Archibald Allan.

History of Channelkirk online

. (page 18 of 50)
Online LibraryArchibald AllanHistory of Channelkirk → online text (page 18 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Sommervaills, elders, Two silver Communion Cups, four
mortcloths, three of which are old and very much worn,
a large Communion Tablecloth, measuring twelve yards,
and a small ditto, with ' Channelkirk ' sewed and marked
into them; a pewter plate marked '1709'; a cloth for the
pulpit ; a poor's box with keys, all which were committed
to the Session's charge."

We find many interesting gleanings in the records
which he has handed down to us, but it may be more
convenient to continue the items that bear particularly
upon the church, and then incorporate other matters in
groups by themselves for the sake of order.

The sacred building needed careful attention from time
to time, and was often a source of distraction to the
ministers on this account, and Scott did not miss his
* Church History, Cuningham, vol. ii., p. 334.



THE MINISTERS AND THEIR TIMES 221

share. Fifty-one years seem to have elapsed before he was
called upon to make representations regarding its need
of repairs to the heritors. The last repairs were done in
1724. But when 1775 saw Zion's walls fast becoming a
ruin and a desolation, he spoke in no uncertain voice, and
as his description of the church as it appeared at this time
is so graphic, and so full of the character and spirit of the
last century, we readily copy out his deliverance, as follows :*
" Mr Scott, minister, represented," at a meeting of heritors
17th February 1775, "that the external situation of the
church is so unfavourable that it will prove ever hard to
resist the violence of all storms and tempests to which it
stands expos'd. But there's no remedy for this but
frequent and timely repairs of the fabrick to avoid greater
expenses. And as to the internal structure, that is so mean
and sorry as to have more the look of a common jail than
of the house appropriated to the worship of God." He
had brooded over the matter long and bitterly, it is evident,
and no simile is base enough to satisfy his scorn. He pro-
ceeds : " The walls are extreamly dark and dismal " (the
present minister has seen them as sooty as soot could make
them), "having never received a trowel of plaister since it
was built. The roof most gloomy and admissive of air and
drift at all quarters. The windows are so little and confin'd
that they can scarce admit so much light as is necessary
to read the Bible, so that it requires no small degree of
resolution and patience to attend divine service there through
all the rigours of winter. Our meetings in this season
being so thin and small as to occasion great diminution
of publick funds ; our collections are dwindled to nothing.
The people complain that it's not in their power to attend,
* Heritors' Records.



222 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

and that it's fit to freeze and cramp all the powers of body
and mind. Now, methinks, it argues no small contempt of
God and religion when men think no cost or finery too
much to bestow upon themselves, and yet adopt the
meanest accommodation as good enough for the service
of God. The pious King of Israel could not be easy in
his house of cedar, while the Ark of God dwelt in curtains,
and his wise son. King Solomon, first built the temple of
the Lord before he built the palace for himself And such as
are well disposed will not think much to honour God with
a small part of the substance He, as the Universal Pro-
prietor of all, has conferred on them, I would not here
be understood to plead for decoration, but simple decency
in the house of God." " After this just representation of
the case, the heritors present or by their proxies to the
number of seven, frankly took the matter under their con-
sideration, and narrowly inspected the whole fabrick, and
thought necessary to plaister the whole walls and roof of
the church, that the lights should be enlarged, the floors
of the two galleries mended, viz., that of Carfrae and that
of Glengelt, in order to prevent the dirt and dust from
falling down on those below, who for some time past have
suffered considerable abuse that way. Thought it proper that
both said galleries should be closely plaistered up below."
On 17th March 1775, all this was carried out. His joys
in this direction were multiplied in 1784, when a new manse
was given to him. There had been propositions of patching
up the old one. It measured 32^ ft. long by 14 ft. broad,
inside the walls. The Marquis of Tweeddale advised a new
one, and a new one was at once contracted for. The new one
was to be 37 ft. by 20 ft. within the walls, but it was made
39 ft. long. The walls were up by September of 1784, and



THE MINISTERS AND THEIR TIMES 223

when Whitsunday of 1785 brought the summer once more to
the hills, the minister was snug within his braw new house.

