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Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times and Other Papers
Chapter III. Ministers of the parish of Laggan


FOR many particulars regarding the later ministers of Laggan I am indebted to the Rev. Mr Sinton, minister of Invergarry, the Clerk of the Presbytery of Abertarff, a well-known native of Badenoch.

1. Alexander Clark, 1569-74.—Entered reader at Lammas 1569. Mr Clark was promoted to be exhorter in November following. He was presented to the parsonage and vicarage by James VI. 27th September 1574, his stipend then being xxvi. ii. xiiis. iiijd. (2, 4s. 5d.) He died prior to 6th November 1575.

2. John Dow Macquhondoquhy, 1575—.—Reader at Dunlichtie and Daviot in November 1569. Mr Macquhondoquhy was presented to the parsonage and vicarage of Laggan by James VI. 6th November 1575. Continued in 1589.

3. James Lyle, 16--1626.—Mr Lyle is stated to have been minister of Laggan and Alvie “long before 12th October 1624.” He demitted for age in 1626. (See No. 7, parish of Alvie.)

5. James Dick, A.M., 1653-65.—Mr Dick obtained his degree from the University of St Andrews in 1645, and was ordained to Laggan prior to 4th October 1653, having Alvie likewise under his care. On 29th October 1656, the Synod of Argyle wrote him “to know what presbytery he is in, that they may write anent his carriage in Lochaber.” He was deposed by the bishop and brethren on 15th November 1665, for drunkenness.

6. William Robertson, A.M., 1667-69. — Mr Robertson graduated at Aberdeen in 1660, and passing his trials before the Presbytery of Fordyce, he was recommended for licence on 21st February 1666. He was admitted as minister of Laggan prior to 1st October 1667, and translated to Crathie and Kindrocht or Braemar after 6th April 1669.

7. Thomas Macpherson, 1672-1708.—Mr Macpherson was also minister of Alvie from 1662 to the date of his death in 1708. (See No. 9, parish of Alvie.)

8. John Mackenzie, 1709-45.—Translated from Kingussie, Mr Mackenzie was admitted as minister of Laggan prior to 31st May 1709. In 1743, “ owing to his great age, and manifold infirmities attending it,” he petitioned the Presbytery of Abertarff to have an assistant and successor appointed. The people concurred, and signified their desire to have Mr Duncan Macpherson, who had been recently licensed by the presbytery, settled as their minister. The presbytery entreated the Duke of Gordon to favour the nominee of the people, but until there would be an actual vacancy in the parish the Duke declined to entertain these overtures; so the matter remained until the parish was declared vacant after Mr Mackenzie’s death in 1745. In 1747 Mr William Gordon was appointed by the presbytery to supply services at Laggan upon a certain Sabbath, “and to sound the inclinations of the people as to their choice of a proper person.” Afterwards two candidates were put upon the leet. These were Mr Macpherson and a Mr Neil Macleod, a brother of Mr Donald Macleod of Swordale. This Neil Macleod was Macleod of Macleod’s chaplain to the Royal forces during the Rising of 1745. In December 1746, Macleod writes from London to President Forbes of Culloden, asking his influence in favour of Neil Macleod’s appointment to the parish of Laggan. “You may remember,” the writer says, “he was of the Church militant, and tended me in my expedition eastward, and stayed with the men constantly till they were sent home, and preached sound doctrine, and really was zealous and serviceable.” Consequent apparently upon President Forbes’s influence, the Duke of Gordon signified to the presbytery “his inclination  to have Mr Macleod settled as minister of Laggan. As regards Mr Macpherson—the choice of the people—there was some difficulty, inasmuch as he had fallen under suspicion of being concerned in “the late unnatural rebellion.” After due inquiry, however, “the presbytery unanimously agreed to reject the call to Mr Neil Macleod, in respect it was signed only by four, two of whom were reputed Papists, and to sustain the call to Mr Duncan Macpherson, as being signed by a great many heads of families, together with the elders of the parish.” Mr Macpherson was accordingly duly admitted to the charge. Mr Macleod, it would appear, had been officiating within the bounds of the presbytery; but shortly before the termination of the Laggan case the following minute occurs in the presbytery records: “A letter from the Committee [Royal Bounty] was read, signifying their disapproval of employing Mr Neil Macleod as itinerant of Kilmonivaig and Laggan, and to approve of Mr Kenneth Bethune being continued at Laggan.” “Subsequently,” adds Mr Sinton, “Mr Martin Macpherson was appointed, and so ended Mr Macleod’s relations with the parish of Laggan and the Presbytery of Abertarff, which were apparently the north side of friendly. One can scarcely suppose that the Duke of Gordon was very ardently in his favour; and, considering the condition of Brae-Badenoch at the time, and the pronounced political opinions of Mr Macleod, it is likely that he was regarded by the people as being a sort of Government spy in their midst.”

