Kilmuir and Logie Easter History

Kilmuir and Logie Easter Community Collage

Kilmuir and Logie Easter History - page 2

Chaptetr II - Church Affairs

On a knoll overlooking the Cromarty Firth stands the old Parish Church. Its round tower bears the inscription, BEIGIT 1616, but there is evidence that the tower was an addition to a church that stood there at least a century before this date. Of a still earlier date, however, was probably the chapel on the banks of the Delny Burn.

This chapel, with its graveyard, was left standing long after it had ceased to be used as a place of worship. Near the end of the eighteenth century, James Munro, the farmer who occupied Delny Farm at that time, proceeded to appropriate the gravestones and the stones of the chapel for building purposes, and to plough up the graveyard with a view to turning it into farm land. This aroused considerable indignation in the parish, and the minister, the Rev. John Matheson, at length approached him, pleading with him to desist from his work of desecration. Munro not only agreed to do so, but promised as atonement for his conduct to fence off the spot, sow it with grass seed, erect a stone in the middle with a suitable inscription, and for the future leave the spot undisturbed. Whether or not he carried out these undertakings cannot be ascertained, as no stone with inscription remains, but part of the chapel may still be identified, although now used as a blacksmith's shop.

Two of the ancient gravestones were transferred to the present churchyard-whether at that time or earlier is not known-and may still be seen to the left as you enter by the western gate. One of them stands upright against the wall, its carvings almost obliterated. With difficulty one discerns at the top an angel's head and outstretched wings, in the centre something resembling a large shield, and below that a circle.

The second stone is flat and lies at the foot of the other at right angles, and having been less exposed to the weather, is in a better state of preservation. At the top is apparently a coat of arms (a circle, within which are two animals rampant and a star). In the centre are the usual symbols-hourglass and coffin, bells and skulls, while at the bottom are the cross-bones, a spade and a key. There are no names inscribed on either.

A Church of Kilmuir is mentioned in State Papers as early as 1296, at the time of the Scottish War of Independence, when Roger de Foderingeye, "vicar of the Church of Kilmor", swore fealty to Edward I of England, but though highly probable, it is not certain that this refers to Kilmuir Easter.

Again in 1475, we hear of it when James of Werk (Weik), parson of Kilmuir, witnesses an agreement between McGilleoin of Lochboy and Ross of Ballnagouin.

In 1512, we read that the yearly payment made by Andrew Monro for the croft called the Merkland of Tulloch, then granted to him by King James IV., was "one pound of wax (in the form of a wax candle weighing 1 lb.), to be paid at midsummer within the chapel of Delny."

It was the fashion in mediaeval times among kings, nobles and wealthy commoners to endow chapels and chaplains in order that, on the death of the founder, the chaplain would sing a daily mass for the repose of his soul and the souls of his relatives. The chaplain was known as a chantry priest. In nearly all of those endowment deeds a Paternoster or the Lord's Prayer and Psalm cxxx., "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord," formed part. One of the provisions was the placing of one, two or more wax candles on the altar during the service.

This chapel of Delny was probably founded by the Earl of Ross, whose castle stood close by.

In 1521, James V presented the chaplaincy of Delny to Alexander Dunbar. Eight years later Alexander resigned in favour of David Dunbar, who was evidently a kinsman. David, not desiring the glebe, gardens and buildings belonging to the chaplaincy, let them, with the King's consent, to Thomas Ross of Balintraid and his wife, Elizabeth Dunbar, and their heirs at a yearly rent of 12 marks and 40/-, reserving to himself one acre for the construction of a manse and garden. That transaction is dated 1541, and the lands are specified as Ulladale and Priestshill and the Croft of John the Baptist - obviously churchlands to judge by the last two names. On the death of David, James VI., in 1580, granted for seven years to Colin Dunbar, the son of George Dunbar of Avach "for held of his sustenation and intertenement at the scoles" the chaplaincy of Delny, which in that year did not exceed the value of 20 marks yearly.

Besides the Chapel of Delny, there was a chapel at Balnagown, the exact site of which is not known. We hear of it in 1368, when Mariot of Hirdmannystoun resigns the patronage of the Chapel of Balnagown, and William, Earl of Ross, about the same time grants to his brother Hugh the lands of Balnagown and others resigned by Mariot, the grantee finding a chaplain to officiate twice or thrice weekly "at the altar of the Virgin Mary in her chapel at Balnagown." This chaplaincy was founded for daily prayers on behalf of the reigning Sovereign, and supported by the yearly payment of £4 from the lands and fishings of Eister Tarbat. In 1542 it was held by James Dunbar of Tuliglennis and Elizabeth Leslie, his wife, and in 1558 by James Dunbar, his son and heir. In 1614, William, a son of Thomas Ross, Abbot of Fearn, was chaplain of Balnagown.

