Wednesday, 6 March 2013
What a " Relief " - a tale about our religious past and a forgotten Kirk that still stands!
The first Episcopal Church in Lodge Street
Crieff's first Baptist Church
Crieff's unknown buildings !
The Relief Kirk 2012
When future generations study the social history of Strathearn and particularly the town of Crieff , one specific thing will no doubt stand out as being somewhat different from other parts of rural Scotland . I refer specifically to the incredible number of places of worship wide scattered around with many located in the most surprising places. I am no expert in the ecclesiastical idiosyncrasies of our fore fathers but in the course of a number of years I have realised that much of what has been written about the last few centuries fails to stand up to scrutiny when one applies the basics of historical analysis .
One associates religious discord as being a West of Scotland phenomenon where the clash of Christian ideologies has tarnished much of both present and past . Strathearn historically can sadly compete on a similar scale and accounts of disruption and conflict abound throughout the tumultuous centuries that followed the Reformation. The troubles started in this airt in 1559 and had its roots in the Fair City of Perth when Knox ( who had been ordained as a Catholic Priest) , preached in St Johns Church in the heart of the town . His sermon concerned his opinion about regarding the idolatry of the Mass. In it, Knox spoke of the odiousness of idolatry to God, of God's commandment to destroy all idols, and of the Mass as an abomination to God. Shortly after Knox finished the sermon, a priest attempted to serve a Mass in Perth, erecting an alter with an image upon it. A young boy, so taken back by the scene, cried, "This is intolerable! When God by His Word hath plainly damned idolatry, shall we stand and see it used in despite?" At this, the priest struck the young boy, who retaliated by throwing a stone and breaking the idol. Thereafter, the enraged crowd began breaking all that had to do with idolatry in the town. Tolerance was no longer an option
The multitude became so inflamed that the preachers, magistrates, and nobles could not contain them. Knox refers to this mob that destroyed not only the altar but also three Catholic monasteries in Perth as "the Rascal Multitude" Neither Knox nor the leaders in Perth incited the destruction of churches or monasteries. They believed that “ these remnants of idolatries should be peacefully converted and their churches used for the true and proper worship of God.”
The immediate post Reformation format of the Scottish Kirk was essentially Episcopalian and not Presbyterian .Immediate post Reformation records regarding the beliefs and attitudes of Crieff’s parish ministers paint an interesting picture as to what line the good citizens followed in pursuing their faith . Let us look briefly at who these incumbents were and in what they believed .
Ministers of Crieff Parish Church from the Reformation
1560 : Alexander Christie – Catholic Priest joined Reformed Church- reader in Monzievaird in 1567 .
1563 : Thomas Drummond – probably knew John Knox ( Heavenor )
1572 : Hugh Currie Rector of Crieff could have been Catholic but pointed out that titles such as Rector could date back to 1560 “ an elementary but not uncommon error to believe that there was any religious significance in the use of such titles .
Everyone who held office in the Church in 1560 continued for the rest of his life to be designated as he had been in 1560 “
1574 : William Drummond began his ministry . Probably both William and Thomas were connected with Drummond Castle . The Parish Ministers in those days often were poor relations of influential families . William was a contemporary of Andrew Melville At this time Church half Presbyterian and half Episcopalian
1592 : David Drummond was MA of Glasgow Gave up in 1636 and went to Ireland
1635 : David Drummond ( nephew of above ) an MA of St Andrews had been his uncle’s assistant . Son of James Drummond , 5th Laird of Monzie – succeeded to lands of Kincardine and Trytoun and purchased lands of Callander near Barvick. These supplied considerable income from tiends towards his stipend .
1638 : National Covenant signed pledging support for Presbyterianism .David Drummond supported the but when Civil war broke out he supported Royalists .Called before Synod to answer charges that he raised soldiers for the royalist cause . Charge was proved and sentence of deposition passed in 1649 . Appealed but sentence not lifted . Continued to preach and take stipend . Got fed up and resigned in 1658 and became Rector of Omagh in N Ireland .Later was murdered for unknown reason .
1658 : Gilbert Murray an MA of St Andrews succeeded . Claimed he had made a pact with Drummond to share the stipend . Presbytery raised matter but Murray refused to appear . Probably connected to Murrays of Ochtertyre . Trimmed his sails according to the religious wind ! At outset was a staunch Presbyterian but became an Episcopalian and allowed to continue his ministry .
