N/A, Reverend Thomas Brown ‘Annals of the disruption: with extracts from the narratives of ministers who left the Scottish establishment in 1843’ (1893)

Location: West Highland Peninsulas
worship, ships and boats

The floating church on Loch Sunart

When the Free Church split from the Church of Scotland in 1843, some landowners refused to allow the newly established church the use existing churches or even land to hold services in the open air. Worshippers throughout the Highlands found different solutions to this problem, often meeting on public roads, or on the foreshore. In Strontian, the community of Strontian overcame this difficulty by commissioning a floating church to be built in a shipyard on the Clyde at a cost of £1400.

The Iron church as it was also known was then towed to Loch Sunart by two tugboats in June 1846 and moored at Arnastang Bay on the loch bed some 150 yards from the shore. It could hold over 400 people and it was estimated that the church would sink 1 inch for every hundred people- the degree to which the church sank during each service was said to reflect the popularity of the preacher that particular Sunday! Worshippers had to reach the church by boat and one visiting minister described how there was trouble getting the congregation back to shore one Sunday when a storm blew up during his service. Just over a year later, another storm in September 1848 caused the Iron Church to break its moorings and it was blown ashore. However, settling itself between high and low tide, wedged between rocks, it was safe enough for worship to continue until a Free Church was finally provided on land. In 2016, part of an anchor from the ‘Floating Church’ was recovered from the loch.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.