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Missing piece returned to log church in Loch Broom

Greg MacDonald adjusts the lift on his boom truck after placing a steeple on top of the replica of the historic Loch Broom Church.  Church tour guide David Oakley was on top to make sure the steeple was properly in place. The steeple was built by Ira Grant, a member of the church committee that oversees the maintenance of the property.
Greg MacDonald adjusts the lift on his boom truck after placing a steeple on top of the replica of the historic Loch Broom Church. Church tour guide David Oakley was on top to make sure the steeple was properly in place. The steeple was built by Ira Grant, a member of the church committee that oversees the maintenance of the property.

LOCH BROOM – To some, it’s only a steeple. To Colleen Parker, it turns a log cabin into a church.

“A church is not a church without a steeple,” she said shortly after a new steeple made by Ira Grant was hoisted on top of the Historic Loch Broom Church Wednesday. “It is a replica for the church down there and the steeple says ‘I am God’s house.’ I think it is important to have it back up.”

The steeple was removed from the Historic Loch Broom Church when a new roof was put on many years ago. Parker has been requesting that it be returned since then, and her persistence has paid off.

Grant recently informed Parker that he built the steeple and it would be placed on the church Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., but things ran a bit ahead of schedule and she missed it being placed on top of the log building.

“I almost cried when I didn’t see it go on,” she said.

But the end result is what matters the most.

The historic replica church was built in 1973 by the people of the community under direction of Rev. Dr. Fred Pauley, who was the minster of West River Presbyterian Church in Durham.

It’s a copy of the Presbyterian Church built on nearby land in the Loch Broom area in 1787 by Rev. Dr. James Drummond MacGregor. He also built a second church in New Glasgow at the time.

The maintenance of the historic replica is now under the guidance of the Loch Broom Log Church Committee on behalf of the presbytery.   In the past few years, a cement wall and wooden beams have been put in place to support the structure, but neither take away from the historic charm of the building.

David Oakley of Sylvester is at the site six days a week to greet visitors who want to learn more about the history of MacGregor or the church.

He said visits can range from busloads of people to just two guests on any given day. In June, some descendants of the settlers who arrived on the Ship Betsey in 1767 visited the church, during the 250th anniversary celebration of the vessel’s arrival in Lyons Brook.

The Festival of the Tartans Kirking o’ the Tartan will be held at the Loch Broom Church on July 16 and the committee is planning its own Gaelic service in late August.

The church is often a popular location for weddings and other community gatherings, but people shouldn’t be looking for comfort when they book their event.

It holds about 100 people at one time, but guests sit on flattened logs that don’t allow for much legroom. The church doesn’t have electricity, lighting or heat, but Parker said it has charm and quaintness that can be felt the moment one drives onto the property.

“You go down there and stand and it is so quiet,” she said. “It gives you such a feeling. When you drive down there, it’s hidden and you don’t see it, but then there it is and you feel like you stepped back in history.”     

About the church

• In 1787, the Loch Broom Church was built from logs hauled to the site. Shingles, doors and window frames were built by hand and the cracks between the logs were chinked with moss and mud to keep out the wind and rain.

•The only materials bought for the original church were glass and nails.

•During worship, people sat on flattened logs for services that lasted three to four hours because they were conducted in both English and Gaelic.

•Children sat in the galley above the congregation during services.

•The custom of the day was to sit to sing and stand to pray.

•The area in 1787 was wilderness, which meant people came to church on the Sabbath along footpaths through the woods and by boat.

•It took MacGregor 13 months to receive his first pay.

•Not everyone favoured his ministry because of his new “radical” ideas, and some even threatened to burn his home or shoot him dead. However, he continued on with his work and travelled hundreds of miles from home to start new congregations.

•The replica log church was built by the people of the community in 1973.

•Logs were donated by the Scott Paper mill and stripped by hand by volunteers.

• The church welcomes all denominations for occasional services and special events. Donations are accepted.  

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