At the Reformation, George Dunbar was parson of Kilmuir, the value of parsonage and vicarage of Kilmuir then, as retoured by him to the collector of thirds, being 100 marks £66 13s 4d yearly. Later he was Commissioner of Ross, dealing with teinds under Bishops' jurisdiction. These Commissioners were appointed by the King, and had a seat and vote in Parliament. George Dunbar was evidently of the type of "The Vicar of Bray". He joined the Reformers in 1560, and in 1596, when James VI. introduced Episcopacy into Scotland he retained his benefice and was both "Commissioner of Ross" and "parsone of Kilmuir", although between 1560 and 1585, Alexander Sutherland, William Ross, Neil Munro and John Munro were successively presented to the Kilmuir living. Possibly Dunbar drew the stipend and made a small allowance to these men to do the work of the parish in his absence, this being a custom in many parts of the country.

From the Reformation down to the present day almost a complete list is available of the men in charge of the spiritual affairs of Kilmuir Easter parish. Some of these are mere names, with nothing to indicate character or personality, but of others sufficient records remain for later generations to learn something of what manner of men they were, the place they held and the part they played in local or national affairs.

In 1572, Donald Reid was reader in Kilmuir, succeeded in this office in 1574 by Neil Munro.

The duty of readers, who as a rule were not so well educated as the ministers, was to "take care over the children and the young and to instruct them in their first rudiments, especially in the Catechism." At this period they were twice as numerous as the ministers, there being great difficulty in securing a sufficient supply of qualified ministers for the parishes, owing to the deplorable condition of church buildings and to the lack of manses, glebes and stipends.

Knox and his coadjutors decided (as is laid down in the First Book of Discipline) that for a parish minister a stipend of "at least 40 bolls meal and 26 bolls malt to find his house, breid and drink", with a sum of money, perhaps 200 marks, for buying of other provisions, should be sufficient. The readers were paid at a much lower rate, as they usually had additional duties, as, for instance, schoolmastering, for which they received payment. It was thought, therefore, that for them 40 marks a year would be enough, though those who ranked as exchorters might fitly receive 100 marks a year, exhorters being a little better educated, and therefore allowed to explain the Scriptures read, and "exhort" the people - hence the name.

In spite of an Act of Parliament specifying that no more readers should be appointed, they continued for some time subsequent to that to carry on their work in the parishes The last of them was James Patterson, who died in Aberdeen in 1800.

In 1575, when William Ross, who had been presented to the living in 1569, demitted office, the above Neil Munro, who had been acting as reader, was appointed minister. Ten years later he was deposed for "non-residence and not serving the cure". John Munro then took over the charge, succeeded by John Ross, who had been translated from the neighbouring Parish of Logie-Easter.

From 1618 to at least 1639, Alexander Hossack was minister of the parish. On 3rd December 1633, he and Isobel Ross, his wife, acquired from Walter Ross certain land in Nigg.

In 1653, James MacCulloch, who had graduated at St Andrews University in 1628, was admitted to Kilmuir church, and in 1671 he was still minister there. His death must have occurred before 1680, as in that year Master John MacCulloch, who is registered heir to "deceast Andrew MacCulloch of Glastullich", is described as son of the deceased "Mr James MacCulloch sumtyme minister of Kilmuir Easter".

A deed by Sir George Mackenzie, afterwards the first Earl of Cromartie, is witnessed in 1684 by William Denoon, described as minister of the parish.

In 1687, Donald Forbes, graduate of Aberdeen University, became minister of Kilmuir. His ministry was notorious. The countryside hummed with scandals regarding his conduct, until at length the Presbytery were obliged to enquire into the matter, and at a meeting held on 27th April 1699, a charge was brought forward against him of grave errors, "Sabbath-breaking to a most scandalous degree", immorality, negligence in the discharge of his duties, and other misdemeanours.

It is difficult to decide whether Mr Forbes was as black as he was painted, or whether the scandals which were circulated regarding him had much foundation in fact, for those were the days when rumour was busy, and every scandal, however groundless, every charge, however absurd, was greedily listened to and believed by the credulous Commission of elders and ministers who sat in judgment on the Episcopal incumbent.

It is certain that the parish was not unanimous in their condemnation of him, and among his supporters was Lord Tarbat, later the first Earl of Cromartie, who informed the Chancellor that Mr Forbes was to be libelled as an Armenian and charged with some private faults, but that the true cause of the proceedings, although this would not be mentioned in the indictment, was his adherence to the principles of the Church of England.

This, however, had no effect on the case, and the Presbytery, following the usual mode of procedure, intimated to Forbes that there would be a visitation of Kilmuir by the Presbytery. The date chosen for this was 31st May, on which day he would be required to preach before them from a prescribed text, after which an enquiry would be held.

Forbes treated these instructions with contempt, and on the appearance of the Presbytery in Kilmuir, informed them that, in his opinion, he was not subject to the authority of the Presbytery, but to that of his Majesty, to whom he appealed for protection.

