Borrowstounness and District
Chapter XI. Ecclesiastical
1. First Parish Church: Description of Building:
Dutch Pulpit: Geneva Bible and Beza's New Testament; Seating
Accommodation—2. Ministers 1648-1746—3. Rev. Patrick Baillie :
He and the Representatives Resist Captain John Ritchie: Rev. Dr.
Rennie—4. Reminiscences of Dr. Rennie: The Rev. Kenneth
Mackenzie: His Contribution to New Statistical Account—5.
Extracts from the Benefice Lectures.—6. The Secession Church: No
Original Secession Church here—7. The Anti-Burghers at Little
Carriden: New Meeting House and Graveyard in Bo'ness—8. The
Anti-Burghers and their Pastors—9. The Burghers: Their Building
Troubles: Formation of United Associates 1820—10. Mr. Harper's
Ministry: Succeeded by Mr. Connell: Managers in 1838:
Session-Clerks: Secession and Relief Union: Captain Duncan's
Bequests—11. Result of Disruption in 1843: Formation of Free
Church Congregation: Erection of Church at Thirlestane: Mr.
Irving's Labours: Mr. Dempster.
the ministers of the church of Borrowstounness from its erection
in 1636 to 1866 were men of outstanding merit in their day. In
considering the earlier of these we must remember that, though
the Papal Church in Scotland was abolished by Act of Parliament
in 1560, and the doctrine of the Reformed Church formally
recognised, Episcopacy, owing to the leanings of King James,
also existed in a modified form for over thirty years. What
happened after its supposed abolition on 5th June, 1592, we have
already dealt with in our chapter on the Covenanters, but we
recall that a modified form of Episcopacy was once more adopted,
and this time with sanction, in 1618. Owing, therefore, to the
ecclesiastical changes of those times, we find curious and,
unless we remember our history, somewhat puzzling things in
Church affairs tight on to the Revolution. Some Presbyterians,
while retaining their own doctrine, seem to have consented to
their Church being governed after the method of Episcopacy.
Hence the frequent references to bishops. In other districts,
however, Presbyterians and Episcopalians kept apart, and certain
ministers were to be found who altogether refused to be ordained
except by Presbyterian ministers.
In our chapter on the Representatives, mention is
made of the circumstances attending the erection (1636-1638) of
the first Parish Church of Borrowstounness. It was originally
built only man-height, but in 1672, a year or two after Kinneil
Church was done away with, the Duke added a large aisle for
himself and his tenants. In this form it continued until 1776,
when, pursuant to an agreement between the town and the Duke's
Commissioners, the aisle was taken down and the church almost
entirely rebuilt in an oblong figure, sixty-nine feet by
forty-eight within the walls. This will probably account for the
presence of the Hamilton coat of arms, which can still be seen
in the centre of the north wall of the church. The walls and
ceiling were, we are told, handsomely "plaistered" and
ornamented, but the galleries were heavy and ill-constructed.
In 1820 the south wall and part of the east wall
were rebuilt, and the galleries reconstructed and made imiform.
Mr. M'Kenzie reminds us that the congregation possessed some
curious memorials of the frequent intercourse between Holland
and Bo'ness. The pulpit, for instance, came from there, and was,
he tells us, a curious specimen of ancient art and taste. The
oldest pulpit Bible was an Amsterdam edition of the Geneva Bible
reprinted from an Edinburgh edition of 1610, having several of
the usual maps and figurative illustrations] and the New
Testament was an English translation by L. Tomson of Beza's
version, clasped and ornamented with brass. The pulpit is now in
the new church, on Pan Brae Road, and Bible and Testament are
The church, he continues, was seated for the
accommodation of nine hundred and fifty, but might have
accommodated a hundred more if the vacant spaces in the
galleries were seated. The Duke of Hamilton had thirty pews,
containing one hundred and sixty-nine seats, occupied by his
tenants and by the colliers connected with his works. The
Representatives let ten pews, containing eighty-eight seats; and
forty-five pews, containing two hundred and seventy-nine seats,
were private property, but paid an annual feu into the church
funds. From £20 to £30 per annum was realised from these seats.
There were forty-six pews, containing two hundred ar.d
seventy-four seats, which paid no feu, being the free property
of private individuals; and fourteen pews, containing
ninety-nine seats, were the property of the different societies,
while some which were the property of private individuals were
let at the will of the proprietors at rents varying from Is. to
4s. per annum. These seats, as will be seen in another place,
formed part of the funds of the church.
When the church was opened the minister of
Kinneil did duty in both places for about ten years. Bo'ness,
therefore, had not a separate and distinct minister until 1648,
when John Waughe, A.M., from Lanark, was ordained in the month
of November and admitted. He was a student of Edinburgh
University. The earlier records of the place contain, as has
been seen, many references to Mr. Waughe, and go to show that he
was a man- of a vigorous mind. In the Presbytery he steadily
opposed the "Protestors," and during the Commonwealth was
imprisoned for naming the King in his prayers.1He
married, apparently, as his second wife, Dame Christian
Forrester, Lady Grange, widow of Sir James Hamilton of Grange.
He demitted his charge in 1670, and would have been denounced
with others in 1673 had he not gone to Ireland with his family.
He died in Edinburgh, March, 1674, aged about fifty-five, and in
the twenty-sixth year of his ministry.
