John Guthrie Smith.

The parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history online

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jurisdiction within the realm was abolished, and an Act was passed making it
criminal to say or hear Mass. Confiscation of goods was the punishment of
the first offence, banishment of the second, and death of the third, toleration
being not understood, and still a long way off. A commission was also given
to Knox and others to draw up a Book of Regulations for the new Church.
The result of their labours was the production of the "First Book of Discipline."
Four orders of office-bearers in the Church were appointed, the Superintendent,
the Minister, the Elder, and the Deacon. It was proposed that the possessions
of the Ancient Church should be appropriated for the three great purposes of
the maintenance of the ministry, the education of the youth, and the sustenance
of the poor. Unfortunately, through the cupidity of the Barons, into whose
hands much of the Church's endowments had fallen, this excellent arrange-
ment was never fully realized, these rapacious gentry sneeringly calling it " a
devout imagination." The Collegiate Church of Dumbarton, along with its
property, rights, and privileges, and so much of the Strathblane ecclesiastical
estabhshment as still belonged to it, had fallen, as already shown, into the hands
of the Earls of Lennox. The Church, after a great deal of trouble, recovered
a portion of her ancient endowments, and there was nothing John Knox was
more anxious about than this ; but the greater part of her property was lost to
her for ever. It was in 1560, too, that the first General Assembly of the Church
of Scotland met. It was but a small body, and for long afterwards so few
were the preachers, that one minister had charge of several parishes, assisted
by an exhorter or reader, who did not preach or administer the Sacraments,
but read the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, for the service for some
time was partly liturgical, and partly " conceived," or extempore.



c. 1560-1594.
The Reader at Strathblane at this time was John Cuik, and by 1574 the
parish had the third part of the services of a regular minister, "Johnne
Stoddert," who had charge also of Fintry and Campsie, assisted by a reader
at each.i He lived at Campsie, and his stipend was £,(i(i 13s. 4d. Scots
money, or jQ^ us. id. sterling, with the Kirklands or glebe of Campsie.^
Mr. Cuik, the reader, lived at Strathblane as well as he could on the produce
of the glebe and ;^i6 Scots, or ^i 6s. 8d. sterling.

It may be interesting to know the form of service, and how Sunday was
observed in those early days in Strathblane, and to picture the day's proceedings
when both Mr. Stoddert, the minister, and Mr. Cuik, the reader, were present.
At seven o'clock a.m. the church bell begins to toll to warn the inhabitants to
prepare for service. At eight o'clock it again repeats the summons, and all
betake themselves to the sacred building. On entering the church the congre-
gation reverently uncover their heads, and kneeling, put up a silent prayer
to God for His blessing on the service. Mr. Cuik the reader, who is " decently
clad in grave apparel," having called over the roll or catalogue of the congre-
gation, and marked all absentees to be dealt with, proceeds to the lectern and
reads from the " Book of Common Order," the first prayer of the service, the
people all kneeling. This was called the " Confession of our Sins," and is a
beautiful spiritual composition. Other prayers from the Liturgy follow, and the
congregation rising from their knees, Mr. Cuik in an audible voice reads over
a suitable psalm, when the people all standing sing it to the regular tune which
was printed along with it in the psalter. The singing ends with the Gloria
Patri in these words —

*' Gloir to the Father and the Sone

And to the holie Gaist,

As it was in the beginning.

Is now, and aye shall last."^
The reading of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is then pro-

^ It is interesting to know that the ancestor of a Strathblane lady, Elizabeth Agnes Dunmore
Napier, of Ballikinrain, now Mrs. Graham Stirling of Craigbarnet, was so well employed, in
those early Protestant days, for it is recorded that "Johne Naper of Ballykynrane was reidare
at Killerne."

^This seems a very moderate income, but, small as it was, Mr. Stoddert was able to leave
some money for the benefit of the poor, as shown by an entry in the Register of the Presby-
tery of Glasgow, 1st June, 1608, where mention is made of " Siluir fundet be Johnne Stoddert
minister of Campsie to the poore of this citie of Glasgow."

