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(Report from "John O'Groat Journal" of December 19, 1930.)


Wick Parish Church - it is difficult to give it any other name - has set out on its second century of existence in a condition which leaves little doubt that it will survive another hundred years with increasing strength. Virile and far-seeing must have been its builders. Enthusiastic and sincere are those now associated with it. A hundred years have only made its roots deeper in the hearts of the people. 

Naturally, therefore, the knowledge that the century had been completed was bound to attract more than ordinary attention. Special services on Sunday drew unusually large numbers of worshippers, especially the evening service, when the congregation included people from practically all the churches in the town. Rev. R. Callen, M.A., LL.B., the minister of the church had the assistance at both services of Rev. J. M. Dickie, B.D., Rothesay, who was for a decade the popular minister of Wick parish.

At the evening service, appropriately enough, the church, which, when first erected, was illuminated by "goose-neb" lamps, was brilliantly lit by electricity, and the newly installed lighting system was dedicated by Rev. Mr Callen.


Large Congregations at Both Diets.


Special services to celebrate the centenary were held in the church on Sunday. Rev. Mr Callen conducted both services and the sermons delivered by Rev. Mr Dickie.

At the noon service Rev. Mr Dickie first gave a short address to the children. That day, he told them, they were celebrating the centenary of the building of their church, and it ought to be a day of gladness and rejoicing for them. They were young but their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who were present in the church when it was first built rejoiced; and it was right that they should rejoice when the hundredth year had gone and the church still stood. To be contented was to be happy, and they should be contented with what they had. Jesus Christ had nothing and yet there never was one who was more cheerful of happy.

For the main part of the service Mr Dickie took his text from St. Mathew xxiii, 37: - "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"

The main theme of Mr Dickie's discourse was particularly appropriate. He, in effect, gave a history of the art of building and of Christ's influence in the growth of that art. In his introductory remarks he said that much had been written about the "ifs" of history: If Robert Bruce had not defeated Edward II. At Bannockburn the two kingdoms of England and Scotland might have been united. Then, in the opinion of some, centuries of bloodshed would have been averted. If certain men had not thrown tea-chests into Boston harbour then the United States might have to-day been part of the British Empire. If Jerusalem had responded to the appeal of Jesus Christ, if she installed Him as her chief Prophet, to-day the Jews, so far from being a landless people, scattered and persecuted, might have been the leading people in the world. But such speculations were futile. If they could reconstruct the whole history of the world they would see that it was the strenuous, strong man who did things.

The Master Builder.

As he went about the streets of the towns and cities of our land he looked at the buildings, and he sometimes wondered to himself about the men who built them. The more recent builders of course, were known. But who were they who put up all these buildings? What a multitude of craftsmen of all kinds were at the making of these buildings. But as he went from place to place the thought always came to him that there was One who built them all - Jesus Christ. He did not mean the churches only, but all the other buildings. They might say "ridiculous," that Jesus did build the churches but not all the buildings, and that there were buildings long before the birth of Christ. Jerusalem was built before Christ, and the Tower of Babel thousands of years before Him. The Pyramids were centuries old before Christ was born in Bethlehem. And were not the pagan Romans great builders? It was true, all true, that the Romans were great builders. They could see that if they went to the many places where the Romans had dwelt - Bath, or York, or Hadrian's Wall - and marked how excellently they built stone upon stone. But at the end of the fourth century the Romans had left Britain, and the islands were overrun by heathen savages from the Continent - Anglo-Saxons and Jutes. For some centuries after the Romans retrial there was a complete blank in the history of our land. It was a return to the primitive state of things. The people lived in huts, caves, structures of wood and bark, and mud. The splendid buildings of the Romans were destroyed. That was the state of affairs in Great Britain until Christ came. The Christian missionaries taught the people order and rule, and brought with them civilisation. They brought agriculture, trade, and the arts, and among other arts they brought the art of stone-building. Not the churches and monasteries alone did they build in the name of Christ. Under the inspiration of Christ they built villages and towns. From the sixth century to the end of the Middle Ages, the master builders in Great Britain were the monks, and the craftsmen they brought from France and Italy. Thus sprung up the magnificent cathedrals and castles. The people who taught the inhabitants were the missionaries of Jesus Christ. They alone had the courage and the inspiration to visit these savage islands - because they were savage. Their inspiration and courage came Christ.

