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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XXVII.—Ministers (continued)


THE next minister was Anthony Dow, A.M., a graduate of St. Andrews and a licentiate of the Presbytery of Cupar, ordained minister of the parish, 26th September, 1723. He married Ann, eldest daughter of Mr William Reid, minister of Dunning, and had a son David, minister of Dron, and a daughter Jean, who married Mr Robert Trail, minister of Panbride. He died on 25th August, 1772, aged 78, and in the forty-ninth year of his ministry. It was the longest ministry of anyone either before or after in the parish; and in many respects, as will be seen, the most eventful. In the discharge of his duties he was very faithful, but, owing to infirmity and loss of memory in his latter years, he was laid aside from preaching; yet, it is said, that with the help of Mr Barclay, his assistant, alongside as prompter, he continued to the last to officiate at all the baptisms and marriages.

The elders in his time were, in 1733, Alexander Picky man in Uppermill (Treasurer); Alexander Scott in Nethermill; William Ferguson in Mains of Fettercairn; and James Clark in Denstrath. The last named "joined the Independent faction in the village and was deposed." In 1741, James Law in Mains of Balbegno; James Wallace in Hillton of Dalladies; and James Niddrie in Fettercairn.

In 1742, David Low in Fettercairn (Treasurer); David Wylie (smith) in Stankeye; and William Christy in Stranosen. In 1748, David Carnegie, Robert Carnegie, and William Valentine (in land of Arnhall); Robert Valentine in Denstrath; and John Law in Mains of Drumhendry. And in 1765, John Kinloch in Uppermill; and James Law, junr., in Caldcotes. In those days the

mendicant's badge.

office of elder was no sinecure. Besides the oversight of the congregation, many duties had to be performed. The care of the poor, the settling of quarrels between neighbours, and the suppression of disorder, took up much time and attention. Local incidents and details, however, may best be left over for a chapter on the social customs and the condition of the people in the eighteenth century. Mr Dow and his session introduced several changes. The first holding of a fast day, for the yearly communion, was in 1727. The metal tokens for communicants were first issued in 1725. Badges of metal or parchment and bluegowns, as licenses to beg, were provided for the poor of the parish. The last set of mendicants' badges in Fettercairn was issued in 1817. Twenty-four of these, made of copper, were supplied to the Kirk Session at a cost of Is. each, by Elizabeth Austin, merchant. The accompanying illustration is taken off one now in possession of the Rev. William Anderson.

In 1735 Mr Dow petitioned the Presbytery to take steps towards allocating to him from the kirk lands of the parish, a glebe of the full size allowed by law, the extent of his glebe, including office and garden, being only two acres and half a rood. The Presbytery discerned for four acres in addition "off a shade of land called 'Allonagoin' (Weaponshaw field), on the estate of Fettercairn, belonging to Colonel Straton in Old Montrose; between which shade and the land set apart for the minister's grass there is nothing interjected save ridges mortified to the schoolmaster of Fettercairn." By excam-bion in 1834, these ridges are represented by a square piece of land in the south-east corner of the glebe. Of Mr Dow's encounter with Davidson and his band some account has already been given : but in Mr Cruickshank's "Navar and Lethnot," just published, a further account is given of James Davidson, the rebel freebooter, who with his lawless band committed the raid on Fettercairn as noticed in Chapter VII. Davidson had been a soldier at the battle of Fontenoy, but deserted to the French, and joined the Rebellion in Scotland. After its suppression he headed a band of "outstanding rebels," made plundering attacks overnight on the houses of several Presbyterian ministers and schoolmasters loyal to the Hanoverian government, in the counties of Foifar, Kincardine and Aberdeen. They carried off money and every article of value they could get hold of. For instance, Mr Harper, schoolmaster of Durris, was robbed of 30 sterling. Davidson was apprehended in Cortachy after he had committed two robberies there, and made an attempt on the life of the minister, Mr Brown. The date of his execution at Aberdeen was 1st July, 1748. The later years of Mr Dow's ministry became times of trouble and excitement. John Barclay, A.M., son of a farmer in the parish of Muthill, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Auchterarder (1759), and assistant in Errol parish, became assistant to Mr Dow in 1763. In a Biography of Mr Barclay, it is stated that he was of a fair and rather florid complexion. He looked younger than he really was; and on account of his youthful appearance, the people of Fettercairn were at first greatly prejudiced against him. "But this was soon forgotten. His fervid manner, in prayer especially, and at different parts of almost every sermon, riveted the attention and impressed the minds of his audience to such a degree that it was almost impossible to lose the memory of it. His popularity as a preacher became so great at Fettercairn, that hardly anything of the kind was to be met with in the history of the Church of Scotland. The parish church, being an old-fashioned building, had rafters across. These were crowded with hearers; the sashes of the windows were taken out to accommodate the multitude that could not gain admittance. During the whole period of his assistantship at Fettercairn he had regular hearers who flocked to him from ten or twelve of the neighbouring parishes. He had a most luxuriant fancy, and a great taste for poetry. His taste, however, was not very correct, and he lacked sound judgment. . . . Besides his woiks in prose, he published thousands of verses on religious subjects. He composed a paraphrase of the whole Book of Psalms, which was partly published in 1766." The reference to the "rafters of the kirk" in the above quotation recalls an anecdote about the Kirk of Rerrick, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Mr Rouat had been the minister, and was appointed Professor of Church History in the Univeraitv of Glasgow. At the first sacrament of his successor, a'Miss Dunlop, afterwards Lady Wallace, coming to church rather early, expressed her satisfaction to an old servant at seeing the church so decently filled. "Madam," said the old man, "this is nothing to what I have seen in Mr Rouat's time. I have heard the boogers (rafters) crackin* at sax o'clock in the mornin'." "The boogers crackin'! What do you mean, James ?" said Miss Dunlop. "Yes, Madam," continued James, "I have seen the fowk in his time sittin' on the baulks o' the kirk like bykes o' bees."