1682 : His son William Murray also an MA of St Andrews appointed his colleague and successor . Proved to be convinced Episcopalian .Lord’s Prayer used in worship and the Doxology was sung by the congregation and the Apostles’ Creed was repeated at Baptisms – all of these frowned upon by the Presbyterians of the time .
1688 : The “ Revolution” brought William and Mary to the throne .Murray did not support them and was deposed for reading part of Psalm 118 after the Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie - “ This is the day God made , in it we’ll joy triumphantly ”
1690 : Episcopacy was overthrown and Presbyterianism established officially . Crieff Church vacant for 9 years ( 1699 )
1699 : Appointment of John Drummond ( Glasgow University ) First problem was when the Presbytery reported “ horrid abuse committed by some persons in the town of Crieff ,by their drinking King James’ health publicly at the Cross and abusing several inhabitants in the town .” Drummond was asked to draw up a list of offenders for the attention of the Queen’s Advocate . Strict Presbyterianism had arrived and Session Minutes reflect the discipline which now prevailed . It notes “ the frequent profanation of the Lord’s Day by unnecessary walking in the fields , idle talking , bearing of water . taking in of kail and the like “ Elders were asked to “ take strict notice “ of such infringements with a view to discipline ” .
1754 : John Drummond died
1755 : Succeeded by Thomas Stewart
1770 : Stewart suspended for life because of drunkenness which had been reported to them in 1763 .
Over two hundred years of resolute independence and free thinking against the national trend clearly indicates that here in the Strath , the reformed religion very much followed a pattern not dis similar to that of the pre Knox era ! Indeed the great reformer must be blrling in his grave at the behavioural attitudes of the likes William Murray and the Drummonds !
As a card carrying member of the Kirk I find the outpourings of the Victorian Presbyterians totally unacceptable in a context of today’s World and their distortions of the truth should be acknowledged without hesitation .
Enough of the rant ! Distortions of historical facts concerning matters such as politics and religion are a serious failing. Regrettably scholars of my generation were subjected to these in a plenty .I recall in particular the attrocious syllabi which were presented to students in my vintage school days of yesteryear . Boring and pointless to the extreme they put off countless numbers with their failure to deal with matters closer to home than Caesar’s Gallic Wars or indeed the Battle of Hastings !
I started this little essay with a promise to look at some of the more obscure places of worship in and around Strathearn . Pictured above are two buildings with an interesting pedigree. The first in Lodge Street Crieff was the initial Episcopal Church in the town before it moved to Perth Road in a slightly older format than the present occupant ! The other was , I believe the first Baptist Church in the town located at the junction of Church Street and Cornton Place . The third picture is probably a total mystery to most readers . It is a pic of the old Relief Kirk hidden in comparative obscurity between High Street and Addison Terrace . Last occupied as far back as the 1850s as a church it is a real microcosm of the past . The Relief Church was one of the many Seceder groups to abandon the established Kirk in the 18th Century . The Crieff congregation were formed when, in 1782, a number of members took exception to the doctrine being preached by the incumbent minister the Rev Stirling and departed for the newly formed relief Church in Auchterarder . Perhaps it was a reflection on the attitude of the Crieff Kirk but Relief numbers swelled and eventually they determined to build their church in Crieff . Half an acre of ground was bought at Gavelbeg near what was called the “ Bogle House “. It was not a great success perhaps for its distance from the centre of the town . Their new minister John Baillie found himself in conflict with his congregation and a period of disharmony resulted in his departure and the arrival of a fresh face in he Rev William Bell . The revitalised congregation determined to move into the centre of the town and land was purchased to the rear of Cook’s the saddlers ( oldies will recall Charlie Farr who ran the business in the 1980s ) and what is now McNees , the excellent deli near the cancer shop . The church continued in this unlikely spot until 1856 under the guidance of the Rev John Martin . It was then decided to move tpo larger premise and ground was purchased at the east end of Commissioner Street . The beautiful little church is now the Crieff Primary School Dining Hall . But what of the little beut stuck between High Street and Addison Terrace ? Abandoned ! Doors closed , land locked and forgotten! My pic above shows it as it stands in 2012 – a microcosm of the town’s somewhat tempestuous religious past !!