Mr Mackenzie died Father of the Church, on 27th April 1745, in the fifty-ninth year of his ministry.

For his herculean strength, as well as for his powers of mind. For some particulars regarding him I have to express my obligations to the Rev. Mr Maclennan, the present minister, and to Mr Angus Mackintosh, the worthy ex-schoolmaster, of Laggan.

The old kirk-session records of Laggan having been accidentally burnt, the particulars I have been able to obtain regarding many of the earlier ministers of that parish are very scanty. Duncan Macpherson (the Ministeir Mor), however, was well known to the grandfathers of the present generation. Whether or not the Reformers worshipped in St Kenneth at Camus Killin is uncertain. Let that have been as it may, one of the first Protestant churches was that at the Eilean Dhu, near Blaragie. The church was of very rude construction, and thatched with heather. The remains are still to be seen. Mr Macpherson had his residence at Dalchully, and in order to get to the church had to cross the Spey on horseback, there being no bridges. Sunday was generally observed both as a holy day and a holiday. For hours before public worship began the young men of the parish met and played shinty until the arrival of the clergyman, who, nolens volens, was compelled to join the players, otherwise he was given clearly to understand that he would have to preach to empty benches. So, after a hail or two, shinty clubs were thrown aside, and a large congregation met to hear the new doctrine. The sermon was short but pithy, and people began to think there was something in the new doctrine after all. Immediately after services were over, shinty was resumed, and carried on at intervals till darkness put an end to their amusements, when many retired to the neighbouring crofts and public-houses, where high revelry was kept up till morning.

Frequently the river was unfordable, and on such occasions the Ministeir Mor was obliged to preach from a knoll on one side, while one-half of the congregation stood on the other. A difficulty arose in connection with the proclamation of marriage banns, and the minister, when not very certain as to the financial status of the ardent swain, would in stentorian tones cry out,—“Ma chuireas tnsa nail an t-airgiod, cuiridh mise null am focal” (i.e., “If you will send over the money, I will send back the word”), a request that was immediately responded to through the medium of a piece of cloth in which the fee was carefully wrapped up and flung across the river. It is also related that in the case of baptisms by the Ministeir Mor when the Spey was similarly in flood, the infant would be taken to the brink of the one side of the river, while the minister, standing on the brink of the other side, would with his powerful arm throw the water across with such unerring aim as to descend in showers on the face of the child, and thus, with the appropriate words uttered in tones sufficiently loud to be heard a long way off, administer the rite of baptism.

The Scriptural maxim that “ the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong ” was, alas! strikingly exemplified in the case of the Ministeir Mor, the worthy man, strong and vigorous though he was, having been cut off on 13th August 1757, at the comparatively early age of forty-six.

10. Andrew Gallie, A.M., 1758-74.—Mr Gallie was a native of the parish of Tarbat, and graduated at Aberdeen 3d April 1750. Licensed by the Presbytery of Tain in 1753, he was ordained in 1756 as missionary at Fort-Augustus. Presented by Alexander Duke of Gordon, he was admitted as minister of Laggan 6th September 1758. Mr Gallie was well known in tonnection with the Ossianic controversy. As having reference to visits paid by James Macpherson, the translator, to the manse of Laggan during Mr Gallie’s incumbency, let me give a few interesting extracts from the evidence given by the latter on the subject:—

“When he [Macpherson] returned from his tour through the Western Highlands and Islands, he came to my house in Brae - Badenoch. I inquired the success of his journey, and he produced several volumes, small octavo, or rather large duodecimo, in the Gaelic language and characters, being the poems of Ossian and other ancient bards.

“I remember perfectly that many of those volumes were, at the close, said to have been collected by Paul Macmhuirich, Bard Clanraonuil, and about the beginning of the fourteenth century. Mr Macpherson and I were of opinion that, though the bard collected them, yet that they must have been writ by an ecclesiastic, for the characters and spelling were most beautiful and correct. Every poem had its first letter of its first word most elegantly flourished and gilded; some red, some yellow, some blue, and some green; the material writ on seemed to be a limber yet coarse and dark vellum ; the volumes were bound in strong parchment; Mr Macpherson had them from Clanranald.

