Botched roof repairs have been blamed for Brechin Cathedral’s perilous financial position amid fears for the building’s future.
The Courier can reveal the cathedral currently carries a debt of £140,000 which includes £73,000 which was paid out to repair poor workmanship.
Dry rot was found in the Canadian pine timbers of the cathedral roof 10 years ago and a major project of repair work was carried out between 2010 and 2013.
The work was poorly executed but the congregation was advised there were no realistic prospects of recovery in view of the insolvency of the roofing sub-contractor.
The financial position, along with a continuing decline in attendance and the impending departure of the minister, has prompted talks to seek a union with Gardner Memorial Church.
The congregation would move to the smaller church under the proposal with more formal talks set to continue throughout the summer.
A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: “Brechin Cathedral is one of the oldest sites of worship in Scotland with parts of the building dating back to the 9th century.
“Maintaining this historic building would present an enormous challenge for any congregation.
“Over the last decade the congregation has lost active members and its income has fallen so it has struggled at times to meet all its financial obligations.
“As a result, the cathedral currently carries a debt, largely due to poorly executed building repair work that subsequently required remediation, but also because a portion of the congregation’s annual obligation to the Church’s Ministries and Mission fund remains outstanding.
“The congregation entered a contract for the roof repair work in good faith and took legal advice when the problems were discovered but were advised that there were no realistic prospects of recovery in view of the insolvency of the roofing sub-contractor.
“The Presbytery of Angus is doing its best to support the congregation and to help them explore options to repay the debt and move forward.
“The Kirk Session is very encouraged by the outpouring of support that it is receiving from the local community and hopes this will help them formulate a successful plan.”
Brechin owes its origins to the medieval cathedral, which is the oldest building in the burgh, and the Celtic monastery which preceded it.
The building itself is to celebrate its 800th anniversary in 2020.
The oldest part of the cathedral is the Pictish round tower which is about 1,000 years old.
The building has a lot of historic material inside it including the 9th century St Mary cross, two Pictish stones, an 11th century Hogback and a 12th/13th century font.
At one time it was the cathedral for Angus and the Mearns and attracts many visitors from all over the world.
Samantha Sturrock and John Jamieson – who dreamed of getting married in the venue – have started the petition to save the cathedral from closure.
Brechin Cathedral Kirk Session told its congregation in a letter that the review was down to a “continued decline in attendance and financial support” and stressed “the best way forward would be to seek a union with Gardner Memorial, to be based at Gardner Memorial” – describing informal discussions as “very productive”.