The names of Robert Hunter, A.M., formerly of
Dunning, and John Inglis, A.M., formerly of Hamilton, both
appear in 1672 as having been successively in charge here.
Presumably they were Episcopal incumbents. Certainly the next
two were, for Mr. M'Kenzie says that during Episcopacy the
induction of Mr. James Hamilton, in 1678, and also that of Mr.
William Thomson, in 1685, are noted in the parish record.
Hamilton was a St. Andrews student, and obtained
the degree of A.M. there in July, 1668. He was offered Dalserf
in 1677, but he refused, and was afterwards admitted here. Two
men were scourged shortly after for committing an assault on
him. He died in February, 1685, in the seventh year of his
William Thomson, A.M., was translated here from
Douglas in 1685 as his successor. We find he got into trouble
with the Privy Council in 1689 for not reading the Proclamation
of the Estates declaring William and Mary King and Queen of
Scotland, and for not observing the thanksgiving appointed for
26th April preceding. But we doubt if these offences were
committed here, for it looks as if he had been "rabbled out" of
the living here in 1687.
On 30th November, 1687, the brethren of the
Presbytery of Linlithgow met at Bo'ness, "and having called upon
the name of God, they did constitute themselves in a
Presbytery." This was probably the first of the regular meetings
of the Presbytery after the liberty, and on 7th December they
met again at Bo'ness ''in order to the settling of Mr. Michael
Potter to be minister unto the Presbyterian congregation of the
Mr. Potter was a student at Edinburgh University,
where he graduated A.M. in July, 1663. Before he was "settled"
here he had much to suffer. In the early years of Charles II. he
would have nothing to do with Episcopacy in any shape or form,
refusing to go near a Presbytery which was Episcopalian at least
in its form of government.
In 1673, however, he was licensed by the
Presbyterian ministers and ordained by them soon after to the
Parish of St. Ninians. We next hear of his election as
schoolmaster of Culross by the magistrates of that place, for
which action they were summoned before the Privy Council in
1677. He endured much persecution at the rumoured instigation of
the Bishop of Dunblane, took refuge in Holland, was afterwards
imprisoned in Edinburgh, and finally was carried to the Bass for
preaching at conventicles. He was liberated on an Act of
Banishment in March, 1685. On toleration being granted to the
Presbyterians he joined in forming the Presbytery of Linlithgow,
and was duly called here by them and admitted on 7th December,
1687. Mr. Potter was a member of Assembly, in 1692, and was
translated to Dunblane about the same year, having been called
to Ecclesmachan also. His son was minister of Kippen, and
afterwards became Professor of Divinity in the University of
Mr. Potter's successor, Mr. John Brand, A.M.,
also an Edinburgh student, does not appear to have been ordained
here until 3rd January, 1694. In 1700 he was appointed by the
General Assembly with some others to visit Zetland, and, if
convenient, Orkney and Caithness. The visit took three months,
and both in going and returning he experienced great danger and
considerable fatigue. He afterwards published a description of
Orkney, Zetland, and Caithness. Mr. Brand, in 1700, married one
Elizabeth Mitchell, of the Parish of Canongate, and had a large
family. He died in July, 1738, aged seventy, after a long
William Brand, A.M., who succeeded, was a son of
the preceding, and, like his father, a student and graduate of
Edinburgh University. He was licensed by the Presbytery in
March, 1736; called here on 1st February, 1739; and ordained on
11th April, same year. He died seven years after in his
The next minister was Patrick Baillie (or Pat
Baillie, as Jupiter Carlyle, one of his pupils, calls him in his
Autobiography). Carlyle tells us he "gained an ascendant" over
him in Euclid, for Baillie had no mathematics and hot much
science of any kind. He, however, admits that Baillie was a very
good Latin scholar, and so expert in the Greek that he taught
Professor Drummond's class for a whole winter when the professor
was ill. It was through Baillie that Carlyle and some other of
Baillie's pupils managed to see the execution of the notorious
Wilson in the Grassmarket, which gave rise to the Porteous riot.
In describing the firing which that day took place by the Guard
under Porteous, Carlyle tells of "one unfortunate lad whom we
had displaced" being killed on the stair window by a slug
entering his head. Baillie was appointed chaplain to Sir William
Maxwell of Calderwood, and licensed by the Presbytery of
Hamilton in 1738. He was called to Borrowstounness on 8th May,
1746, doubtless under the patronage of the Hamilton family,
ordained on 14th May, 1747, and died on 11th September, 1791, in
the forty-fifth year of his ministry. It was during Mr.
Baillie's incumbency that the long and famous litigation, in
which he and the representatives became involved, with Captain
John Ritchie took place. It must have been a considerable trial
to the minister. One great relief, at least, he had during that
trying period, and that was the writing in 1763 of the
biographical sketch of his late elder and friend, John
Henderson, shipmaster, which is prefixed to the volume of
Henderson's "Divine Meditations and Contemplations," afterwards
The long ministry of Mr. Baillie was followed by
an extremely short one of two years. His successor was John
Morton, who was licensed in March, 1781, by the Presbytery of
Ayr, and presented here by the Duke3in
February, 1792. He was ordained in May of the same year, and
died in May, 1794.
We next come to the forty years' ministry of Dr.
Robert Rennie. In his young days he had an academy at Dumbarton.
