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Oor Ain Folk
Chapter V

69

The Disruption of 1843—My Father's Disposition—His Share in the Fight—His Memorials of the Disruption—His Translation to Edzell in 1841—Great Increase of Congregation—Progress of the Controversy—Lord Panmure and Fox Maule—My Father's Estimate of Panmure's Character—'Persecutionsfor Conscience' Sake'—A Sore Bereavement—His last Sermon in the Parish Kirk—A noble Record ' for Conscience* Sake'—Old Dr. Grant's Story of 'the Flesh Pots '—The first Free Church Sermon— The Tent in the Wilderness—Increasing Hardships and Difficulties—Fidelity of the Flock—Humour under Privations— Preaching under Difficulties—Hostile Attitude of Opponents —Progress of the Struggle—Once more in a house of his own.

On the death of my grandfather, my father became the minister at Lochlee, where he had for some time held office as parish schoolmaster; and for four years he ministered with much acceptance to the kindly Glen folk, who held his name in honour and his person in loving esteem. The fierce controversy as to 'patronage/ the power of the several law-courts in ecclesiastical matters, and other keen differences of opinion in regard to Church polity, was then being waged with all the ardour of the perfervid Scottish temperament.

Not even the most secluded parish could remain free from the intellectual strife which raged around; and my father, with his bluff, outspoken honesty of purpose and clear conscientious convictions, could not remain a callous or disinterested spectator or actor at such a time. Although a man of the kindliest temper, he exhibited a dogged persistency of purpose and an almost audacious pugnacity when his fighting instincts were roused; and he threw himself with intense intellectual enjoyment into the polemics of the time, which culminated—as every student of modern Scottish history well knows— in the great Disruption movement of 1843. His was such a love - inspiring personality, and he had such a frank, breezy, healthy sense of humour, that he could not fail to make the impress of his individuality felt at a time, when to be frank and outspoken was looked upon by one party as a crime, and by the other as a supreme virtue. So it was, that with his generous instincts for liberty, his warm sympathy for liberalism in politics, and all his deep convictions of the value of freedom in thought and action, my father could not fail to be found on the side of those who were fighting the popular battle against exclusive privilege and restriction of the people's rights. As he took a very active part in 'the ten years' conflict/ he became a marked man among the many noble examples of those 'who suffered for conscience' sake'; and I think it only fair to his memory, and merely doing bare justice to his own sense of what his conscience demanded from him at that time, that I should allow him, as far as may be, to speak for himself.

In 1872, long after the hurly-burly of the controversy had in some measure subsided, my father published a few copies of what he called Memorials of the Disruption in Edzell and Lochlee. In his prefatory note he says these were intended for a few of his friends, but chiefly 'For the members of my own family who are scattered abroad, that my sons may know what their father had to do and suffer for conscience' sake'; and, with characteristic independence, to these notes he added: 'I do not approve of the practice of using initials, and not writing names in full, in memorials of this kind. I presume that those whose names are mentioned said and did what is attributed to them most conscientiously, and not maliciously, though, of course, I think, erroneously.

'Most of them are now dead; and justice demands a statement which I am most happy to make, that, while some of them seem to have regretted the way in which they acted at, and after, the Disruption, not one of them, I have every reason to believe, cherished the least ill-will or animosity towards me; but, on the contrary, between me and many of them, so long as they lived, friendly and neighbourly offices were freely interchanged. It may be alleged that I was not always so yielding and conciliatory as I might have been. I can only say that I then thought, and think still, I frequently met with hard usage from those who ought to have acted otherwise than they did, and that I always had a free conscience in regard to the treatment I gave to them. I considered myself a free man, and would not be brought into bondage, nor submit to the dictation of those who tried to usurp authority over me.'

On the unanimous call of the congregation at Edzell, I find then, from my father's narrative, that he was translated from Lochlee, to be assistant and successor to Mr. Hutton at Edzell, on the 20th October 1841. It will be seen that this was only two years before the Disruption, and one can easily imagine the seething intellectual ferment that must have been moving in the minds of all the thoughtful 'Men of the Mearns' at that time. Mr. Hutton had been for a considerable time unable to preach regularly, and the attendance at the church had fallen off. 'After my admission' says my father, 'it began to increase, and continued to increase till the Disruption. This was sufficiently indicated by the amount of the collections for the poor being fully 20 more that year I was minister than they had been before. Besides, all the ministers in the neighbouring parishes belonged to the Moderate party in the Church, and not a few from these parishes became my regular hearers; this was particularly the case in regard to Stracathro and Fettercairn.'