The Presbytery, however, proceeded with the case, holding that the protection of his Majesty did not apply to persons accused of faults so grave. They suspended him from the exercise of his ministry until he agreed to appear before them and clear himself of the faults with which he was charged, but Mr Forbes ignored both prohibition and summons. The next step was to depose him, and Mr William Stewart, of Kiltearn, was appointed to preach in Kilmuir Church and declare the church vacant. On 8th June 1699, this was duly carried out, and at a later date confirmed by the General Assembly. In defiance, however, of both Presbytery and General Assembly, Forbes continued to deliver his weekly sermon from the pulpit of Kilmuir Church. The Presbytery then instructed Mr John Fraser, Alness, to proceed to Kilmuir on a certain Sunday, take possession of the pulpit, and conduct the service.

This was the signal for an outburst of indignation on the part of Forbes and his supporters, who, on the appearance of Fraser to carry out his injunctions, met him in the graveyard, and noisily objected to what they considered an unwarrantable intrusion. Mr Fraser expostulated with them on their conduct, and proceeded to justify his presence there by referring them to the decree of the General Assembly, which ordered the church to be declared vacant.

After some discussion the protesting party withdrew to the house of Mr Forbes, where he delivered a sermon, after which he and his supporters returned to the churchyard in time to waylay Mr Fraser as he emerged from the church at the close of the service there. Then they surrounded him, renewing their protestations, and threatening to use violence The Lairds of Balnagown, Culrain and Newmore, who were the principal heritors, and who stood apart for some time looking on at the disturbance, at length went to the support of Fraser, but it was a considerable time before the tumult subsided and the crowd dispersed.

At a later date the Presbytery succeeded in obtaining possession of the keys of the church, which were handed into the custody of David Ross of Balnagown.

Eventually Forbes wearied of his efforts to assert himself, and finally disappeared from public notice.

It was during the troubled period of Forbes's ministry that the Old Mort Bell, still preserved, was presented to the church of Kilmuir. It bears the inscription, "Gifted Be Donald Mackenzie to the Church of Kilmuir of MEDAT EDR. 1696. J.M." The final initials are probably those of John Miller, of a well-known firm of bell-makers in Edinburgh. At that time it was the custom for a bell to be rung at the head of funeral processions as they made their way through the graveyard to the place of burial. Hence the name "Mort Bell."

In 1701, Daniel McGilligan, son of John McGilligan famous Covenanter, was called to the Church of Kilmuir It was common about that time for ministers up and down the land to suffer from negligence on the part of the authorities in the payment of their stipends. There had been trouble in Kilmuir in this connection. In 1688, Mr Forbes, never one to rest under an injustice, had brought an action for stipend "4 chalders bere and 4 of meal". Consequent Mr McGilligan at first declined to accept the charge on the grounds of there being neither manse, stipend nor glebe. The Presbytery, however, assured him that these deficiencies would be made good, whereupon he intimated his acceptation with the proviso that if these promises were not implemented within a reasonable time he should consider himself free to accept a call elsewhere. In due time he was ordained and admitted minister of the parish, Mr John Fraser preaching the ordination sermon in English from Isaiah LXIII: 6 - "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

McGilligan was the first Presbyterian minister admitted to Kilmuir after the Revolution. He was forceful and energetic. For a considerable period during his ministry the parish lacked a schoolmaster, and it was mainly through his efforts that eventually one was settled at what was considered in those days a competent salary.

At this time the questions of doctrine were agitating the Church, and the Tain Presbytery decided to appoint certain ministers to deliver discourses dealing with these. McGilligan was chosen to expound the doctrine of Predestination.

The heritors were slow in fulfilling the promises they had made to McGilligan on his appointment. The church continued in a state of disrepair, and no manse was provided In 1707 the Laird of Balnagown, showing more generosity than heritors in general and the heritors of Kilmuir in particular, set about having the roof of the church slated and other necessary repairs attended to. At the same time he took the opportunity of pointing out to the other heritors their duty in this matter, and recommended that in future they should undertake to keep the church in good repair. The question of the manse, however, was left in abeyance, and the payment of the stipend neglected.

At length, in 1711, McGilligan, losing patience, followed the example of his irascible predecessor, and sued for his stipend. He was unsuccessful, and very shortly afterwards he intimated his resignation as minister of the parish. Immediately a meeting was convened by the Presbytery, to which the heritors were summoned. All agreed that the question of a manse was urgent, and the tradesmen present undertook to see that the rebuilding of a suitable manse was begun as soon as possible. This came to nothing, and in 1713, McGilligan, his patience thoroughly exhausted, accepted a call to Alness. The Earl of Cromartie and Lord MacLeod announced their intention of lodging an appeal against his translation, but owing to the death of Lord Cromartie this was not done.

McGilligan was succeeded by Walter Ross, who had been educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and licensed for the ministry in December 1714.

Walter Ross's grandfather was Donald Ross of Torrenliah, who, by a charter, dated at Logie, 16th April 1627, had received from his father, Thos. Ross of Logy, half of the church lands of Priesthill, and in 1630 of the lands of Dalaaclerach. Walter was executor and nearest-of-kin to his father and to his brother David.

