Bishop Forbes’ Tomb

In the centre of the choir aisle there is a brass and marble slab, presented by Elizabeth Forbes, which marks the resting place of her late brother. A translation of the Latin inscription reads: ‘Here lies Alexander Penrose Forbes, who fell asleep in the year of salvation 1875, of his episcopate the 28th, and of his actual age the 59th’.

Bishop Forbes, who was often in delicate health, died after an unexpected short illness in Castlehill House on 8 October 1875. On Sunday 10 October, a continuous stream of people, said to be from ‘all conditions of life’, filed past his body as he lay in state, in full episcopal robes. Bishop Forbes was buried with great ceremony on Friday 15 October 1875. Appropriately, he was laid to rest in a grave carved out of the rock of Castlehill, in the Chancel of his beloved St Paul’s.

Bishop Forbes’ Memorial

After the death of Alexander Forbes, there were many tributes to his life and work in Dundee, and calls were made across the Diocese for the creation of a fitting memorial to their revered Bishop and spiritual leader. To co-ordinate fundraising, a committee was swiftly formed but, interestingly, the impetus behind this proposal did not come from the Vestry of St Paul’s. At a public meeting in Dundee on 27 October 1875 it was resolved that the memorial should be ‘of a Diocesan character’. The Dean of Brechin, the Revd William Nicholson, was appointed Convener, and the committee was led by diocesan clergy and what we might now call the ‘great and good’ of the Scottish Episcopal Church: the Earl of Strathmore; the Earl of Glasgow; Lord Kinnaird of Rossie Priory; and Lord Forbes – ‘with power to add to their number’. In November, a list of subscriptions already received was published, listing contributions, from £1 up to £500, from across the British Isles.

The committee agreed that a ‘See House’ should be bought for the Diocese and that a suitable memorial should be built in St Paul’s Church, in the form of an ‘altar-tomb’. In early 1876, the Vestry of St Paul’s was consulted, and Sir George Gilbert Scott was asked to provide a design. His first suggestion was rejected on grounds of cost, but the second design was accepted, together with an estimate from Messrs. Farmer and Brindley, for £500. The Vestry requested that the memorial should be carved from ‘a piece of alabaster free (or as free as possible) from veins or colour’, and that Bishop Forbes’s robes should be ‘medieval in character’. Photographs of Forbes’s lying in state were used to create a likeness of his face.

The impressive memorial, with the recumbent figure of Bishop Forbes, is on the north side of the sanctuary, close to the High Altar. A translation of the Latin inscription on the base reads: ‘Alexander Bishop of Brechin in the year of salvation 1875 in peace’. The extra cost of adding the marble canopy and pillars, to match the sedilia on the opposite side, was borne by the Rev. Roger Lingard-Guthrie. He was an Oxford friend of Bishop Forbes, later a curate and assistant priest at St Paul’s. His brass memorial tablet is on the south side of the Nave.