In those days the ministers thought it no disrespect to the
dead to pasture their four-footed property on the graveyard.
The heritors asked Scott to " give up all right of pasturing
the churchyard with his cattle in time coming, to which he
consented." But he had no rights of grazing to give away,
although the grass was his. The heritors found a quid pro
quo, however, when Scott refused to let them "finish the
churchyard coping of the dyke with ' fail ' taken from the
churchyard," and they had to find it in Glengelt lands at last,
and, of course, Borthwick complained ! They were plunder-
ing his land !

Mr Scott raised a process in 1778 of augmentation of
stipend, and on the 27th January 1779, obtained it to a con-
siderable degree, though in consequence of the different
disputes among the heritors the locality was not adjusted
until the 21st January 1789. But even with the augmenta-
tion, his yearly income did not exceed £^ i sterling. In his
petition to the Lords of Council and Session he says : " The
parish of Channelkirk is situated on a very mountainous
country, and, of course, exceedingly cold, the manse and
kirk itself being placed near the top of Soutrahill, so that the
victual raised in this country is of a very bad quality, very
often obliged to be cut green, and badly winnowed." As
the stipend fell to be paid in kind till 1808, unripe victual
would be a great source of misery to him. It would not sell,
it would not keep. In his account book,* dating from 175 1,
he notes that he got delivery of bear from certain parties, and
notes " infield corn " to show its superiority over " outfield corn."
He grumbles that some farmers give him " bad oats," that one
* Channelkirk Stipend Case, Teind Office, Edinburgh.



224 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

has " three pennies too little," and that another is " wanting
a bagfull and a full use and wont." No doubt these were
" contumacious seceders," as he styles them irefully. He
wrestles in law with Borthwick for two stones of cheese, and
to the present day the stipend is usually 12s. richer because
of them. John Pringle, Soutrahill, was accustomed to buy
his meal, but occasionally he had to take it to Dalkeith
market. In 1778, he complains that "people in the parish
are obliged to carry everything to the capital in order to get
ready sale for their different commodities, being the only
method they have of making up their rents, which are at
present come to a great height. This circumstance drains
the country of all the necessaries of life, and obliges the
minister and others standing in need of them to pay double,
and sometimes triple, the prices which he could have had
them at when first he entered the parish." Servants' wages
are also at a great extent. He cannot have a manservant
under £$ sterling yearly, at least, even of the very worst sort,
and if they understand their business, considerably higher ;
and maidservants, £^ or £4 yearly. He also complains of
increased expenses in going to and coming from Presbytery.

Mr Scott mentions a few local matters which are of
interest. A new school was built in 1760. On the 23rd of
August 1 76 1, Dr Jamieson's corpse stood all night in the
kirk, for which ;^I2, 12s. Scots (£1, is. sterling) were
charged. The same month James Wilson, a " contumacious
seceder," is prosecuted for the usual sin, and fined by the
Commissary in ;6^io Scots (i6s. ojd.). The " seceders" gave
him considerable trouble. It appears that although they
did not attend the parish church the fines accruing from
their " penalties " were due the church for the poor, and
refusal to pay resulted in compulsion.



THE MINISTERS AND THEIR TIMES 225

* Mason's wages were, in 1764, 14s, (Scots) per day (is. 2d.
sterling). Labourers' wages, lod. sterling a day. Bad
money was very prevalent. In 1757, the Church sells 16 lbs.
of bad copper at lod. Scots per lb. = ;^8 Scots, or 13s. o|d.
sterling. A coffin costs is. Sfd. ; a stone of meal is. sterling ;
digging a grave cost 3d. ; a new spade cost 3s. 2d. The bell
was rung for a year for 4s. ; for an irregular marriage the
fine was 5s. A new tent for the Sacrament cost £2^ 6s. 4|d.
(sterling).

It is noted that on the 4th October 1772, a man is
buried in Channelkirk who had been murdered at Hunters-
hall, or Lowrie's Den, an event which must have caused
some consternation in the district.

There is a rather striking sculptured tombstone with a
woman's bust roughly chiselled on it, and a dog recumbent
at the base,, which is set against the south-west corner of
the present church. " Thomas Watherstone, Brewer in
Cranston, gave to the poor 5s. (5d.) fori liberty to set up "
this "monument" in memory of his father and mother, in
the year 1781.