Ross found the parish in a rude and unruly state, said to be due to careless habits formed by the people during the years when Episcopacy reigned there. With immense patience and determination he tackled the task of raising the moral standard of the community. To great force of character he added strength of muscle, and when moral suasion failed to produce the desired result, he did not hesitate to resort to more drastic measures until at length his efforts were rewarded by a remarkable improvement in the character and conduct and church-going habits of the parishioners.

One example of his assiduity in the matter of discipline may be quoted. In 1728 he reported to the General Assembly that an accusation had been made in the Kilmuir Kirk Session against George Mackenzie in Milntown of profaning the Sabbath in the parish by buying chickens for Lord MacLeod's hawks upon a certain Lord's Day, that he had been summoned to three several diets of the Session, but did not compear, upon which the Session found him contumacious and referred him as such to the Presbytery. On witnesses being cited before the Session it was found proven that George Mackenzie was guilty of Sabbath profanation. The persons who sold the chickens were also censured for their part in the transaction. But, considering discretion the better part of valour, the accused left the district, and was therefore denounced as a fugitive from discipline.

When most of the parishioners had been won over to better habits and a higher standard of conduct, the fishing community still remained obdurate. The appearance of Mr Ross approaching their village by the shore to visit them was a signal for flight, when the whole population would take to their boats with all possible speed, and remain out on the Firth until he had taken his departure and they considered it safe to return.

One day he and the church officer set off for the village, taking with them one or two small carts such as were then in use. As usual, on catching sight of the minister, the population fled, and by the time he and his man reached the village it was completely deserted by the inhabitants, who, in their haste, had omitted to take the precaution of locking the doors of their houses. On arrival at the village, the couple proceeded to enter each house in succession, and help themselves to every cooking utensil they could find. These they piled on to the little carts brought for the purpose, carrying them off and placing them under lock and key in a building which stood in the churchyard.

The indignation of the fishers on their return was intense. No food could they prepare. For two days they fasted. At the end of that period Mr Ross sent a message requesting them to come to the manse. They would fain have declined the invitation, but the pangs of hunger had become more than they could any longer endure, and they reluctantly set off.

To their astonishment, Mr Ross received them with great cordiality, and conducted them without delay to a room where a substantial repast was awaiting them. To this they did ample justice, after which they apologised for their discourteous behaviour, but laid the blame on the curates, who, they said, had given them a false impression of Presbyterian ministers.

This incident marked the beginning of more pleasant relations between the minister and that section of his flock. No longer did the sight of him approaching their village send them scurrying to their boats, and in their general conduct and church-going habits they gradually reached the standard of the rest of the parish.

On 29th December 1733, Walter Ross died. His widow, Catherine Wilson, of Edinburgh, who was his second wife, subsequently married Daniel Beaton, minister of Rosskeen. Ross's first wife, Jane Innes, had predeceased him ten years before at the early age of 27.

When the parish next became vacant, among the candidates who came forward two were proposed. One was Daniel Munro, the other John Porteous. On a vote being taken of heritors and heads of families, the latter was elected by a large majority of both, and on 27th November 1734 he was admitted to the Church of Kilmuir Easter. The sermon was preached in English by Mr John Balfour, of Nigg, on 2 Tim. ii., 2 - "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."

John Porteous was a grandson of an English soldier of Cromwell's army, said to be a relative of the Bishop of London, who settled in Inverness, where John was born in 1704. He was also said to be cousin to the notorious Captain Porteous, whom the mob in Edinburgh hanged in the Grassmarket. His mother was a daughter of the celebrated John Fraser, of Alness He was educated at King's College, Aberdeen, where he distinguished himself as a classical scholar, graduating in 1720.

In later life one of his intimate friends was Dr Adam, the famous rector of the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and a native of Rafford, where Porteous's brother, William, was minister from 1727 to 1738.

On one occasion, in a conversation with Dr Adam, Mr Porteous remarked that it was a pity that Milton had not written "Paradise Lost" in Latin, to which Adam replied that that would be no ordinary undertaking.

"I think I could do it myself," said Porteous. Whereupon Adam prescribed one hundred lines to him for translation. The following day Porteous handed him the lines in hexameter verse, which the rector pronounced pure and beautiful Latinity.

He was licensed by the Presbytery of Elgin on 24th October 1727, and in 1729 was to have been settled at Daviot, but the Episcopalians, who were in the ascendancy in the parish, strongly opposed his election, and on his appearance there to preach he was met by a hostile crowd, chiefly composed of women, who, armed with stones, were determined to prevent him from entering the church. Considering flight the wisest policy, he took to his heels, hotly pursued, and being young and swift of foot, he succeeded in outstripping his pursuers.

His settlement at Kilmuir also met with opposition from one or two of the proprietors, and certain of their retainers and tenants, who from fear of falling into disfavour with them, dared not take any independent action.

It is said that the Laird of Newmore went so far as to threaten violence to any of his tenants who would sign Porteous's call. One man on the estate was courageous enough to disregard the threat and follow his own judgment rather than that of the Laird.

