The return to Inverness of the Three Virtues’ statues – Faith Hope and Charity - is being marked with a special ecumenical church service on Saturday 22 October at Ness Bank Church of Scotland, starting at 2 pm.
The 9ft tall statues, each weighing 4.2 tonnes, have been installed on to separate stone plinths with a stone facing at Ness Bank Gardens between Ness Bank and Castle Road.
They were restored and relocated to the banks of the River Ness, under the shadow of Inverness Castle, in March of this year and have attracted a lot of comment and interest from visitors and local residents alike.
The church service will be led by the Rev Fiona Smith, Ness Bank Church, and Provost Jimmy Gray, Chairman of The Highland Council’s Inverness City Committee will reply.
Also taking part in the service are the Rev Dr Peter Howson, Inverness Methodist Church, the Rev Bill Slack, Culduthel Christian Centre, Father James Bell, St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Mark Strange, Scottish Episcopal Church, and Mrs Vivian Roden, Moderator of Inverness Presbytery of the Church of Scotland.
Pupils from Holm Primary School and Ness Bank Sunday School will sing “You are a star”.
The Rev Smith said: “At Ness Bank Church, we are so looking forward to welcoming the Provost, colleagues from other denominations and the people of Inverness to this special event in the life of our city – the Dedication of the Three Virtues. Their resurrection is a compelling story which links old Inverness to the present day and the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity stand as symbols which can unite us all as we look forward together in our work for the people and the community of Inverness.”
Provost Gray added: “The Council is delighted to be taking part in this important dedication to the Three Virtues on their return to Inverness. For more than 80 years the statues were a dominant feature of the centre of Inverness, providing a reminder of the important Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. The message today is as significant as it was during the last two centuries as we strive to make our city a safe, vibrant and welcoming place.”
The history of the Three Virtues’ statues in Inverness began with the Young Men’s Christian Association. Beginning in London in 1844, the YMCA opened branches in towns and cities across the United Kingdom in the years that followed. A branch opened in Inverness in 1859, the ninth such branch in Scotland.
The association originally occupied a room at 3 High Street and also ran an evening school in a building in Davis Square. However, as the organisation grew and its activities became more popular, larger premises were required. A site was selected for a new building on the corner of High Street and Castle Street. A local architect, John Rhind (1836-1889) was chosen to design it and he produced a blueprint for an ornate building in the classical style with Roman composite columns. It was noted how well it complemented the Bank of Scotland which stood on the opposite side of the street. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Ardmillan on 22 April 1868.
The YMCA commissioned local sculptor Andrew Davidson (1841-1925), of Messrs D & A Davidson, to sculpt three figures from Greek Mythology - Faith, Hope and Charity - to stand on top of the building. Each figure carries her own attribute: respectively a Bible, an anchor and a cornucopia.
The building was also adorned with busts of the heads of various religious leaders in spaces between the ground and first floor windows. One of these was John Wesley and this was removed to the Methodist Church in Union Street, and later to the new Methodist Church in Huntly Street.
The Association Buildings, as it was known, was later bought by William MacKay and became MacKay’s Tartan & Tweed Warehouse and, latterly, Grant’s Tartan & Tweed Warehouse. It was demolished in 1955 and the statues were removed to the Burgh Surveyor’s yard where they remained until 1961 when they were bought by Norris Wood, a stonemason and antique collector from Orkney. For many years they stood in the grounds of his home, Graemeshall House, near Holm, Orkney.
There they remained until the Council stepped in to purchase them in 2007.
The statues were restored and installed by Nicolas Boyes Stone Conservation Ltd of Edinburgh.
The site at Ness Bank Gardens was chosen following public consultation.