Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Castlebay
The church sits high on the hill overlooking the castle in the bay from which the town takes its name. Towards the end of the 1800s, the local population increased significantly as Castlebay grew to be one of the west coast’s leading herring ports. To meet the needs of this expanding community, a new place of worship was needed. Construction began in 1886 and the church opened its doors for the first time on Christmas Eve 1888.
The church was built using locally quarried granite and was designed by architect, George Woulfe Brenan, who was also responsible for St Barr at nearby Northbay. Brenan was born in 1844 and was a pupil of William Wilson of Queen’s Square, Westminster. After his apprenticeship, Brenan worked as an assistant to civil engineer, Sir John Fowler, who specialised in the construction of railways and their infrastructure. In 1882 he moved to Oban and set up an independent practice as an architect and civil engineer. He later had offices in Glasgow where he was joined by a partner, Hunter, working such buildings as St Bride’s RC Church at West Kilbride and the Oban Distilery.
The church’s bell and clock were added in 1891 along with the Chapel House a year later in 1892, both of which were funded by money collected locally. Beneath the church, a marble statue of Our Lady stands in a niche in the rock. Looking out to sea from a boat, she holds aloft the Christ child. Our Lady is also depicted in the large window above the gallery, in the south of the nave. The window was installed in the 1950s in memorial of the Second World War.