One day some months later, Newmore's tenants were engaged in reaping his crops, as it was then the custom, when he arrived on the scene. On this occasion the tenant who had defied him by signing Porteous's call found his courage not quite equal to meeting him face to face, and promptly disappeared. Newmore, on being informed of the reason of his, absence, sent for him, and in presence of the other reapers assured the trembling man that he had nothing to fear. Turning then to the others, he said, "I have more respect for him than for any of you, for he is the only man on my estate in this parish who has the courage of his convictions."

Another laird, who had no friendly feeling for Mr Porteous and took every opportunity of showing his dislike - even at public worship behaving in such a way as to leave no doubt as to his intentions of annoying and insulting him - was the Earl of Cromartie.

One day Mr Porteous received an invitation to visit him at his castle. On arriving there he was met at the door by the Earl who, in answer to Mr Porteous's enquiry as to his reason for wishing to see him, replied, "To show you out at the back door. "

Mr Porteous, who did not lack spirit, retorted, "You have sent for me in order to insult me, but the time is not distant when I shall be able to enter at this door and pass through all the apartments in your castle, and you will not dare to come near it. It will no longer be an abode for human beings, but for the fowls of heaven, and thorns will grow where I now stand."

This prediction was duly fulfilled, and after the Jacobite Rebellion the fine old baronial edifice fell into ruins, becoming the home of rooks and jackdaws, while a thorn bush grew at the main door.

Porteous was a supporter of the Hanoverians, and for a few months after the Battle of Culloden, while the country was in a condition of disorder, he resided at Halmaderry, in Kildonan. During his absence the rebels entered his manse and stole a flute with which he was in the habit of amusing himself at intervals during his hours of study.

Of deep piety and a preacher of remarkable eloquence and power, people came from far and near to hear him. His appearance was striking, his figure being unusually tall and erect. A story is told that on one occasion the wife of Patrick Grant, the minister of Nigg, whose services were far from acceptable to the people of his parish, on catching sight of the crowds crossing the sands on their way to hear Mr Porteous, exclaimed to her husband, "Why do you stay in this place? Do you not see the sands black with the people going to Kilmuir?"

"Oh, let them go," was the laconic reply, "They're no' taking the stipend wi' them."

Both in his ordinary conversation and in his sermons, Mr Porteous was in the habit of using metaphors. Many of them have been handed down. He was very fond of his garden, and liked to compare the various plants there to the different classes of Christians in his parish.

On one occasion a worthy man, named Donald Og, from the neighbouring parish of Fearn, came to visit him. Together they strolled round the garden, Mr Porteous drawing his attention to the roses and the various other flowers that grew in profusion. "There goes Donald Og," he would say, as they passed some particularly beautiful blossom, and Donald, with characteristic modesty, would reply, "Indeed, it is very unlike the ugly body."

At length they came to a plant which seemed to be completely composed of foliage.

"There, then," said Mr Porteous, "is Donald Og."

"Well," replied Donald, "it is certainly more like him, than the beautiful ones we have already passed - it looks so sullen and gloomy."

Mr Porteous then stooped down and gently bending back the leaves and exposing the hidden blossoms, said' "It certainly does resemble Donald Og more than any of these that we have already passed, for the beauty is hid under the foliage. The King's daughter is all glorious within. Her beauty is hid from herself, but seen by Christ and by His fellows."

So great was his reputation for wisdom and piety that people visited him constantly to consult him on spiritual matters - not only his own people, but those of other parishes, and he was loved and respected even by those whose way of living was anything but creditable.

When Roderick MacCulloch of Glastullich, a man of rough manners and careless conduct, was before the Presbytery of Tain for some delinquency to which he refused to plead guilty, Mr Joseph Munro, minister of Edderton, addressing him, said, "I appeal to your conscience, Glastullich. Are you guilty of this charge?"

"Conscience!" replied MacCulloch. "Were it Mr Porteous there who so addressed me I would take it from him, for we must all allow that he is a man of conscience and a man of God; but, as for you, Joseph, I cannot endure this appeal from you, for the very dogs know that you have no conscience."

One day Mr Porteous, accompanied by his servant, rode across the sands of Nigg to assist at the Communion in Cromarty. On his arrival he searched his pockets for his snuff box, but failed to find it.

" Oh, Donald, I must return home. I have forgotten my snuff box, and cannot get on without it."

"Oh," said Donald, "here it is."

" You have done well in having brought it."

"You brought it yourself. Do you not remember when passing through the sands you threw it from you ?"

"Well, Donald, I do now recollect when tempted by Satan's suggestions I threw the snuff box at him; but you did well in having picked it up."

Porteous was somewhat absent-minded, and on one occasion he failed to recognise his own horse as it graze on the glebe, making enquiries as to its owner, antl requesting that it should not be allowed to stray again, as the grass was scanty enough for his own cattle.

A story is told of a man who late one evening, after doing business in Invergordon, set off for his home in Kilmuir. He had not long proceeded on his way when he was joined by a tall, dark man of distinguished presence, who asked the pleasure of his company along the road.

