John Guthrie Smith.

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

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that " no burials to be in future inside of the church," Mr. Foyer of Cult
alone protesting.-

1 The name of the mason who built the church was Ramsay, and the woodwork was done
by John Craig and James Mason, both of Strathblane.
- Heritors' Sederunt Book.



232 THE PARISH OF STRATHBLANE.

All through these important proceedings the heritors behaved with liberality,
good sense, and promptitude, and the result was a church in every way in-
finitely superior in comfort and appearance to most country churches of the
day.^ It is true it was very plain inside, and perhaps the few ornaments it
possessed were not in very good taste — thus, " the canopy over the pulpit was
to be finished with a pine apple gilded," and the old dusty green curtains
over the east window never fell in graceful folds ; the ceiling, too, was flat, and
the seats plain and uncomfortable.

The first improvement was the removal of the gilded pine apple from the
top of the pulpit canopy and the substitution of the Christian emblem of a
cross. The next was the taking away of the fiat ceiling and the forming of an
open roof; but the crowning improvements, and those which have made it both
within and without one of the prettiest little country churches in Scotland, were
effected in 1870 by the late Sir Archibald Edmonstone. His successor, the
present baronet, Sir William, generously carried out to completion the arrange-
ments of his brother.

The improvements made by the Duntreath family were, the increasing of
the pitch of the roof and the rearrangement of the ceiling ; the remodelling
of the belfrey and the recasting of the bell; the alteration of the east window
and the pulpit ; the opening up of the two side galleries to the right and left
of the old Duntreath loft, and the seating of all three. The plaster work and
painting of the whole church was also done by them. The other heritors
reseated the area of the church with comfortable new pews, the aisles being
reduced at the same time from one in the middle and one close to either wall,
to the present two, thus both improving the appearance of the church and
gaining a certain number of sittings. Sir Archibald Edmonstone and Dr. Pearson
personally arranged and superintended the whole work.

The baptismal font now in use in Strathblane Church is set in an old
font, or perhaps piscina, belonging to the church in pre-Reformation days. It
was for long built into the wall of a small guard-house which stood at the
church gate, and which was removed when the improvements were made on
the church.

The Church of Strathblane has thus altered much, both in outward and in-
ward appearance, since its erection in the beginning of this century, and so have
its services and congregation. Till Dr. Pearson's time there was very little of the
Bible read before sermon as now, certainly no regular portion of Old and New
Testament Scripture. There was a psalm sung, a very long prayer, a- sermon

^ The "vesica piscis " window in the gable above the door is in very good taste; such
windows are unusual in Scotland, particularly so in churches built in the beginning of
this century.



^77?^ THBLANE CHURCH AND CHURCHYARD.



233



or lecture, another prayer, a psalm or paraphrase, and then the benediction.
An interval of an hour ensued, during which the privileged few went to the
manse in winter, and the manse garden in summer, but the bulk of the congre-
gation spent the time in friends' houses in the village or in refreshing them-
selves in the public-house. The afternoon service was a counterpart of that
of the forenoon. Dr. Pearson's first improvement was doing away with the
interval and having both sermons at one sitting, but this soon proved a failure.
The service was far too long, and was wearisome, and particularly unedifying
to the 3'oung, who could not possibly listen so long, nor calmly fall asleep like
many of their seniors. Those who remember this period have no doubt not
forgotten their feelings of despair when, on a hot summer afternoon, with the
church redolent of balm, peppermint, and other herbs, and a general stuffiness
prevailing, a new psalm was sung, a new long prayer said, and the worthy
minister — apparently as fresh as in the morning — gave out a second text and
proceeded to preach another regular sermon of the orthodox three heads and
an application type. Happily this system did not last long; Dr. Pearson's good
sense soon showed him its impropriety ; but old customs die hard in country
places, and something of the nature of a compromise was tried. It was still
thought quite necessary to have two sermons, but by cutting one into two parts
the desired effect was produced. Thus the third and new form of service was
this : There was the psalm, the prayer, a rather longer sermon than before, but
at the end of the second head a stop was made. The first sermon was over,
a psalm was sung, and then the third head and application were delivered, and
this formed the second sermon. Like most compromises this form of service
was not a success, and Dr. Pearson then adopted the much better plan of having
more praise and of reading portions of both the Old and New Testaments, and
having one sermon only, and that without division.

