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Fraser's Scottish Annual
The Parishes of Scotland


J. M. H.

THE parish of the present day has rather prosaic associations. To most people it is t closely bound up with the idea of Parish Councils and poor- rates, and Parish Councils and poor - rates are both distinctly unromantic institutions. Nevertheless the parishes of Scotland form an extremely interesting collection. Their history takes us back to times when the Scots knew neither Parish Councils or poor- rates, and in addition to their antiquity there are many points about the parishes of to-day which are well worthy of being noted.

Perhaps the only feature common to all religions is the collection, and the division of the kingdom into parishes was, in fact, an ecclesiastical method of "sending round the hat." Margaret, Queen of Scotland, the wife of Malcolm Can- more, was intensely zealous in the cause of the Church, and did all in her power to further its interests. Her zeal descended in full measure to her son David, Scotland's "Sore Saint," and he it was who conceived the parochial system. Every lord's manor he converted into a parish, and to each a minister was appointed, and thus the Church was enabled to collect its dues all over the country. These parishes have been subject to many changes from time to time, but the modern parish system can be traced right back to the division of King David's time.

Scotland is essentially a land of irregularities, and her parishes fully sustain the national reputation. They vary greatly in size, and the differences in population are no less marked. In very many cases the boundaries are not accurately known, and have frequently been the subject of dispute. Seldom do parish boundaries coincide with the county boundaries. This is due to the fact that the parish was originally a purely ecclesiastical institution, while the county, of course, had always had a civil significance.

At the present time there are two classes of parishes—parishes qucad omnia, or civil parishes, and parishes quoad sacra. The parish quoad sacra is merely a church parish, created when the spiritual wants of the people demand it. The civil parish is the parish proper, and the facts in this article refer to it.

The largest parish in Scotland is Kilmallie, in the wilds of the Lochaber district of Inverness-shire and Argyllshire. It extends to over 300,000 acres. The idea of the enormous size of this vast Highland parish is more readily grasped when we consider that its area is greater than those of Midlothian and of fifteen other Scottish counties. Kilmonivaig, another Inverness-shire parish, famous in history as the "cradle of the rebellion of '45," is the second largest Scottish parish. It includes about 270,000 acres, and is thus larger than Midlothian and thirteen other Scottish counties. The third largest parish is Lochbroom, in Ross- shire, which is almost as large as Kilmonivaig. Lochbroom gives its name to one of the "fishery districts" of Scotland.

The smallest Scottish parish is IQueensferry, in Linlithgowshire. This toy parish is only eleven acres in extent. Thus Scotland's largest parish could contain her smallest nearly 30,000 times over.

However, the question of population is perhaps more important than the question of size. The Barony Parish, in Glasgow, has a population of over 300,000, and may thus claim to be Scotland's most populous parish. In Cranshaws, a Berwickshire parish, we have the other extreme, this thinly populated parish having under one hundred souls within its boundaries.

Aberdeenshire has more parishes than any other Scottish county. It is divided into over eighty. Perthshire and Fifeshire follow with seventy-one and sixty-one, respectively. There are only five in Nairnshire.

Many ancient parishes have been suppressed or merged in others. In some of these cases both names have been retained. Thus we have Monzievaird and Strowan, in Perthshire; and Kilmore and Kilbride, in Argyllshire.

These amalgamations have proved very fertile sources of dispute, for many parish records have in the past been very imperfectly kept. A recent case is that of Larbert and Dunipace, over which a legal controversy has been raging for some time. The question is one which touches the heritors. If the parishes be separate two churches must be provided, otherwise only one can be legally required.

We have taken the parish by itself, and we have found it to be not without an interest of its own. For a very real interest always attaches to an "ancient landmark which thy fathers have set," and this the parish may fairly claim to be.


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