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Tombae Church Closes

By Doug Nisbett
The Catholic Church in Tombae has closed to public worship. If you have visited the adjoining graveyard recently you will be aware of the problem of falling slates. Inside there has also been falling plasterwork. Parish Priest Rev Dr Colin Stewart has put a note on the gate prohibiting access. This is no doubt a headache that Fr Colin could do without, following hard on the heels of extensive repairs due to dry rot at Dufftown. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the building which is one of 7 mass centres within the parish area serviced by Fr Colin from Tomintoul to Lossiemouth.
There has been a church at Tombae since 1788, the first being about half a mile upstream from the present church. This building was swept away in the "muckle spate" of 1829. Fortunately, the new church was already in the process of being built to a design by John Gall of Aberdeen. Mr Gordon, the parish priest instrumental in the building, said the first Mass on Candlemas Day in 1829. In 1843 Bishop Kyle came up with a plan to build rooms behind the altar, which reduced the church in size and was used as priest accommodation and then a school until 1904, when the new school was erected. The Burial Ground includes the family vault of George Smith of Minmore, founder of the Glenlivet Distillery.
From the road, the Church of the Incarnation is of a rather plain design and unusually the main door does not face the road. Instead the church faces the Livet and has a gabled front of pink granite. Viewed across the valley from the Tomintoul road it is possibly one of the most imposing buildings of Glenlivet. If you have heard singing within the church you will be aware of its amazing acoustic, so good that some have called it the ‘Cathedral of the Glen’. Maybe some time we shall hear the Conacher organ once again, whether for sacred or secular music. The Conacher Company was established in Huddersfield in 1854 and is still trading as an organ-builder.

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