By inculcating Antinomian doctrines, Mr Barclay incurred the displeasure of the heritors and the Presbytery. He nevertheless, with the concurrence of Mr Dow, petitioned for ordination, and was refused on the ground that he had no cure of souls. The Presbytery, moreover, by a majority had enjoined Mr Dow to dismiss his assistant, because of the principles advanced in a book published by him. Mr Dow replied that the press was free to any one to show whether the book contained "dangerous and damnable principles"; that it was arbitrary and unchristian to condemn a man unheard and not admonished; and that if he dismissed Mr Barclay, another could not be got to visit the sick and catechise the people. Whereupon Mr Barclay was summoned to appear before the Presbytery and answer whether he was the author of a book, that had meantime been examined by their committee, the title of the same being Rejoice evermore; or, Christ all in all, an original publication, consisting of spiritual songs collected from the Holy Scriptures, and several of the Psalms, together with the whole Song of Solomon paraphrased, with three discourses relative to these subjects, and subscribed John Barclay 1 He answered " Yes." And whether he preached the doctrines contained in the book ? He did. To other thirty-one queries put, he craved time to reply. In due time he sent his answers, as well as an apology and petition ; but the Presbytery, after deliberation, considered them unsatisfactory, gave him a new set of queries to elicit more direct and explicit answers. His answers being only in part satisfactory, the Presbytery resolved to call him to their bar to be censured; and that this resolution be intimated in the church of Fettercairn.

These proceedings extended over two years to the close of 1768. Mr Barclay continued to act as assistant till the death of Mr Dow in August, 1772, but was no longer allowed to officiate in the church. He applied to the Presbytery for a certificate, and was refused. He appealed to the General Assembly, but they dismissed the case in May, 1773. The people believed, and not without reason, that the members of Presbytery were more or less prejudiced. Petitions were presented to the heritors and to His Majesty George III. in favour of Mr Barclay to be their minister. A volume recently published from the State Paper Records contains a summary of the said petitions, as well as a copy of a wonderfully worded letter to the Home Secretary. The letter and summary run as follows:—

"12th October, 1772. Alexander Wyllie to the Earl of Suffolk, entreating his Majesty to grant a petition in favour qf Mr John Barclay, a gentleman to the liking of the whole parishioners for 9 years past, to be minister of Fettercairn, as the souls of the people in that parish are in hazard, as they think they cannot attain happiness in a future state, unless they gitt the said Mr John Barclay to be their minister.

"This awful circumstance, with submission to your Lordship, i& a popular call to Mr Barclay to be minister, and were a pity he should not be settled, in regard that there are 2500 examinable persons in the parish, old and young, who would fight for his Majesty till their shoes were full of blood, upon getting Mr Barclay to be their minister; and, if they are frustrated, the consequence is of very great concern to such a numerous body of people who will obtain adherents in the whole country around, and by that step of theirs, although deemed irregular, unavoidably unforeseen disturbances, and the peace and quiet of families, brought about in flame and riot and disorder the one against the other may take place. And pray for what ? A minister. And as the numerous body of well civilized people wants Mr Barclay, they ought by the law of Ood, nature and nations to have him, as they are the only persons interested in the settlement. The heritors may pretend that the balance of power is in their hands with respect to the Establishment proposed to be observed in the Church of Scotland. I say that thought of theirs ought to go for nought. And the placing of a minister is to them nothing further than moonshine, and serving by jobs one for another; and they laugh at our calamity because the stipend is in the gift of our worthy sovereign."

Then follows the summary:—

"Mr Wyllie also affirms that the heritors were not .only none of them resident in the parish, but none members of the Communion of the Church of Scotland. He signs himself Agent and Doer for the parishioners of Fettercairn Parish, and gives for address: Alexander Wyllie of Penfield, notary public, at his lodgings in the city of Brechin, N. Brittain."

Following this letter is a petition to His Majesty to the same effect signed on behalf of the parishioners by the said Alexander Wyllie, Robert Henderson, merchant, and Alexander Hodge, farmer (Mains of Fasque).

