John Guthrie Smith.

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

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The Presbytery appointed a committee to inquire into the affair and examine
witnesses, and the end of the matter was that his charges against the minister
were found groundless, and he was laid under the sentence of Lesser Excom-
munication till he should repent and humble himself^

On the 4th May, 1784, Mr. Smith intimated to the Presbytery a call from
Kinross, and on the 12th of the same month he was loosed from his charge of
Strathblane, and again the parish parted with their minister with sincere


At a meeting of the Presbytery of Dumbarton on the loth August, 1784,
a presentation to the parish of Strathblane from the Duke of Montrose in favour
of the Rev. Alexander M'Aulay, minister at Monzie, was produced, and every-
thing being in order, the induction took place on the 3rd September following.

Beyond another visitation of the manse by the Presbytery, which resulted
in further repairs, there is nothing of interest in the ecclesiastical history of the
parish during Mr. M'Aulay's incumbency. On the 4th August, 1789, he had a
presentation to the parish of Cardross, but as the right to the patronage was
disputed, and a lawsuit ensued, it was not till 28th April, 1791, that he was
loosed from his charge at Strathblane and entered on his new duties.


At the meeting of the Presbytery of Dumbarton, 28th June, 1791, a present-

^ Picsb. and Sess. Kecurcls.



ation to the parish of Strathblane by the Duke of Montrose in favour of Mr.
Gavin Gibb was produced, and everything being in order, and the parish agree-
able, the reverend gentleman was inducted on the 22nd September of the same

Mr. Gibb had previously been minister of Fintry, and his removal to Strath-
blane was a fortunate event for the latter parish, for while it is clear that he was
an orthodox divine from the fact of his being made a Doctor of Divinity by the
University of Glasgow in 1804, his judicious proceedings in the parish show that
he was also well adapted to look after the secular affairs of the community. He
was an excellent practical farmer, and his example seems to have been valuable,
for a report on the agriculture of the district, written in 1808,1 declared that
"Strathblane is now the best cultivated parish in this neighbourhood, and
presents some admirable specimens of husbandry, yet the Rev. Dr. Gibb, at
his admission about sixteen years ago, obtained dung for the carriage. One
farmer in the neighbourhood, who had accumulated a large quantity, considered
it such a nuisance that he lent his teams to assist in removing it, and as the
work was thought amazingly arduous, his example was followed by the whole
parish." The intelligent cultivation of the soil thus commenced by Dr. Gibb
has ever since continued a feature in the parish.

In 1791, before Dr. Gibb's admission, the new road from Glasgow to Balfron
was made, and the glebe was thereby cut up and a part of it appropriated to
the public, for which no compensation had ever been paid to the parish. In
1795 Dr. Gibb brought the matter before the Presbytery, who appointed a
committee to help him, and so well were affairs managed that by the 3rd May,
1796, he was able to report that a satisfactory bargain had been concluded with
the Road Trustees. ^

Dr. Gibb's great work, however, was the procuring for the parish of a new
church. In 1799 he first brought the subject before a willing and liberal
body of heritors, and in 1803 the church was built.^

Dr, Gibb was translated to St. Andrew's Church, Glasgow, on the 12th
January, 1809.

^Farmer's Magazine, 1808, vol. ix. p. 200.

^ The report of the Committee of the Presbytery was to the effect that the Road Trustees
met them, and it was found that i rood and 16 falls had been taken off the glebe, value ;^ii
5s. sterling, and that damages to the extent of^i sterling had been done to the glebe other-
wise. As it could not be arranged with the laird of Craigbarnet for a piece of ground of this
value, the sum of £12 5s. was left in the hands of the Trustees upon a note of acceptance
by their Treasurer, payable to the Moderator of the Presbytery of Dumbarton, and that the
annual interest at the rate of five per cent, from the year 1791, when the road was taken off,
should be paid to the present incumbent of Strathblane and his successors in office, till the
principal be paid. — (Presb. Records, 3rd May, 1796.)

•* An account of the churches of Strathblane, old and new, is given in another chapter.



William Hamilton was licensed by the Presbytery of Hamilton, 4th Decem-
ber, 1804, being then twenty-four years of age. After being assistant at
Broughton and New Kilpatrick he was ordained in 1807 minister of St.
Andrew's Chapel, Dundee, and on the 14th September, 1809, he was inducted
to Strathblane on the presentation of the Duke of Montrose. In 1824 he
received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Glasgow.

