The Strathearn Heritage of Prince William and Kate Middleton and more about Kinkell -the "Terrible Parish " !

Perhaps I am being parochial but it  is regrettable  that the Royal couple  who  are due  to visit  Strathearn in late May  are  virtually always  referred  to as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge  rather  than by  their  Scottish titles of the Earl and Countess of Strathearn !  I ran  a Blog on my Blog site

some two years  ago on the Pictish origins  of the original Earls and  how they ruthlessly maintained  their  power base in Strathearn – the successor  to the ancient kingdom of Fortren or Fortriu .  My last  Blog  concerned the unfortunate minister of Kinkell who was the last person to be hung in Crieff . Richard Duncan found  guilty  by the Earl of Strathearn  duly dispatched on the “ Kind Gallows “  in 1682 despite  the fact  that a reprieve  had  been  issued  for  his pardon for the killing  of his own child .There is a fascinating if  somewhat odd connection between the sad  fate of the Reverend Duncan and the  present incumbents  of the Cambridge  aka Strathearn Royal titles ! Some  weeks  back  the newspapers and media  were  filled with details  of the  visit  of Pippa Middleton and her  parents  to Trinity Gask House  for  a “ society “ wedding .

Trinity Gask House just happens to be  the  present name of what was the Trinity Gask Manse  , home  of the unfortunate Reverend Duncan dispatched at Crieff all those centuries ago on the orders of the Earl  ! One wonders  whether  the unfortunate cleric  enjoyed  this  modern spectacle  from the comfort of his ecclesiastical cloud !

Having researched the sad  story of the Rev Duncan , minister of the parish of Kinkell , I decided  that it  would  be interesting  to look at this old Parish in some detail and find  out  more about it . Kinkell is  perhaps  best  known to those of  w us who live in  Strathearn as  the place  where there is a narrow bridge crossing the turbulent River Earn .The bridge is of  some age having been built in 1793 to replace a ferry crossing that  operated for  many centuries  prior  to this  date . Indeed this  part of the river became a key link in the route south and was in probability  used  by the Drovers in preference  to the Innerpeffray crossing as a means  of  getting over the Ochils  to the Falkirk Tryst - the cattle market which was the successor to  the Crieff Tryst .An interesting relic  of those  ancient days  is the old Toll House on the north bank of the river . Toll Houses  were erected  as  a result of the various Turnpike Acts which were  passed by Parliament  between 1750 and 1800 .This  one at Kinkell would  have  had a  barrier  across the  and any cart or  horse  wishing to proceed  would  have had  to pay  the due toll . The  monies taken were to pay for the construction and upkeep of the highways .  

Kinkell was  a  very small parish and such was its  fate that it  was  merged about 1640  into its  larger neighbour  Trinity Gask opposite it on the north bank of the Earn.  The name Trinity Gask is unusual – the Gask part is the area (  as in the adjoining Gask Ridge with its  fascinating Roman heritage ) .The Trinity prefix  refers  to the church’s  dedication to the Holy Trinity  . There was a Trinity Well located just south of the church .  The subject of  study however  is not the that  but a far older  and indeed more fascinating building which stands on  raised hillock overlooking the river . It is  sadly a decaying ruin but has a fascinating background . It is the Church of St Bean . Interestingly there is also a church dedicated  to  Saint Bean  at nearby Fowlis Wester.  It is  somewhat unclear  as to why there was veneration  for this particular individual. The origins of the name is  shrouded  in the mists  of time  . It  has  been commonly  claimed that the saint was  the grand son of the King   of  Leinster and preached amongst the Picts  in this area  of Strathearn . It  is  perhaps  more likely that he was the St Bean who ruled the ancient Culdees monastery  at Mortlach in Banffshire . Both the  church in Fowlis and one at nearby Kinkell venerated  the Saint and an annual fair and a holy well were dedicated to his memory . 

Whilst the Fowlis church is medieval in its origins  and was  rebuilt in the 19th century , its  name sake  down the road  has lapsed into virtual oblivion . Many years  ago I recall visiting it . Adjoining it  was somewhat run down but occupied  farm cottage . That was purchased shortly after my visit , demolished and a new dwelling erected . There is no signage telling the public  that the old church  lies awaiting . You park  your car  on the gravel hard  standing in front of the  house  and  walk the short distance  to the church and grave yard . Remember you do have  right of access but common sense tells us to respect the neighbour ! 

The  old church is  completely roofless and shrouded in ivy with  mature trees  both inside and out . It is very old with part of the fabric  probably dating  back as far as 13th century. Research indicates that it was rebuilt possibly in the late 16th century  and repaired about 1680 . It served as the parish church up until probably the early 18th Century when Kinkell was absorbed  into Trinity Gask parish .

It is a comparatively small building  being overall some 20 metres in length by 7 metres  wide – similar to another medieval local church – St Cattans at Aberuthven near Auchterarder . This  size  equates  in modern terms  with the floor area  of a modern bungalow so perhaps  the small congregation  was always  in danger  of  being assimilated into a larger neighbour . When I looked inside there  appeared  to  be  two cross walls dividing it into three  distinct areas .The eastmost one  was inaccessible  and the mid  on seemed to  be  a burial area with  memorials  to the Hepburn family who  were lairds of nearby Colquhalzie estate .

Historically St Beans  was granted to the Augustinian Inchaffray Abbey in Madderty about 1200 by the founder  of the Abbey , Gilbert , Earl of Strathearn .Charters  tell us that this  grant  was confirmed  by Pope Innocent III in 1203 and “ to the uses of the Abbey by the Bishops of Dunblane before 1239 , in which year a vicarage settlement was confirmed. The parsonage thereafter remained with the abbey, while the vicarage appears to have been served by one of the canons.”( Cowan 1967 ) .

The peaceful setting of St Beans worth a visit  in itself . The graveyard appears  to have been  used starting  towards the end of the church’s regular use  and  the oldest stone  is dated 1740 . According to the Statistical Accounts of Trinity Gask Parish published in 1796 we  know  that services had still been held at St Beans  on every fourth Sunday in the summer until shortly  before that date but the building had fallen into disrepair and was by then ( 1796 ) abandoned for worship .

Despite its small size Kinkell actually had a  second church  The Antiburgher Church was  built  about 1790 adjacent  to the Auchterarder road  about  half a mile south of St Beans .The Antiburghers were a  breakaway body from the established Presbyterian Church of Scotland who  had  objected principally  to what was termed “ Patronage “  , with the minister  being  chosen  by the lairds or land owners  and  not the  congregation . The church  eventually re-joined  the established  church  and  functioned locally until about the 1970s . It lay empty for a while  and I recall looking  inside  it  and  found a  rather attractive  little kirk with a  small balcony to the rear . It was sold and converted  to a house about 1985 .

Thus concludes  the synopsis of  the history of  one of Strathearn’s most attractive and smallest parishes . Deemed the “ terrible parish “ on account  of it’s unfortunate minister hung on the gallows of Crieff , it’s precentor  or choir master  drowned whilst  crossing the Earn , the church ( St Beans ) without a steeple and a bell which had been sold off to another congregation !

"Was there e'er sic a parish, a parish, a parish;
Was there e'er sic a parish as that o' Kinkell?
They've hangit the minister, drooned the precentor,
Dang doon the steeple, and drucken the bell."


  1. Although I've visited these places, I had no idea of their histories. Thanks for keeping it alive x

  2. I lived in the Old Toll House at Kinkell Bridge in the early 2000s. I love Kinkell Bridge and miss it dearly. Thank you for this blog!


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