" The second place in the Sanctuary," as old Mr. David Provan, who held
it himself, used complacently to call the office of precentor, was often very
indifferently filled. The General Assembly of 1713 had recommended that
such schoolmasters should be chosen as were capable of teaching the common
tunes, and in Strathblane the Session always tried to carry this out, and in fact
the understanding was that the schoolmaster was also to act as precentor. This
often led to disastrous results, and the singing of the schoolmaster or his
substitute was often anything but a "joyful noise." Those who remember
Strathblane Church forty or fifty years ago, or longer, must acknowledge that,
defective as it still is, the present music is vastly superior to what it was then.
Another great improvement is the quietness at the beginning and end of service.
This to a certain extent is due to the improved seating of the church, for
many of the doors of the old pews did not fit well, and were dragged open

2 G



234



THE PARISH OF STRATHBLANE.



with a loud noise and shut with a remorseless bang, but the main reason is the
growing refinement of manners and feeling of propriety now prevailing in the
parish. In nothing is this improvement more apparent than in the respectful
and quiet way the congregation now disperses. Probably it was from no want
of reverence, but within the memory of those now only middle-aged the time
occupied in the delivery of the benediction was employed in getting hats and
umbrellas ready, in seeing that the doors of the pews opened easily so that
there might be no delay, and almost before the sound of the " Amen " had
died away the longest legged of the congregation were half-way through the
churchyard.

The manner of celebrating the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is also very
different in Strathblane now from what it used to be. When Dr. Hamilton came
to the parish it used to be dispensed once a year only; he introduced a summer
and a winter communion, and now it is held quarterly. The old arrangement
was to have a series of " tables " of about forty communicants at a time and a
separate service for each, now there is simultaneous communion. There certainly
used to be some crowding in the passages and a good deal of noise from the
opening and shutting of doors when one " table " was dispersing and another
filling, and now everything is done in the quietest and most solemn manner.
Among the middle-aged, however, there is a lingering feeling that the old way
had its advantages, and many miss the long table stretching across the church,
with the minister and elders in turn sitting at the same board as the people, the
interest of the table addresses by the several clergymen present, and the time-
honoured custom of singing the fine old version of the ciii. Psalm — even although
the precentor did "give out the line" — during the emptying and filling of the
"tables." Fifty years ago, and much less, the Fasting Thursday of "the preach-
ings " was as strictly kept as Sunday, and the Preparation Saturday and Thanks-
giving Monday drew together an almost equally large congregation. All of these
are now gone, and perhaps it is as well ; and no doubt the more frequent com-
munions are as it should be. Still there was a grandeur and solemnity and
feeling of comfort and edification in those old half-yearly Strathblane com-
munions; and it surely must always pain those who were accustomed to them
in their youth when they hear it said that there was nothing but irreverence and
bigotry in the old " Sacrament Sundays " of Scotland.

Fifty years ago, and for long afterwards, there were many more baptisms
in Strathblane Church than now. Indeed this excellent custom was as nearly
universal then as private baptism is now. "The engaging parent" used to sit
on the elders' bench, a little seat to the right of the pulpit and raised a few
steps above the rest of the church ; and at the proper moment his infant was
handed to liim over some very sharp wooden spikes which formed part of the



STRATHBLANE CHURCH AND CHURCHYARD. 235

ornaments of the pulpit before it was lowered and altered. It used to be with
a sigh of relief that the congregation saw the child safely over the spikes and
into the arms of its often awkward and always " blate " father ; and when the
rite was performed and the child safely back in its attendant's custody without
being impaled, all breathed freely again. ^

Marriages were celebrated in church in Strathblane so late as 1714, as
appears from the Session Records, but this seemly custom had long given
place to marriages at home till Dr. Pearson's elder daughter set a good example
to the parish by her public marriage in the church. There have been one
or two marriages there since, but the old custom revives but slowly.

Funerals were conducted in Strathblane very much in the same way as in
other parishes in Scotland. Before the funeral procession left the house there
were several courses of whisky or wine and cake served, and before each of
tliem a blessing was pronounced, and after them thanks returned, the whole
being a " pious fraud " and an evasion of the injunction of the Directory for
the Ptiblick WorsJiip of God, that there be no praying and reading at burials.
Now, however, the refreshments are given up, and a suitable service of reading
and prayer held in the house of mourning, and after the coffin is laid in the
grave another short service is held in church. In the manner in which funerals
were conducted, undoubtedly " the old ways " were not " better than the new."