As many as twenty to thirty worshippers used to come every Sabbath day from Fettercairn, some five and a half miles, to hear my father preach at Edzell. The aged minister, Mr. Hutton, died on the 5th June 1842, and 'at the Communion at Edzell on the second Sabbath of July following, there was scarcely standing-room in the church.' 'There were one hundred more communicants than there ever had been before, so that there had to be six table services, instead of four or five. Two of these were served by me,' writes my father, 'two by Mr. Henry Brewster of Farnell, and two by Mr. M'Cosh, now Dr. M'Cosh, from Brechin.'

I may mention that at the date of this present writing (July 1893) the venerable and learned Dr. M'Cosh is still alive, and has long been filling a position of great eminence, dignity, and usefulness as the senior professor in Princeton University in the United States of America.

My father's pamphlet goes on to detail at length the progress of the great controversy, and the active part taken in it by himself and his attached and constantly-increasing congregation. ' While a few,' he says, 'were evidently cherishing the hope that the Church would be ignominiously driven from her position by the Court of Session, the great majority of those who attended upon my ministry here, and who had attended upon the ministry of my father and myself in Lochlee, had evidently made up their minds to endure any hardships and any persecution rather than abandon their principles.'

It was not long ere their powers of endurance were rudely tested, and right noble was the response. Old William Maule, the then Lord Panmure, was embittered against his son and heir, Mr. Fox Maule, who afterwards succeeded to the title. Fox Maule, more perhaps to vex his father at first than from real conviction, I have heard it said, espoused the Free Church side of the great controversy, and this naturally roused the old laird's animus still more against the Evangelical party.

Though my father was a sufferer from his unscrupulous use of power, he sums up his character I think with most commendable fairness, and even with generosity. He says:

'Lord Panmure had been kind to me after the death of my father; but not more so than I believe he was to all the ministers connected with his property. I had found him always very accessible, and ready to do anything that I suggested for the good of his tenants or others, both in Lochlee and Edzell. I had got considerable sums of money from him at different times to help deserving widows and others in their difficulties. My own impression of him was that, if he had been under better management in his youth and during all his lifetime, he would have been, as a worldly man, one of the best, if not the very best, and most exemplary of our Scottish lords and lairds. He had naturally a great deal of hauteur, and a proud, bad, ungovernable temper, but could do, and did do, many noble and generous actions. He always respected clergymen when their conduct was consistent with their profession. I happened to dine at Brechin Castle soon after the wreck of the Forfarshire on the Fame Islands. The conduct of Grace Darling was the subject of conversation, when, with a glow of enthusiasm that I certainly did not expect, overspreading his fine features, he said— "I had rather be Grace Darling than the Duke of Wellington."'

Be that as it may, however, every legal and other device that could be put into operation against my good father and his faithful adherents was resorted to. Some of the farmers were threatened with evictions, and were subjected to incalculable expense and annoyance in defence of their rights. My father was involved in tedious, vexatious, and almost ruinous law proceedings. Panmure and his satellites tried all they knew to break his spirit and tame him into submission; but he was too brave and honest and conscientious either to be bullied or bribed into doing despite to his own earnest convictions of what was right.

Early in 1843 the saddest experience of all that troublous time fell on the loving heart of the valiant but sorely-tried minister. He briefly, but pathetically, alludes to it in these words:—'Scarlet fever of a most fatal and virulent kind broke out in the village and neighbourhood; a great number of young people died of it; and many families were clad in mourning. Three of my children died in less than three weeks. The oldest, a very interesting boy, seven years of age, took a deep, and, for his age, a very intelligent interest in the contendings of the Church, and frequently asked during winter, "Papa, where will we go when we leave the manse?" When the time for leaving the manse came, "he was not, for God had taken him."

After the ever-memorable proceedings in the Tan-field Hall at Edinburgh, at which my father was personally present, he came home, as he says, 'to preach my last sermon in the Parish Church on Sabbath 28th May. Before dismissing the congregation I told them,' following his own narrative, 'that I had now ceased to be a minister of the Established Church, and would not preach there again; that I had joined the Free Protesting Church of Scotland, and, God willing, would preach the next Sabbath at the manse door to as many as might choose to continue under my ministry; and desiring those who were not to remain in connection with the Established Church, to lift their Bibles, and take them away. Very few Bibles were left—only fifteen, I was told by the kirk-officer who joined the Free Church; and when some seemed to hesitate whether they should take or leave them, others in various parts of the church were distinctly heard to say: "Tak' your Bible, an' come away'. There was no lingering about the doors, no apparent regret at what had happened. The few who were residuary seemed rather to be pleased that we had left—the many, that they were free.'