Dr. Hamilton was an energetic minister, and set on foot many useful
schemes in the parish. Politics in Church and State, however, ran very high
during his time, and the active part he took in them no doubt injured his
usefulness with many of his parishioners. He was unfortunate, too, in being
constantly engaged in law-suits with his heritors, in the earlier part of his
ministry about teinds, and afterwards about the manse.

The results of these long litigations were (i) the locality of 1830-31 by
which the stipend was finally allocated at 103 bolls 2760 hppies meal, 9 bolls
2 firlots 2 pecks 2'V6o lippies bere, and ;^i39 6s. QV^d. in money, and (2)
the building in 1828 of a new manse.

This new manse was sadly wanted.

The Rev. John Cochran's manse of 1651 had given place to another on
the same site in 1732, and this one, in spite of large repairs at the close
of the century, was by 1826 in a very rotten and uncomfortable state. Dr.
Hamilton in his petition to the Presbytery of Dumbarton for repairs and more
accommodation states " that it was incurably damp, in a state of great disre-
pair, and most incommodious, there being only two public apartments on the
lower, and four bedrooms on the upper floor, besides kitchen and offices, that
the public rooms were extremely small, being only about 15 feet by 12, and
the height 7^ feet." The Presbytery found that additional accommodation of
two public rooms " of moderate dimensions " was required, and ordained " that
besides repairs such an addition should be made to the manse."

Several heritors having brought a suspension of this judgment, the Lord Ordin-
ary remitted to Robert Wright, Dean of Guild of Edinburgh, to inspect the manse
and report, and finally the court found — ^" That it is competent for a Presbytery
to order additions to be built to an old manse so as to render it suitable for
the minister," and found also "That the heritors are bound to be at the expense
of making the manse comfortably dry and free from damp," and " remitted to
the Presbytery to proceed accordingly." Lord Gillies, in giving his opinion,
said, " I think the minister should at once claim for a new manse." ^ The

^Shaw's Reports, vol. v. p. 913.







' ^B^^h^l^^^^^^S









matter ended in a compromise by which the heritors gave Dr. Hamilton a
sum of money, and allowed him to build a manse to his own taste. It was
finished in 1828, and beyond necessary repairs there has been little change on
it since. It was built on the opposite side of the Blane from the older manses,
and a few yards farther up the stream than the last.

Dr. Hamilton was never a robust man; a severe illness in 1833 still more
enfeebled him, and the following entry in the Session Records of the parish
briefly but suitably records the end of an active life : — " Dr. Hamilton preached
on Sabbath the 12th of April, 1835, from Prov. xi. 30, ' He that winneth souls
is wise,' and died on the Thursday following, being the i6th of the month." ^

He was buried in Strathblane Churchyard, in the corner where the remains
of so many of his predecessors are laid, and there an ample monument with
a long inscription testifies to his worth. Dr. Hamilton was the author of many
theological works, and his " Life and Remains," written by his son, the Rev.
James Hamilton, afterwards of London, was published in 1836.^


Dr. Hamilton's successor was the Rev. Hamilton Buchanan, who was pre-
sented to the parish by the Duke of Montrose, and duly ordained on the 17th
September, 1835. The Rev. Mathew Barclay of Old Kilpatrick officiated and
preached from i Corinthians ii. 2, " For I determined not to know anything
among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

Mr. Buchanan was the youngest son of John Buchanan, farmer in Trean,
near Callander, and Mary M'Nee his wife. Of his six brothers four were min-
isters of the Church of Scotland,^ the eldest being the Rev. Robert Buchanan
of Peebles, afterwards the popular and excellent Professor of Logic in the Uni-

1 Session Records, 26th April, 1835.

2 Dr. Hamilton's wife was Jane, daughter of Mr. William King of Paisley, and their
children were (i) Rev. James Hamilton, D.D., F.L.S. of London, a well known preacher and
literary man, born 1814, died 1867; (2) Rev. William Hamilton, minister of the Free Church
at Stonehouse, born 1816 ; (3) Elizabeth, born 1818, died 1831 ; (4) Mary, born 1820, died
1838 ; (5) Jane, born 1822, married the Rev. James Walker, minister of the Free Church at
Carnwath, died 1849; (6) Andrew, bom 1826.

