Big hearted couple replace money stolen from Dornoch Cathedral

A big hearted couple have dipped into their own pockets and replaced money stolen from a Highland church.

Stephen and Jayne Pagan said they were shocked and appalled that someone had broken into a donations box at Dornoch Cathedral just weeks before Christmas.

They described the opportunistic theft as “gut wrenching” for a small place that worked hard to support local people and the wider community.

Money stolen
L-R Stephen and Jayne Pagan and Rev Susan Brown outside Dornoch Cathedral.

It is thought a brazen thief broke into a locked Perspex donations box sometime during the day on Friday.

Three women had stored £350 there the day before for safekeeping but the total sum of money taken was likely higher.

Mr Pagan said he and his wife, who run The Steading guesthouse at Balnapolaig, Dornoch decided to replace the £350, partly in memory of his late sister-in-law, Sonje Marshall, who died earlier this year at the age of 50.

Sonje, who had Down's Syndrome and advanced dementia, regularly attended Dornoch Cathedral and its Common Ground group, which supports Adults with disabilities.

Minister, Rev Susan Brown, the Moderator Designate of the General Assembly, said she was “really touched” by the couple’s gesture and described them as “special” people.

She added that the building was always left open during the day for visitors but could now be locked as a result of the theft.

Gut wrenching

Mr Pagan, who is originally from Melbourne in Australia, said: “I felt a huge pain in my heart when I heard what had happened.

“It was almost like someone had died because this kind of thing tends not to happen in Dornoch.

“It was gut wrenching really and we couldn’t believe that someone would steal from a church at Christmas which is a time for giving not taking.

“We immediately said to each other ‘lets find out how much is missing’ and just replace it because we knew that a lot of people who worked hard to raise it would be feeling bad.

“Sonje was very much involved in the life of the Cathedral and we knew that she would have wanted to do something about it as well.

“So we replaced the £350, that Rev Brown knew had been taken, on Sonje’s behalf too.”

Only loose change was left in the donations box which had been prised open.

The money had been raised to pay off loans and bills owed for the refurbishment of the West Church Hall.

susan brown
Sonje Marshall and Rev Susan Brown.

Mrs Brown said she was “really touched” that the Pagans, who moved to Dornoch five years ago to look after Ms Marshall, had decided to replace the stolen money.

She said: “Stephen and Jayne did so much to involve Sonje in everything and they gave her so many experiences that many with her condition might not ordinarily have.

“They are a special couple.

“But what makes the gift extra special is the thought of it coming in Sonje’s name too.

“Sonje loved this time of year especially.

“Sonje celebrated her Birthday between Christmas and Hogmanay - Dec 29 -so it was a real celebration time for her and she enjoyed singing Carols in the Cathedral.

“It is so touching that her own welcoming and trusting nature should be marked like this and bring, as Sonje did, a smile again to people’s faces.”

Moderator Designate Rev Susan Brown
Moderator Designate Rev Susan Brown

Mrs Brown, who conducted Ms Marshall’s funeral in March, said she had received more than 500 messages of support from people following the theft.

She added that the cathedral had a discretionary fund which is used to help people in need if they ask.