Friday 9 March 2012: St Conan's
Detail from a stained glass window at St Conan's kirk, Loch Awe. You might wonder why anyone would build a church clinging to the steep northern shore of this loch.
Walter Campbell bought a nearby island and built there a house for himself, his sister and mother. The nearest church was at Dalmally, a distance Walter thought too far for his elderly mother. So, as you do, he built her a more accessible church on the shore nearby.
The original Kirk was built between 1881 and 1886. But Walter had more ambitious plans, and in 1907 he began work on a much more elaborate church, work he continued until his death in 1917. His sister kept on till she died in 1927 and then their trustees finished the project, the first service taking place in 1930.
To say St Conan's is unusual is an understatement. It lacks any cohesion at all in terms of style and design, whatever took Walter's fancy found its way into the building. The result is eccentric and not a little creepy for my taste. But it has one or two fine pieces of stained glass. Though I couldn't confirm it, I assume this is the Campbell coat of arms, certainly other Campbells arms I've seen have the same Viking boats.
In case you're wondering, St. Conan is the patron saint of Lorne and is reputed to have lived in Glenorchy, a disciple though not contemporary of Columba. There is a nice little story about him.
"St. Conan was not afraid to meet the Devil face to face. On one occasion the saint and "The De'il" met to discuss the fate of the souls of the people of Lorne. They went about it in a thoroughly businesslike manner, for they divided these not into the sheep and the goats, but into three categories, the "really good," the "downright bad" and the "middling." The good were to be the Saint's, the bad the De'il's, and the middling they were to share equally. And this sharing equally was to be done by drawing in turn. All went smoothly as arranged until the Devil got excited and stretched out his hand when it was the Saint's turn. But St Conan would have none of this; he rapped the Devil smartly over the knuckles, exclaiming, "Na, na, fair play, paw for paw," and it is this phrase which has passed into proverbial use."