Was he far wrong in saying that to Jesus Christ they owed all their houses? The same thing was happening in other lands. The missionaries of to-day were the pioneers of civilisation. Always with Christ came greater things.

After Thirty Years.

In conclusion, Mr Dickie said it was 30 years ago, almost to the day, since he had first entered the pulpit. It was on December 16, 1900, that he preached there as a candidate for the church. Modern history dated from the war, and his ministry in the church was pre-war. It was not unfitting that he should be with them and share in their celebrations. To-day was a happy occasion. One hundred years ago their fathers and grandfathers built that House of God, and right well did they build it. Honest tradesmenship and solid work went into it. He often used to go up over the ceiling to admire the staunch timbers of the roof. That was the work of one hundred years ago. The interior which they now saw had been altered and embellished and remodelled several times. To-day they were to dedicate their greatest gift to the House of God - a new and more convenient way of lighting. He hoped that the high associations and cherished memories of the building would long remain to gather them to worship God and help to uplift their thoughts.

The Evening Service.

A quiet sincerity without any suggestion of modern showmanship marked the evening service. Little reference was made to the fact that the church had completed its century, and was decidedly "not out." No attempt was made to impress the congregation that the occasion was unique. They had met for worship.

Rev. Mr Callen conducted the service with a marked solemnity that gave pleasure to the large congregation. The singing of the Hundredth Psalm opened the praise. Following prayer by Mr Callen, the congregation sang Paraphrase 33. Mr Callen then read the Scripture lesson from St. Luke xv., verse 11 onwards.
"We love the place, O God,
Wherein Thine honour dwells."
That hymn (No. 373) which was next sang, seemed to give clear and fervent 
expression to the feelings of the congregation. Those feelings were further voiced in the prayer which Mr Callen then delivered and in hymn 383 - 
Again, as evening's shadow falls,
We gather in these hallowed walls…

Dedication Ceremony.

Following prayer, the congregation were requested by Mr Callen to stand, and, as they waited in reverent silence he said - 
"Forasmuch as God has put it into your hearts, as members and adherents of this congregation, to carry out a scheme of improvement of the sanctuary by the use of electricity as an aid to your worship and as a beautifying of this house of prayer, it is meet and right that we should now dedicate it to Him, and set it apart for the holy use for which it is designed. I call upon you, therefore, to say in your hearts what I now say in your hearing; In the faith of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we dedicate the electricity scheme in this church to the glory of God, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The congregation resumed their seats and the minister engaged in prayer.  The choir then sang the Te Deum.

Rev. Mr Dickie delivered an earnest and appreciated discourse on the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The singing of the second paraphrase, and the benediction, pronounced by Mr Dickie, brought the very impressive service to a close.


Monday Evening's Rejoicings




The social meeting which was held in the Rifle Drill, Hall, Dempster Street, proved to be a great success.  Bright as the newly-decorated hall was with its recently installed electric light, its brilliance seemed to be enhanced by the throng who had gathered to honour the exceptional event.  there was just room enough for comfort at the tastefully arranged tables.

Included in the gathering were many friends from other churches in town.  Caithness Presbytery was represented by the moderator and a good number of ministers.  The platform party included:- Rev.R Callen, Rev. J.M. and Mrs Dickie, Rev. N.C. and Mrs Robertson, Rev. J.A. and Mrs Martin, Rev. G. Gray and Mrs Gray, Rev. G.V. Hellawell, Mrs and Miss Hellawell; Rev. G.R. and Mrs MacLennan, Thurso; Rev. A. and Mrs Gilfillan, Latheron; Rev. D. Lillie, Mrs and Miss Lillie, Watten; REvs. W.G. Robertson, Watten; W. Fulton, Canisbay, and G. Walsh, Keiss; Sheriff Trotter, Provost Duchart, Mr and Mrs R. Callen and Miss Evelyn Poole, North Manse; Miss Sutherland, Congregational Manse; Mrs Buik, Mr and Mrs John Sutherland and the Misses B and M. Sutherland, Mr and Mrs H.W. Brock, Mr and Mrs R. Ferrier, Mr R. Shearer, etc.  There were apologies for unavoidable absence by Rev. W.H. Millard and Rev. D.S. Sutherland.