"That petition states that, in 1770, Mr Barclay having given great satisfaction during Mr Dow, the pastor's, long sickness and infirmities, the parishioners, by the advice and direction of the landed gentlemen, drew up and subscribed a petition to them signifying their earnest desire to have Mr Barclay settled amongst them, and they were then led to believe that the heritors would have applied for His Majesty's consent to Mr Barclay's settlement; but from some cause unknown, this application was never made. The late minister was also greatly desirous of seeing the parish comfortably settled before his death, and strongly recommended Mr Barclay. The original petition to the heritors, referred to in the preceding petition, with a great number of signatures, is also with these papers."

Upon the refusal of these petitions, the deliverance of the General Assembly and the presentation of the Rev. Robert Foote to the church and parish, the people moved off in a body with Mr Barclay and worshipped for a time in a barn at Meikleha\ The church at Sauchieburn was soon after built and occupied by a congregation of ten or twelve hundred members, but Mr Barclay left in the end of the same year (1773) to be ordained to a congregation in Newcastle. He continued zealously and ardently to promulgate his views, and succeeded in forming congregations in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Crieff, Kirkcaldy, Arbroath, Montrose, Brechin, and other places. He died in Edinburgh on the 29th of July, 1798, aged 64; was interred in the Old Calton Churchyard, where a monument was afterwards erected to his memory. The sect he formed were called "Bereans" (from Acts xvii. 11), and the name was self-imposed. Their leading tenet was to reject established articles and confessions of faith, holding the Bible to be the only certain rule of faith and manners. They also held that all who possessed a full assurance of their own salvation were perfectly safe; but they did not pretend to found that assurance on the conformity of their actions to the rules of Christianity.

A Mr James Macrae, grandfather of the Rev. David Macrae, late of Dundee, was appointed in 1774 to the charge of Sauchieburn; and he laboured faithfully, not only as the minister, but very successfully as the teacher of a week-day school for the youth of the district. Some of his pupils, in later years as old people known to the writer, were wont fondly to relate their reminiscences of Mr Macrae and his school at Sauchieburn.

In course of time, and very much owing to the excellent ministrations of Mr Foote, the Berean hody dwindled, and many of the people returned to the church. Still, a few lay preachers kept up weekly meetings in their own private houses. One of these was Anthony Glen, who used to tell that if not allowed to preach he would rive. His discourses were homely. The following is a fair sample of his oratory, when discoursing on the love of money. "Fowk wud do a* things for the love o' money. They wud gang ower seas, an' into pairts whar naehody kenn'd them, an' a' for the greed o' gain. Their grace afore meat an* After meat, an' their prayers at a' time, was bawbees-Amen."

William Taylor, carrier, Kaw of Balmain, was the last of the Berean preachers. After walking five miles he officiated regularly, along with others, at the Sunday meetings in Laurencekirk. He survived his colleagues; and with the last of them, a John Todd, farmer at Buttery-braes, divided the duties of the Sunday, with a remark such as, "Noo, John, ye'll come up and lat 's see daylight through the Komans." At Yule time John always warned his audience, "My frien's, beware o' cairds an' dice and that bewitchin' thing the totum." The chapel, a small building, stood in what is now known as "Berean Lane." About 1840 the services there ceased, and William conducted Sunday meetings in his own barn at Balmain, to which not a few repaired to take stock of his sayings. On one occasion his father, a frail old man, acted as precentor, and according to the custom when books were scarce, he tried to recite line by line to be sung. But William, not pleased with the effort, sharply interposed, and addressing him in the same musical tone, said, "Ye stupid eediot, lat's see the buik, an' I'll sing mysel'." In the course of his ministrations in the barn, William on one occasion worked himself up to a great flight of oratory, some of his illustrations being quite unrepeatable. Once he quite excelled himself. "Put on the shield of faith," ma friends; "Arm yourselves wf the gospel"; and imitating the charging of the old muzzle loader of the time, he exclaimed, "Ram it home to the breech, ma dear brethren, once again to the breech "; then, as it were shouldering and directing the gun, he passionately exclaimed, "And we'll shoot the devil like a rotten i' the crap o' the wa' wi' the gun o' salvation. Amen."

About 1834 two gentlemen, acting on a Government Commission anent Church statistics, called upon Mr Whyte, the parish minister, and after getting from him what they required, he mentioned the name of William Taylor, the Berean preacher. They went and found him at the plough. The following colloquy took place: "You are a preacher, we believe."—"Maybe I am."—"What stipend do you receive?"—"Ou  nae muckle."—"But how much?"— " Ou ! maybe thirty shilling."—"Have you any other occupation ?"—" Ou! I gang to Montrose wi' the cairt, and sometimes I fell swine." He died in the early sixties. The Bereans, in the place where they had their origin, are now extinct. The last of the sect in Laurencekirk were two old women, and when one of them died the other feelingly remarked, "Wae 's me! when I gang too the Bereans 'll be 'clean licket aff!" Whatever may be said of Mr Barclay and the Bereans, it must be admitted that good effects were produced, inasmuch as devout feelings and orderly conduct took the place of many evil habits.


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