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
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.