In 1791 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Cupar, waspresented
here by the Duke Douglas in October, 1794, andDouglas,
Duke of Hamilton andordained
in April, 1795. Mr. Rennie had the degree of D.D. conferred on
him by the University of Glasgow, in April, 1820. He died on
29th July, 1833, and lies buried near the south-west corner of
the North Churchyard. The tombstone can be seen from the
pavement on the Church Wynd. He married, in 1809, Jean, eldest
daughter of Will Urquhart, Esq., merchant, Glasgow. She died in
London in 1851. The family consisted of William, merchant, and
John, writer, both in Glasgow. Dr. Rennie's name is not unknown
even to the present generation. A few weeks after his settlement
here he was called upon by Sir John Sinclair to contribute the
Statistical Account of this parish. This he did with conspicuous
ability, although handicapped by his very short residence in the
district at the time. Throughout these pages we have quoted
largely from the doctor's narrative, and the extracts are all of
great interest. Like his predecessor, too, he was much in the
law Courts with the Representatives, but did not leave off until
he emerged triumphant in the House of Lords.
Mr. Adam Dawson, of Bonnytoun, in his "Rambling
Recollections," printed for private circulation in 1868,3has
several references to the doctor. The latter, he says, affected
a fineness in speech and deportment little in keeping with a
flock chiefly composed of the roughest mining human materials.
In his day the Borrowstounness collier conceived that he had a
vested right to a share of all the unprotected produce of the
parish, from which even the territories of the manse were not
exempted. Seeing one of these worthies helping himself to a
portion of the beans growing in his glebe, Dr. Rennie
remonstrated with the depredator on the subject. "If you will
only wait," said he, "till the beans be ripe, I will give you a
peck." "A peck," said the other, with an air of scorn; "go, lad,
I'll no' tak' yer bow."
Suffering under a dislocated joint, which baffled
the skill of the surgeons, the doctor resorted to one Low at
Dunfermline, at that time a celebrated bonesetter, who, it was
said, restored the bone to its proper place. "And wha may ye be?
" asked Low, after the operation was finished. "I am the
Reverend Dr. Rennie, meenister of the Parish of Borrowstounness."
"Ay, ay," said he of the bones, nothing daunted by the
importance of the enunciation, "a minister wi' grey breeksI"
Yet Rennie was a stringent disciplinarian. It is
said that at a periodical examination of the Grammar School of
Linlithgow he reproved the rector so sharply in the presence of
his pupils for some shortcoming which they had betrayed in the
matter of the Catechism that it cost the burgh the services of
an otherwise excellent teacher.
The Church Wynd when made went through a portion
of the glebe. In the doctor's time a question arose as to the
distinctive boundary of the glebe with a collier feuar on the
Corbiehall side. The collier won his case, and the minister, it
is said, had to pay the expenses out of his own pocket.
On Dr. Rennie's death, Alexander, tenth Duke, as
the patron, gave the parishioners the choice of three gentlemen
as his successor, namely, the Rev. Kenneth M'Kenzie, from
Gorbals Chapel-of-Ease, a Mr. Jackson and a Mr. Campbell. Mr.
Campbell, it is said, was profuse in his promises to give "
cottar tatties," patches of ground on the glebe where his
intended parishioners would be at liberty to cultivate their own
little plot. Mr. Jackson was to do "something," he did not say
what; while Mr. M'Kenzie made "no promises." Mr. M'Kenzie was
elected by a large majority, Mr. Jackson only getting three
votes. Mr. M'Kenzie came here in 1834. He was a Highlander and a
bachelor. When he died his remains were taken to Glasgow for
interment. There are still a number alive in the town who
remember the ministry of Mr. M'Kenzie. He preached with black
cotton gloves on, in the old style, and was said to be a
somewhat dry expositor. He was an antiquarian of considerable
acquirements, and hishistory
of the parish as contributed to the New Statistical Aooount,
which we have repeatedly referred to in these pages, is
excellent proof of his learning and industry.
In the "Benefice Lectures,"we
find the following reference to the Church records of the Parish
I. Records in seven volumes—
(1) 2nd August, 1694, to 11th July, 1712.
(2) 15th July, 1712, to 20th August, 1731.
(3) 27th July, 1742, to 13th March, 1766.
(4) March, 1766, to March, 1808.
(5) March, 1808, to January, 1859.
(6) 7th July, 1867, to 22nd January, 1892.
(7) 28th March, 1892, to date (1905).
II. Blanks—20th August, 1731, to 27th July, 1742;
January, 1859, to 7th July, 1867. This volume entirely a wan
ting. Nothing known of it.
III. All bound in good condition.
In the "Lectures" there is the following
concerning the Bo'ness glebe: —
"During the troublous times prior to the
Revolution, in 1688, and owing to the annexation of parishes,
acres of rich arable and valuable feuing land were lost to the
Church. When vacancies in a charge occurred the Church was
quietly dispossessed of lands, and, because no claim had been
urged for their restitution within the forty subsequent years,
these are now beyond the power of recovery.
"A noticeable illustration of this was recently
discovered in the case of Bo'ness. The designing of the glebe
and its boundaries, as fixed by the Presbytery on the 22nd
January, 1650, are clear and explicit. The glebe as thus
designed has from time to time been much encroached upon in
The Rev. Kenneth M'Kenzie, Minister of Bo'ness,
a photograph in possession of Mr. John Steele, Bo'ness.)