Rev. Mr Callen presided.  the proceedings opened with the singing of Psalm 100 followed by prayer by Rev. W.G. Robertson, Watten, moderator of the Presbytery.

Tea was then served, the catering being carried out by Mr Hector Sutherland, High Street, and Messrs Bremner & Gunn, Francis Street, whose services gave complete satisfaction.  Thereafter a long and interesting programme was begun.  Each speaker and artiste was listened to with obvious enjoyment.

The choir led off with "Our Master hath a Garden", which they rendered with pleasing tastefulness, Rev. Mr Callen then addressed the gathering.

Chairman's remarks

In his opening remarks, Mr Callen said that the weekend had brought them to the great occasion in their congregational life to which they had been looking forward for many weeks. In an hour or two the curtain would ring down again and they would all go on their respective ways, but he felt sure that Sunday and that night would remain, in the days to come, as a great inspiration in all their hearts. His first duty was to extend, in the name of the congregation of Wick North Church, a cordial welcome to all the guests, including the members and adherents of the other churches who had come there that night to rejoice with them.  It would have given great satisfaction had the three former ministers of the Old Parish Kirk of Wick and their wives been able to be with them that evening.  Mr and Mrs Peebles and Mr and Mrs MacDougall were unfortunately, unable to be with them, but they had sent messages of goodwill and congratulation.  While they regretted the absence of these old friends, they were delighted to have with them that night Rev. Mr Dickie and his good wife. (Applause).  They all knew that it was a very long and trying journey, especially at this time of the year, from sweet Rothesay Bay to John O'Groats.  He knew very well the great place that they both had in the harts of the congregation.  During the last week or two in practically every house he had been in the conversation inevitably veered round to Mr and Mrs Dickie, and everyone had expressed pleasure at heir coming north.  He knew they were held in the highest esteem, not only by the congregation but by the whole community.  He had met Mr and Mrs Dickie on Saturday for the first time, and when he did meet them he could well understand why they in Wick were all so intensely anxious to meet them again,. (Applause).

In conclusion, Rev. Mr Callen said he regretted that they had not with them that evening Col. E.G. Buik and Rev. A. Ross. B.D., St Andrew's Wick, both of whom were indisposed.  It was also a matter of great regret that none of the women of their Woman's Guild were to speak that night.  They had taken a very prominent part in arranging the function, and when there was any real, hard work to be done they were always to the forefront.  When it was a case of coming into the limelight he could not get them at all.  He then called upon Mr Dickie to speak.

A Tinge of Sadness

Rev, Mr Dickie received a great ovation.  He was, he said very glad to be there that night, and he thanked Mr Callen for his too kind introduction of himself, and the audience for the very cordial reception given to himself and his wife.  While he was glad to be with them and to congratulate them, his thoughts that day were not unmingled with sadness; because he had been seeing ghosts of people who unfortunately were not there.  Would he pardon him saying he had a little tinge of sadness.  He knew long ago that Caithness was one of the most hospitable parts of the British Isles; he very well believed it was the most hospitable.

Continuing, he said that a century was a great time in the life of a church, and in the life of a congregation.  Since that time the congregation had changed at least two or three times.  What a wonderful century it had been since 1830.  To think that the first railway was then only beginning.  There was no electricity, no telephone, no motor car.  He remembered one of the first that came to the county, and it was a great advent and caused much surprise when it went about the country districts.  Since then they had the aeroplane and wireless. What a marvellous century it had been!

Great Events

The century that had passed had witnessed great events in church life.  there was the Disruption - a tremendous thing in Scottish life.  too many people it was the greatest thing in history.  A story was told of a highland minister who divided history into three parts.  These were  -  From the Creation to the Flood; from the Flood to the Disruption, and from the Disruption to the present time. (Laughter).  There had been a greater event in Church life since then, and that was the Church Union. (Applause).  The Union of the Churches was one of the most wonderful things that had taken place in the life of any one of them.  But they were not going to rest content until they could win Scotland for Jesus Christ, and also send out their emissaries throughout the world to hold the world for Christ.  He was glad to be connected with the U.F. Church.  It had done such tremendous things.  It was a joy to him to be associated with that Church in its great work for foreign missions.  they were going to go forward and he was delighted to see that his old congregation of Wick was going to be in the forefront.

