Abernethy Old Kirk, Nethy Bridge

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Historical link could save Elgin Building

Our genealogist expert, Mark Whitton has identified close links between the Abernethy Old Kirk and Grant Lodge in Elgin.  His interview with the Northern Scot newspaper is sampled below.

Call for ‘heritage link’ at fire-hit building to attract more genealogy visitors to Moray
Lifeline hope to bring lodge back to glory
By HAZEL LAWSON- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

TAPPING into a historical connection between Grant Lodge and Abernethy Old Kirk could provide a lifeline for the Elgin Building.

The lodge has been boarded up since it was damaged by fire more than 10 years ago. Last week it was revealed there was still around £140,000 left over from the insurance payout following the blaze. Members of Moray Council’s economic development and infrastructure committee cancelled the progression of a feasibility study on the building. However, chief executive Roddy Burns has agreed to meet interested parties keen to see the 250-year-old lodge brought back to its former glory with a view of finding a way forward, before the matter is transferred to the local authority’s policy and resources committee for discussion.

Mark Whitton, genealogist with the Abernethy Old Kirk Association, has identified three men buried in the graveyard on the outskirts of Nethy Bridge who were sent to defend Grant Lodge during the Last Clan Rising in 1820. He said “It could be considered a live heritage link, with people travelling from Abernethy to Grant Lodge and vice versa. The clan rising story is unique to Elgin and Strathspey and more should be made of it. Heritage links such as this could be created with numerous local and not so local historical sites bringing in people from further afield.”

In March 1820, Lady Ann Grant sent a horse and rider through Speyside calling for clansmen to protect the lodge because of disturbances and kidnapping following the general election. Around 1500 men, including around 150 from Abernethy, answered the call and headed to Elgin with staves in hand to defend Lady Ann and the building.
Alexander Grant, John McDonald and Peter Cameron, all laid to rest in the kirkyard, took part in the uprising. Mr Whitton, who lives in the Moray capital, said: “People do not generally come to Elgin for Elgin but on their way somewhere else; Elgin has to be a destination not a stop-off. Unique buildings such as Grant Lodge need to be harnessed for their history and character and made to work for Elgin and Moray. As it stands it is an embarrassment. Being close to the cathedral it is really noticeable by the tourists that do come into the town. This is precisely why it needs to be brought into productive use, ideally some kind of heritage and family history centre.”

It is estimated worldwide there are 50 million people who have Scottish ancestry. In 2007, 98,000 of them visited the country in efforts to trace their roots, which generated around £64 million to the economy of Scotland. Research carried out for VisitScotland showed that on average genealogy tourists spend 10 per cent more than other visitors to the country.

Mr Whitton said: “Personally I think that Moray Council has seriously underestimated the strength of opinion people have about Grant Lodge. People are well aware of the financial constraints that the council is under, as are a great deal of citizens in Elgin and Moray. This is not some kind of vanity project but an investment in Elgin’s future and past, a past that for too long has been allowed to stagnate and not work for the benefit of Elgin and Moray. Straightened times like these sometimes need creative and ingenious thinking to make a difference and that is what is required now.”

Mr Whitton called on people to make their views on the building known to their local councillors.
The lodge was gifted to the people of Elgin in the early 1900’s by Sir George Cooper.
As trustees the council is responsible for the maintenance of the building. Any change to the deeds would need to go to the Court of Session for approval, which would cost around £20,000. A detailed business plan outlining proposals for the buildings future would also be needed.

Abernethy Old Kirk Association bought the kirk from the Church of Scotland in April 2011. The group was formed to preserve and maintain the building for weddings, funerals and occasional worship for the benefit of the community.

Northern Scot- Friday 31st January 2014, Page 9.

Grant Lodge Abernethy Old Kirk Link