The First St Columba's Perth Road
The Second St Columba's Perth Road
Crieff and indeed Strathearn was very much an Episcopalian stronghold up to and indeed after the so called “Glorious Revolution “of 1688/1689 which saw the demise of James Vll and the succession of William of Orange and his Queen Mary.
To appreciate and understand something of the complexities and attitudes of the times is fundamental to passing judgement on events. Apart from the ever present political intrigue amongst the politically powerful in the land, there had been the religious conflict of the 17th century with the “killing times “of the 1680s bringing with it the persecution of the Presbyterians followed abruptly by what has been termed the Revolution of 1688/1689 which brought the Protestant William of Orange and his Queen Mary to the throne of the united kingdoms. Here in Strathearn, the problems in the parish church had mirrored the situation in the country at large. The minister was David Drummond an MA of St Andrew’s University and a son of James Drummond, the fifth Laird of Milnab. David was from records an astute individual. He had succeeded to the local lands of Kincardine and Trytoun and had purchased the lands of Callander near Barvick and with it the benefits of the teinds (a form of rent) which supplemented his stipend . Although Drummond had supported the National Covenant in 1638 with its declaration of Presbyterian convictions and resistance to Episcopacy, he had supported the Royalist cause during the Civil War for which he was deposed from his ministry by the General Assembly of the Kirk. In fact their powers were such that Drummond continued to administer to his flock in Crieff as well as draw his stipend before eventually relinquishing his charge in 1658.
The local conflict was to continue with the appointment of Gilbert Murray as successor to Drummond. Like Drummond, Murray was from the same background as Drummond being related to the Murrays of Ochtertyre. He was immediately in conflict with the Presbytery when it was averred that he was in collusion with his predecessor Drummond and that the two were in fact sharing the stipend between them ! Murray refused to appear to be questioned about “the scandalous action “and seemed to spend more time adapting his religious affiliations to the mood of the day. From being initially a staunch Presbyterian he became an Episcopalian but was allowed to continue his ministry!
The Presbyterian Kirk here in Strathearn found itself struggling to ensure that all good citizens and true adhere to the newly established reformed Church. William Drummond was minister in Crieff. On appointment he quickly nailed his colours to the mast and made no bones the fact that he was a convinced Episcopalian. No doubt to rub salt into the wounds of the Presbytery he introduced forms of worship which were an anathema to the traditional Kirk. The Lord’s Prayer was used in worship, the Apostles’ Creed was repeated at baptisms and the Doxology was sung by the congregation. In 1689 the minister Gilbert Murray was deposed by an irate Kirk ministry for reading part of Psalm 118 after the Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie: “This is the day God made, in it we’ll joy triumphantly!”
In 1690 Episcopacy was overthrown and the Presbyterian form of worship was formally re introduced with the Westminster Confession adopted as the Confession of the Church. For a period of 9 years the turbulent charge of the Crieff Parish Church lay vacant until in 1699 when along came yet another Drummond!
John Drummond unlike his immediate predecessors had been educated at Glasgow University. His was a conformity to the established kirk and despite a flirtation with what was to become the first of the Secessionist groups (this caused him to be disciplined by the Presbytery), he stayed in charge in Crieff for some 55 years including the period of the first Jacobite uprising. It was John Drummond who wrote the account of the burning of Crieff. His and local Church attitudes towards the Stewart dynasty can be discerned from the records of the time. Minutes refer to a “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.” Mr Drummond was requested to draw up a list of offenders for the attention of the Queen‘s Advocate The regenerated kirk was determined to exert its authority on one and all. A Session minute is indicative of strict discipline they wished to exert on the local populous particularly in relation to the Sabbath. 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.
This was the atmosphere that prevailed in this part of Strathearn. During the most part of the 17th century there was clearly a strong local support for the Episcopalian attitude and ipso facto the Jacobite cause .This was no doubt affected somewhat by the “ Glorious Revolution “ and the subsequent clamp downs on attitude and civic discipline by the sentinels of a more Calvinistic kirk both locally and further afield in Strathearn.The Episcopal Church maintained its local power base in Muthill where most of the landed families subscribed to its membership.
I have written elsewhere in these Strathearn Local History Blogs of the burnings of the Strathearn towns and villages during the 1714/1715 Jacobite Rising. As noted above, it was the Crieff minister John Drummond, a somewhat fanatical adherent of the Kirk, who wrote the account of the Crieff “Burnings “ which has become the accepted version of events to many to this day . From an historical perspective , it is clear that the “ Burnings “ were a scorched earth tactic deployed by the somewhat incompetent Jacobite general, the Earl of Mar aka “ Bobbing John ”. He had ordered a retreat from Sheriffmuir to Perth after the battle despite the fact that the Jacobite faction had held the upper hand for most of the day! The accounts were all written by the Presbyterian Ministers of the various places. These were later collated by the Maitland Club in the 1840s and published. They were transcribed and reprinted in various books of the times such as Porteous and the Annals of Auchterarder. What is not generally reported is the original preface. The Chairman of the Club at that time was the incumbent Duke of Argyll whose ancestor led the Government forces at Sheriffmuir. This in itself reflects in the academic and historical nature of the reporting. The passage of time, some one hundred and twenty five years, since the event ensures that it is a record of the reporting of the day. The preface, which has been greatly ignored in previous accounts, emphasised the reasoning behind the burnings, the scorched earth policy and the dire need of the Jacobites to prevent supplies in the depth of a cruel winter following into Hanoverian hands. It particularly draws attention to the bias of the contemporary reporters namely that of the local Presbyterian ministers. Undoubtedly, the outcome of the 1714/1715 and subsequent 1745 Risings saw the strengthening of the position of the Established Kirk and rapid diminishing of the influence of the Catholic and Episcopal churches in many parts of Scotland and Strathearn in particular.
It was virtually a century later in 1846 when the Rev Alex Lendrum, incumbent of St James’, Muthill, launched a project to build an Episcopal Church in Crieff, consecrated in 1848 in the name of St Michael and All Angels. Subscribers included Queen Adelaide, W.E. Gladstone, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Armagh and the Bishops of London and Gloucester. The building was located in Lodge Street or Lodge Brae as it was formerly known . It is still there and currently exists a the " Blue Flax Tea Room " . Within 14 years there was a falling out between Mr Lendrum and the Bishop of St Andrews, Bishop Wordsworth. Mr Lendrum resigned in 1862 and boarded up the church, which soon fell into a state of disrepair. Forced to worship elsewhere, the congregation raised the money to build another church on the site of the present St Columba’s to hold about 200 people.
Crieff was growing rapidly and a much larger church was needed. In 1877 the second St Columba’s was built and consecrated, the money being raised by Sir Patrick Keith Murray of Ochtertyre House. He also provided endowments to meet the feu duty and to secure part of the incumbent’s stipend, making it a condition that an equal sum should be found by the congregation or from other sources. In addition he gave the graveyard in Ochtertyre grounds, which belong absolutely to the Church. The attractive “new “building was by the 1980s beginning to show serious signs of fabric decay. An independent survey carried out by Perth surveyors Bell Ingram highlighted an alarming number of faults including problems with the tower. It was decided to demolish the building and this was carried out in the mid-1980s and replaced with the somewhat more functional church that stands today.
I have heard on a number of occasions of St Columba’s being referred to as the “ “ English Church “ , something that has no doubt been influenced by the fact that over the years many of the members of the congregation had been born and brought up south of the Border in the Anglican faith . It is quite evident that this anomaly does not stand as correct .The Episcopal Church in Scotland is very much part of our religious fabric as shown above and should be recognised as such !