Royal Deeside : Crathie Parish Church
Eight miles west of Ballater, adjacent to Balmoral Castle, lies the small village of Crathie. Many people who have heard of Crathie on visiting the village for the first time must be astonished to discover just how small it is.
But, for all its smallness Crathie has two important visitor attractions - and that's not counting royal Balmoral Castle. On the south side of the River Dee is Royal Lochnagar Distillery, named for the mountain that rises behind the distillery. A very attractive small distillery it is a highly rated tourist attraction. On the north side of the river is the charming Crathie Parish Church. Here the Royal family attend Sunday Service when in residence at Balmoral. Here the Princess Royal was married. In the churchyard Jon Brown, Queen Victoria's 'loyal servant' is buried.
The article below was written in 1992 by Rev. Keith Angus, then the Minister for the church.
Like many parishes in upper Strathdee the first beginnings of the Christian faith are to be found in the work of missionaries in the early Celtic Church. The thirteenth century Church, the ruins of which are to be found in the old graveyard, was dedicated to St. Monire, a follower of St. Columba. What is interesting is that the site of this Church is just a few hundred yards away from "Polmanire" a favourite fishing pool on the Dee. Tradition has it that St. Monire baptised the first Christians in Crathie in that pool of the river. We cannot tell but the story is not improbable and the survival of the name "Polmanire" is significant.
The thirteenth century Church was in use until the end of the eighteenth century when it was in need of extensive repair and was too small for the parish. The heritors then decided to build a new Church away from the river on a little knoll where the present Church stands. The heritors were the principal landowners of the parish and it was their responsibility to maintain the parish Church and Manse — situation which prevailed until about fifty years ago.
The new Church was a simple building but with a much larger seating capacity than the old and it was here that Queen Victoria came to worship when Balmoral Estate was bought. It is clear from her book "leaves from a Highland Journal" that Queen Victoria enjoyed the worship of the Scottish Kirk and towards the end of her reign it was decided to replace the building with the present one. The Congregation raised £5,000 towards the cost and stone and wood were given by Invercauld and Balmoral estates. The building was begun in 1892 and completed in 1895.
It is a lovely Church with fine woodwork and stained glass and many Royal Memorials. It is worth a visit but not just as a place of historic interest. Crathie is a parish Church, a place where the people of the parish gather week by week for the worship of God, where they come to be married, from where they are buried. Crathie is a working Parish Church serving God and the people of the Parish — that is the reason for its existence today.
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