The year 1774 seems to have been specially hard upon
the poor, and these " poor " years came rather frequent.
The" heritors and church had always plenty of outlets for their
charity. When a person was taken on the list of " enrolled
poor," an inventory of their possessions was taken by the
heritors' clerk, and when said person died, these were sold
for behoof of the remaining poor of the parish. The hungry
living had mouthfuls in turn of the hungered dead. It was
also necessary that the "travelling poor," yclept "tramps"
in our irreverent days, should be conveyed from parish to
parish if need demanded, and there are many items of
expense to " carting " this, that, and the other one to " Fala."

P



226 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

In 1784, " Two cartload of women in great distress going
to Fala " is one out of several.

Mr Scott, in the course of his long ministry in Channel-
kirk, had his bits of trials and worries also. He is frequently
"sick," and on 21st and 28th of June, and the 5th of July, of
the year 1772, three Sundays consecutively, he is in bed
and there is " no sermon," " the minister being bad of a sore
leg he gote bruised upon Lauder tent." With our reminis-
cences of tents as peculiar only to fairs and fetes, with
jocund lads and lasses crammed along the rough deal tables,
this " bruise " of the minister's leg might have had profane
suggestions. But the " tent " of those days was strictly
identified with " Sacrament day," and some accident due
to imperfect construction or strength of timber had been
the cause. Perhaps he was a man of robust build, and his
weight had proved too much for the erection. Ten years
previous to his death there are signs of the old man
growing less able for his labours. He is " badly " in June
and July of 1782. "No sermon" occurs many times in
1784, and during the several years given to him between
that and 1792, when he died, there is an increasing number
of times when the church is vacant on Sunday. In 1785,
there are sixteen Sundays on which there are no services ;
in 1786, twenty-two Sundays, and so on, till the year 1791,
when there are thirty-one Sundays on which there is no
service. No doubt, both people and Presbytery were kind
and sympathetic, and the inquisitorial " schedule " had not
yet been invented, and ministers were still supposed to have
some remnant of personal interest left in their spiritual
work. So good and godly David Scott (for not even
ministers were " pious " or " holy " in those days, but just
" gude and godlie ") was permitted to descend to the grave



THE MINISTERS AND THEIR TIMES 227

in peace, not even " visitations of presbytery " breaking in
upon his calm, nor " committees of inquiry " harassing with
obtrusive interrogations his solemn walk through the valley
of the shadow.

It might be permitted to us to reflect here that just as
nations are often more deeply touched by the lingering
dying of its great ones, than by all the renowned deeds
which they have done during their career, so parishes may
sometimes reap deeper spiritual fruit from the passing away
before their eyes of their minister, through clouded days and
years, than from all the services he has ever conducted in
church. ■ The old man is nowadays shunted into respectable
invisibility, in order that the clapper and happer of the
mill of sermons and services may continue under the
" assistant and successor," the " powers that be " being
oblivious to the fact, that the pensive setting sun may have
as fruitful an effect in "deepening the spiritual life of the
people " as when he rises in his strength, and that the old
Samuels may prove as potent influences for good to their
people as the valiant and youthful Davids.

When our minister was laid to rest in the days of April
1792 — he having died on the i6th of that month — he was in
his 82nd year, and the 40th of his ministry. He married,
4th March 1772, Elizabeth Borthwick, who died 30th August
1803.

Thomas Murray — 1793- 1808

Thomas Murray, successor to David Scott, was the son
of Adam Murray, minister at Eccles, and was born 31st
May 1759, a few months later than the poet Burns. On
the 4th of November 1783, he was appointed a teacher in
George Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh ; but his ambition



228 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

carried him higher, and having equipped himself for the
ministry, he was duly licensed to preach the gospel on the
27th of May 1784, by the Presbytery of Chirnside. He was
ordained by the same court on the 2nd of September follow-
ing ("2nd February 1785," say the Earlston Records), as
minister of the Presbyterian dissenting congregation at
Wooler. After labouring there for five years, he became
assistant to James Scott, minister in Perth, in July 1789.
From there he came to Channelkirk, having been presented
by Hugh, Earl of Marchmont, the patron, on the i8th of
August 1792. On 26th December of the same year, " Rev.
Thomas Murray's call moderate " ; and on Tuesday, 26th
February 1793, he was "addmitted minister of the Gospel
of this parish," * He was thirty-four years of age when he
came to Channelkirk, and at his admission he had alive three
children, viz., Adam, born 27th June 1783, and two daughters,
twins, Anne and Jean, born 6th May 1785. Adam became
a merchant in Greenock.