In particular, while the north boundary is stated
to be the sea, the Duke of Hamilton, the only heritor, has
gradually taken possession of glebe land along the whole length
of the sea boundary, leasing and fencing it as his own, and
claiming its minerals. The effect of this is that the present
portion of glebe is shut off from the surface of the foreshore,
if not also from the minerals. This is a typical instance of the
losses the church has sustained. The church of the present day
is much the poorer through the depredations of interested
parties in years gone by. Now, why was this allowed to take
place? In the days of patronage there was a strong temptation on
the part of the minister to say nothing when the party
responsible for the alienation of Church property happened to be
the patron of the living. Indebted to him for promotion, the
minister, forgetful of his duty as trustee of the church, was
hindered by a sense of personal friendship from resisting
insidious encroachments or from seeking the just restoration to
the church of the glebe land which by designation in bygone days
had belonged to the benefice. Then, as now, encroachments have
been made on glebes by the making of new roads and the
straightening of fences, oftentimes without protest. And even
when protests were made the reply generally given was that the
portions shaved off were very small, and nothing of the kind
would happen again. But, unfortunately for the church, such
encroachments have been frequent, and still continue."
We are not in a position to discuss the complaint
we have just quoted, and all we can say is that, if "shaving,"
and even more than shaving, has taken place on the Bo'ness
glebe, a considerable portion of what is left is now well feued,
and yields a goodly return.
The reasons which led up to the 'Secession' and
the formation of a new hody by the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine in
December, 1733, were mainly two, viz., the "Marrow" controversy
and disputes occasioned by patronage.
There was no congregation here of the Original
Secession Church, but there did exist a small body of
Cameronians, a thing not to be wondered at in a town where, a
century before, the Covenanting spirit had been so prevalent.
One of the earliest Seceding churches in Scotland was opened in
1738 at Craigmailing, a few miles south from Linlithgow. For
years it served a wide district, stretching from Bo'ness to West
Calder, and from Bathgate to Kirkliston. There are now in this
same area several churches which claim Craigmailing as their
mother. Craigmailen United Free Church in this town is one of
The Burgher and Anti-Burgher bodies, which broke
up the unity of the Secession in 1747, drew many adherents
around them in Bo'ness. The former were attached to the same
body at Linlithgow, and had not a meeting-place here until 1795.
The latter, however, established themselves first of all in a
barn at Little Carriden in September, 1762. Two years later they
removed to Bo'ness, having acquired a small property there from
the Sea Box, which they made suitable for their purposes. This
came to be known as the Easter Meeting-house, and was situated
on the site of the present Charlotte Place. Its yard on the
north side was used as their burying-ground, and until very
recently some tombstones were to be seen there. Two of the
parties interred were James Paterson and John Drummond.
It was necessary both to collect and spend money
for this, so -we find an entry under 23rd July, 1763; "Appoints
James Marshal to keep the Box as Cashier, to take in the money
offered thereto by the Publick, and to expend the same in paying
ministers for preaching, and the charges in building the
Meetinghouse ; also David Buchanan and John Cathcart to be
key-keepers for the ensuing year, when a committee shall inspect
the .accompts of said Boxmaster and Key keepers."
In October following, and still at Little
Carriden, it was resolved that the new Meeting-house in course
of completion in Bo'ness should be "regulated" as follows:—"The
Communion tables to be fixed in the middle of the house 4 feet
in breadth. The West end of the house to be seated by Bo'ness
people, and the East by those of Carriden, and each party is to
put the Communion table in their own end at their own expense.
John Paris, Alex. Low, John Cathcart, and Thomas Boyd to apply
to the proprietor of the Barn for either taking it off our hands
or .sufficiently repairing it that it may not be in ruins before
we leave it." Money was evidently badly needed in connection
with the new place, as in November it is minuted, " The
collectors are desired to be very assiduous in gathering in the
•quotas with speed."
After removal to the new Meeting-house we find
the congregation exercised about the use to which the yard to
the north might be put. At a meeting on 24th December, 1765, "A
vote, after some reasoning, was stated if any burial shall be
allowed in this Meeting-house or not, and it was carried in the
negative by a great majority." And on 2nd May following we read,
"The Meeting agree that the inclosed ground or yard at the back
of the Meeting-house be sown with barley and grass seeds for
this year till they see how they are to employ it afterwards."
By 13th June feeling about it had changed, for we find " It was
by a majority of votes agreed that it be used as a
burying-place, it being thought to promise most advantage to the
congregation in that way. John Paris is appointed to dispose of
the grass, &c., that shall be on the yard this year, and give in
the money to the congregation."
The following is from a " Sketch of Directions "
for the managers regarding the graveyard: —
"A Burial-place, consisting of three layers, or
seven foot square, is agreed to be sold for ten shillings, and
one layer at five shillings. Every person burying an adult to
pay 1/6, a shilling whereof goes to the gravedigger and sixpence
to the congregation. And for children 1/2, whereof the
gravedigger shall have 8 pence and the congregation 6 pence."
Three years after this it was agreed that a book
be given to the clerk and kept by him as a register of the
burial-yard describing the length and breadth of the yard; also
to have the congregation's decision concerning it recorded
therein containing the length, breadth, and price of each
burial-place, and the purchaser's name and place in the yard,
and of the dues of burials therein, likewise of the money paid,
both purchase price and dues.