“At that time I could read the Gaelic characters, though with difficulty, and did often amuse myself with reading here and there in those poems while Mr Macpherson was employed on his translation. At times we differed as to the meaning of certain words in the original.

“I remember Mr Macpherson, when reading the MSS. found in Clanranald’s, execrating the bard who dictated to the amanuensis, saying, ‘ D—n the scoundrel! it is he himself that now speaks, and not Ossian.’ This took place in my house in two or three instances. I thence conjecture that the MSS. were kept up, lest they should fall under the view of such as would be more ready to publish their deformities than to point out their beauties.

“It was, and I believe still is, well known that the ancient poems of Ossian, handed down from one generation to another, got corrupted. In the state of the Highlands and its language, this evil, I apprehend, could not be avoided; and I think great credit is due in such a case to him who restores a work of merit to its original purity.”

Mr Gallie was translated to Kincardine, in Ross-shire, on 18th August 1774.

11. James Grant, 1775-1801. — Mr Grant was appointed by the Committee of the Royal Bounty, 21st August 1769, as missionary at Fort-Augustus. Presented to Laggan by Alexander Duke of Gordon, he was admitted 21st September 1775. On 29th May 1779 he married Anne, only daughter of Lieutenant Duncan Macvicar, barrack-master at Fort - Augustus, afterwards so well known as the amiable and accomplished Mrs Grant of Laggan, the authoress of ‘Letters from the Mountains,’ ‘Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders,’ and other literary works.

Mr Grant got the church of Laggan rebuilt in 1785. In 1794 he was appointed chaplain of Lord Lynedoch’s regiment of Perthshire Volunteers, the 90th Foot. Of refined and cultivated tastes, and gentle and amiable in manner, Mr Grant was greatly revered and beloved by the people of Laggan. He died suddenly on 2d December 1801, in the sixtieth year of his age, his remains being interred in the churchyard of Laggan beside those of his mother, “venerable for the fervour of her piety and the sanctity of her life, and beloved for the endearing qualities of a tender and affectionate heart and a liberal and beneficent spirit.”

Here are some very touching and beautiful glimpses of Mr Grant, given by his gifted and devoted wife in a letter written from the manse of Laggan, of date 1st January 1802, shortly after his death :—

“You wish to know how I bear the sudden shock of this calamity. I bore it wonderfully, considering how very much I had to lose. Still, at times, the Divine goodness supports me in a manner I scarcely dared to hope. Happily for me, anxiety for a numerous orphan family, and the wounding smiles of an infant, too dear to be neglected and too young to know what he has lost, divide my sorrows, and do not suffer my mind to be wholly engrossed by this dreadful privation—this chasm that I shudder to look into. A daughter, of all daughters the most dutiful and affectionate, in whom her father still lives (so truly does she inherit his virtues and all the amiable peculiarities of his character)—this daughter is wasting away with secret sorrow, while ‘ in smiles she hides her grief to soften mine.’ I was too much a veteran in affliction, and too sensible of the arduous task devolved upon me, to sit down in unavailing sorrow, overwhelmed by an event which ought to call forth double exertion. None, indeed, was ever at greater pains to console another than I was to muster up every motive for action, every argument for patient suffering. No one could say to me, ‘The loss is common—common be the pain;’ few, very few, indeed, had so much happiness to lose. To depict a character so very uncommon, so little obvious to common observers, who loved and revered without comprehending him, would be difficult for a steadier hand than mine. With a kind of mild disdain and philosophic tranquillity, he kept aloof from a world, for which the delicacy of his feelings, the purity of his integrity, and the intuitive discernment with which he saw into character, in a manner disqualified him—that is, from enjoying it. For who can enjoy the world without deceiving or being deceived? But recollections crowd on me, and I wander. I say, to be all the world to this superior mind, to constitute his happiness for twenty years, now vanished like a vision ; to have lived with unabated affection together even this long, when a constitution, delicate as his mind, made it unlikely that even thus long we should support each other through the paths of life, affords cause for much gratitude. What are difficulties when shared with one whose delighted approbation gives one spirits to surmount them? Then to hear from every mouth his modest unobtrusive merit receive its due tribute of applause; to see him still in his dear children, now doubly dear; and to know that such a mind cannot perish, cannot suffer—nay, through the infinite merits of that Redeemer in whom he trusted, enjoys what we cannot conceive! Dear Miss Dunbar, believe me, I would not give my tremulous hopes and pleasing sad retrospections for any other person’s happiness. Forgive this; it is like the overflowing of the heart to an intimate; but your pity opens every source of anguish and of tenderness.”