The aspect of the congregation is now in m.any ways different from what it
used to be fifty years ago. Then it had a rural look; many of the men wore
blue coats and gray plaids, and a sprinkling of old women appeared in white
mutches and red cloaks. The bonnets and gowns, too, were not in the latest
fashion as now, nor the hats and coats of the reigning make and cut. The
women came to church with their Bibles wrapped in a white handkerchief, and
a sprig of balm or mint or "appleringie" in their hands, and clattered over the
unmatted floor into their seats; and the men lounged in with their hats on, and
shut the doors of their pews with a crash. There was no disrespect meant, but
things are certainly altered for the better.

Everyone went to church in those days, and the " crack in the kirkyard "
was a weekly treat not to be missed. The men enjoyed it, standing together,
or sitting on the churchyard wall, till the tuneless tolling of the old cracked bell
ceased, when all in a body came into church. The women had their harmless
gossip too as they stopped at the Kirk burn, if they were coming from the west,
or at some other water if from other " airts " in the parish, to put on their
stockings and shoes, which they had carried in their hands from home to be worn

^ An elder sister, a cousin, or some young female friend or neighbour, brought the infant
into church towards the close of the service, and sat with, or more commonly without, the
mother on a bench in front of the pulpit.



236



THE PARISH OF STKA THBLANE.



in church 3 articles as quickly removed from feet to hands to be carried home

again when the " kirk skailed." Few young women but lairds' daughters, and not

all of them, wore shoes and stockings except in church and at market or fair.

Within Strathblane Church there are only two old " memorials of the dead,"

the one being the tombstone of the Princess Mary of Scotland, wife of Sir

William Edmonstone of Duntreath, and which bears this inscription —

"Here lyes in the same grave with Mary Countess of Angus, sister to King James the
First of Scotland, from whom he is lineally descended, Archibald Edmonstone, Esq. of
Duntreath in this kingdom, and of Redhall in Ireland, who died in the year 1689, aged about
fifty-one years." ^

and the other an old worn stone in the floor in front of the pulpit, which bears
the Montrose Arms and the date 1604.

There are two modern mural tablets, the one to a member of the Ballagan
family, on the south side of the church, with this inscription —

SACRED
TO THE MEMORY OF

W. B. CADOGAN GRAHAM, Esq., M.D.,

^NATIVE OF THIS PARISH —

LATE ASSISTANT SURGEON IN THE BOMBAY PRESIDENCY

AND CIVIL SURGEON IN KATTYWAR

WHO DIED IN BOMBAY ON THE 8tH OCTOBER, 1839,

IN THE 37TH YEAR OF HIS AGE.

INDIFFERENT TO HIS OWN SUFFERING

AND EVER FORWARD TO ALLEVIATE THAT OF OTHERS

A FEW FRIENDS ANXIOUS TO EVINCE THEIR SENSE

OF HIS MANLY CHARACTER AND OF THEIR OWN LOSS

HAVE ERECTED THIS TABLET.

and the other on the north side of the church, to the late Sir Archibald
Edmonstone of Duntreath, on which is incised —

SACRED
TO THE MEMORY OF

SH< ARCHIBALD EDMONSTONE

BARONET

WHO DIED THE I3TH MARCH, 187I.

THIS TABLET

WAS PLACED HERE BY HIS

RESPECTFULLY ATTACHED SERVANTS

IN GRATITUDE TO THEIR REVERED

AND BELOVED MASTER.

" 1 am the Resurrection and the Life."

St. yohn c, XI. V. XXV,

Behind the pulpit is a stained glass window, the subject in the principal
compartment being the ascension of our Lord. It was erected by Sir Archi-
bald Edmonstone when the church was restored by him, and is dedicated —

TO THE MEMORY OF THE FAMILY OF
EDMONSTONE OF DUNTREATH, 1S7O.

^ See Appendix for an account of the opening of this grave.



STRATHBLANE CHURCH AND CHURCHYARD.



237



There are three other stained glass windows in the church. On the north
side of it, the window next the pulpit is in memory of Sir Archibald Edmon-
stone himself On a brass plate below is the following inscription —

ERECTED IN MEMORY OF

SIR ARCHIBALD EDMONSTONE of Duntreath, Bakonet,

BY THE HERITORS AND INHABITANTS OF THIS PARISH

IN TOKEN OF THEIR ADMIRATION OF HIS CHARACTER

AND IN GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HIS MUNIFICENCE

IN THE ENLARGEMENT AND RESTORATION OF THIS CHURCH.