The minutes, so far as we have observed, contain
copies of at least two conveyances of layers. The first, dated
8th June, 1772, is to Ebenezer Thomson, shoemaker, in
Borrowstounness. The price paid was 10s., and the ground 7 feet
in length, and the same in breadth. The boundaries and situation
of the burying-place conveyed are carefully detailed. The next
conveyance is to John Paris, who is designed as " Elder in the
Associate Congregation of Borrowstounness." It is in the same
terms as the other, only the situation of the ground is
The Anti-Burghers were here some years before
they were able to afford a permanent pastor. At Carriden they
craved the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh for "as much supply
of sermon that Court can possibly give in conjunction with other
vacant congregations; and also the dyet of an actual minister to
keep a fast and constitute the Session."
In May, 1765, the members were very anxious to
secure the Rev. Richard Jermont, Earlstoun, as their first
pastor. They appointed four commissioners to present their
petition "and deal warmly with the Presbytery to sustain the
call." The Synod, however, did not thing proper to "transport"
Mr. Jermont. This was an unfortunate rebuff. A goodly number of
probationers preached on trial after this, but no decision was
arrived at. Perhaps the members were difficult to please.
"Whether or not it is clear they were sorely tried at this
critical time, as the following extract of 25th November, 1765,
shows:—"The Preses, by unanimous consent, enjoyned the whole
members of the congregation to set some time apart for
supplicating the Throne of Grace for Light and Direction in our
present situation that we jointly seek the Lord's Countenance
before proceeding to the momentous affair before our hand, viz.,
the choice of a pastor."
At last a selection was made, and on 13th August,
1766, the Rev. Thomas Clelland was ordained first minister of
the congregation. A minute in July discloses the preparations
made for the happy event—" Appoints David Aiken to make a tent
against the thirteen day of August, and make it five foot long
and four foot wide, and appoints that John Black and John Paris
shall provide a scaffold against the ordination, and the tent to
stand befor the meeting-house; and the ministers at said
ordination to be accomidated by Alex. Lang at the congregation
The tent was really an open-air pulpit and the
scaffold a raised platform. Evidently such a large turnout was
expected that it was necessary to arrange for the services being
held outside instead of inside the meeting-house.
The difficulty of maintaining Mr. Clelland was
great, and the minutes during his pastorate reveal many meetings
to consider means of making up deficiencies in his stipend.
His-salary was £40, and although a motion was made to allow £2
more, it "was negatived as impracticable in our present
circumstances." Later, "the friendly assistance of the Synod in
sending £6 and of the congregation of Denny in giving £6 10s. is
gratefully recorded." In August, 1794, pastor and people came to
the parting of their ways. We then find this, "The meeting
appoint two of their number to wait on our pastor and inform him
it would be better for him to demitt than for them to make an
application to the Presbytery." When interviewed,however,Mr.
Clelland told the deputation "hewould lay the state of the
congregation before the Presbytery himself without any new
representation or petition." In November the Presbytery
dissolved his pastoral relations, and at a congregational
meeting held thereafter it was agreed that the ministers coming
here to afford supply "should be lodged with these members who
had the best conveniency for that purpose."
A fixed ministry was not again established for
five years, and even then the difficulty in meeting the stipend
owing to "the smallness of the numbers who contributed" was very
At a meeting in June, 1804, we observe that Mr.
Carmichael, the new minister, requested the congregation to
inform him "at their conveniency whether he might have reason to
expect from them the payment of a house rent, say, £5, as asked
by him at Whitsunday last year." It is minuted they would have
no objections to add £5 or £10 annually more, "but ay and while
they were in arrear of stipend (as at present nearly £10) they
consider it as impracticable." A year after this Mr. Carmichael
intimated that " thro' bodily indisposition he judged it
necessary to give in to the first meeting of Presbytery his
Demission, and that the congregation should provide
accordingly." This minister apparently gave the members much
satisfaction, and their conduct towards him at this unfortunate
juncture was kindly. We read, "A committee waited on Mr.
Carmichael to propose to him to take a voyage for his health,
and that the congregation would meantime look out for supply
from some of the brethren in the Presbytery, provided he would
not give up his charge, but this he absolutely refused." A
subscription was then opened for raising a sum of money for him,
and this resulted in the sum of twenty guineas being handed him
as a donation.
Two more years passed without a pastor. In the
meanwhile an effort was being made to raise the stipend to at
least £70 per annum, with £5 in name of house rent. This seems
strange when we remember their difficulties in raising a smaller
stipend. Selection was made in the beginning of 1808 of a Mr.
James Thomson, probationer, as minister. A minute relating to
his ordination arrangements records, "A proposal was made to
open a subscription for defraying the expense of a suit of
clothes for Mr. James Thomson." It is not stated whether this
proposal was agreed to or not. If it was, no doubt the clerical
suit would be given as an act of courtesy and welcome, just as
in modern days pulpit robes are presented. We grant that at
first sight the circumstances seemed to signify that the young
minister was in a state of want. On reflection, however, we have
abandoned that idea.
Mr. Thomson was their last pastor. He remained
until February, 1812, when he petitioned the Presbytery to be
loosed from his charge. The congregation by that time was in a
very poor state numerically. Only three minutes appear in the
minute-book after this, and from these we gather that some
arrangement for sermon was made with the Anti-Burghers of
Linlithgow. The charge, anyhow, remained vacant, and the
congregation, a mere shadow of its former self, struggled on in
a perfunctory way until the amalgamation in 1820.