12. John Matheson, A.M., 1802-1808.—A native of Ross-shire, Mr Matheson obtained his degree at the University and King’s College, Aberdeen, in 1778. Licensed by the Presbytery of Dornoch 29th March 1785, he became missionary at Badenoch and Lochaber 19th September 1791. Ordained by the Presbytery of Forres 3d April 1792, he acted for a time as assistant to the Rev. Alexander Watt of Forres. On Mr Watt’s death, Mr Matheson returned to his old mission in Badenoch. Presented by Alexander Duke of Gordon, he was admitted as minister of Laggan nth August 1802. He died 1st December 1808, in the forty-ninth year of his age and seventeenth of his ministry.

13. Duncan M'Intyre, A.M., 1809-16.—Mr M'Intyre was a native of Fort-William, and graduated at Aberdeen in 1779. Licensed by the Presbytery of Abertarff 25th November 1783, he was ordained by that presbytery as missionary at Fort-William 13th July 1784. Mr M'Intyre subsequently became missionary at Kilmuir, in Skye, then at Laggan and Glenurchy, and thereafter at Glencoe. On the nomination of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, he afterwards resumed the charge of the mission of that Society at Fort-William. Presented by Alexander Duke of Gordon in March, he was admitted as minister of Laggan 7th September 1809.

Kilmallie appears to have been regarded by Mr M‘Intyre as a perfect paradise compared to Laggan. Having received a call to Kilmallie, the reasons for his translation submitted by himself to the Presbytery of Abertarff are so candid and amusing as to be worth quoting. Here they are:—

“1. Because your petitioner has a large young family, as yet uneducated, and because that in his present parish the proper Seminaries of Education are not nearer to him than Perth or Inverness; and because the Living of Laggan is inadequate to the expenses that unavoidably would attend their being sent to either of these places; whereas at Kilmallie education falls more within his reach and ability.

“2. Because the climate of Laggan is so severe as in general to render the crop most unproductive, and is commonly attended of course with most serious loss ; whereas the climate of Kilmallie is warm, kindly, and favourable to the rearing of crops, as well as most congenial to his own and his family’s constitutions, they being natives of the Parish.

“3. Because that Laggan is at the distance of fifty miles from any market town where he can be supplied with the necessaries of life; whereas at Kilmallie he can get whatever he requires for the use of his family and for the improvement of the Glebe by sea to the very door.

“4. Because that the Living of Kilmallie, including the Glebe, is much better than that of Laggan.

“5. Because that the feeling of amor patricR binds him more to Kilmallie than to any other parish.

“For the above-stated reasons, and others to be stated by your petitioner viva voce at your bar,

“He humbly trusts and earnestly entreats that the Rev. Presbytery of Abertarff will be pleased to grant him an Act of Translation, and your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c., &c.”

Notwithstanding the vastly superior attractions of Kilmallie in the estimation of Mr M‘Intyre, I question very much whether the present estimable minister of Laggan would readily exchange that parish for that of Kilmallie. Apparently, however, Mr M'Intyre’s reasons proved so irresistible to his presbytery that they agreed to his translation to Kilmallie nem. con., and he was accordingly inducted as minister of that parish on 26th March 1816.

14. William Robertson, A.M., 1816-18.—Mr Robertson was licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh 28th July 1810, and ordained by the Presbytery of Abertarff as missionary at Fort-William on 1st April 1812. Presented to Laggan by Alexander Duke of Gordon in July, he was admitted 3d September 1816. Mr Robertson was the eldest son of John Robertson, the famous minister of the neighbouring parish of Kingussie. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the county of Inverness in 1818, and translated to Kinloss, igth June, same year.

15. George Shepherd, A.M., 1818-25.—A native of Rathven, Mr Shepherd graduated at Aberdeen in 1812. He acted for some time as schoolmaster at Kingussie. Licensed by the Presbytery of Abernethy 16th July 1816, he was ordained by the Presbytery of Abertarff as missionary at Fort-William 2d September 1817. Presented by Alexander Duke of Gordon 26th September, he was admitted as minister of Laggan 16th November 1818, and translated to Kingussie and Insh nth May 1825.

