Saturday, 4 July 2015


I have recently returned from a sailing trip in Scotland aboard Goldfinch. My brother-in-law Bryan Davies and his friend Mike Neal are sailing her round Britain and I was lucky enough to be invited to join them for part of the trip. Towards the end of the month I will be re-joining them in Dublin for another stretch. (Goldfinch has her own blog: see

One of the ports we visited was Peterhead, on the east coast of Scotland.

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This gave me a perfect opportunity, because Peterhead is only a few miles away from Crimond. One of the most famous hymn-tunes of all is named CRIMOND, so it seemed a shame to miss the opportunity of visiting it. This tune is usually sung to the words of The Lord's my shepherd. Here's a link to an old recording of it, sung (slowly!) by the Glasgow Orpheus Choir:

The bus journey from Peterhead takes only about half an hour. The countryside here is low-lying and green; the architecture is mainly built out of local materials, which range in colour from dull brown to even duller grey. 

To say that there is not much in Crimond would be an insult to the people who live there; but there is little to catch the eye of the casual visitor. It is a village with a population of around 800, with a substantial primary school, a couple of shops, a fine collection of grey houses, and a church.

Crimond Church
The church is a handsome building. The clock is a notable feature: its face bears the inscription THE HOUR'S COMING, and between the eleven and the twelve there are six minutes, so that the clock apparently has sixty-one minutes.

The clock on Crimond Church
Unfortunately when I arrived at Crimond the church was locked (not surprising really, at lunchtime on a Wednesday). On the noticeboard outside there were some phone numbers, including one for the Church Officer, so I called and left a message to the effect that I was in town for the day and would like to see the church. I then took a walk round the village and, having taken a few more pictures of the church, got on the bus back to Peterhead.

Within five minutes my phone rang. It was Marlene Cowie, the Church Officer of Crimond Church, offering to come and open up the church for me. As this was an opportunity that was unlikely to recur, as soon as the bus got back to Peterhead I bought another ticket and stayed aboard as it turned round and headed back in the direction of Crimond. The bus driver probably thought I was insane.

Mrs Cowie was there waiting for me outside the church. She very kindly let me in and showed me round, even going as far as making me a cup of coffee and giving me some biscuits.

If the church was handsome from the outside, it is beautiful on the inside. It is not big, but it is light, clean and airy, not like the shadowy old churches of England. It has a white balcony running round on three sides half-way up the walls, and a fine old organ that Mrs Cowie informed me was much admired by visiting organists.

The interior of the church

Crimond church, showing gallery
At the back of the church are four arched windows engraved with designs commemorating the hymn-tune which has made this place famous. They are almost impossible to photograph because they are so reflective, and the engraved designs have no colour, so they come out as ghostly images:

On the first of these windows is the inscription:

The 23rd Psalm: Crimond tune composed by Jessie Seymour Irvine 1836 - 87

These windows have been installed in memory of the Rev James E Lyall, the last minister of the church, who died in 2002. Since then the job of minister has been taken by a locum. 

Jessie Seymour Irvine was the daughter of a previous minister, Alexander Irvine, who was in office from 1854-1884. Crimond is, of course, proud of the achievement of its former inhabitant in composing this world-famous tune for The Lord's my Shepherd (a metrical version of Psalm 23).

In my next post I will return to Crimond - or rather to CRIMOND the tune - because, like the clock with 61 minutes, all may not be as it seems..

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