Published On: 7 July 2023

Period From 8 December 2021 to Period
End 31 December 2022

Charity Trustees
1. Mrs Diana Linda Cameron (chair)
2. Dr Eleanor Barbara Wagstaff (secretary)
3. Mrs Rhona Lindsay (treasurer)
4. Mr John Edward Cameron
5. Maj. (retd) John Macdonald Wagstaff
6. Mr John George Noddings
7. Dr Andrew Todd (co-opted)

Objectives and activities

St Ernan’s by the Loch became a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC051441) on 8 December 2021. Its aim is to acquire St Ernan’s Church, which is shortly to be sold by the Church of Scotland, and to develop it as a spiritual and cultural centre for members of the local community (that is, for anyone living within the postcode areas PA76, PA66, PA67, PA69 and PA70).
As Trustees, we want St Ernan’s to retain its essential character – the building is held in high regard locally, and any development should respect its age, history and heritage, and the beauty and tranquillity of its setting. At the same time, we want it to become a modern, safe and attractive place, welcoming people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds, and available for a wide range of cultural, spiritual and social activities. These might include all kinds of worship, meditation and spiritual reflection; small social gatherings; weddings, funerals and other ceremonies; practical support and conversation; hospitality; learning and cultural development; and programmes for health and well-being.
At this stage, as we seek to acquire the building, there are two main strands to our activities. The first includes engaging with the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland and local Kirk committees; applying for grants to fund preparatory work before acquisition; and raising funds locally through a range of social and cultural activities. The second engages directly with the local community – we have established a membership scheme which is open to anyone living within the area defined above (associate membership is open to non-residents); we seek out local opinions and ideas through public meetings and social gatherings; and we keep people informed about the proposed development both at fund-raising events, and through the local press.

Throughout these activities, we have sought to follow the principles set out in our governing document, these being the advancement of citizenship and community development; encouragement of the arts, heritage, culture and science; and the provision and/or organisation of social and recreational facilities for local people and others. We are especially concerned to bring people together after the restrictions of the pandemic, and at a time of economic uncertainty.

Structure, governance and management
Type of governing document
St Ernan’s by the Loch is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) and our governing document is a constitution. The Charity began as an informal committee called ‘The Way Forward for St Ernan’s’ before changing its legal form to a SCIO on 8th December 2021. The fundraising cash held by the informal committee was donated to the SCIO at the same time. Additional funds raised by The Way Forward for St Ernan’s are lodged with the Trustees of The Church of Scotland Parish of Kilfinichen and Kilvickeon and the Ross of Mull and it is anticipated that these will be transferred to St Ernan’s by the Loch in 2023.

Trustee recruitment and appointment
Initially, our Board of Trustees was formed by the five founding members of the charity – Linda Cameron (chair), Eleanor Wagstaff (secretary), John Cameron, John Noddings and John Wagstaff. We are all resident in the local community – indeed, two Trustees were born and brought up in the parish. We have considerable experience of local committees, and had all been involved in the St Ernan’s project for almost three years before establishing the charity. Each of us has worked in the local area over many years, mostly in self-employment – our combined fields of experience including crofting, running bed and breakfast accommodation, outside catering and hospitality, and Gaelic culture and art.
Between us, we bring to the St Ernan’s project a good understanding of the local community and its needs, an interest in how it works and a commitment to its future development and well-being.
We were delighted to be joined in January 2022 by local business owner and subpostmaster, Rhona Lindsay, who is our treasurer. Rhona has been the Subpostmaster at Fionnphort Post Office for over 10 years and has 15+ years experience in sales and marketing. We also have one co-opted Trustee, Andrew Todd, a retired medical doctor and consultant, who has long-standing connections with the Ross of Mull. Andrew is an associate member of St Ernan’s by the Loch and has been supportive of the St Ernan’s project since its inception.
Overall, the Trustees share a strong affection for St Ernan’s and believe it has a vital part to play in community life both now and in the future.

No external organisations are permitted to appoint charity trustees.

Achievements and performance
During the year, we have successfully applied for Stage 1 funding from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF), this to be used for a feasibility study and business plan, a building condition survey and an independent valuation.
We have also received advice and support from Faith in Community Scotland, and through them, a grant from the William Grant Foundation. This will make an important contribution to fund-raising expenses, advertising and community consultation, and ongoing acquisition costs.
We have successfully applied for funding from The Rural and Islands Communities Ideas into Action Fund, and two of our members have attended a virtual conference, run by Inspiring Scotland who will administer the grant. This will help us afford professional support as we go on to apply for SLF Stage 2 funding.
This year, our local fund-raising activities included: a very successful Baked Potato Supper, following a dramatic presentation of a local historical event; a Torchlight Procession (despite stormy weather!), followed by a short carol service and a shared meal; the running of a second-hand book stall and reading room within the St Ernan’s building; and the production and sale of merchandise featuring photographs of St Ernan’s. In addition, we took part in a Christmas Eve carol- singing event in conjunction with our local pub, The Keel Row. All these events have been well-supported by both local people and visitors.
We have established a membership scheme and currently have 75 full members and 31 associates. We have shared information about the St Ernan’s project informally through our programme of social events and fund-raising, and more widely through the local press and BBC Alba. Our first newsletter will be issued to members in February 2023.

Financial review

In year to end December 2022 our total income was £13,890. Grants from The Rural and Islands Communities Ideas into Action Fund and the William Grant Foundation accounted for 57% of this total while donations from private individuals provided a further 36%.
Other income was raised through community events and the sale of books and merchandise.

The Trustees are extremely grateful to all donors for their support without which we would not be able to achieve our goals.

The main focus in our first year as a SCIO has been fundraising to further our aim of acquiring St. Ernan’s Church and expenditure has been minimal. Total expenditure for the year was £148 which covered hiring the local hall for Trustees Meetings, catering at a fundraising event and purchasing merchandise and stationery.

Statement of the charity’s policy on reserves
The Trustees’ policy will be to hold reserves equivalent to 6 months of normal running costs. Until such time as we acquire St Ernan’s, our costs will be restricted to planned expenditure which will only be approved when we have the funds in place. Our reserves policy will be reviewed annually to ensure that sufficient reserves are in place to honour all our financial commitments.

Donated facilities and services
Our charity bookstall is located within St Ernan’s Church and we are grateful to the Trustees of The Church of Scotland Parish of Kilfinichen and Kilvickeon and the Ross of Mull for the use of this space.

Future plans
We look forward to starting work with a professional architect in January, as we move towards our application for SLF Stage 2 funding. The feasibility study and business plan will help us make decisions about any additional preparatory work we may need to do before acquisition, such as further building or land surveys.
We hope to enter into positive negotiations with the Church of Scotland Trustees as the sale of the building goes ahead.
Plans for further fund-raising include a guided walk, a film show, an illustrated talk, community meals, the book stall and the sale of merchandise.