^This is the form of doxology for a common metre psalm. The "Conclusions" or Dox-
ologies were also arranged for other metres.


ceeded with, and this bringing the first part of the service to a close, the bell
again rings, and Mr. Cuik leaving the lectern, Mr. Stoddert, the minister, who
has just come from Campsie, enters the pulpit and kneels for some minutes in
silent devotion. This done, in a "conceived" or extempore prayer he prays
for illumination and assistance in preaching the Word and for a teachable spirit
in the hearers. He then puts his hat upon his head, as do all his audience,
and gives out his text. It is nowhere recorded whether this ancient minister
of Strathblane was a man of gifts or not, but taking it for granted he was, he
would be frequently interrupted during the delivery of his discourse, as was
the custom at that time, by the applause and approbation of the people.
The sermon being concluded, a prayer for the whole estate of Christ's Church
follows, the service ending with the Lord's Prayer and the Creed; another
psalm is then sung, the blessing is pronounced, and the people separate. In
the afternoon they again assemble ; the children of the congregation are publicly
examined in a portion of the catechism, which being concluded, the minister
gives a short discourse on the doctrines they have just been handhng, and
the blessing being pronounced, the service ends. This service as now de-
scribed is exactly as it used to be performed over a great part of Scotland for
the first seventy or eighty years after the Reformation, and a very good one it was.
After the morning and afternoon services the people gave themselves up to
recreations and games, for while attendance at all the services of the church
was rigidly enforced, at this early time lawful sports and amusements, after
service was over, were tolerated, though not altogether approved of by the


c. 1594-1597-
Mr. Stoddert had ceased to be minister of Strathblane before 1594, for in
that year Mr. James Gillespie was settled in the parish. Two years after-
wards, however, he was translated to Kilmaronock. Of the further acts or
history of those first two Protestant ministers of Strathblane nothing is recorded.
Up to 1592 the mixed Episcopal and Presbyterian form of Church government
as originally arranged at the Reformation continued to exist, but in that year
a pure Presbyterian polity — regular kirk sessions, presbyteries, and synods — was
established by Act of Parliament. In 1597, however. Episcopacy, though in

1 In fact it did not seem to be thought an improper thing for a minister to keep a 'public-
house, provided it was a well conducted one, as the following from the proceedings of the
General Assembly of 1576 proves :—

"Ane Minister or Reader that tapis ale, beir, or wyne and keeps ane open taverne
sould be exorted be the Commissioners to keep decorum."


a modified shape, became the estabHshed form of the Protestant Chmxh of
Scotland, and this continued till the celebrated General Assembly of 1638,
when Presbytery again triumphed for a time.


In 1597 Mr. James Stirling of Baldernock was translated to Strathblane.
He had taken his degree at the University of Glasgow in 1585, and in 1588,
on the presentation of Stirling of Keir, he became minister of Baldernock. He
was probably a relative of the Keir family or of the Strathblane Stirlings. Mr.
Stirling did not take any prominent position in the ecclesiastical controversies
of the day, and no doubt he conducted worship in the old Strathblane church
very much in the same form as already described, till he fell into bad health
in 1632, when Mr. Allan Ferguson was appointed " helper." Mr. Stirling's wife
died in 1627, and he lived with his only daughter, Mary, in the old original
vicarage house or manse — not the one removed by Dr. Hamilton, but a still
older one which stood just behind the present manse, but a little farther up
the hill. The church, which was in a very bad state of repair, was on the
same site as the present one.


Mr. Ferguson had been a student in Glasgow University,^ where he took
his degree in 1623. During the sixteen years he was in Strathblane he took
full charge of the parish, and attended the meetings of Presbytery. From the
time Mr. Ferguson came to Strathblane in 1632, onwards to the Revolution of
1688, there were unfortunately but short intervals of peace and quiet in the
Church of Scotland. Without discussing the causes of dissension, it is pretty
clear the blame cannot be laid entirely on either party, for there were many
and serious faults on the part both of the Stewart Kings and of the Lords of
the Covenant and Covenanters. The conflicts and disputes on both sides
were often far more for political than religious ends, and if both sides could
have agreed to go back to the excellent form of Church government, beautiful
service, liberal ideas, and concise confession — all as arranged by John Knox
and the other early Scots reformers — it would have been much better for Scot-
land not only in the seventeenth century but also in the nineteenth. Mr.

^ Among the subscriptions towards the College of Glasgow in August, 1632, is the follow-
ing : — "Mr. Allan Fergusoun, minister at Streljlaine, 20 lib."