BORN I2TH MARCH, 1795 5 DIED I3TH MARCH, 187I.

Next to it is a memorial window to Dr. Pearson, with this inscription below —

ERECTED BY THE PARISHIONERS OF STRATHBLANE

IN MEMORY OF THE REV. JAMES PEARSON, D.D.,

FOR 31 YEARS THE MUCH RESPECTED MINISTER

OF THIS PARISH. HE WAS BORN I2TH AUGUST, 1813 ;

ORDAINED HERE 7TH JULY, 1842 ; AND DIED I7TH DEC, 1873.

"A good minister of Jesus Christ." — i Tim. iv. 6.

" Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it

with thy might." — Eccl. x. lo.

The third window is in memory of William Smith of Carbeth Guthrie. It
is on the south side next the pulpit, and the brass plate below it bears this
inscription —

IN MEMORY OF

WILLIAM SMITH, late of Carbeth Guthrie,

WHO WAS BORN 8tH JANUARY, I787; DIED I5TH MAY, 1871,

AND IS BURIED IN THIS CHURCHYARD.

ERECTED BY HIS FAMILY.

The Church ot Strathblane stands in its churchyard, which is the only
burial place in the parish. Formerly interments were permitted within the
church, but this custom was put a stop to by the heritors in 1805 soon after
a small addition had been made to the churchyard, and the Duntreath mauso-
leum built. There are no records of any former additions. The oldest date
on any gravestone is 1482. This is authentic, but the figures are new, having
been cut afresh a {t\v years ago, as the old were then nearly obliterated. Dr.
Pearson's grave is at the south-western corner of the church. Mr. Cochran,
Mr. Livingstone, Mr. Gray, Dr. Hamilton, Mr. Hamilton Buchanan, Mr.
Ferguson, and, it is supposed, Mr. Stirling — all the Protestant ministers who
have died in the parish — are buried at the south-eastern corner of it. In the
appendix will be found a complete list of all the tombstones and inscriptions
in the churchyard.

Up to Dr. Pearson's time the churchyard was very badly kept. Its surface
was very irregular, and many of the tombstones being raised a foot or
more above the ground on pillars or bolsters made it impossible to cut the
grass or remove the weeds. The consequence was the whole was a mass



238 THE PARISH OF STRATHBLANE.

of long grass, rank nettles, and dockens. There was no proper path from
the church gate to the church, the congregation therefore made their entry
through weeds and grass and over tombstones. About the middle of the
churchyard was an iron cage, some seven or eight feet high, covering the
burying-place of the Smiths of Craigend. This ugly erection greatly disfigured
the churchyard, and shut out the view of the church. Just at the gate was
a guard-house where watchers were stationed to guard the bodies of the newly-
buried from body-snatchers when their nefarious trade existed. Dr. Pearson,
with his usual energy, set to work in 1870 to arrange and improve tlie church-
yard. Tliere are always a few unreasonable people in every parish who are
opposed to everything, and Strathblane is no exception ; but the doctor's tact
and popularity enabled him to overcome all difficulties. The tombstones were
all laid on one level ; the Craigend cage disappeared ; the guard-house was
removed; and a gravel path laid from the gate to the church. When the
work was finished everyone in the parish acknowledged that a great improve-
ment had been made, and wondered why it had not been done long ago.

For some years it had been felt that the churchyard was too small for the
increasing population of the parish, and that it would relieve the pressure
on it if an addition could be made, in which ground could be secured in
perpetuity for family burying-places. The matter was brought before the
heritors, but they found themselves unable to arrange for an extension. In
1883, however, the work was done privately, with their cordial sanction and
co-operation, and that of Sir William Edmonstone for his special interest.
The old wall to the east was taken down, and some mean outhouses
connected with the Kirkhouse Cottage removed. The garden was filled with
a fine sandy soil to the level of the old churchyard, and added to it, a low-
stone coping only dividing the old churchyard from the new burial-ground.
The churchyard is thus now large enough for the requirements of the parish,
and all that is now needed is an addition to the church. This could be done
by lengthening the present building; and, if the Church of Scotland continues
to flourish and increase as she is now doing, the time will soon come when
this cannot be longer delayed. 1

1 In Appendix I., page 271, a complete list of the tombstones in Strathblane Churchyard is given.



CHAPTER IX.

THE SCHOOL AND SCHOOLMASTERS OF STRATHBLANE.

