Issued on behalf of the Trust of St John’s Kirk Perth
You are welcome to attend Friday’s appeal launch in the Kirk at 1pm
Appeal launched to save St John’s Kirk of Perth
· 900-year-old Kirk where John Knox sparked the reformation is in crisis
· £4 million restoration bill looms for Perth’s most historic building
· The Kirk of Kings threatened by soaring costs
A £4 million appeal is being launched to save Perth’s oldest and key historic building.
St John’s Kirk has dominated the Fair City skyline for nearly nine centuries but now the ancient heart of Perth is under threat as repair and renovation costs spiral.
A leaking spire and belfry, decaying masonry, roof deterioration and compromised stained-glass window casings are among the growing catalogue of necessary repair works facing the Kirk. And while the Kirk session and the Trust of St John’s Kirk of Perth have shouldered emergency repairs to date, funds are running out and a “Save St John’s Kirk” appeal has been set in motion.
Session Clerk Bill Wilson said the time had come to appeal for help to a wider audience.
“St John’s Kirk has a special place in the hearts of so many,” he said. “It has been a centre of worship for nearly 900 years and played a pivotal role in the history and development of Perth.
“Marriages, christenings, funerals, civic and public events and landmark Royal and historic occasions have all taken place within these ancient walls and its impact and influence have stretched far beyond Perth’s city boundary – both nationwide and internationally.
“Hopefully, its ongoing role and historic significance will not be lost on those keen to ensure its survival.”
Crisis talks have already taken place with key stakeholders and an outline strategy has already been developed with a full business plan due to be finalised by the end of the year.
Maureen Young, chair of the Trust of St John’s Kirk of Perth, which has driven fundraising for the maintenance of the building since 1951, said the future of the landmark kirk was every bit as important as its past.
“St John’s Kirk is the heart of Perth in every sense,” she said. “Millions have been spent on creating a world-class tourist destination housing the Stone of Destiny at the former City Hall - due to open next year - and it’s vital that the new museum’s Medieval neighbour is protected and promoted to ensure Perth’s oldest and newest attractions sit side-by-side in pristine condition.
“Recent faults and failings identified by a series of expert surveys suggest St John’s Kirk needs special attention,” added Maureen. “The cash-strapped Church of Scotland is unlikely to provide support funding, but a future where this glorious building is allowed to decay and die is unthinkable and that’s why a special appeal has been launched to identify and secure funding streams to safeguard it for generations to come.
“The Trust is also keen to employ a Project Manager to help fundraise, oversee works and evolve a future programme of events and tourist and community engagement to enrich the life of the church,” she said. “We are actively seeking suitable candidates now.
“We’re delighted – and extremely grateful - that Brigadier Sir Mel Jameson, immediate past Lord Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross, has agreed to chair our appeal committee and drive a fundraising focus in support of our strategic plan for the future of St John’s which will not only repair and restore the building itself but also create a vibrant and popular venue for all.”
Ahead of the launch of the public appeal in the Kirk today (Friday), Sir Mel said he was happy to play a role in ensuring Perth’s most important building was protected and promoted – celebrating its past glories and shaping its function and form into the future.
“St John’s Kirk is one of Scotland’s most important church buildings,” he said. “It has a wealth of history within its ancient walls – from medieval to modern times – and plays a vital role in both civic and congregational life in Perth.
“It houses Perth and Perthshire war memorials and is the spiritual home of The Black Watch as well as boasting Scotland’s largest carillon of 35 bells.
“Windows, pews, pillars and crypts all pay homage to famous local families and historic organisations and institutions including the Guildry, Freemasonry and local council,” he added. “And, perhaps most famously, it was the site of John Knox’s inflammatory sermon in 1559 which ignited the Reformation in Scotland.
“It is also the Kirk of the Kings, visited and supported over the centuries by a string of royals from David I to the late Queen Elizabeth II.”
While highlighting the historic importance of St John’s Kirk, Sir Mel said the focus of the £4 million appeal was on the future.
“We want to safeguard St John’s both as a place of worship and occasion and as a vibrant, living centre for tourists, events, concerts, civic occasions and public celebrations,” he said. “At first glance the building looks magnificent but at 900 years old, she’s an Old Lady in trouble – one that needs our help to secure a future where St John’s continues to play a central role in the life of the city. We cannot allow the building to deteriorate further, and hope individuals and organisations will rally behind our appeal and Save St John’s.”
Repair works will progress in accordance with funds available with emergency repairs tackled first.
The appeal has already attracted political concern with local MSP John Swinney saying St John’s was “absolutely central” to the identity of Perth.
“The deterioration of St John’s Kirk has to be avoided at all costs,” he said. “It sits in the very heart of the city, adjacent to what will be one of the country’s most significant tourist attractions so it is vital the future of the Kirk is assured so that it can be part of the revival of Perth’s city centre.
“We can’t afford to turn our backs on such a significant building,” he said. “We have to corral different funding streams to help, and I am very happy to put my shoulder to the wheel and help where I can.”