THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Until 1560, there was only one Church in Ellon - the Mediaeval Church and it was of course a Roman Catholic Church. After the Reformation, the Church stood empty for nearly 40 years then over the next century and a half it swung between the Presbyterian and Episcopalian practice. There was no RC Church in Ellon from the Reformation (1560) until the 1930s ie a period of almost 400 years. That there is a RC Church now is thanks to the determination of Victoria Ingrams (nee Reid). Victoria was the younger daughter of Sir James Reid and his wife Susan Baring. At a formative time in her life she did some nursing at St Thomas’s Hospital in London and was impressed with the way in which Catholics dealt with death. She converted to Catholicism in 1932 but was frustrated that she could not practice her religion when she came back to Ellon. She set about finding a suitable place to worship and answered an advert for a vacant room in a building owned by Mitchell and Rae (the grain and coal merchants) in Ellon Square. Thus the first mass since 1563 was celebrated in Ellon on 26th August 1934. However, the lease of this property expired and Victoria persuaded her mother to allow her to use the Coach House/Garage as the chapel and in 1949, after a gap of 5 years there was again a RC Church in Ellon. In spite of some set-backs, this was the RC Church until it became too small in the latter part of the last century and was replaced with a fine new award winning church in 1992. Victoria had four sons, one of whom, Richard Ingrams was the editor of “Private Eye”.

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The inside of Ellon Parish Church prior to the renovations in 1967. Note that it faced North-South at that time which is unusual. Most tend to face East-West.

The symbol stone is part of a cross and is representative of the many carvings done by the Pictish people who lived in this area and who were our forebears.

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The old RC Chapel in the Coach house

The current Church of Our Lady  & St John the Baptist

The present Parish Church which was called St Mary’s is substantially the same building as the one constructed in the 1770s. There have been a number of modifications over the years in 1829, and in 1876. In 1873 a heating system was introduced and an organ recess was built in  1884 and the first organist Mr James Whitely was appointed as organist. The church was reconstructed and redecorated in 1907. In 1967 the upper floor was removed leaving a balcony only on the west wall. At that time a vestry and session room were built and the symbol stone which was on the North wall was relocated to the East wall below a new stained glass window. At this time, too, the organ was relocated to the balcony.

In 2009, the fixed seating was removed and a new ground source heating system and oak floor were added. The old bench seats were replaced by single padded seats.

ELLON PARISH CHURCH

The Parish Church is on the same site and can be traced back directly to the original Church in Ellon dating back to at least the 12th century. It was the Church of St Mary and that was its name until 1947. The churches in Scotland had a long and unsettled history. Originally the churches in Scotland were Catholic and this was true of the early and mediaeval church in Ellon. The Reformation in 1560 changed all that and for many decades thereafter, the Church in Ellon swung between Episcopalian and Presbyterian practice. Indeed from about 1560 until 1600 the building was not used at all. Eventually, the Church of Scotland was settled as the Presbyterian Church on the accession of William of Orange to the throne of the UK. Much of the conflict in the Church of Scotland was about the right of the congregation to choose their own minister and over the years, there had been many break- aways or secessions. These happened in Ellon, too. The diagram shows that there was as early as 1791 the Auchmacoy General Associate Church, which led to the Ellon United Presbyterian Church. However, the biggest breakaway was in 1843 when the “Free Church” was formed. This was  a huge secession and the then minister of Ellon - Rev James Robertson was very opposed both locally and nationally to this breakway.

St Mary’s Church continued through the years and in 1929 the “Free Church” which by this time had combined with the Ellon Presbyterian Church joined with St Mary’s. Services continued in both churches ie St Andrew’s and St Mary’s until 1947 when St Andrew’s was closed and St Mary’s became known as Ellon Parish Church.



Ellon Parish Church prior to 1967. Note the door on the East wall and the absence of the session room.

Ellon Parish Church after 1967. Note the new stained glass window on the East wall and the absence of a door on that wall. Also the extension on the north wall to house the vestry and session room.

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The Mediaeval Church in Ellon

This fragment, called the Annand Aisle is all that remains of the Mediaeval Church in Ellon. This Church was knocked down in the 1770s and replaced with the present building - using the stones from the demolished building. The story goes that Thomas the Rhymer had predicted that the church would fall down when a white bull was seen in the Churchyard. During one long sermon on a hot Sunday one of the parishioners wakened and looked out the window. Seeing a white bull, he grabbed the bell rope, swung down from the balcony shouting that the church was about to fall down. His call was somewhat premature as the church had eventually to be demolished with gunpowder in 1776/77.

