Mention Nigg to most people and they will immediately think of Nigg Bay and oil rigs. Riggs can still be seen in the bay. The fabrication yard was mothballed some years ago but has recently been taken over by the Global Energy Group and renamed Nigg Energy Park.
Nigg itself is a bit of a concept.There are a few houses round the ferry and a few more along the unclassified road to the east of the B9175. The church is 17thC but built on an early Christian site dating back to at least the 8thC.
Set back off the road among the trees and surrounded by a kirkyard, the church was built in 1626 and is a typical post Reformation T-shaped church. It originally have had three lofts (galleries) on the east, north and west walls.
It is a simple, white building with a small bell cot at the west end.
Inside the large plain glass windows flood the building with light. On the south wall is a large wooden pulpit with a readers desk in front of it.
The Pictish stone is set in a darkened area down steps at the east end of the church. The stone is set below the floor level and at right angles to you. This makes it difficult to see the Pictish designs on the reverse of the stone. Electric lights are triggered by movement and provide a harsh light. There is a stainless steel display panel around the stone. Whilst this stops people getting close to the stone, it also makes photography difficult. The stainless steel also throws reflections which make the information on it difficult to read. It struck us that this was another prime example of design over function.
The stone has been broken at some time and is now patched up by modern infill. It is a cross slab stone and is unusual as it has a triangular top piece. This has a carving of St Anthony and St Paul with the raven that brought them bread while they were in the desert. Below is a cross with elaborate infill and surrounded by panels with bosses and swirls.
The reverse is surrounded by panels with swirls or geometric designs. It is more difficult to make out the carving in the centre. At the top is an eagle. At the bottom is a hunting scene. Reading the reference books, the centre panel is supposed to be David slaying a lion, with a sheep and a harp. This is supposed to represent the three sides of David, as a hunter, shepherd and musician.
Do investigate the wooden steps near the stone which lead up into the Poor Loft. This is untouched since it was closed off in 1853 and is one of the best examples of a poor loft still with its original wooden pews. This isn’t where the poor sat. Parishioners rented the pews and the money went to the parish poor fund.
The other two lofts were rented by local lairds. After the split of the churches in 1853, congregations were smaller and the lofts were no longer needed. The north loft was removed and the east and west lofts screened off. The east loft was rediscovered and opened up when the Nigg stone was moved from the kirkyard into the church.
The stone itself is disappointing, mainly due to its position and problems with the light. The church is a typical example of a post Reformation church but is worth visiting for the poor loft.