There is little else to note about the
Anti-Burghers, save to show how they dealt with seat-rent
defaulters, and built their session-house. As for the first,
several people were reported to be "long deficient in their seat
rents." It was therefore agreed that every member capable of
paying "shall be dealt with in as sharp but prudent a way as
possible; and if that will not do, they to be laid before the
The matter of the session-house emerged after the
settlement of the first minister. Frequent meetings were held,
and in March, 1769, the congregation having again taken into
consideration "the necessity of having a session-house built,
agreed by a great majority that one be built at the north-east
side of the meeting-house, close to the back thereof, and that
the charges thereof be defrayed by a private collection." But
the building did not go on for more than a year after that. In
June, 1770, the motion was repeated, and again carried, a number
of collectors being appointed to collect funds. Five members
were also nominated "to be managers of the building, and orders
them to get it begun immediately, and with all possible speed
get it finished."
The following,, some for shorter, others for
longer periods, acted as chairmen of the congregation between
1762 and 1812:—Alex. Lang, James Simson, John Paris, John
Cathcart, John Jack, James Walker, John Graham, James Ferguson,
William Johnston, George Dick, John Anderson (Kinneil Mills)
Robert Henderson, Matthew Foord, Andrew Smith, and John Miller.
dated 9th April, 1794. It narrates that the
petitioners are members of the Associate congregation of
Linlithgow residing in and about Bo'ness; refers to the clamant
condition of the place for want of a pure dispensation of the
Gospel with which they could join; mentions that numbers of the
old, infirm, and young could not attend regularly at Linlithgow,
even in the summer, far less in the winter season, considering
the .badness of the roads; states that they are able to maintain
the Gospel by themselves as a distinct congregation, judging
from the numbers which had attended the occasional sermons here;
and concludes with a crave for disjunction. Annexed to the
petition is a docquet by which the petitioners appointed James
Morton, Alex. Steell, James Paterson, Eben. Thomson, Robert
Brown, James Shaw, William Henderson, Robert Arkley, 'George
Henderson, James Meikle, and Archibald Hardie, their
commissioners, or any two or more of them, to present the
petition and prosecute the end thereof. This is signed "Alex.
A perusal of the two hundred signatures is
illuminating. Many of the old Bo'ness surnames appear—Bairds,
Browns, Bells, Boags, Gibbs, Hardies, Hendersons, Heggies, Kidds,
Marshalls, Meikles, Robertsons, Rennies, Steuarts, Snaddons,
Starks, Shaws, and Thomsons; also such family names, to take a
few only, still common in the town, as Marget Allen, Isbell
Buchan, Margaret Buchanan, Archibald Ballantine, William Baird,
Andrew Bennie, Margret Bell, John Brown, William Brown, Robert
Brown, Margret Culbreath (now Galbraith), Robert Dalreympel,
David Duncon, Jean Drysdelle, James Deas, Richard Grant, John
Grant, Eliza Grindlay, John Hamilton, Betty Hamilton, Richard
Lumsden, John Marshall, Robert Mitchell, James Miller, John
M'Intosh, John Paris, •Charles Robertson, John Robertson, John
Snaddon, Jean Smith, Katren Stevens, Ann Stewart, John Thomson,
and Janet Turnbull. The disjunction craved was granted in due
Strong in numbers, with men of activity and
business •capacity among its members, the newly constituted
Burgher congregation appears to have been launched in smooth
Its members may have been enthusiastic and
numerous, but their minutes are meagre. The first minute is
dated 20th September, 1795, and it is there recorded that the
Rev. Michael Garfillan (Gilfillan), Presbytery clerk, ordained
James Morton and Henry Stark to the eldership in the forenoon.
In the interval of public "worship the session was constituted,
when, besides the newly-ordained elders, there were present
Ebenezer Thomson and James Buchan, who seem to have been elders;
before. Thomson at any rate had been an Anti-Burgher, but
appears to have changed. Buchan was chosen session-clerk. We
find nothing of the circumstances attending the choice or
appointment of Mr. Harper. There is simply a bald minute, dated
24th August, 1796, which runs—Which day the Rev. Archibald
Harper having been solemnly set apairt to the office of the holy
ministry in this congregation, the session met and was
constituted by the Rev. Mr. Belfrage."
Brevity was a strong point with Mr. Buchan, for
im recording another session meeting on 30th August he simply
says—"Being constitute, all members present, spent some
time-praise and prayer, agreed to meet ordinarily on the first
Tuesday of every month, closed with prayer."
The winds and seas very soon arose and raged with
great violence for years round the little barque of the
Burghers. The situation, however, was faced courageously, and in
the long-run successfully. All the troubles arose over the
erection of the-new meeting-house (now St. Mary's Hall). Nisbet,
mason, Edinburgh, had the building contract, and from start to
finish he gave the greatest annoyance. The building adjoined
the-northern boundary of the parish minister's glebe, and Nisbet
in his operations not only put his materials on the glebe lands,
but without permission made a road through them from the-north
to the south. Just as the foundations were being laicL the Rev.
