By Stuart Taylor
A STATUE of a sombre-looking Free Church minister has been put back on a popular Lochaber mountain path – after being missing for around 40 years.
Known as the “Wee Minister”, he once stood near the track to the Grey Corries in a remote area near Spean Bridge.
The stone figure was so revered that people used to thrust coins into his outstretched hands in the belief it would bring travellers good fortune.
Now, after researching his history, the Glen Spean and Great Glen Tourism Marketing Group has had him re-created by champion Scottish wood-carver Peter Bowsher.
The history of the Wee Minister has been an enigma for some time.
However, some research was done in 1990 at the time of the centenary of the MacIntosh Memorial Church in Fort William and the matter was discussed with a former minister of the congregation, Dr A. K. Robertson.
The statue started its sojourn in Lochaber in 1886 and was of Dr Thomas Chalmers, the first Moderator of the then newly-established Free Church in Scotland. It was gifted by the Ainslie family and was placed in the garden of the manse, now the Lime Tree Guest House in Achintore Road.
During the First World War, the minister’s wife, Mrs Dawson, found the statue eerie in the blacked-out garden while her husband was away at the war.
And so Dr Chalmers’s statue started on its travels – to the church above Fort William’s Monzie Square as a charming feature in the grounds. There he remained till 1968 when an extension was built to the church hall.
Rather unceremoniously he was bundled off to the British Aluminium yard, then off by the puggy line to heights above the River Spean.
However, time took its toll of the statue which began to disintegrate and eventually had to be removed.
This week the new statue was dedicated by local clergyman Donald MacQuarrie, of Kilmonivaig Church, Spean Bridge, and the Duncansburgh MacIntosh Church, Fort William.
Tourism group spokesman Peter Wilson said: “We are delighted that he is now back in his own little paradise and we hope he will bring luck and good fortune to all who pass by.
“He was an icon in his day and we feel he will be a very enchanting sight for the many people who walk the path to the Grey Corries or the West Highland Way.
“We are putting in a contributions box so that walkers will be able to make donations to the mountain rescue teams.”
People attending the dedication ceremony were taken to the scene by four-wheel-drive vehicles as the path is so difficult and rocky.
Mr MacQuarrie said that in his striking setting the minister will encourage travellers to reflect on their lives and their environment.
Photo: Iain Ferguson / The Write Image