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Friday August 23 2019

Looking Back: Eventide Homes in the Highlands

A 1949 article celebrating the opening of three new Church of Scotland homes for the elderly in the north.


The Rev Lewis L. L. Cameron, Director of Social Service, records a story of faith which has been justified and crowned.


“ACHVARASDAL” – what is it? Where is it? That name is new in the annals of Social Service. It will mark one more milestone in the march of progress in 1949 and represent the latest addition to the Homes for the Aged under the Church, of which there are now twelve, three times as many as there were in 1946.

But where is Achvarasdal? It is on the road between Thurso and the village of Reay. Thirty-two and a half acres of beautifully laid out policies surround Achvarasdal which has been gifted to the Committee on Social Service by Mr. Alan D. Pilkington as an Eventide Home for Caithness. The Pilkington family are moving to the South of England, to the great regret of the Caithness community to which they have been generous benefactors. But let us trace the story from its beginning.

Over a year ago the Synod of Ross, Sutherland and Caithness appointed an Eventide Homes Committee with the intention of establishing Homes for the Aged in these Counties. They were told that they must raise £10,000 if Dalmore House, Alness, were to be purchased. No time limit  was put on the proposal and it was expected that at least five years would be required.

Within four months that figure had been exceeded and in addition £1,000 had been set aside towards the cost of a future Eventide Home in Caithness. Dalmore House was bought and at the request of the Synod the Very Rev. Alexander Macdonald, D.D., Moderator of the 1948 General Assembly, was invited to open and dedicate the new Home at Alness on 17th May, 1949. It was fitting that this Highland Home should be blessed in the tongue of the Celt. It will provide a haven of peace for thirty lonely aged men and women in the eventide of their days. The first milestone had been reached by the next seemed far off.

Unexpected and unheralded came next the munificent offer of Achvarasdal, ten miles from Thurso. If the Church had set out to plan an Eventide Home for Caithness and to choose a site, it could not have planned better or chosen so well. This modern two-storied building in its lovely setting, with a number of cottages in the policies for aged couples, will be ideal for its purpose. Thirty men and women and a few couples will be accommodated there and already the people of Caithness are thrilled and enthusiastic at the prospect of a long cherished dream about to be realised.

A conservative estimate of the value of this gift is £10,000 and the heartfelt thanks of the Church are due to the generous donor of this new Home.

The Synod’s Committee has agreed to raise a sum of £5,000 to meet the cost of making the house suitable for its purpose and of providing the furnishing and, with the wonderful record of Ross-shire behind them, there is no reason to doubt their ability to meet that target.

As Dalmore House and Achvarasdal will both be open in 1949, the achievement of the Synod of Ross, Sutherland and Caithness constitutes a munificent reward of faith and vision. It is a record of which it may well be proud and will provide an example to other areas.

On 18th May, 1949, Whinnieknowe House, Nairn, was opened and dedicated by the Rt. Rev. The Moderator of the General Assembly in the presence of a distinguished company.

The new Home also represents the reward of great faith and vision. The late Lord Leven convened a meeting in Nairn over two years ago at which the proposal to establish a Home for the Aged was discussed. It was resolved to co-operate with the Committee on Social Service and Whinnieknowe was bought before funds for the purpose had been raised. Under a year the community of Nairn raised over £10,000, and a feature of this amazing record was that contributions came from every class in the community.

Now Moray and Nairn, Ross-shire and Caithness have Homes for the Aged of their own, and the magnificent efforts each of these areas has made demand sincere congratulation and the profound thanks of the Church.

These records will form part of the proud story of developments in the Social Service of the Church in a year of unparalleled achievement and will testify to the honour, enthusiasm and Christian faith of the Church in the Highlands.

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