This was granted, and they set off together. The conversation flowed so easily and delightfully that the boundary between the parishes of Rosskeen and Kilmuir was reached all too soon. Here the stranger halted, signifying his intention of parting from his fellow-traveller, who, loath to lose the company of one so charming, endeavoured to peranade him to go with him a little further. Politely but firmly, however, he declined, saying, "I dare not cross the threshold of Kilmuir, for the godly Mr Porteous is now on his knees in prayer." At that moment, observing a pair of cloven hoofs, the Kilmuir man, with horror and dismay, realised the identity of him whose company he had found so entrancing.

While Mr Porteous did not experience the same difficulty as his predecessors in obtaining payment of his stipend, it was admitted to be inadequate, and in 1766, with the object of having it augmented, the Laird of Balnagown, supported by some of the other heritors, brought forward a proposal to join the parishes of Logie and of Fearn to Kilmuir, under the charge of Mr Porteous. This was objected to by the majority of the heritors on the grounds that the arrangement might be prejudicial to the spiritual life of the people in that area, the inadequacy of the stipend being considered insufficient justification for such a step being taken. Further, it was considered probable that another method of augmenting the stipend might be found which would not endanger the spiritual welfare of the people nor cause the identity of one parish to be merged in another. This was by inducing the Commissioners in charge of the teinds to apply certain free teinds in the parish to the augmentation of the stipend, particularly those belonging to the annexed estate of Cromartie, which did not contribute to the support of the Church in the same proportion as the other lands in the parish. There was an impression among the members of the Presbytery that the Commissioners would be sympathetic to this suggestion, and that the application had every chance of being successful. Whether or not the matter was proceeded with the records do not disclose.

The death of Mr Porteous in 1775 caused intense grief throughout the whole district. The coffin rested for a short time before interment in front of the manse. About two hundred women surrounded it, and during its transport to the churchyard their wailing could be heard half-a-mile away. It is stated by the writer of the New Statistical Account of the parish that even sixty-three years after his death his memory "is still cherished with the highest veneration."

His dust reposes in Kilmuir Churchyard under a flat stone. The inscription in parts is now almost illegible. Once a sacred shrine to the people of the neighbourhood, the grave, though still tended, arouses no interest in the passer-by.

In 1764, eleven years before the death of Porteous, John Matheson, then a youth of seventeen, had been appointed schoolmaster of the parish, and five years later he was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by the Presbytery of Tain. In 1771 he resigned the position of schoolmaster to be itinerant missionary at Kincardine and Creich, at a salary of £25 per annum, with, in addition, £10 from the parishes.

He had been held in great respect by the people of Kilmuir and on Mr Porteous's death in 1770 they presented a call to him to return to the parish as minister. He accepted the call, and on the 22nd day of September in the same year he was admitted into the church. He received a warm welcome from the large gathering present, the heritors, elders and heads of families, according to the usual custom, giving him the right hand of fellowship.

About three years later he married Anne, daughter of John Montgomery, merchant in Milntown. John Matheson was a man of independent views, with the courage of his convictions, and did not hesitate to speak his mind when occasion arose. We find him reprimanding the farmer of Delny for ploughing up an ancient graveyard on his land, and inducing him by the influence of his personality to give an undertaking that no further acts of desecration would be committed by him.

On another occasion he appears as a supporter of an application by Mr John Mackenzie student of Divinity in Kilmuir Easter parish, for a Presbyterial certificate. The application was opposed by another member of the Presbytery on the grounds that the applicant held "loose and advanced" views on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, and that his "walk and conversation" were not what one would look for in a student of Divinity.

A thorough inquiry into this was held by the Presbytery. Among the witnesses examined was Mr Gustavus Aird, of Heathfield, either father or grandfather of the Rev. Dr Aird, of Creich. The Presbytery decided against Mackenzie, who, nothing daunted, appealed to the Synod, which reversed the judgment of the Presbytery. The Presbytery then took the case to the General Assembly, but there they again found opinion against them, and the decision of the Synod was upheld, the Assembly finding "the proceedings of the Presbytery of Tain in relation to Mr John Mackenzie highly irregular and injurious to him." The Assembly, therefore, overturned these proceedings, and ordered the entry relating to them to be expunged from the Records of the Presbytery. On 7th July 1802, at a meeting of the Presbytery, this was duly carried out.

During Mr Matheson's ministry the church was rebuilt. It then contained nine hundred sittings. About that time there was great activity in the building trade in Kilmuir and the neighbouring district, several substantial buildings, including the present mansion-house of Tarbat, Kindeace House and Bayfield House, in Nigg, being built in the same year, 1798.

In 1811 Mr John Matheson, whose health for some time had been giving cause for anxiety, applied for an assistant and successor, and on 5th February of that year he presented to the Presbytery the following letter from Edward Hay Mackenzie of Cromartie, patron of the church and parish in right of his wife. It was written from Newhall, and dated

13th January 1811

" Dear Sir, - We are sorry to see by your letter that you are not recovering as well as we could wish. It will give Mrs Mackenzie and myself great satisfaction that your son, Charles, has it in his power to accept of being assistant and successor to you, as we consider him, from the character given us, to be a young man fully qualified in all respects for the charge.