Ferguson took a leading part in the movements which took place in 1637-8 in
consequence of the attempt made by King Charles I. to introduce a Service
Book into Scotland, one of the first results of which was the renewal of the
Solemn League and Covenant in February, 1638. Copies of this document,
signed by Montrose, Loudon, and other nobles, as well as barons, burgesses,
and ministers, were sent for signature all over Scotland, and at the same time
a Board, drawn from the different orders of subscribers, was formed, the mem-
bers of which resided in Edinburgh and managed all the affairs of the Church.
This Board, knoAvn as " The Tables," was the main instrument in procuring
from the King the withdrawal of the Service Book and the calling together of
the famous General Assembly of 1638. The Earl of Montrose, the principal
heritor, and Mr. Ferguson, the minister of Strathblane, were both members of
" The Tables." In a Letter of Instructions issued to the Presbyteries in view
of the meeting of the General Assembly at Glasgow in the autumn of 1638,
the signatures are appended of " Montrose " and " M. Alan Fergusoun at Strae-
blain." In 1642 the records of the Presbytery of Dumbarton inform us that
William Campbell was appointed reader in Strathblane. A reader was not an
ordained minister, and Mr. Campbell came to Strathblane to fill in part Mr.
Ferguson's place, who was with the army as chaplain to one of the Scots
regiments, who in 1641-3 were under Leslie and Munro fighting the rebels
in Ireland. It is not recorded when Mr. Ferguson returned, but his presence
was much needed in Strathblane in 1644. It was in that year that the
gallant Montrose, leaving Mugdock, where he had been living in retirement
for some years, began his brilliant campaign in Scotland, designed as a
diversion in favour of King Charles I., to whose side he had now gone over,
and whicli, though at first successful, ended in ruin at Philiphaugh in 1645.
The minister was required in Strathblane simply because his flock were going
astray, for among Montrose's officers were Stirling of Glorat — then a Strathblane
laird — and young Craigbarnet ; and among the troopers were parishioners of the
name of Grahame, Smith in Craigend, and otliers. There are traces in the
Presbytery Records of the punishment meted out to some of those erring sheep
on their return to the fold, the following being the process : —

" The Presbyterie having first received thair confessione upon thair knees,
and the acknowledgment of thair offence with signes of sorrow for it,
ordainis them to present and perfect their repentance in the Kirk of
Strathblaine conforme to the Act of General Assemblie."
And again at another Presbytery —

" Compeered James Ghrame of Killerne and confessed that being
brought up in the house of James Ghrame somtyme Earll of Mon-
trose he did follow him in his late wickit malifjnant course."


He professed sorrow for his offence, and his sentence was —

" And also in lyke manner upon his knees before the congregation of
Strathblaine upon the kirk floore to confess his sinne and to crave
Gods pardonne and this being done the minister of Strathblaine is to
present the I>eague and Covenant to him to be subscrybed."
Mr. Allan Ferguson had married in 1638 Christina Nicholl, and, after her
death, secondly, Katherine Edmonstone, and one or both of these ladies
had proved fruitful vines, and the young olive plants of the worthy minister
required sustenance. He began therefore about 1648 to feel anxious for an
augmentation, which, considering his whole stipend was two chalders victual,
i.e, 32 bolls of oats and 50 merks Scots money = ^2 15s. yd. sterling, was not
to be wondered at. A good opportunity occurred for raising the question on
his receiving a call to the parish of Botliwell. Mr. Ferguson intimated this
call to the Presbytery, but evidently he would rather have remained at Strath-
blane if the people could have been induced to raise his stipend. They were
frequently exhorted by the Presbytery to do so, but nothing followed ; and while
matters were in this state the parish of Drymen gave Mr. Ferguson a call.
This too he was unwilling to accept, and the Presbytery, anxious to get an
augmentation for him, and a manse built, directed him " to deall with his
parishioners for obtaining his reasonable desyrs anent his settling at Strathblane."
At the next meeting of Presbytery, 19th September, 1648, Mr. Ferguson was not
present, being " with the armie." This army was a force which Argyll, Eglinton,
and the clergy in the West Country were getting up to oppose the Army of the
" Engagement." The " Engagement" was an arrangement made with King Charles
I. by the Estates of the Kingdom of Scotland, whereby, in consideration of certain
promises made by him, an army under the Marquis of Hamilton was sent to his
help in England. This was done against the wishes of the clergy, who, furious
at the Parliament of Scotland for disregarding them, not only raised an opposing
force, but dealt severely with any unfortunate parishioner who had anything to do
with the Army of the Engagement. The Marquis was defeated in England, and
Argyll and the clergy disbanded their forces. Mr. Ferguson on his return failed
in his " dealings " with his parishioners, for at next Presbytery the " parishioners
of Straeblaine caled, compeared not," and though another effort was made by
sending Mr. John Stirling to exhort them from the pulpit of Strathblane to do
their duty, at the succeeding Presbytery they neither appeared nor made any
satisfactory proposal. The Presbytery, apparently thoroughly disgusted with them,
resolved to transport Mr. Ferguson without delay to Drymen, where the parish-
ioners, as they themselves expressed it in their call, stood " in great need in
these tymes both of daily Information of Publict Matters and exercise of
discipline against offenders who does and will yet take mor libertie to them-

