sixth year a new century begins. the Church has as ever a vital task to undertake. It is our prayer that we in the Parish may be able to see clearly what God is calling us to do and that, strong in faith, we may respond to the call, so that when another hundred years have passed those who follow may say, as we can say of the centuries already gone by, “The Spirit of the Lord was there.”

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1567 - John Keith

1608 - Patrick Dunbar

1631 - John Guthrie

1643 - Alexander Symmer

1687 - Adam Sutherland

1701 - Alexander Anderson

1721 - John Chalmers

1737 - John Bower

1748 - Alexander Murray

1778 - John Reid

1803 - John Gordon

1828 - Alexander Brander

1880 - William Masson

1907 - Henry R. Chalmers

1927 - Alexander G. Catto

1954 - Benjamin Sibbald

1963 - G. Kenneth G. Donaghy

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