I am, dear Sir, Yours very sincerely,

(Signed) EDWARD HAY MACKENZIE.

Charles then presented himself before the Presbytery for examination as to his fitness for ordination. His answers to the usual questions and the two discourses which were required from him being approved, he was accordingly ordained as assistant but not successor. The reason for this, was probably the smallness of the living. The ordination was at Tain, and not at Kilmnir, where it would have taken place had he been appointed both assistant and successor.

Later, his father's health must have improved temporarily, for in 1813 Charles was admitted to the Gaelic and English Chapel, Edinburgh. The death of his father, however, occurred in April of the following year, and Charles was, in September, admitted to the church of Kilmuir Easter as its minister. Mr Neil Kennedy preached in Gaelic to a crowded congregation, who later listened to the English sermon of Mr Matheson, after which his name was added to the Presbytery Roll.

In those days each parish had its catechist, appointed by the minister, with consent of the congregation. The salary was found partly by the minister and partly by the parishioners. It was the duty of the catechist to visit the people, examining both children and adults in their knowledge of the Shorter Catechism. He was allowed to read the Scriptures but not explain them, this duty being reserved for the ordained minister.

The parish of Kilmuir had several notable catechists. One, Hugh Ross, was in his youth somewhat careless regarding spiritual matters. He was also known to be rather proud of his personal appearance, and of his strength, and was leader in the shinty matches. He was also the best dancer in the district.

On one occasion when he set off to attend the Communion services in Fearn his thoughts were more on a new suit of clothes he was wearing and the impression he was likely to make than on the service of worship in which he was ostensibly to take part. The preacher was Mr Porteous, whose eloquence was so moving that Ross soon forgot the new clothes in repentance of his worldliness, and in a sincere desire for a change of heart and life. Not long afterwards he was appointed to the office of catechist in the parish.

Another catechist who gave valuable service in Kilmuir was John Ross McEan, who is described as a man of gentle, amiable disposition. He was succeeded by Donald Ross Mitchell, who was known as "the model catechist of Ross-shire". Few were so well equipped for the work. He had great natural abilities, but was illiterate until after his marriage when, by diligent application he succeeded in learning to read Gaelic. In spite of his limited education, his knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures and his skill as an instructor of the young were held in high respect. For thirty-two years he laboured with great acceptance in the parish. He died in 1833. During the closing days of his life he suffered great pain, but his faith remained clear and steadfast to the end.

His successor was Donald Mackay, who held the office for nearly forty years. After the Disruption he acted as precentor in the Free Church. His son, Alexander, or "Sandy," as he was more commonly referred to, was a much respected member of the community, and succeeded his father as precentor, which duty he continued to perform until his death in 1889. Several of their descendants still reside in the parish. With Donald Mackay's death on 30th August 1872, at the age of 79, the office fell into desuetude. The minister himself then undertook the work of catechising, and paid an annual visit to each home, for the purpose of examining the members of every family, child and adult, in their knowledge of the Shorter Catechism. Before the century ended that custom also died out.

In 1838 the Church of Kilmuir, rebuilt in 1798, was in a good state of repair. The manse had been built in 1738. There were six acres of glebe, valued at £12 per atmum, and the stipend was 87 bolls, 1 firlot, 1 peck, 3 lippies oatmeal, 9 stones (Ross-shire boll) and £62 0s 4d sterling. The stipend awarded by the Court of Teinds was 15 chalders; but the teinds did not pay the stipend nor the sum necessary to purchase the Communion elements. The church contained nine hundred sittings, and the congregation was drawn from three hundred and fifty families, about eight hundred individuals being in regular attendance, the number of communicants averaging sixty.

A Bible Society met once a quarter for prayer, and once a year to distribute its funds to the necessitous poor of the parish. From eighty to a hundred were in receipt of relief. The funds were derived from various sources. In 1793, besides the weekly collections, there was a sum in hand which had accumulated in plentiful years, and a legacy of £24 from Mrs Fraser of Pitcailzen. Those who begged from door to door were allowed a sum sufficient to purchase a pair of shoes annually. In 1838 the rent of a house in Tain supplied £15 to the fund, while the hiring of the mort cloth yielded £2 per annum, and a mortification of barley by George, Earl of Cromartie, dated 1686, produced 5 bolls annually for distribution. Certain conditions were imposed on those who claimed benefits from it. They had to be regular in attendance at Divine worship, and innocent of the sins of blasphemy,lying, drunkenness, fornication and of speaking disrespectfully of his Majesty or his Government in Church or State. For a first and second offence the tranegressor was admonished by the minister, and for a third offence he was reported to the Trustees and fide-commissaries, and disqualified from further benefit. Other mortifications amounted to £1. 3s 10d yearly.