3 Mr. Buchanan of Trean was no ordinary man, To educate five sons for the Church on
the profits of a small Highland farm rented at about C^o a year was in itself no mean
achievement ; but he was a poet, too, and translated Milton's " Paradise Lost " into Gaelic
verse as he followed the plough, stopping his horses from time to time to write down his com-
pleted stanzas. He was also a diligent student of the science of astronomy, and constructed
with his own hands celestial and terrestrial globes and an orrery. His sons in the Church of
Scotland were — Robert, of Peebles, afterwards the professor ; John, of Kingarth, in Bute ; Peter,
of Stitchell ; Thomas, of Logierate, afterwards of Methven ; and Hamilton, of Strathblane. He
had two other sons, James, who succeeded him in Trean, and was an elder in the parish
Church of Callander, and William. He had also three daughters.

2 F


versity of Glasgow. The young minister of Strathblane was much beloved in
the parish, and his untimely death on the 3rd February, 1841, after an incum-
bency of little more than six years, was much regretted by the parishioners,
both young and old. The manse garden, always a productive one, was much
improved by Mr. Buchanan, and the garden wall was built in his time. He
died unmarried, and was buried in Strathblane Churchyard, in the same grave
as the Rev. James Gray, a former minister.


The Rev. James Pearson, a young minister, nephew of the venerable Dr,
Haldane of St. Andrews, was presented to the parish in the usual way by the
Duke of Montrose, and was well received by the people. He was ordained
on the 7th July, 1842, and the Rev. Mr. Barclay of Old Kilpatrick, who had
officiated at the ordination of his predecessor, again presided, and chose for
his text I Timothy i. 15.

Mr. Pearson came to Strathblane towards the close of the unfortunate dis-
putes in the Church which ended in the Secession of 1843. Hitherto there
had been little dissent in the parish, and the number of those who now left the
Church was but trifling. There was no Free Church required,^ and Mr. Pearson
began his work with an almost unbroken congregation. It is true that three mem-
bers of the Kirk Session resigned, but excellent men as they were their example
was not followed, and their places were filled up next year. The following
extract from the Minutes of the Kirk Session records the reason for the step
they took, and the kindly spirit in which their brethren parted with them.

^^ Liter alia, The Moderator read a letter which he had received signed
George Ronald, James M'Lay, and John Ronald, intimating the resolution
of these gentlemen to resign their office of elders in this parish, because the
Legislature has declined to pass a measure satisfactory to them for the adjust-
ment of the differences which have prevailed in the Church of Scotland. The
Session, while they unanimously accept said resignations, express their gratitude
to these gentlemen for their past services, and their great regret that they are no
longer to enjoy the benefit of their co-operation in the office of the eldership,
and request their Moderator to furnish them with a copy of this minute." ^

1 The neat little Free Church and manse at the Netherton were built some years ago for
the accommodation, principally, of Free Church families coming to the parish. The Roman
Catholics, of whom there are now a good many, have their service in the Messrs. Coubrbugh's

^ Mr. James Provan of Auchengillan, another elder, also seceded, and afterwards joined the
Free Church at Baldernock. His name is not mentioned in any minute of the Kirk Session,
but he may not have sent in a formal resignation like the others.


Mr. Pearson received the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1865 from the
University of Glasgow, and from the time he became minister of Strathblane
to the close of his useful life he was unremitting in the discharge of his duties
both in the parish and in the Church Courts. He took a kindly interest in
the secular as well as the spiritual affairs of his parishioners, whose constant
and judicious adviser he was in all their difficulties. He was on excellent
terms, too, with his heritors, and was thus enabled to carry out the important
improvements in the church and churchyard mentioned elsewhere.