16. Mackintosh Mackay, LL.D., 1825-32.—Dr Mackay was for some time schoolmaster at Portree, and was licensed by the Presbytery of Skye. Ordained as minister of Laggan 27th September 1825, he was the seventh minister presented to that parish by Alexander Duke of Gordon during the long period of seventy-five years that nobleman enjoyed the family honours—namely, from 1752 down to his death in 1827. The degree of LL.D. was conferred upon Mr Mackay by the University of Glasgow in 1829, and he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the county of Inverness 13th May 1831. He was translated to Dunoon and Kilmun 27th March 1832. He joined the Free Church in 1843, and was elected Moderator of the Free General Assembly 24th May 1849. He sailed for Australia in 1853, and was admitted as minister of the Gaelic Church of Melbourne in 1854, and in 1856 of a congregation at Sydney. He returned to Scotland in 1861, and was admitted as minister of the Free Church, Tarbat, Harris, in 1862. He died at Porto-bello 17th May 1873, in the eightieth year of his age.

Here are some interesting reminiscences of Dr Mackay given in ‘ The Journal of Sir Walter Scott ’ recently published :—

“February 13 [1828].—Mr Macintosh Mackay, minister of Laggan, breakfasted with us this morning. This reverend gentleman is completing the Highland Dictionary, and seems very competent for the task. He left in my hand some papers of Cluny Macpherson concerning the affair of 1745, from which I have extracted an account of the battle of Clifton for ‘ Waverley.’ He has few prejudices (for a Highlander), and is a mild well-mannered young man. We had much talk on Highland matters.2

“June 26.—Mr Macintosh Mackay breakfasted with me; modest, intelligent, and gentle. I did my duty and more in the course of the day. I am vexed about Mackay missing the Church of Cupar in Angus. It is in the Crown’s gift, and Peel finding that two parties in the town recommended two opposite candidates, very wisely chose to disappoint them both, and was desirous of bestowing the presentation on public grounds. I heard of this, and applied to Mr Peel for Macintosh Mackay, whose quiet patience and learning are accompanied by a most excellent character as a preacher and a clergyman; but unhappily Mr Peel had previously put himself into the hands of Sir George Murray, who applied to Sir Peter his brother, who naturally applied to certain leaders of the Church at Edinburgh, and these reverend gentlemen have recommended that the Church which the Minister desired to fill up on public grounds should be bestowed on a boy, the nephew of one of their number, of whom the best that can be said is that nothing is known, since he has only been a few months in orders. This comes of kith, kin, and ally; but Peel shall know of it, and may perhaps judge for himself another time.3

“February 11 [1829]. . . .—Mr Hay Drummond and Macintosh Mackay dined. The last brought me his history of the Blara Leine, or White Battle (battle of the shirts).

“May 25. . . .—Dr Macintosh Mackay came to breakfast, and brought with him to show me the Young Chevalier’s target, purse, and snuff-box, the property of Cluny Macpherson. The pistols are for holsters, and no way remarkable; a good serviceable pair of weapons, silver mounted. The targe is very handsome indeed, studded with ornaments of silver, chiefly emblematic, chosen with much taste of device and happily executed. There is a contrast betwixt the shield and purse, the targe being large and heavy, the purse, though very handsome, unusually small and light.1

“May 28.—The Court as usual till one o’clock. But I forgot to say Mr Macintosh Mackay breakfasted, and inspected my curious Irish MS. which Dr Brinkley gave me. Mr Mackay—I should say Doctor—who well deserved the name, reads it with tolerable ease, so I hope to knock the marrow out of the bone with his assistance.2

"June 3. . . .—Dr Macintosh Mackay came to breakfast, and brought a Gaelic book, which he has published, ‘ The Poetry of Rob Donn,’ some of which seems pretty as he explained it.3

“May 13 [1831].—Mr, or more properly Dr Macintosh Mackay, comes out to see me, a simple learned man, and a Highlander who weighs his own nation justly, —a modest and estimable person.4