Up to the beginning of the eighteenth century there was not a regular parish
school in Strathblane — that is, a school under the superintendence of the Kirk
Session of the parish and the Presbytery of the bounds, with a master paid by
the heritors.

In 1682 there were two adventure schools in the parish — one at Duntreath,
where John Foyer was schoolmaster ; and another in the east end of the parish,
where David Risk taught. John Foyer was a stern Covenanter, and refused to
take the test when required, with probably disagreeable consequences to him-
self.^ David Risk, on the other hand, was either an Episcopalian or was not
troubled with too strong convictions, for he quietly took the test when it was
put to him. 2

When the Church of Scotland became Presbyterian after the Revolution of
1688, John Foyer reappears in the parish, not as schoolmaster alone, but also
as Session Clerk, and Daviti Risk disappears under a cloud, and is heard of no
more.^

In 1693 Walter Buchanan was schoolmaster and Session Clerk, and on 20th
December, 1711, William Neil, "Schoolmaster and Clerk of the Parish," died,

^ " The Presbrie considdering th' M' John Stewart school'""' at Luss and John Foyar who
keeps a school at Duntreth within the parish of Straiblane does still continue to officiat in these
respective Places notwithstanding they have been often requyred by the Presbrie to take the
test conforme to law and have obstinately refused Thairfor referris them to the Civil Judges
within whose jurisdictions they dwell." — (Records of the Presbytery of Dumbarton, 4th December,
1682.)

'-"David Risk school""^ in Straeblain did this day swear and subscribe the test." — (Rec.
Presb. Dum., 12th Sept., 1682.)

^ There was a female teacher at Strathblane about this time, but where she taught does not
appear. The following is among the disbursements of the Session between April, 1691, and
April, 1692: —

"To Mary Edmonstowne for half a quarters Learning of Patrick Clerk a poor
scholar — 00 06 08."



240



THE PARISH OF STRA THBLANE.



but there was still neither schoolhouse nor regular salary.^ On the 3rd February,
1 7 14, the Presbytery of Dumbarton, being moved thereto by Mr. Livingstone,
minister of Strathblane, ordained the heritors " to settle a school and a salary
for the schoolmaster in terms of the Act of Parliament made thereanent," and
apparently they obeyed this order to the extent of giving a salary of jQ\
sterling per annum, but they did not build a school and schoolhouse. Two
years after this time, there being no schoolmaster in the parish, Mrs. Craig
of Leddriegreen engaged Mr. William Bowie from Glasgow to teach her children,
and on the 26th February, 1716, the Session appointed him precentor- and
schoolmaster, and apparently then or soon afterwards the school was kept in
the church. In 1731, however, the Session resolved "that the school cannot
be kept in the kirk as it used to be," and also that the heritors be requested
to build a proper schoolhouse.

This request was evaded, and for some time the school was taught in
the little cottage to the east of the church gate, then the stable of the Kirk-
house Inn, the house on the other side of the gate.°

^ The Church of Scotland has always taken a great interest in the education of the
people. In the General Assembly of 1642 it was resolved to call the attention of Parlia-
ment to the poor pay of schoolmasters, and request it to take steps to amend this evil. In
the Assembly of 1707 it was ordered that all Presbyteries should take steps to have schools
in every parish. In the Assembly of 17 19 the Presbyteries were ordered, where schools were
wanting in any parish, "to make legal intimation to the heritors and parishioners to meet
on a certain day and at a certain place to stent themselves for a salary to a schoolmaster
and for the needful accommodations for him, as is appointed by an Act of Parliament of
King Charles I., anno 1633, and another Act of Parliament of King William, anno 1696."
In the Assembly of 1758 the subject of the want of schools in some parishes was again
brought up, and the Presbyteries were appointed "to make application to the Commissioners
of Supply for having parochial schools with legal salaries erected in every parish, as the law
directs." In the Assembly of 1802 the Moderator and Procurator of the Church were instructed
to correspond with His Majesty's Officers of State for Scotland with a view to improving the
salaries of the schoolmasters, "which, by the depreciation of the value of money," "are not
equal to the gains of a day labourer."

-The General Assembly of 1713 passed the following Act: — "The General Assembly for the
more decent performance of the public praises of God do recommend to Presbyteries to use
endeavours to have such schoolmasters chosen as are capable to teach the common tunes, and
that Presbyteries take care that children be taught to sing the said common tunes ; and that