The average sum distributed annually to each recipient was about 5/- to 6/- annually. It would appear that in those days poverty was regarded not only as a misfortune, but a disgrace, for we are assured by the writer of the New Statistical Account of the parish that "none but the extremely necessitous receive parochial aid, and others are dissuaded from seeking it, and taught to consider it as degrading". Those receiving only occasional assistance were not required to suffer the humiliation of having their names entered in the list of paupers. Fortunately, our outlook has changed in this respect.

No Session Records of the parish have been preserved prior to 1771. The date of the first entry, signed by Mr John Porteous, moderator, is 11th October 1771. The elders present on that occasion were William Munro in Delny, Hugh Mackenzie in Achyle, and Donald Ross in Knockgarty, the heritors being:-

Captain John Ross in Balnagown;
Sir John Gordon of Invergordon, Baronet;
Charles Robertson of Kindeace;
William Ross of Aldie and Newmore;
David Ross of Priesthill;
Roderick Mackenzie of Scotsburn;
Colin Mackenzie, writer in Dingwall for Captain Forbes of Newmore, factor on the annexed Estate of Cromartie;
George Mackenzie of Redcastle upon the Estate of Kincraig.

The Session Clerk was Jno. Oliphant.

In 1843, owing to dissatisfaction with the system of patronage, there occurred that great schism in the Church of Scotland known as the Disruption, when the majority of the clergy and the people left the Church of their fathers and formed a new Church, called the Free Church of Scotland. All the members of the Tain Presbytery joined in the secession except Hugh Ross, minister of Fearn. The neighbouring Presbytery then stepped in, declared the churches vacant, and expunged from the roll of ministers of the Church of Scotland the names of the seceding ministers, including that of Charles Ross Matheson, of Kilmuir Easter. The Clerk was then instructed to intimate the vacancies to John Hay Mackenzie of Cromartie, patron.

In the same year, Daniel Macbride was presented to the Kilmuir living, Mr Matheson remaining in the parish as minister of the Free Church congregation, which in due course acquired a new building not far distant from the site of the mediaeval Chapel of Delny.

"The Trustees of the Free Church congregation, Kilmuir Easter, seised, in a triangular Piece of ground, being part of the lands of Delny on which a church has been built, par Kilmuir Easter, on ch. by Roderick Macleod of Cadboll, Nov. 8, 1848 " (Sasines, 1781-1814).

In 1903, when the Union took place between the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church, the church erected in 1876, which took the place of the Disruption building, became the property of that small section of the Free Church which refused to be a party to this Union. The former Free Church now changed its name to the United Free Church, and a building of wood and iron was erected to accommodate the congregation of Kilmuir, quite near to their old place of worship. In the year 1929, when the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland became re-united, it reverted again to its old name, the Church of Scotland.

Daniel Macbride, who replaced Matheson in 1843, was translated, in 1851, to Little Dunkeld. His wife was Anna Stewart, whom he had married in 1845.

His successor was William Macpherson, who died in 1866, after a ministry of eleven years. Two of his sons - Duncan and William - were knighted for their services to the State. Sir Duncan was in the Bengal Civil Service, becoming head of the Customs Department in Calcutta, afterwards Commissioner of two divisions in succession, and during the last three years of his Indian service, head of the Board of Revenue for the whole Province of Bengal. Sir William had an equally distinguished career in Medicine. He was Director-General of the Medical Services at the time of the Great War, and was the author of a book on the Medical History of the War. A third son, Charles, was a successful chartered accountant in Edinburgh, well-known in the city, and much respected. He had varied interests, rendering valuable service in many spheres, and was the President of the Society of Accountants in Edinburgh.

Charles Matheson, who had left the Church of Scotland at the Disruption to become the first minister of the Free Church of Kilmuir, died in the same year as Macpherson, his successor being Donald Campbell Macdonald, M.A. Austere and dignified in manner, Macdonald was an earnest preacher and a sincere friend. His son, John Somerled Macdonald, M.A., D.D., was for some years minister of Sefton Park Church, Liverpool, Ian Maclaren's old church, and is now (1935) minister of the First Presbyterian Church, Syracuse, New York State.

His father's death occurred in 1904, when he was succeeded by John Fraser, M.A., who later went to Renfield Church, Glasgow, and then to Dornoch. His successor is the present minister, Roderick Cameron, M.A.

Donald Stuart, minister of the Parish Church, demitted office in 1900, when Henry Reid Chalmers, M.A., became parish minister. In his time the parish church was restored and altered, two sides of the gallery being removed and the pulpit taken from the south wall and placed at the wall next to the old tower. The high-backed enclosed pews, reserved for the large heritors, were replaced by less pretentious seats, and a collection plate at the door took the place of the fivefeet long-handled ladles which had been in use for generations.

On Mr Chalmers's translation, in 1907, to Duffus, Dugald McCallum, M.A., now minister of the neighbouring parish of Rosskeen, was chosen to succeed him.

The present minister is John Campbell McNaught, B.D., author of "The Celtic Church and the See of St Peter."

Continued on Page 3
Terms & Conditions     © Ross and Cromarty Heritage