The original church was built in a cruciform shape facing East-West. There were two transepts for the important families of Ellon - the Cheynes of Arnage and the Bannermans of Waterton. These families were eventually superceded by the Rosses and Forbes respectively. The Annands of Auchterellon were a lesser family and their aisle was in the chancel area. That is all that remains of the old church and it can be found in the churchyard of Ellon Parish Church.


Chancel - Annand Aisle

NORTH TRANSEPT OR AISLE

 CHEYNE of ARNAGE (ROSS)


SOUTH TRANSEPT OR AISLE

BANNERMAN OF WATERTON (FORBES)

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ELLON FREE CHURCH

In 1843 there was a huge split in the Church of Scotland in which 30% of the ministers and a corresponding percentage of the congregations seceded to form a new Church - the Free Church. Technically the reason was so that congregations would be free to choose their own minister rather than have one imposed. There were obviously other differences in terms of doctrine. In 1845, the seceders in Ellon took over a mission Hall on Ythan Terrace and formed a “Free Church” congregation there. In 1856, they built a new Church on the site. The building which is currently a furniture showroom is shown opposite. When the United Presbyterian Church in Scotland joined with the Free Church, the United Free Church was created in 1897, and the former Free Church became Ellon United Free Church (South) and the former United Presbyterian Church became Ellon United Free Church (North). In 1905, the two UF Churches amalgamated to become St Andrews United Free Church. The former Free Church was closed.

ST ANDREW’S CHURCH

This Church once stood at the junction of Station Road and Union Street. It was built in 1895 by the Ellon United Presbyterian congregation. In 1905, the UP Church amalgamated with the Free Church to become the United Free Church. In Ellon, this was called Ellon UF Church (North). In 1929, the UF Church amalgamated with the Church of Scotland and until 1947 both Churches were used. In 1947 the former UF Church was closed and in 1953 became the Ellon Cinema. Latterly it was used as a Furniture Showroom (The Schreiber Centre) by Frasers of Ellon. In the early 1990s it was demolished and houses were built on the site


ELLON FREE CHURCH 1856

The Communion Cups

The cups for the administration of Holy Communion take the form of beakers in silver a form found most often in the North-East of Scotland and thought to be influenced by secular drinking cups imported from the Low Countries in the early 15thC. The first beaker was made in Aberdeen by Walter Melville and given to the Kirk by John Middleton, Burgess of Aberdeen. It is obviously a copy of the earlier beaker which was made in Amsterdam. This was bought in 1638 by John Kennedy of Kermucks and his wife Janet Forbes. The cups are on loan to the National Gallery of Antiquities of Scotland and are exhibited there.

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF ST MARY ON THE ROCK

Episcopalianism was practised in Ellon since the time of the Reformation and in the early years there was great persecution of those who adhered to that faith. As the religion of Scotland it alternated with Presbyterianism according to the  political supremacy of the time. Many from the North East supported the Jacobite cause during the 1715 and 1745 uprisings. However, things came to a head in 1789 when William of Orange came to the throne of Great Britain. The Scottish Bishops refused to give him their oath of allegiance since they had already sworn allegiance to the deposed King James VII and argued that that oath could not be revoked.

King William consequently turned to the Presbyterian cause and by an Act of Parliament established the Presbyterian Church to be the established Church of Scotland and the Episcopal Church was dis-established. In Ellon the  church continued to be Episcopalian until the priest, Rev Walter Stewart died in 1711. At that point the first Presbyterian minister in Ellon was appointed.

However, the Episcopalians built a meeting house in the Church yard but this was burnt down by the Hanoverian soldiers after the 1745/46 rising. They continued to worship in sheds and barns with their preachers disguised as crofters until 1816 when they built a new church close to the present building at St Mary on the Rock.



Tom Patey was brought up in the Rectory of St Mary’s where his father, the Rev Thomas Patey was the Rector. Tom trained as a doctor and while at Aberdeen University developed his interest in climbing. In time he became a top climber in the Alps and the Himalayas. He is perhaps best remembered for his ascent of the Old Man of Hoy with Chris Bonnington. This was shown on Television. Tom who was a GP in Ullapool at the time died in 1969 aged just 37 as a result of a climbing accident.

During these travails, Robert Burns visited Ellon and met with Bishop Skinner who was priest of Ellon and Udny  from 1764-1775.

In 1816 the new church was built and the Rev Nathaniel Grieve was priest there for 60 years. It was, however a poorly constructed building and in time there was a need to replace it. The current church was built in 1870-71.It is a most beautiful building both inside and outside and has stunning stained glass windows The architect was Edmund G Street.