A HOMELESS man has been sheltering inside the organ of Scotland’s biggest cathedral, according to staff.
The daredevil is believed to have entered St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, by climbing 60ft of scaffolding and entering by a hatch.
He then laid a plank between the interior stone wall and the back of the 45ft-high organ pipes of the 1879 “Father Willis” organ, which was installed when the iconic building opened.
After crossing the plank, at least 50ft above the stone floor of the Knave, the back of the organ offers a number of access and repair platforms that provide a cosy sleeping space.
A cathedral insider said the man had not been seen but they were in little doubt that the organ was being used as one of Scotland’s most unusual homeless shelters.
He said: “He must have climbed up the scaffolding and slipped through a hatch in one of the windows.
“You can still see the plank that he used to get from the stonework into the organ.
“The organist has heard noises whilst he practices late at night.
“And on one occasion a loud crash came from within it.”
Duncan Matthews, who works for Harrison and Harrison, the manufacturer of the organ, and has worked on the Father Willis organ itself said: “There’s certainly space for someone to sleep in there.
“There are walkboards and several platforms that would be used if repairs were having to be made.”
He added: “It is slightly concerning to hear, there are places where he could fall. He could also do significant and expensive damage to the organ by sleeping in there.”
Ewan Aitkin, chief executive of Cyrenians, an Edinburgh based charity that works with the homeless and vulnerable, said: “The creative solution that this man has taken is extraordinary, but it’s tragic that he feels like he has to do this”
“There are a number of agencies to which he could go for help, but the pressure on these agencies is increasing at a tremendous level”
“There is no doubt in my mind that the number of people sleeping rough is increasing.”
A stonemason working at the cathedral said:”There have been a few homeless around here. They tend to sleep in the cathedral doorways, or on the bench on the south lawn.
“On Wednesday around 3:40pm I saw one sleeping in the cathedral library, but he was quickly asked to move on.”
Another mason said: “There was a guy that used to sleep in the doorway just near the scaffolding, but I’ve not noticed that he’s tried getting up here.”
Homeless men in Edinburgh said they would occasionally sleep in church graveyards.
Robert Workman, 32, who is homeless and was sitting at Haymarket station said: “It’s tough finding somewhere to sleep at night.
“I tried to sleep in St Cuthbert’s graveyard once but I pierced my wrist trying to climb over the spiked fence.
“It took ages to heal and was very sore, you can still see the scars.”
Ross Law, who is also homeless and was sitting on Princes Street said: “I keep away from the shelters, there are people I don’t want to bump into there.
“Last night I slept in the graveyard of St John’s. I also sometimes sleep in the doorway of the Usher Hall.”
The cathedral, which was built over 38 years at a cost of £110,000, was the idea of two spinster sisters, Barbara and Mary Walker, who left their entire fortune to the Scottish Episcopal Church on the condition that a cathedral was built.
Sir George Gilbert Scott designed the cathedral in a Gothic style and was also responsible for St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial.
It took until 1917 for the cathedral finally to be completed given the late and costly decision to add two extra spires.
The Father Willis organ which was installed in 1879 has been repaired twice in 1931 and 1959 respectively.