He had nothing but praise for those ministers who had succeeded him in Wick North Parish Church.  Rev. Mr Callen had a field before him that any minister in Scotland might envy. (Applause).  He congratulated him and hoped that the congregation would continue to prosper and go on to even greater things. (Applause).

Speaking of former days, Mr Dickie said that he was glad that there was still one remaining of the Kirk Session who welcomed him when he came to Wick in 1901.  The gentleman he referred to was Mr John Sutherland, grocer, High Street, (Applause).  He alluded to some members of the Kirk Session who had passed away, and also spoke of those who had passed away, and also spoke of those who served with him.  His last words to them were that they should go on and prosper and accept his wishes for their future. (Applause)


Mrs Dickie

Mrs Dickie, who spoke later in the evening, was also given a warm reception, when she addressed the meeting.  it was, she said, a great pleasure for her husband and herself to be present that night.  The women present would realise what it meant for a girl to come from her home to settle in the far north among total strangers.  It was in Wick that she received a very great welcome.  It was there that her three children were born - in the manse of Wick.

The Rifle Hall recalled many memories - memories of sales of work for their Church Hall, and she still called it her Church Hall. (Applause)  She, too had been seeing ghosts like her husband.  She missed that day dear old friends.  They could understand what a joy it was to her to come up to Wick, and she was glad also that she had got the opportunity of speaking to them.  (Applause)


Presbytery's Congratulations

Rev. W.G. Robertson, Watten, who spoke on behalf of the Caithness Presbytery, congratulated the congregation on having attained their centenary year.

Perhaps the most interesting speech of the evening, and one which recalled fond memories to some of those present, was that of Rev. D. Lillie, Watten, whose father was the first minister to occupy the pulpit in the old parish Church after the Disruption in 1843.

Rev. Mr Lillie said he had been flattering himself that he remembered the old times better than anybody in the whole community, but his good friend Mr John Sutherland, to keep him in his place, told him that he remembered him when he was a little boy. (laughter)

Mr Lillie told how as a small boy he used to sit in a pew down below the pulpit on the ministers right hand, and of people he used to see - old families who were regularly to be seen in their respective pews.  He spoke of the elders, and related some humorous stories in connection with certain of them.  he named three preachers of that day who were very popular - Rev. Peter Jolly, Dunnet; and Rev,. James MacPherson, Canisbay.


Interesting Souvenir

Mr R. J. G. Millar, editor, speaking on behalf of the Kirk Session, said that the centenary of their church was a great occasion.  They would, by and by, have a record made of the celebrations in the form of a Souvenir Booklet which would contain interesting matter relating to the history of the Church, as well as photographs of people connected with it.  He wanted them all to buy as many as they could and distribute them among their friends.  Mr Millar also referred to his recent tour in Canada and America and said that what he found developing was that the churches there wished to make every Church a great big family of Christian fellowship.  (Applause)

Others who spoke happy words of cordial congratulation and good wishes for the future were Revs. A. Gilfillan, Latheron; N.C. Robertson, J. A. Martin, M.A.; G.V. Hallawell, B.D.; G Gray MA (all of Wick); F Fulton Canisbay; G. Walsh, Keiss; Sheriff T. Trotter, D.L.,  Provost Duchart, Robert Ferrier. Mr H. W. Brock called for votes of thanks to the speakers and to all who helped with the arrangements for the social, and Mr J.M. Bruce, session clerk, proposed a vote of thanks to the chairman.

Mr Ferrier and Mr Bruce, in the course of their remarks, gave interesting reminiscences of their long connection with the Parish Church.

The following took part in the musical programme - Mr Roderick MacKay, Mr W. J. L. Black, Mrs Sutherland, and Miss Jessie MacLeod (solos), Miss M.S. Henderson (violin solo), and the choir, Mrs Gilbertson was the accompanist.

After the singing of the Doxology, Rev Mr Dickie pronounced the Benidiction and a happy evening and memorable occasion was brought to a close.