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January 15, 2014

Anonymous benefactor to the rescue

At the heart of the Perthshire village of Comrie lies a small patch of ground known locally as Bumblebee Square. Since 2010, the landowner has allowed the locals to develop the site into what has become a much loved community hub. Last year, he decided to sell the land for development, but gave the community first option to buy. Despite raising £125,000 towards the asking price, they were well short as the Christmas deadline loomed. At which point a mysterious benefactor rode to the rescue.


Strathearn Herald

The atmosphere in Comrie has been joyous this week following news that Bumblebee Square is to be purchased by Comrie Parish Church.

The Herald broke the story on its facebook page last Thursday following a surprise announcement by parish minister Graham McWiliams at the monthly community council meeting.

Members were expecting locally-based property developer William Frame to speak about the formal handing back of the Square, due to take place in January 2014.

But, instead, Mr Frame gave the floor over to Rev McWilliams, who astounded all those present by declaring that through great benevolence from a villager, and following the approval of the Kirk Session, Comrie Parish Church will purchase the land formerly occupied by Comrie Garage, for the ongoing benefit of the community.

The space, which had been sounded out as a potential venue for a Co-operative Food Store, is to be renamed St Kessog’s Square.

There were an unprecedented four rounds of applause as the news sunk in and members of the audience burst into tears.

Speaking exclusively to the Herald, Mr Frame said: “This is a great outcome for all involved – the village can now move forward in a positive manner.

“St Kessog’s Square will be a great asset to the people and visitors of Comrie for generations to come.

“Graham McWilliams of Comrie Parish Church has done a fantastic job in pulling all of this together, the power of prayer indeed!”

The Herald has also been speaking to Rev McWilliams this week.

He said: “In the light of the work done by Comrie Parish Church during the floods of 2012, someone has been benevolent to the ongoing work of Comrie Parish Church.

“This benevolence has put the Kirk Session in a position, with the approval of Presbytery and the general trustees of the Church of Scotland, to purchase the land formerly occupied by Comrie Garage for the benefit of the people of Comrie.

“The hope is to open up the full area of land. It will be dedicated to the glory of God and will be renamed St Kessog’s Square, the name by which Comrie Parish Church was formerly known.”

Rev McWilliams went on to explain that historically churches have often had glebes – areas of land which used to be worked by the minister to supplement their stipend.

Through time many of these have been sold off and built upon, such as the area that is now Comrie’s Glebe Road.

Rev McWilliams added: “So what will happen at St Kessog’s Square is a bit like returning to the past. The land will be owned by Comrie Parish Church and the Kirk Session will manage its use. The same rules which are practised in Comrie Parish Church will be extended to St Kessog’s Square.”

Comrie Community Council chairman Andrew Finlayson was rendered speechless by the news and sat with jaw agape when the good tidings were announced.

He admitted later he had to fight back tears and told the Herald: “The community council is delighted at this fantastic news and offer their profound gratitude to all the parties who made it happen – to the great act of benevolence at its heart, to Rev Graham McWilliams and the Kirk Session of the Parish Church for taking this bold, heartfelt, initiative and to William Frame for the very important part he clearly played in this historic moment.

“This is simply a good old-fashioned fairy story where miracles happen, goodness wins the day and it’s also a timely affirmation of the Santa in the soul of humanity. What a Christmas present for the village!

“Well done also to all the workers and drones of the Bumblebee crew who, over the years, kept the buzz going rain or shine with particular respect to Kathy Collins, under whose flame red hair the idea of a community garden first kindled.

“It is now the church who will own the square and with the assured goodwill of the whole village we and generations to come can delight in our garden square at the heart of the village. Hallelujah!”

Local MSP Roseanna Cunningham said: ““I was absolutely delighted to learn that a local hero has stepped forward and saved the day right at the eleventh hour. I am sure the whole of Comrie is very grateful to whoever this public-spirited mystery donor may be.”

There has been much speculation in the village regarding donations and pledges already made towards a community buy-out of the Square.

Ted Henderson, treasurer of local charity Friends of the Square, told the Herald: “Friends of the Square, on the assumption that the purchase goes through, will consider all pledges null and void, and we will be in touch with everyone who has made a conditional donation in due course.

“It has not yet been decided on what to do with money already collected and the balance of funds but details will be available in due course and the monies will be used in accordance with our charitable purposes.”