The Friends of St. John’s Kirk of Perth has a long history, but had fallen into abeyance in recent years. Now revived, and with Charitable Status, it is seeking to play a significant role in the life of the Kirk and of the City of Perth.
A central tenet of the Friends, is that the kirk building of St. John’s, although officially owned by the Church of Scotland, belongs in a very real sense, to the people of Perth and indeed of Scotland. From mediaeval times until 1807, it was the only church building in Perth, and its Common Bell summoned the citizens of the Royal Burgh not only to worship on Sundays, but to work on weekdays at 4am and 6am, and it sounded a curfew in the evening. For several hundred years after the Reformation it was owned by the Perth Burgh Council, and the Council still owns the magnificent carillon in the tower. It is the location of all important civic and military ceremonies held in the city.
For many years the Kirk has been open to visitors, and in recent times around 10,000 have crossed its threshold annually. Furthermore, the Kirk itself, which has very good acoustics, is a superb venue for concerts, choir performances and other musical events. It is particularly busy during the Perth Festival of the Arts in May. There is an excellent organ, and regular recitals are held throughout the year. The other musical ‘instrument’ unique to St. John’s is the carillon in the tower, which consists of 35 of the 63 bells in the Kirk. It is played regularly on Sundays and on special occasions.
Among the tasks that members of the Friends have undertaken are:
One of the objectives of the Friends is to develop St. John’s as a Visitor Attraction (to use the terminology of Visit Scotland). It is seeking to attract more visitors, to enhance the experience of those who come, and in the broadest sense to provide a mission to tourists. To this end the Kirk has been registered with VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance scheme, and has achieved four star status.
Raising significant sums of money for the fabric of the Kirk is not one of the main functions of the Friends. Nevertheless, it is important that the Friends contribute to the considerable costs of maintaining the church. Since entrance is free, strategies to raise the required funds to support its activities, and contribute to the Kirk will have to be developed.
The Friends is run by a committee of Charity Trustees, the majority of whom are elected annually from the membership. They are augmented by representatives from the Kirk Session and the Trust for St. John’s Kirk. Membership costs £10 (£15 for couples) and is open to all.