Robert Rennie, the parish minister, raised—and no doubt with
reason—an action of interdict in the Court of Session against
the managers. Fortunately parties met at once and adjusted their
differences, and so the first obstacle was removed-
Under the contract with Nishet the new premises
were to be ready for occupancy in August, 1796, but even in the
end of September the building was hopelessly incomplete,
although he-had been paid most of the contract price. The
managers were-therefore forced to apply to the Sheriff for
authority to finish the work themselves at the contractor's
expense. This had the effect of making the defaulting tradesman
bring the building-to a speedy completion. But now came the
greatest annoyance of all. Nisbet rendered a large account for
extras. Payment was refused, and in 1798 he raised an action for
payment in the Court of Session, before Lord Meadowbank. The
case was fought by the Congregational Committee, consisting of
William Henderson, merchant; Archibald Hardie, baker; James
Buchan, merchant; and James Morton, smith. It is of peculiar
interest to observe from the papers in the-case that the
advocate employed for the committee was Francis Jeffrey,
afterwards famous as the editor of theEdinburgh
latterly raised to the bench as Lord Jeffrey. He was then a
young man of twenty-six, and had only been two years, at the
bar. The case dragged on until the spring of 1799. We-have not
seen the final judgment—if there was such a thing. But in the
preceding July his lordship, in one of his interlocutors, wished
the parties " would return to their original dispositions
to-behave properly and liberally to each other," so that we
assume the matter was ultimately compromised by the parties;
In September, 1820, amid much rejoicing in
Edinburgh, the Burghers and Anti-Burghers strengthened
themselves by a judicious union under the designation of the
United Associate Synod. Under this arrangement the provincial
bodies, of course, did likewise. So, in December of that year,
we find that the whole of the elders of the Anti-Burgher
congregation here gave in their accession to Mr. Harper's
congregation. The affiliated elders were George Dick, Alexander
Aitken, William Duguid, and William Johnston. In the following
February the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was dispensed in Mr.
Harper's church, when nearly all the former members of
the--Anti-Burgher congregation residing in this quarter who had
not previously joined Mr. Harper's congregation also gave in
their accession. The two congregations were thus united,
assembling together for public worship in one place, under the
pastoral charge of the same minister, and under the title of the
United Associate Congregation.
This was the chief event in the thirty-eight
years' ministry •of Mr. Harper, if we except the troublesome
litigations already referred to. There was some little business
trouble, too, in 1832. That year Mr. William Henderson, who had
for long acted most zealously as session-clerk, entered into a
lengthy correspondence with Mr. Andrew Allan, teacher,
Linlithgow, respecting the Easter Meeting-house. The Linlithgow
congregation somehow claimed the property, but Mr. Henderson
stoutly maintained that both the Anti-Burgher and Burgher
Meeting-houses belonged entirely to the United Associate
Congregation. Ultimately the Presbytery appears to have taken
the matter up, and decided that, when sold, the proceeds were to
be divided between Mr. Harper's congregation -and the East
congregation, Linlithgow. The disputed property was, however,
let for fifty-eight years to Messrs. James Shaw, Robert Syme,
and James Jamieson. Towards the expiry of that term it was sold,
and the present Charlotte Place built upon the site. How the
proceeds were disposed of does not appear to be recorded.
Mr. Harper fell into feeble health in the autumn
of 1833. In the following February the session agreed, at the
request of the Synod, to set apart a certain evening for uniting
in prayer to God for the conversion of the world. The minute
also states —"An additional reason for engaging in that exercise
is the present state of this congregation, our respected pastor
being in affliction and having for some time past been unable to
perform any ministerial duty." In March it was agreed to apply
to the Presbytery for a helper and successor, and also to
acquaint Mr. Harper with the views and wishes of the session.
The Presbytery then granted moderation in a call for
an-assistant and successor. Mr. Harper, however, unfortunately
died on 5th April, and just on the eve of the election of the
Rev. George Hill, late of Warrington. Nevertheless the
congregation proceeded to carry out their arrangements, and on
the 8th April met and unanimously chose Mr. Hill as Mr. Harper's
successor. A call was thereupon made out and signed' by
sixty-two persons. The Presbytery sustained the call, but Mr.
Hill declined, "having received a call from Musselburgh, which
Mr. Harper's long connection with Bo'ness is
perpetuated' to this day. His residence was situated at the back
of what is now the Union Bank Buildings in South Street, and the
place is still known as Harper's Court.
After Mr. Hill's declinature, further procedure
was taken. This resulted in a call to Mr. David Connel, preacher
of tho Gospel, and his ordination took place on the 13th of
January, 1835. His ministry, like that of his predecessor, was
comparatively quiet and uneventful, and, curiously enough, it
lasted for the like period of thirty-eight years.
Mr. Connel's congregation had a body of managers
as well' as a session, and the following extract from a
congregational meeting held on 28th May, 1838, gives an
indication of those in charge of its temporal affairs at that
period. Mr. Henry Hardie presided, and the following were
appointed managers : — Wm. Henderson, Henry Hardie, John
Anderson, James Meikle, George Paterson, Robert Thomson, Wm.
Marshall, Andrew Robertson, John Marshall, James Shaw (sen.),
James Duncan, James Syme, John Paris, John Hardie, Robert Syme,
James Stewart, George Henderson, and James Paterson; Mr. Wm.
Henderson, treasurer and convener. The meeting also appointed
the following as trustees, viz. :—Messrs. John-Anderson, John
Hardie, James Meikle, Henry Hardie, Andrew Robertson, Wm.
Marshall, John Marshall, James Paterson, George Henderson, and
James Shaw, tertius. The meeting :authorised Messrs. Wm.
