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Brief History of Saint Columba's at Gruline

Kempe Window
Kempe's window of Charity and two children

In 1862 the Reverend Mr Rawlinson of Moidart came to Mull to consider the possibility of a monthly visit to Mull to take Episcopalian services, but it was not until 1864 or 1865 that the first service was held. This was in the Industrial Female School at Salen and was conducted by the Reverend Hugh McColl, the incumbent of Strontian and Kinlochmoidart. Thereafter services were held in Glenforsa House, Kilfinichen (where Roman Catholics and Presbyterians also attended), Glengorm, Drumlang, Killiechronan, Killiemore, but mostly at Glenforsa House (now called Gruline House).

The building of St Columba's at Gruline was begun in June 1873, the cost being divided between Captain Parr of Killiechronan and Colonel Greenhill-Gardyne of Glenforsa House. The church was completed in December 1873 and the first service held there in June 1874, with 26 people present for the English service in the morning and 47 for the Gaelic service in the evening. The church and the adjacent burial ground were consecrated on Sunday 4th July 1875 by Bishop George Richard Mackarness (1823 - 1883). It was the first church to be consecrated in Mull for some centuries. There are memorial plaques to these two benefactors on the walls of the nave.

In 1893 the Gruline Estate was sold to William and Mary Melles. Much of the woodwork in the church was carved by Mary Melles, including the pulpit and reredos. Daphne Margaret Gough, Mary Melles's grand-daughter was the only person, it is believed, to have been baptised, confirmed, married and have her ashes buried at Saint Columba's.

The church has several attractive stained glass windows, one of which is by Charles Kempe, of Charity and two children. It was installed in 1912 and it is said to be a fine example of his work. Several of the other stained glass windows are dedicated to, or have links with, members of the Melles family. Several of the memorial plaques also have links with this family.

Click here for more information on Charles Kempe (1837 - 1907)

Previously in the care of an itinerant priest based at Appin on the mainland, Saint Columba's then became part of the West Highland Region, which comprised seven mainland charges (parishes) together with the islands of Mull, Tiree, Coll, Eigg and Colonsay. Currently we are under the pastoral oversight of the Bishop.

Over many years a significant summer locum chaplaincy system has been established whereby Anglican priests, many of them from England, visit Mull for one or two Sundays. In return for a holiday on this beautiful island they conduct our Sunday worship, preach, and carry out such pastoral work as may be necessary (generally very little). This fulfils our needs, typically from Easter to Harvest-tide. In the winter months we have a number of Lay Leaders who have the Bishop's licence to offer Matins (Morning Prayer) and to conduct lay-led services of the Holy Communion, administering pre-consecrated elements from the Reserved Sacrament. These Sunday services are supplemented by services on 'special' days (Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, The Ascension, Corpus Christi, etc).

In recent times some alterations have been made to the church. During the episcopate of Douglas Cameron (1993 - 2003) the main church building was re-roofed and a toilet/store room was built to the west of the sacristy. This proved to be a wonderful amenity and allowed the sacristy to be refurbished. Space was also provided at the west end of the church to accommodate small social gatherings.