Surely it is a sad, yet a noble and inspiring memory. What heart-breakings and deep emotions were being stirred in every parish in Scotland in those memorable days. What leave-takings from homes hallowed by a thousand tender and fond associations! What noble sacrifices! What splendid testimony to the power of principle and the sacred demands of conscience!

I have heard the Disruption movement criticised in various fashions; sneered at, decried, denounced outright, or 'damned with faint praise.' To me, the record of my dear father's noble stand, and his sufferings and privations ' for conscience' sake' are part of the priceless heritage he left me; and keep his memory ever sacred, stirring my deepest emotions, when I think of what he did and suffered for what some call lan idea!

The spirit in which some ignoble natures judged the movement at the time is well exemplified in the following anecdote told me, at the far Antipodes, nearly half a century after the event, by one of the dauntless heroes of the movement, the venerable and beloved minister of Shoalhaven in New South Wales—Dr. Grant. He is still alive, a vigorous and lovable octogenarian, and able to take a keen interest in every good work in his large district, where he reigns supreme in the affections of all classes.

At the Disruption, Dr. Grant was ministering in a small secluded Highland parish, but he threw himself heart and soul, with all the fine enthusiasm of his nature, into the Free Church movement. Just then a subtle temptation came to him in the shape of an invitation to accept a very desirable living in a fine, settled parish in the Lowlands. The young minister was a struggling man. Ease and competence and settled comfort were offered on the one hand, with every prospect of a long career of usefulness, if he would only swallow his convictions, put a muffle on his conscience, and stop his ears to its 'still small voice.' To his eternal honour be it said, he did as many another loyal, true-hearted soul then did—he remained true to conscience : and without one qualm or regret or afterthought, he 'went out' in the perfect faith of the ancient patriarch, with an absolute trust in his Master, and, 'not knowing whither he went' or what the future might have in store for him.

To him one day came a Moderate minister who had elected to remain by 'the flesh pots.' He had heard of the fine offer that had been made to Mr. Grant, and came to unctuously congratulate his fortunate young acquaintance. To his utter astonishment, he heard from Mr. Grant's own lips, that he had refused the tempting offer for pure conscience' sake. The bovine nature of the man betrayed itself at once, as he said: ' Ye fool i an' I've seen twenty fat cows in that manse-yaird'.

Of course it would be unjust to say that all the ministers that elected to remain in the Establishment were of this gross worldly type; but beyond a doubt the finer spirits and nobler natures were numbered among those that 'came out and were separate'.

To return to my dear father's narrative. 'On Sabbath, the 14th June,' he says—'I preached at the manse door from Titus ii 13, 14—"Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Frail and infirm persons were taken into the rooms and passages of the manse, so as they could hear, and a large congregation were seated upon hastily-made forms, and upon the grass at the door. I went into a private room some time before the hour of worship, and my feelings were indescribable. I remember, as the hour drew very near, that I was almost despairing of any one coming, when, just as the clock warned to strike, I heard the patter of a single coin fall into the plate, which was near the window where I sat I was in such a state of agitation that I could not look up to see who it was that put it in. Immediately there was the patter of another, then a continual patter, patter, pattering, till I went out and stood at the table on which the Bible and Psalm Book had been placed. I did not miss many of the familiar faces that I had been accustomed to see in the church; but how different the surroundings!—the beautiful grass on which many of the congregation were reclining, and the green hedge bounding the little lawn, the full-leaved trees skirting one side, the everlasting mountains in Lethnot and Lochlee and the upper part of Edzell, towering in the distance, and the bright midsummer sun shining down upon us in all his glory. This was the only difficulty, which I provided against on future Sabbaths by driving a pole into the ground, tyiug an outspread umbrella upon the top of it, and moving round so as to keep it between me and the sun. That sermon was not preached in vain. Many took notice of it, and even spoke unto their dying day of the benefit they had received from it. One old man, David Henderson, whom I did not then know personally, though I knew him well by sight as a remarkably attentive hearer from Fettercairn Parish, and whom I frequently visited afterwards, and waited upon in his last illness, came to me when the congregation was dismissed, took hold of my hand, and said with deep feeling, that brought tears into my eyes, "Mr Inglis, I have heard you preach many a good sermon before, but I never heard you preach one like that." I looked upon this as a reward for all the sacrifices I had made and was making. I preached the two following Sabbaths at the manse door to increasing audiences, the weather continuing so propitious that every person was taking notice of it. I had arranged to leave the manse as soon as possible, and when I left, the manse door could no longer be the place of meeting for the congregation. Accordingly, arrangements were made for erecting a tent on a piece of the barren ground that I rented, and only about one hundred yards west from the Parish Church/ The tent was erected. My brother Robert was born just about then, and he and I were baptized in that tent. Then came hardships and difficulties innumerable about getting a shelter for himself and family. Boycotting is not such a modern engine of the persecutor and oppressor as is popularly supposed. A ban was put on all who dared to show sympathy with the brave, uncomplaining, whole-souled minister, who chose 'to obey God rather than man.' Maledictions were hurled at his head by so-called men of rank and culture ; but the loyal flock were equal to every demand on their fidelity, and when the brave protester was well-nigh exhausted in the struggle against ' the powers in high places/ his noble, courageous wife and sympathetic adherents cheered him on to fresh resistance till in the end he triumphed, and his opponents, from very shame, were forced to confess that they could not say one word against him. My father's characteristic humour breaks out even in these troubled times. He narrates that 'the rooms that we occupied would only hold a very small part of my furniture, and the bulkiest and best of it was sent to friends' houses in the neighbourhood. It thus happened to be in three different parishes and two different counties. I used to joke a good deal about this, and speak of my town and two country residences, in the one of which I could sit upon my own chairs and in the other stretch my legs under my own mahogany.'

