St. Ninian’s and St. Ann’s Churches: Anniversaries
There are two churches I know celebrating anniversaries in 2012. They are entirely different in location, size and age. St. Ninian’s Episcopal Church in Troon, on the windy west coast of Scotland, celebrates 100 years. Its red sandstone walls framed my christening, confirmation and early years of worship. In my earliest memories of it, I sat in the miniscule wicker children’s chairs when we shuffled in from Sunday school, to an-all-too-prominent position in the front of the nave.
In later years and adulthood, I sat in the larger wicker-seated chairs of the pews, and knelt on the embroidered individual kneelers. It was from one of those kneelers that I keeled over into the red-carpeted aisle in a dead faint, suspending the service. It was into that same aisle that my mother leapt and sprinted back to pull on the heavy carved arched door, and then high-tailed it out down the path to our house on Bentinck Drive a hundred yards away. I learned later that she had a chicken “roasting” in the cooker but had forgotten to turn the oven on.
Visiting the church recently, I saw the same small chairs and the same conjoined chair backs of the pews. The sunlight streamed through the leaded glass windows illuminating some of the plaques commemorating those lost in the Great War. In the church hall we found the stone donated by Mrs. Townsend who lost both sons, their sacrifice in 1917 twenty-two days apart. It was a somber moment as we contemplated her grief.
Over 200 hundred miles away, in the center of Manchester in the north of England, stands St. Ann’s Church, three hundred years old this year. Its imposing façade is also sandstone, not the Mauchline stone of St. Ninian’s, but red Collyhurst stone. As the soft bricks required repair, sandstone was brought in from other parts of the North country—yellow-grey stone from Darley Dale; pink from Hollington, Staffordshire; dark red from Runcorn in Cheshire; and pale brown from Parbold, Lancashire—each repair adding to a jaunty patchwork.
The black and white images in my parents’ wedding album do not reveal to me the varied hues of St. Ann’s façade, but they do capture the size and grandeur of the church. Inside, at the far end of the aisle is the renowned large curved apse beneath three huge panels of stained glass. It was a chilly day in October 1946 when they stood on St. Ann’s Street with the wedding party. Dad had recently been demobilized from the RAF after flying in over seventy sorties in WWII; mother had saved up her clothing coupon ration for her wedding dress. Although the Luftwaffe heavily bombed the city of Manchester during the Blitz, St. Ann’s sustained little damage. In 1996, however, an IRA bomb in the city center blew out the upstairs windows.
St. Ann’s has stolidly commanded St. Ann’s street for 300 years. The grand old church has seen three hundred years of weddings and funerals, of joy and tragedy. Three hundred years of prayers of the people. Three hundred years of prayers for peace.
Tags: Collyhurst, Darley Dale, Hollington, Margery Radford, Mauchline sandstone, Runcorn, sandstone, Sidney Radford, St. Ann's Church, St. Ann's Church Manchester, St. Ninian's Episcopal Church