After looking round his new dwelling, he craves the
heritors in May to cure the manse kitchen of smoke, build
a porch over the door (which then looked southwards
towards the church), putty and paint all the manse windows,
shelve closets and repair locks, beamfill the garret, put a
surbase round the rooms, lay the barn floor, make new stalls
in the stable " heck and manger," and loft part of the same.
He also wants a dyke built round gardens and churchyard,
five feet high, stone and lime, a pine dyke and gate betwixt
the manse and the stable, and, last but not least, a new
pulpit. All these must have been in the last stage of
disgrace, for they were all granted.

Mr Murray is yet remembered by one at least of our
* Kirk Records.



THE MINISTERS AND THEIR TIMES 229

paf ishioners as a strong, powerful man, with whom it would
have been dangerous to differ! Our good old informant,
Thomas Scott, still pulling his " lirigels " at eighty-four years
of age in Oxton, relates that one day in the churchyard, a
" throwch " * was being laid over a tomb. This species of
stone is laid flat and foursquare over the entire grave. The
Rev. Mr Murray stood looking on, but the "hands" being
few, he assisted in lifting the heavy stone into its position.
This he did, balancing the others in lifting, the rest of the
men being at one side, and he alone at the other. This deed
of strength was long commented on.

He had occasion to show his strength in other. ways. In
the year 1797, on the 7th November, at a Presbytery meeting
held in Lauder, " Mr Murray represented to the Presbytery
that.Dr Foord (minister at Lauder) came into his parish
and dispensed the sacrament of baptism without his per-
mission, and this being expressly contrary to the established
laws of this Church, the Presbytery appointed the moderator
to rebuke Dr Foord for said conduct, and which being done
accordingly, it was enjoined to be more attentive to the laws
of the Church in all time coming." An offence like this is
committed in our days with every freedom, the boundaries
of a parish being practically imaginary, but in these days
the minister tolerated no intrusion upon his special pastorate,
and Dr Ford, at the bar of his Presbytery, and rebuked,
as it were, on his own hearth-stone, had occasion to reflect
upon it !

Mr Murray seems to have had a gifted sense of detecting
heresy as well as the ability to administer chastisement to
over-zealous brethren. Indeed, he held the reins of spiritual

* A throwch or thruch differs from a table-stone in lying flat on the
ground without supporting pedestals. .



230 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

supervision more strictly than perhaps would now be tolerated
in the minister. He tells an offender bluntly that he is
unguarded in his speech, " especially when he got the worse
of liquor " ; a state of matters which might easily happen.
Some members of his congregation do not walk with
sufficient propriety, and this is how he deals with them :
"2 1st January 1798, the which day the session being met
(in the church) and constituted, Mr Murray represented to
the members of the session that several individuals of the
congregation had totally absented themselves for many
months past from public worship without assigning any
reason for such improper conduct, and that on a late
occasion the following persons, Mr Somerville of Airhouse,
Mr Bertram of Hartsyde, Mr Douglas of Kirktonhill, and
Mr David TurnbuU in Upton, after attending a funeral to
the churchyard of Channelkirk, at the very hour of public
worship, instead of entering the church, did, in the face of
the congregation, turn their back upon it, and retire to
Airhouse. The session are unanimously of opinion that
such conduct was highly indecent and scandalous, and that
the individuals above-mentioned are not entitled to sealing
ordinances in this society till they shall have satisfied the
session for such improper behaviour. They are also of
opinion that no person is entitled to sealing ordinances who
shall absent themselves from public worship for six Sabbaths
in succession, without offering some reasonable excuse."

A year passes away and matters do not improve. To
the above recalcitrants was united the farmer of Carfrae,
Robert Hogarth, notable in his day. He and Somerville,
especially, seem to have carried defiance to the utmost.
For two years they never came to church. Mr Murray
expostulates, but they appear obdurate, and the case is



THE MINISTERS AND THEIR TIMES 231

referred to a committee of ministers. They advised the
Kirk-Session "not to admit them to the Lord's Supper
unless they should solemnly promise to be regular in their
attendance on divine worship." Notice of this decision
was served upon them, but "they did not think proper to
comply." " In consequence of which Mr Robert Hogarth
was refused a token by the Session on his personal applica^
tion." Somerville did not ask it !