What a great heart the fine high-spirited gentleman must have had to have thus joked under such troubles and privations!

The narrative thus continues:—'On the 25th June I preached for the first time in what we called the Tent. It was only about half covered with drugget, and during the service a gale of wind rose, which shook the framework so much that the congregation were greatly alarmed. The gale increased in the afternoon and during the night, but the tent stood till between five and six o'clock on Monday morning, when a heavy blast levelled it with the ground. Two men in the village—old David Dundas, who had joined the Free Church, and William Cooper, who continued in the Establishment—were at their doors and looking at the tent. William, the Establishment man, said: "David, I have aye been tellin' ye that ye're a' wrang; ye see the deevil has blawn doun your kirk, but he hasna touched oors." David, the Free Churchman, replied: "He's no needin'; he got quiet possession o' yours at the last General Assembly." Dr. Chalmers was very much amused with this anecdote when I told.him a few weeks afterwards at Monboddo. I may here relate another anecdote, as the conversation took place about this time. James Moir, at Inchbare, a blacksmith, who afterwards was elected a deacon of the congregation, was talking in his smithy with some persons who had not left the Established Church. They, thinking to annoy James, said to him: "Oh ! ye're a' just like Lot's wife—ye're lookin' back again to Sodom." James very unexpectedly turned the laugh against themselves by saying: "No doubt it was ill wi' her for looking back; but it was as ill, if no waur, wi' them that didna come out ava'.'" After a protracted delay a site for a church was obtained on a feu belonging to Mr Carr, shoemaker, and my father refers to its erection as follows:—'The walls of the church were rapidly got up, and I preached for the first time within them on the 17th December, only half of the roof being on and none of the windows put in. The people sat on boards and benches in different parts of the area, as they could find shelter. Stormy weather set in, and we continued for weeks to meet in the church without windows, the minister moving about from place to place between the windows for shelter, according to the direction from which the wind was blowing. A formal opening was made on the 25th February 1844. There was a very severe storm and great drift, so that the more distant members of the congregation could not attend; there was even difficulty to many in getting through an immense wreath of snow which blocked up the door. Yet the collection amounted to 38,.1s. 4d.'