Dr. Pearson was by no means " a popular preacher," but the respect in which
he was held always secured for him large and attentive audiences, and when he
died on the 17th December, 1873, rich and poor alike felt that they had lost
a friend who had their well-being thoroughly at heart, and the Church of Scot
land was deprived of a most devoted son.^

He was buried in Strathblane Churchyard close to the west end of the



Dr. Pearson was succeeded, on the presentation of the Duke of Montrose, by
the Rev. Daniel John Ferguson, B.D. Mr. Ferguson was educated at Irvine
Academy and at the Universities of Glasgow and Heidelberg, and was an ex-
cellent student. After being licensed by the Presbytery of Irvine he became
assistant to Dr. Craik, of St. George's, Glasgow, and then in turn to Dr. Grant,
of St. Mary's, and Dr. Robertson, of the New Greyfriars', Edinburgh. On the
17th March, 1872, he was ordained minister of the parish of Bonhill, and on
the 19th May, 1874, he was inducted to Strathblane. The Rev. Robert Bell
of Milngavie officiated on the occasion.

Gentle and sympathizing, Mr. Ferguson was popular in Strathblane, and
though of a rather retiring disposition, he was, to his intimate friends, an ever
welcome and genial companion. He loved to join his parishioners in their
out-door amusements ; and being, as every good parish minister should be, a
keen curler, his presence at the bonspiels of the club always insured a good-
humoured and hearty match. But, perhaps. Mr. Ferguson was seen to most
advantage in the house of mourning or of sickness. He was there a friend
whose kindly and consoling offices will never be forgotten by those who ex-
perienced them. In the pulpit Mr. Ferguson was a singularly interesting

^Dr. Pearson married on the 5th August, 1842, Mary Haig, who died 9th February, 1884.
They had three children — (i) Janet, who married John Simpson, C.E., and is now a widow
with three children ; {2) Elizabeth ; (3) Robert Haldane, who married his cousin, Margaret


preacher. He thoroughly felt and believed what he taught, and his thoughts
were clothed in the most appropriate and beautiful language. Mr. Ferguson
was never a strong man, and for several years his health was gradually giving
way, till he died at the manse on the 8th April, 1886, in the forty-first year of
his age.i He had married in 1885 Henrietta Hamilton Montgomery, who
survives him. Mr. Ferguson was buried in the new part of the Churchyard
under a fine old plane tree, close to the spot where so many Strathblane
ministers are laid. His grave is marked by a simple marble cross on which
his name is cut, and, by his own desire, the text, " When ye pray, say, Our
Father which art in Heaven," words which fittingly commemorate a doctrine
he constantly and earnestly impressed on his people — The Fatherhood of God.

^ While this book is passing through the press the parish is engaged in the work ot
choosing his successor.



There are no existing records to show when or where the earHest Christian
church in Strathblane was built. There may have been a chapel near the
Netherton, dedicated to St. Kessog or MacKessog, whose memory is kept alive
in the parish by the well named after the holy man. This old well is just on
the march between Cult Craig and Wester Leddriegreen, about two hundred
yards north of the public road, at the west side of the Crosshill. The existence
of such a chapel is, however, matter of conjecture, and it may be that the site
of the present church is that which has been always occupied by a House of
God from the earliest Christian times. ^

But though this is not absolutely certain, there is no doubt at all that the
church of to-day occupies the same position as the Parish Church of the fifteenth
century. When the Lady Mary Stewart, sister of King James I. and wife of Sir
William Edmonstone of Duntreath, died in the second quarter of that century,
she was buried within the Church of Strathblane, and the interesting researches
of the late Sir Archibald Edmonstone in 1844 ^ proved that her grave is mthin
the present church.

Whether this fifteenth century church was kept in repair and formed the
church of the succeeding century, or whether a new one was built on the same
site and became the first Protestant Church of Strathblane is not known, but
there are incidental allusions in the Presbytery and Session Records which show
that the church where the first Protestant service was held in 1560 was the
same which was taken down and rebuilt in the beginning of the eighteenth
century. The reader's desk, from which Mr. Cuik first read the Bible in the

1 There is a very old standing-stone in the churchyard, but most probably it was
placed there long before there was any church in the parish, and there are still ruins
of the old Chapel of Mugdock close to the castle, but this was the private chapel of the
barons and earls.

- Printed in the Appendix.



vulgar tongue to the wondering parishioners, remained in it to the end, as well
as the pulpit from which Mr. Stoddert, his superior, preached the new doctrines
of the Church, and from which too, in 1672, the pious Archbishop Leighton
expounded his gentle dogmas of charity and brotherly kindness. " The new
publict place of repentance " which Mr. Cochran, in the enthusiasm of his early
ministry, built for the good of his flock in 1650, did its duty but too often
and well for fully half a century. The old bell, repaired at Rossdhu in 1655,
was still chiming in 1700, and it was only when the walls could be kept stand-
ing no longer " with pinning and casting " ^ that the venerable edifice was
swept away.