Probably these ostentatious stayaways had not approved'
of Mr Murray's appointment to the parish ! Nine or ten
years do not lessen, but rather, under certain circumstances,
increase the rabid virulence which is created at a ministerial
ordination. Religious rancour is never less deep than the
place it springs from. But we are inclined to believe that
Mr Murray acted under a very high sense of a minister's
duties in such cases, and perhaps did not allow for the
commonplace in others. The case following bears corrobora-
tive evidence of this, it appears. It happens on. the 21st
of April 1799. Charles Dickson, a " bird " in Kelphope,
is of a religious turn of mind, and like most enthusiasts
of the kind, spreads his " views " abroad unsparingly.
He has been thinking of such high matters as the divinity
of the Trinity, and it is noised over the parish that he is
a sceptic ! This comes to the ears of the minister and his
Session, and forthwith Charles, the "bird," is called before
them to answer to " charges." But when " interrogate con-
cerning the report that is spread abroad in the neighbour-
hood of his erroneous principles relating to the divinity of
the Trinity," Charles denies the rumour and declares himself
" soond." He is evidently shaking in his shoes, and is eager
to testify that he " firmly believed the Scriptures to be the
Word of God, the Eternity of the Trinity, and every other



232 HISTORY OF CH ANNELKIRK -

part of" the Christian religion as coritaiined in the Larger
and Shorter Catechism and Confession of Faith," and having
bolted such a bellyful of theological indigestibles, what could
the careful and devout Session do but vouch for Charles'
integrity and good doctrine with all due solemnity ? He
is dismissed with an ''Absolvo te" and a blessing, and no
doubt went up Kelphope glen that d^y with some thoughts
in his head which he did not want every one to know.
"Learn" him to be a sceptic I

Another instance of Mr Murray's vigilance. Over in
Glengelt, in 1803, Robert Anderson, honest man, carrier,^ and
doing some business that waiy across Soutra to the benefit
of the parish and for his own profit doubtless, encroaches
on Sunday hours to a perilous degree, and must be hauled
up and cautioned. Therefore, " Robert Anderson, tennant
in New Channelkirk, compeared, and being interrogate by
the Modr. (Mr Murray), whether it was true or not (as
reported), that the waggons with which he was connected
come or returned from his place on the Sabbath mornings
or evenings, he answered that they had done so sometimes
(although not intended) by the driver's mismanagement or
drunkenness or other accidents, but in time coming he
should take better care," etc., etc. "The Session desired
him, and the" company with which he was connected, to take
better Care and not encroach upon the Sabbath in time to
come, or then they- would recommend their conduct to the
civil law, and also deprive him of church privileges ! "
Truly, there were authorities in Channelkirk in those days.
Condemned to be cut off by Kirk and State for breaking the
stillness of the Lammermoors by a rumbling of waggons on-
a Sunday morning !

Mr Anderson was the first to start a waggon to carry



THE MINISTERS AND THEIR TIMES 233

goods over Soutra (it was four-wheeled and was 'drawn by
two horses), and was succeeded by James Turnbull, Carfrae
milt, who, however, ran four coaches between Edinburgh
and Kelso. The " coach," which was bought up latterly by
the North British Railway influence, was a great advantage
to" the district, and was much missed.

In 1799, Mr Murray acquired a landed interest in the
parish as well as a spiritual one, Heriotshall became his
property on the 13th July of that year.* He held it to 1807,
when it was put under trustees. Another year saw him
numbered with the dead. He died in Edinburgh on the
26th October i8o8.t He was for fifteen years minister
at Channelkirk.

Robust in body, he was also robust and aggressive in
mind. During the whole time of his incumbency he may
be said to have been at constant legal war with his heritors.
He had many disputes with them in reference to his stipend.
In 1793, he raised a process of augmentation and locality ;
and on the 20th May 1795 obtained an augmentation of
three chalders of victual. But several heritors felt aggrieved
at the allocation and went to law with him. It seems that
there was a deficiency of teinds to answer the augmentation
which caused some irritation, and to better the case foi*
himself he raised, in 1807, a process of reduction of valuations
against the Titular and nearly all of the heritors. He died
before he had made much progress with the caSe.

While careful of the ministerial interests "of Channelkirk,
which must have cost him more than he ever gained, a:nd for
which one, at" least, of his successors is grateful, he kept' an
eye upon the good of others. He called for more help to



Online LibraryArchibald AllanHistory of Channelkirk → online text (page 18 of 50)