It is difficult for those of the present generation to realise, the bitterness that existed between the two bodies at the Disruption. Yet some faint idea of it may be gained from what follows:—"It will be seen that no site could be obtained from the proprietor for either church or manse; and we were willing to let matters remain as they were, for we were asking nothing, expecting nothing, getting nothing, from him. He, however, or perhaps rather his disappointed agents and advisers, had been " nursing their wrath to keep it warm." Accordingly, in due legal time for removal at the Whitsunday term of 1844, and in due legal form, summonses for removal of all Free Church tenants— and even a few others, either to save appearances, or because it was not certainly known by the prosecutors to what Church they belonged—were served. These summonses, if the terms of them had been complied with or enforced by compulsitors of law, would have occasioned the removal of 257 individuals, or about a fourth part of the whole population of the parish. Perhaps there was no intention of enforcing them; but they were the first steps in a legal process to compel or obtain the removal of those who would riot abandon the Free Church. This, I think now, was the end which it was intended by them to accomplish; but which, however, it signally failed to do, as not one of them left the Free Church. Still they occasioned a. great deal of annoyance, and even bad feeling on the part of members of the Establishment against the Free Church; they put a stop for a time to all improvements; they were not withdrawn, and much unnecessary expense was occasioned by them in the payment of sherinV-omcers, messengers, law-agents, etc. The only one that it was attempted to enforce was the one against myself. After the church was erected I had repeatedly said that, if I were paid what are called ameliorations, or the expenses I had laid out in draining, liming, and improving the land, to the amount of nearly 100, I would give it up at once. This the landlord's agents would not consent to do, and my friends strongly advised me to let the case go before the Sheriff, urging that, if I were now to give in, I would not only lose all the money I had laid out in improvements, but it would encourage the continuation of the prosecutions against others, who had not such good defences as my missive lease gave to me. My case, therefore, went into Court, and with the glorious delay and uncertainty of law, dragged along its weary length till the 7th December, when a final deliverance was given by the Sheriff in my favour, upon all the points that had been raised by the proprietor and his agents. In order, if possible, to frighten me into a submission, I was frequently told that the proprietor was determined to get quit of me, and if the Sheriff decided against him, he would carry the case to the Court of Session; and, if necessary, from that to the House of Lords. It may serve still further to show the determined hostility which was manifested, when I state that no fewer than three interlocutors in my favour had previously been pronounced by the Sheriff upon minor and most trifling points in the process, urged, I do not say by Lord Panmure, but by his agents, evidently with no other intention than to procure delay, and add to the expense of the process, with which they charitably seemed to expect, as I have no doubt they were very desirous, that I should be saddled. By the decision of the Sheriff, however, the greater part of these expenses had to be paid by the proprietor.'

Amid all these troubles, my father found time to vindicate his position by publishing several vigorous pamphlets in answer to some uncharitable attacks; and he faithfully discharged all ministerial and pastoral offices for no less than three separate parishes. In all weathers he moved about, a very pillar of strength and consolation to his flock, and during a sort of epidemic of gastric fever he relates how 'for about six weeks he was prevented from putting off all his clothes, as some of those who were in the fever needed constant attendance, night as well as day.' His health began to give way under the incessant strain arising from night work, want of proper rest, and anxiety about those who were ill. His lifelong, loyal friend, the Rev. William Nixon of St. John's, Montrose, saw the state he was in, while on a friendly visit, c and resolved that it should be endured no longer; so that I believe/ says the narrative, 'if better accommodation had not been acquired, he would, with his characteristic energy, have taken the necessary steps for, and insisted upon, my removal to some other place.'

However, after wearying delays, and in spite of hostile schemings and plottings, a site for a dwelling was purchased at a large advance on what was really the intrinsic worth. Again I quote from the pamphlet—

'A cottage was built upon the site immediately. 'About one-half of the cost of the cottage was raised by subscriptions from friends. No subscription was taken from any member of the congregation, though all of them were willing to give, as it was thought better that the full amount of their contributions should be reserved for the erection of a manse, when a site could be obtained. The farmers, however, drove a good deal of the materials. So soon as the cottage was built, and even before the plaster was dry, we removed into it, after being six years and a half in lodgings in William Carr's house. The removal produced a sudden and most salutary effect upon the health of the whole family, and we continued in that cottage till the month of August 1859, when we removed to the manse, only built that year, and not then quite finished. Our accommodation in the cottage was far superior to what we had in our lodgings. It was far more dry and comfortable than any other house in the village, and its internal arrangements and appearance cannot be better described than in the characteristic and forcible language of an old man, who came to it with a marriage party, to witness the marriage of one of his friends. When the party had left the room after the marriage ceremony, and were putting on their hats in the passage, the old man looked around him to the doors of other two rooms, the kitchen and a pantry, and said to one of his neighbours, "Eh, man, this is a braw laigh gutsy house."

In this cottage then, most of my younger days were spent; and it was not until 1858, fully fifteen years after the Disruption, and after the masterful, highhanded old laird had died, and been succeeded by his son, Fox Maule, that a proper site was obtained, on which a commodious, convenient manse, with stable, gig-house, and other out-offices, was erected; and so the narrative of my dear father's personal sufferings and privations in connection with the Disruption movement may be said, in one sense at least, to have ended.


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