The growth of the Victorian era continued until the Second World War. Additional stained glass was placed in both East and West Kirks. The Cowan Chapel was created and finely furnished under a gallery of the West Kirk in 1935, as a thanksgiving for the life of Professor Henry Cowan, a minister of the church from 1869-73. In 1937, a substantial and well-appointed new vestry for the West Kirk was added on the north side of the building and currently serves as the Office for the Kirk.
In the meantime, a considerable reordering and refurnishing of the East Kirk had been carried out on the lined advocated by Dr Cooper and as a memorial to him.
After the Second World War, great new housing estates were erected by local authorities on the outskirts of Scottish cities, and many new parishes were subsequently created. In the case of Aberdeen, people who had lived, often in very poor conditions, in the vicinity of St Nicholas now found new homes in these estates, and city centre churches began to shrink in membership.
Partly as a consequence and partly as an incentive for people to transfer their membership to these new churches, the congregation of the North Parish Church was reunited in 1954 with that of the East Parish Church. (To the former, there had already, in 1929, been joined Trinity Parish Church, which had once been the garden of the Trinitarian Friars and formed part of Dr Guild’s gift to the Incorporated Trades.) The East (and thus North) congregation was united with the West congregation in 1980. Within a few years, the Walker Room had been created in the East Kirk to provide social space for the congregation.
In 1989, a new and important link was forged with the wider community following the Piper-Alpha disaster in the North Sea. In cooperation with neighbouring congregations and the UK Oil and Gas Chaplaincy (link), facilities for prayer and pastoral care of the bereaved were provided by the Kirk. The year also marked the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Act of Parliament which initiated the North Sea Oil Industry. The industry, through its coordinating body, wished to celebrate the achievements of that quarter century, and to recognize its costliness, in terms of lives lost, in a fitting way.
The outcome was the refurbishing and the adornment of the North Transept, the most ancient part of the building, successively named the Holy Blood Aisle, Collison’s Aisle and is now St John’s Chapel. The name not only fittingly revived the original dedicated in the middle ages, but also celebrates the patron saint of oilmen.
The magnificent contemporary woodwork harmonises with the rugged ancient walls, and is the creation of Tim Stead. Shona McInnes’ stained glass window overlooks the Chapel and tells the story of the oil industry as a memorial to the Piper-Alpha disaster. The gates of the Chapel were formally opened by the Princess Royal on 25th June 1990, and the gifts were dedicated by the Moderator of the General Assembly of 1989.
The names of those who lost their lives on Piper-Alpha are inscribed in a specially made book and placed in a case of the Chapel. Unfortunately, it has proved impossible to make a satisfactory list of others who have lost their lives in service to the oil industry in the North Sea, and the case contains another book, which remains empty.