2 c


selves to be ofifensive both to God and man if they be from under doctrine,
discipline, and chairge." On the 14th November, 1648, therefore, Mr. Ferguson
was formally transported " from his charge of ane minister helper at Strathblane "
and ordained " to be actually ressaivet to the ministrie at Drymen," and it is to
be hoped that the worthy man and his wife and family were better treated there
than they had been in Strathblane.^ At a meeting of the Presbytery of Dum-
barton on the 26th December, 1648, it was found on a strict investigation
that none of the brethren had any part in the late "Sinful Engagement," but
in several parishes certain parishioners had been engaged in it, and again
Strathblane was found in fault, Walter Stirling of Ballagan having taken part
in it, with the rank of captain-lieutenant. He was at once " suspendit from the
Covenant and Communion," and in this forlorn state he rem.ained till January,
1650, when it appears from an entry in the records that "Walter Stirling of
Ballagan and others who were concerned in the late unlawful Engagement,"
were " remitted to conferences with Mr. Harrie Sempill, Mr. Allan Fer-
gussone, and Mr. John Stirling." The efforts of these three brethren were
successful, for at a Presbytery held on the 12th February, 1650, it was reported
that Walter Stirling had repented, and he was thereupon ordained to make his
submission in Strathblane Church and sign the Covenant on the second Lord's
Day following. Mr. Ferguson had left Strathblane in the autumn of 1648,
and in the spring of 1649 the Presbytery sent a deputation to the parish to
see whether or not the old minister, Mr. Stirling, was fit for any ministerial
duty, or what steps the parish was taking to provide a helper " with ane com-
petent stipend." The visitors to the parish reported that Mr. Stirling was
utterly unable by reason of great old age " for the right exercise of any part of
the ministerial function," and that the parishioners were willing to take steps to
maintain him, and also provide a proper stipend for a helper. The Presbytery,
however, knew the Strathblane people pretty well, and pronounced the follow-
ing very sensible deliverance : — " The Presbyterie considdering the said Mr,
James his great old age, and inabilitie perfectly known to them all, and the
offers of the Paroch made in former tymes qlk wer not dewly accomplished,
have thought it fit and necessare that the s'^ Mr. James as now being (emeri-
tus) sould cease from his laboures in the ministrie without any the least
Imputatioun of blam to him, and that befoir the kirk be plantit his mainten-
ance be secured so as the Intrant be not prejudicit in any p' of the stipend,
and ordaines the prns no mor to Importoune or Imploy the s'^ Mr. James to
Baptisme or Manage or any p' of the Ministerall Calling and this to be intimat

^ Mr. Ferguson was a Resolutioner— the moderate party in the Church— and Principal Baillie,
writing in 1656, calls hiin "a right honest and able man, more than the most of his neigh-
bmirs.' — Letters and yoiinial, vol. iii. p. 315.



to the s'^ Mr. James and to the Prns pubhcly be Mr. Johne Stirling minister
at Badernock who is appointit to preach at Straeblaine the nixt second Lord's
Day." Midsummer arrived and still nothing was done in Strathblane, and Mr.
Harrie Sempill, who had been sent there to arrange about the stipend, so that
a minister might be provided, reported to the Presbytery that he saw little or
no appearance of any arrangements being made.