The succeeding church, again on the same site, was by no means a success;
no picture of it is extant, and it is only from a few scattered notices of it
that any idea can be formed of its appearance. It is described at the end of
last century by Mr. Gibb, then minister of Strathblane, as " a mean building
erected in the beginning of the present century; and having been never lathed
and plastered, the bare walls and roof without ceiling present a very sorry
appearance for a place of worship." ^

The Montrose family had a " loft " or gallery in it, which was entered by an
outside stair leading to it alone. There was also " a common loft on the west
end of the church," to which access was had by another outside stair ; ^ and in
1782 Archibald Edmonstone of Spittal made an arrangement with Sir Archibald
Edmonstone of Duntreath, which was sanctioned by the Session, under which
he was allowed " to erect a loft .... in the Kirk of Strathblane upon the
wall of Sir Archibald Edmonstone's burial place, which fronts the pulpit, the
said loft to extend from the said wall towards the pulpit only so far as to
contain two pews or two rows of sitters." * There is no doubt that the Church
of Strathblane at the end of last century was everything that a church should
not be — unsightly without, and confused and mean Avithin.

On the 27th September, 1799, the heritors had a meeting, and were unani-
mously of opinion " that the church was in a very bad state, but owing to the
high price of wood and all kinds of work at present they would wish to defer
building a new church for a few years, in their opinion not exceeding three," ^
and at a full meeting of heritors, just three years later, it was unanimously
resolved to build a new church.

The committee of heritors who were appointed to carry out this resolution

^ Session Records. ■

^ Old Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. xviii. p. 575.
^ Session Records, 3rd February, 1714.
^ Session Records, loth October, 1782.
•' Heritors' Sederunt Book.



were Mr. Stirling of Craigbarnet, Mr. Davidson, W.S., for Sir Archibald Edmon-
stone, Mr. Graham of Ballagan, Mr. Robison of Leddriegreen, Mr. Smith of
Craigend, Mr. Foyer of Cult, Mr. Edmonstone of Spittal, Mr. M'Indoe of
Carbeth, and the Rev. Mr. Gibb.

Steps were at once taken to have a proper church built. Mr. John Brash,
architect in Glasgow, made the plans and prepared the contracts \ ^ Mr. Archibald
Grahame, banker, Glasgow, of the Mugdock family, was appointed arbiter in all
disputes that might arise during the building, and sole arbiter for the allocation
of seats on the completion of the church. It was also arranged between the
Duke of Montrose and Sir Archibald Edmonstone, with the sanction of the
other heritors, that the Duke, who had the right as patron to have the
principal seat, should give up this privilege to Sir Archibald, who was to be
allowed to erect " a gallery and appartment underneath, for the accommodation
of his family, on the west end of said intended new church, fronting the pulpit,
and that at his own expense, exclusive of his proportion of building and finish-
ing the said church in common with the rest of the heritors." It was also
agreed, " as the heritors do not consider it absolutely necessary to build a
session house," that a place for a door was to be provided in the plans of the
church " immediately behind, and close by the pulpit, so as a session house
may be erected at the easter gable in case it shall afterwards be found necessary
or convenient," and "a flew to be carried up in the east gable lest a chimney
be required for a session house."

The church was built of stone from the Kirklands Quarry, belonging to
Mr. Stirling of Craigbarnet. ;^i,i3o was the contract price of it, and ^256
for Sir Archibald Edmonstone's gallery and apartment. Both, however, cost
somewhat more. The whole was finished and ready for occupation by ist
January, 1804. The decree of Archibald Grahame allocating the seats of the
church is dated at Dalmarnock, his house, loth October, 1804, and it is in
force still.

There were improvements made in the churchyard about this time. The
wall was built or repaired; and some new ground taken in at the back of the
church, for which ^5 was paid to Robert Mitchell, who was laird of the Kirk-
house at this time. The mausoleum of the Edmonstone family was also built;
and at a meeting of the heritors held on 25th April, 1805, it was minuted

Online LibraryJohn Guthrie SmithThe parish of Strathblane and its inhabitants from early times : a chapter in Lennox history → online text (page 28 of 45)