Religion is an intensely personal thing and indeed  traditionally it is passed  down  through the generations . I come  from a long line of non conformist Presbyterians . My four times great grandfather John McPhorich Lamont was born about the time of the Jacobite  Rising that was to end so tragically at Culloden . John was a Seceder - followers of the ministers  who broke away from the  Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1732 . He lived  in that beautiful part of Argyll  called Cowal bounded  by the  waters of the Firth of Clyde  to the  south  and  the rolling hills  and mountains of Argyll to the north . He and his brother Neil  were herring curers and lived a nd worked  on the shores of the aptly named Holy Loch to the east of Dunoon . The  brothers and  their  families  travelled on foot  each Sunday to Toward Nuilt a round trip of some 14 miles . The driving force  behind  this small congregation  was an eminent Scotsman called Dr John Jamieson . Jamieson was  to gain fame in later years as a lexicographer  who wrote Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary in 1808 . The church  is described  in a  Memoir  to the Doctor as follows : “ Mr Jamieson passed over to Cowal ( he  had  been on Bute prior to this ) in the depths of a severe winter  and was lodged in a  wretched smoky hovel without even glass  to the aperture  through which light was received  and in which  he had  to eat , sleep and study  “ .John and Neil were evicted  from their  crofts on account of their beliefs  and  made their  way  with their families to  Port Bannatyne  on the Isle of Bute  in the early part of the  19th century . Such was the extreme conditions experienced en route on the desolate moors  above the Firth that Neil  died of  exposure . Whether or not one believes in the deep convictions of my ancestors, it is clear that something drove them on against adversity.

 The arrival of the Reformation in Europe and indeed in Scotland in the 16th century was undoubtedly an inevitable occurrence. A Church that had stagnated for decades was out of touch with the people .and was administered by an uneducated clergy unable to communicate with their congregation in a dead language. This was a language which to this end, failed in its basic purpose. Indulgences were being sold to rescue individuals from purgatory and corruption was rife. This moribund set up laid itself wide open to radical intervention. This unsurprisingly  came from  within  as  many of the clergy realised all was  not well with the establishment .The best known of the reformers  was in fact an ordained Catholic priest – namely John Knox . The enthusiasm of Knox and his followers was blighted by the unnecessary destruction of churches, icons and indeed anything which could  be attributed to the old faith . Despite being a card  carrying member of the Presbyterian Kirk  ,I distance myself  from such behaviour . Ineptitude seems to have been replaced with a brand of intolerance I find unacceptable. In the 1970s I lived and worked in Iran when the Khomeini Revolution erupted. The violence and destruction personally witnessed draws a parallel with the Reformation centuries earlier. In nearby Perth the Dominican Friary ended its existence in a violent way. In St John's Kirk, John Knox's sermon against idolatry, preached on 11th May 1559 ignited the wrath of congregation. Some of them (Knox called them "the rascal multitude") took him at his word, stoned the priest, stripped the church of all its fittings and ornaments, then ran to the Greyfriars, Blackfriars and Charterhouse monasteries and stripped them down to bare walls. The ancient Abbey of Inchaffray at Madderty was targeted and we in the Strath lost forever a gem which was never to be replaced.


It is  somewhat  strange that despite the genetics of  my  past , I have always admired and enjoyed  the beauties of  ecclesiastical architecture . I worked many years ago in Northern France in a place called Dreux – refuge of the

“ pied noir “ – French colonialists of a strong right  wing disposition  who had  been ejected  from Algeria  when it gained its  independence . I  had  the  good  fortune  to stay  some  kilometres  south of the town in that most  incredible of places , the town of Chartres . Chartres is a charming town built on a hill on the left bank of the Eure river . Its medieval cathedral escaped  destruction in the Second World War for  which we must be eternally grateful . Regarded  by many as  perhaps the finest Gothic cathedral in France, its  beautiful  stained glass windows or vitrages as the French call them . It was  a wonderful experience to sit  quietly in this  so beautiful of buildings enjoying the atmosphere and presence . It  is  not age or  size that really grabs  me but the ability of these man made  structures to allow  you to escape however briefly from the hustle and bustle  of the outside world .



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