Matters went on thus till the spring of 1650, when there appeared before
the Presbytery John Edmonstone, Walter Stirling of Ballagan, by this time
purged from his sinful courses, and others of Strathblane, and requested that
Mr. John Cochran should be appointed to preach at Strathblane, with a view to
his settlement there. The Laird of Luss also appeared, wishing him settled in
his parish. At a succeeding Presbytery, i6th April, 1650, it was found, that as
Mr. Cochran could not preach in Gaelic,^ he was unsuitable for Luss, his call
to Strathblane was therefore sustained. Mr. Cochran was a young minister,
having taken his degree in Edinburgh in 1646, and this was his first parish.
The Presbytery very properly, before allowing him to go into it, took steps to
have him made more comfortable than Mr. Eerguson. It was arranged, there-
fore, that the stipend should be augmented and a new manse built. This was
erected on a different site from the old one, which was allowed to stand, and
in which continued to live the daughter of the old minister, Mr. Stirling, who
died this year Father of the Church of Scotland, in the eighty- fifth year of his
age and sixty-third of his ministry. The Presbytery took a good deal of trouble
" anent the desyning of the stance of the manse of Strathblane," but finally
they fixed upon a spot on the other side of the burn from the present manse,
near a large tree in the present garden, and here was built the manse which
stood till it was pulled down when Dr. Hamilton erected the present one. Mr.
Cochran was not settled in his new house till well on in 165 1, but he began
to do duty in May, 1650. It was in this month that the great Marquis of
Montrose, who was the principal man in the parish, had been taken prisoner
in the North, when engaged in an unsuccessful attempt to further the cause of
King Charles II. His enemies, therefore, were in a state of high exultation,
and the Presbytery of Dumbarton, who were mostly, however, on the moderate

■• " It is fund by the grave attestationes of the said Mr. Johne that he is not able to instruct
eather be preachinij or Cateechising the Highland parochine of Lus in thair awn language, nor
that he expectis he can attaine thairto alter many yearis conversing with them."— (Presb.
Rec, l6th April, 1650.)



side of the Church, were, or feigned to be, so also. Their records of 14th May,
1650, contain the following : — " The Publict thanksgiving for the overthrow of
James Grahame and his adherents ordained to be keepit Wednesday com eight
days, and the new Psalmes to be begune the s'^ daye,^ whereof intimatione
to be made the next Sabbath," and Mr. John Cochran was ordered to keep
it in Strathblane. It is probable that Mr. Cochran, as in duty bound, carried out
this order, whatever he thought of it, but doubtless he would have rather a
poor congregation. Neither the Ballagan, the Broadgate, the Leddriegreen, nor
many of the Edenkill people would be at church, and certainly nobody from
Mugdock or Craigend. Possibly the Duntreath family and tenants might be
there, for it is a fact, strange as it may seem now-a-days, that the only people
of any consequence in the parish of Strathblane who were Whigs at that time
were the Edmonstones of Duntreath.

As soon as Mr. Cochran was fairly settled in Strathblane he took some
important steps, and it is minuted in the Session Records that one of the first
of them was to purchase a sand-glass, which he no doubt placed conveniently
near the pulpit. This showed a wise resolution to govern himself and keep his
sermons within a reasonable length by watching the flight of time as indicated
by this hour-glass. An entry immediately following shows that while thus careful
of his own doings, there was to be no trifling with ill-conducted parishioners, for
it is recorded that he paid ten shillings out of the session funds "for hinging of
the joggs at the kirk doore." The "joggs" was an ancient Scottish instrument
of punishment, and consisted of an iron collar fastened to the wall by a
chain, and in it the necks of delinquents, such as absentees from church and
other criminals, were inserted, who there remained in a painful and un-
dignified attitude, fearful warnings to other transgressors. These entries are
suggestive, for while it would be presumptuous in the extreme to suggest any
resuscitation of the sand-glass, the joggs might still be useful, and it is to be
feared if every neglecter of the services of the Church of Strathblane was treated
as of old these useful instruments would not always be found empty or suffered to
rust from lack of employment. But Mr. Cochran's improvements did not stop here.
He shortly afterwards had built within the church " ane new publick place of

Online LibraryJohn Guthrie SmithThe parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history → online text (page 25 of 45)