Henderson and John Anderson to get legal titles made up to the
present church, and also to the Easter Meeting-house, and to do
so without delay.
Mr. Wm. Henderson continued to act as session
clerk in Mr. Connel's time until the spring of 1844, when he was
removed by death. The session minuted the regret which they felt
at his death and their gratitude for his long and -excellent
services, at the same time appointing Mr. James Meikle as his
successor. Mr. Meikle had just a few weeks before been "solemnly
set apart by prayer and the laying on of the hands of the
session to the office of the eldership." He continued to act as
session clerk until his death, which occurred suddenly on 5th
January, 1853. Mr. Connel himself then acted ..as interim clerk
until October of the following year, when Mr. ^George Henderson
was selected to succeed Mr. Meikle.
In May, 1847, the United, Secession, and Relief
Synods met .-as one in Canonmills, Edinburgh, and assumed the
name of the United Presbyterian Church. This was during Mr.
Connel's ministry, but we have not observed any notice of the
event in the session minutes. There was, of course, no local
Relief Church, and therefore no local union, so that might
account for the omission.
A session minute of 9th June, 1847, records that
James Duncan, an aged member of session, having died since last
meeting, they record their sorrow at being deprived of so
faithful and useful a fellow-labourer, and express their
gratitude to the Head of the Church for having spared him so
long among them. It was at this same meeting agreed to record in
the minutes certain documents containing two bequests by Mr.
Duncan, who was therein designed some time master, afterwards
retired commander, R.N. The first was of the sum of £10, which
was to be applied towards liquidating the debt affecting the
church. The other amounted to £100 sterling, free of duty. It
was to be invested by the session, and the interest or proceeds
were to be distributed amongst the poor of the church.
It is unnecessary to recapitulate here the
ecclesiastical movements in the Church of Scotland which
resulted in the Disruption of 1843 and the formation of the Free
Church of Scotland. At that time the Rev. Kenneth MacKenzie was
minister of Bo'ness and the Rev. David Fleming minister of
Carriden. Both have been described as Moderates of the
easy-going type, and as having remained in their comfortable
manses to enjoy their easily earned loaves and fishes in peace
and safety. Whether their qualities as easy-goers weighed with
them or not in their decision we know not, but it is true they
did not "come out." Many of the people of both congregations,
however, felt it their duty to separate themselves from the
Establishment and go into the wilderness with the new body.
These people met for divine worship that summer in a yard on the
foreshore, used in connection with Mr. Roy's sawmill at the
Links. Here, in dry weather, they had the big logs for seats and
the blue heavens for roof-tree. In a few months other quarters
were found. These were situated in the "Old Barns," in
Grangepans, to the east side of Man-o'-war Street, and long
To the help of these worthy people came the Rev.
Lewis H. Irving, who for conscience' sake had just left his
church and manse in the neighbouring Parish of Abercorn. He
never became the regular minister of this congregation, but he
was instrumental in raising it at first, and superintended its
work until a permanent pastor was appointed. Mr. Irving was a
man of aristocratic bearing and connections, and his history of
the Parish of Abercorn, contributed to the New Statistical
Account of Scotland on the eve of his leaving it, still
furnishes us with an excellent reflex of his mental qualities
and capabilities. He ultimately settled in Falkirk, and devoted
his talents and energy to the organisation of the Free Church in
this county. Mr. Irving had a taste for drawing and
architecture, and this faculty he turned to advantage in drawing
plans and making specifications for churches and manses all over
the land. The local Free Church Manse is one of the many which
he designed, and all his work was done gratuitously. As a
preacher he is said to have been a muscular Christian, who at
times became vehemently and most alarmingly eloquent. He could
speak for an hour on end without notes, and one old Grangepans
lady has left her testimony that "she could ha'e sat the hale
blessed day and listened to him."
Not until the beginning of 1844 were elders and
deacons appointed by the newly formed congregation, and steps
taken to build a church. A site was obtained from the Duke of
Hamilton—but only on a one-hundred-years lease—at the east end
of the Links, and just at the western side of the boundary line
between the Parish of Bo'ness and that of Carriden. The new
church was neat and commodious. It was not costly, as buildings
run nowadays, the total sum spent on its erection being £365
17s. 2d. From time to time, however, during the next sixty-two
years it was enlarged, and otherwise much improved.
The foundation-stone of this church was laid on
the 20th of August, 1844. Members and their friends walked in
procession from their temporary premises in Grangepans to the
site at Boundary Street. Here Captain James Hope of Carriden
(afterwards Admiral Sir James) delivered an appropriate speech
to the audience, and one who heard it has said that the Captain
very characteristically expressed himself in nautical language,
wishing that they would have a long pull, a strong pull, and a
Beneath the foundation-stone, in a leaden case,
were placed copies of the Act of Separation and Deed of
Demission, protest by the ministers and elders, copies of theWitness,the
almanac, and a list of the office-bearers and managers of the
congregation. The stone was then laid by the Captain with
Masonic honours. Mr. Irving, as was natural, took a prominent
part in the proceedings. He followed the stone-laying with a
most impressive speech, and closed the proceedings by fervently
imploring the Almighty's benediction on the business of the day.
The first minister of this church was Mr. Alex.
P. Dempster. He is said to have been a delicate young man, but
possessed good abilities. His ministry lasted for ten years, his
death occurring in June, 1854. His successor was Mr. Daniel
Wilson, who laboured here with great acceptance for thirty
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