WHO WE ARE
Rev Howard Stone
Howard came to Castletown to be minister of Olrig, Watten and Bower Free Church (as it was) in February 1993. He was familiar with the far North, having spent many of his growing years in Helmsdale, fifty miles south. Howard’s father was minister there so he had been taught God’s truth from childhood and was born again in his mid-teens.
After Golspie High School, Howard went to study Biochemistry in Aberdeen, where he met Christine, who was a student primary school teacher. They were married in 1981.
On completion of his studies, they moved to Dundee, where Howard worked at Ninewells Hospital doing research for the university.
During summers, he was involved in Free Church Youth Camps and it was through these that God called Howard to leave the scientific world and study for the ministry. After three years in the Free Church College, Edinburgh, Howard was called to be the minister in Castletown.
Howard and Christine are blessed with two daughters and four sons (who have all now left home) and three grandchildren. His interests include fly-fishing, motorcycles, squash and football.
The congregation of Castletown and Community Free Church, situated on the north coast of Caithness in the Highlands of Scotland, can trace its roots all the way back to the Disruption of 1843 and the formation of the Free Church.
The minister of Olrig parish at the time was Rev William Mackenzie who, at great personal cost, left the Church of Scotland, along with most of his congregation, to be part of the ‘Church of Scotland, Free’. Being no longer able to worship in the parish church (today a ruin in the old cemetery), the people themselves constructed a building at the west end of Castletown.
William Mackenzie continued as minister until he was succeeded by his assistant, Rev Alexander Auld. In 1900, Mr Auld became the only remaining Free Church minister in Caithness, when the majority of his colleagues throughout the country entered a union to form the United Free Church of Scotland.
The Free Church congregation continued to use the building they had erected until 1963 when, under the leadership of Rev Donald Mackenzie, a new building was opened, built on the site of the old Free Church school. (Donald Mackenzie was also responsible for re-establishing the Free Church congregation in Thurso in the 1970s.) The congregation has subsequently been served by Rev Robert Bray, Rev Grant Bell, and our present minister, Rev Howard Stone.
In 1980, the Olrig charge was united with that of Watten and Bower, and weekly services were held in both Castletown and Watten. This continued until the Watten church was closed in 2009. Consequently, the congregation decided to change the name from ‘Olrig, Watten and Bower’ to ‘Castletown and Community Free Church’.