By George PS Peterson (September 2006)
The Kirk of Papa, in its present dimensions, was erected in 1806. Prior to that date, the Kirk was a somewhat humble building (like all the kirks in Shetland), being quite low and bearing a roof of thatch. We learn from the Kirk Session ministers, indeed, that in 1759, part of the wall had collapsed. This may well have been the gable that bore the belfry, for a bell there was: John Scott, treasurer of Papa Kirk Session and tenderer of the lepers, was in 1742 offered the lepers’ fund, the last of them having died. He refused to accept the money, preferring it to be spent in repairing and re-hanging the Papa Stour Kirk bell.
By December the following year, 1760, the Kirk was repaired, the steeple rebuilt and the bell hung. Tradition relates that there existed a door in each gable and that those married in the Kirk entered by the east gable and departed through the west.
So in time there came a great rebuilding of parish churches and in 1806, the turn of Papa Stour arrived. No doubt the two lairds contributed to the construction, for in 1895, when repairs to the Kirk took place, they shared the bill. Sir Arthur Nicolson of Fetlar owning two thirds of the island paid £93-13-4; and the Trustees of the Giffords of Busta, who owned one third, paid £46-16-8s, a total of £140-10-0: a substantial expense for the times.
It was in 1921 that the fine War Memorial window was unveiled to honour the 6 islanders who perished in the Great War of 1914-18. The work was carried out by Thomas Henderson of Gardie and David Drummond of Schoolhouse.
About 1930 the Kirk again received attention, and the roof was renewed. I record that my Uncle William Fraser of the Eastoon and William Georgeson of Bragaster, were employed in fetching fine shingle from the Dutch Loch for the harling. This was transported by ponies and to allow room for the new couples to be made, permission was asked to remove the slabs on the upper side of the Kirk. These slabs were unlettered grave markers and because the relatives of those there buried, Poles, Isbisters and Twatts, had long left the island, no one minded.
Those interested in the preservation of Papa Kirk are deeply gratified to see the work done this summer, on tightening the roof, relining the north wall and decoration.
Resident Ministers Appointed to the Papa Stour Kirk
1800 – 1829 William Henry
1829 – 1832 John Anderson
1834 – 1853 James Irvine
1855 – 1870 Thomas Manson
1870 – 1915 Duncan Robertson
1917 – 1934 Thomas Reed
1934 – 1941 James Rankin
1942 – 1948 Alec Walker
1948 – 1959 James Isbister
1959 – 1961 Alec Gardner
1962 – 1970 Dennis Shepherd
Papa Stour Kirk now comes under the banner of the Church of Scotland Westside Churches and is within the Walls and Sandness Parish which includes Foula.
The Minister temporaily appointed to this parish, the Rev Bob Macgregor is available for pastoral support and can be contacted on 01806 522604
I was glad when they said to me
‘let us go to the house of the Lord’
Psalm 122 v 1