A Brief History of the Diocese

Statue of St Margaret at the church of the same name, Aberlour

The Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness is one of the seven dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church. It covers Caithness and Sutherland (the old Diocese of Caithness), mainland Ross and Cromarty (the old Diocese of Ross), and mainland Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Moray and Banffshire (the old Diocese of Moray). The Diocesan centre is St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Inverness. The current bishop is the Right Reverend Mark Strange.

The three old dioceses united in the modern diocese were all founded during the 12th century. Moray was founded by Bishop Gregory in 1114, Ross by Bishop Macbeth in 1131 and Caithness by Bishop Andrew in 1146.

Being more removed from the centre of political power during the Scottish Reformation, each of the dioceses managed to continue an unbroken line of bishops. However, its remoteness also caused problems for the appointment of new bishops under the period of the penal laws. For part of the 17th century, both Ross and Caithness were without a bishop, and, at the beginning of the 18th century, the Diocese of Orkney was united with Caithness.

In 1707, Alexander Rose, Bishop of Edinburgh and the first Primus, united Moray with his diocese for reason of practical oversight. John Fullarton, Rose’s successor in both roles, continued to oversee Moray until 1725, when it was felt more practical to combine it with the Diocese of Aberdeen, led by James Gadderar. However, in 1727, the new Primus, Andrew Lumsden, appointed William Dunbar as sole Bishop of Moray and Ross, combining the vacant northern see with Moray.

In 1777, William Falconar, also Primus, united Orkney, Moray, Ross and Caithness under his rule. In 1819, David Low was appointed Bishop of Ross by itself, but, from 1838 he administered the entire former union and the see officially returned to the union in 1851. In 1857, Orkney was separated to unite with the Diocese of Aberdeen.

A full history of the Scottish Episcopal Church is available on the church’s Provincial website.

Elgin Cathedral