Monday 19 January 2015

A Tale of Survival

Once upon a time there was a church in Stronsay...

In 1861 the congregation carried out some renovation work on the interior of the church. They built a new pilaster desk for the minister something like this perhaps....
In this desk they hid something, a piece of paper. On this piece of paper they wrote:

"The Parish Church of Stronsay built in 1835 during the ministry of Rev'd John Simpson, has been, during the current year, 1861, being the 15th year of the ministry of Rev Joseph Caskey, extensively altered and repaired, at the expense of the members of the congregation.
Church of Stronsay
Rev Joseph Caskey, Minister
Scollay Skethway, Elder
Robert Larmonth, do [ditto]
Thomas Sinclair, do [ditto]
John Forbes, do [ditto]
Robert Leslie, do [ditto]
George Peace, do [ditto]
Stronsay 14th September 1861. This document deposited on the top of pilaster on Precentor's Desk this fourteenth day of September 1861 by John Forbes, Parish Schoolmaster and Elder of the Church in Stronsay.


In 1896 the pilaster desk was removed and the note was found inside. We know this because there is a second note on the paper which reads:

"This document was found in the above mentioned place on the removal of the Presenter's Desk and formation of a choir seat in front of the pulpit on the eighth day of December 1896. The congregation at this time have subscribed about £25 for this alteration and to purchase an Harmonium, this being the first introduction of instrumental music in this church. Rev Joseph Caskey is minister this being his jubilee. Signed James Chalmers, joiner."


In 1946 the farm of Linkshouse in Stronsay changed hands and the new owner went into the church which was in one of his fields and found the note by the pulpit.


In 1958 the note was posted back to Stronsay in an envelope from Dundee!?!.


In 2014 the note was kindly gifted to the Orkney Archive where it will live happily ever after.

The End

Archive Reference: D1/1184


  1. What a lovely story! And beautifully told.

  2. I'm reliably informed by one of our Facebook followers that the church in question an old church that is not used any more. More information can be found here:

  3. So glad you took the time to save this. My father bears the ministers name and my grandfather long deceased referenced him back in 1959. Excellent!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Mary. This is one of my favourite stories in the blog's history: how a simple piece of paper became an important treasure of information.


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