“May 14.—Rode with Lockhart and Mr Mackay through the plantations, and spent a pleasanter day than of late months. Story of a haunted glen in Laggan : A chieftain’s daughter or cousin loved a man of low degree. Her kindred discovered the intrigue, and punished the lover’s presumption by binding the unhappy man and laying him naked in one of the large ants’ nests common in a Highland forest. He died in agony of course, and his mistress became distracted, roamed wildly in the glen till she died, and her phantom, finding no repose, haunted it after her death to such a degree that the people shunned the road by day as well as night. Mrs Grant of Laggan tells the story, with the addition, that her husband, then minister of Laggan, fixed a religious meeting in the place, and by the exercise of public worship there, overcame the popular terror of the red woman. Dr Mackay seems to think that she was rather banished by a branch of the parliamentary road running up the glen than by the prayers of his predecessor. Dr Mackay, it being Sunday, favoured us with an excellent discourse on the Socinian controversy, which I wish my friend Mr Laidlaw had heard.” 5

Dr Mackay was one of the foremost Gaelic scholars of his day. In connection with the excellent Gaelic Dictionary published by the Highland Society in 1828, the following note indicates the importance attached to the aid rendered by him in its preparation:—

“In its progress through the press it has been superintended and corrected by the Rev. Mackintosh Mackay, now minister of Laggan, and it is only just to add that in its present form the Gaelic Dictionary is much indebted to his indefatigable labours, and his philological acuteness and learning have greatly contributed to render it more accurate and complete.”

Dr Mackay edited the Poems of Rob Donn in 1829.

17. Donald Cameron, 1832-46.—Mr Cameron, who had been appointed schoolmaster at Southend in 1815, was admonished by the Presbytery, 28th June 1816, “for cruelty to his scholars, being censorious and backbiting, and declared to be ill-qualified to be useful.” Licensed by the Presbytery of Kintyre 13th December 1820, he was ordained by the Presbytery of Kincardine O’Neil 21st March 1824, as missionary at Glencairn. Presented by the trustees of Alexander Duke of Gordon in May, he was admitted as minister of Laggan 1st August 1832. Mr Cameron is said to have been possessed of some sterling qualities, but apparently he was of a most combative disposition. So little sympathy does he appear to have had with the manly pastimes of the Laggan people that he strongly objected to any members of the kirk-session patronising shinty-matches, and the session records of the time show that he even frowned upon any of their number appearing at meetings of the session in the kilt!

Unfortunately no session records of Laggan now exist earlier than 1827. Here is an extract from a minute of the session during Mr Cameron’s incumbency, dealing with a profanation of the Sabbath quite prevalent in Badenoch down to within living memory:—

“Compeared in terms of citation--, Balmishaig, accused of profaning the Lord’s Day by proclaiming a Roup at the Churchyard gate on Sabbath last, the 30th ult. The said--being interrogated as to his guilt, acknowledges that he did publicly give intimation of said Roup, and expresses his regret for such violation of the Sabbath, and gives in his letter expression of the same that it may be read in face of the Congregation next Lord’s Day immediately after Divine Service.”

Mr Cameron died 19th April 1846, in the fifty-fourth year of his age and twenty-third of his ministry.

18. William Sutherland, 1846-50.—Mr Sutherland, who had been previously minister of Harris, was presented by the Duke of Richmond and Lennox, and admitted as minister of Laggan 24th September 1846, and proved an amiable, genial, and popular minister. He was translated to Dingwall 17th October 1850.

19. John Macleod, 1851-69.—Presented by the Duke of Richmond and Lennox, Mr Macleod was translated from Ballachulish and Ardgour, and admitted as minister of Laggan, 30th January 1851. A faithful and most estimable clergyman, he was universally esteemed throughout the district. In quiet, unassuming, practical usefulness, Mr Macleod was the beau ideal of a parish minister. He died at Laggan, 8th April 1869, in the sixty-third year of his age. One of his sons is the well-known Dr Donald Macleod, the genial and popular minister of the Scotch National Church in London. ,

20. Donald Macfadyen, 1869-80.—Mr Macfadyen, who had been previously minister of Ardnamurchan, was presented by the Duke of Richmond and Lennox, and inducted as minister of Laggan 22d September 1869. He was an excellent preacher both in Gaelic and English, and a genuine Highlander to the very core, with a most marked personality. Apt though he was at times to be carried away by the Celtic warmth and impetuosity of his feelings, and with a somewhat unattractive manner, no more devoted, kind-hearted minister than Mr Macfadyen ever, I believe, filled the pulpit of Laggan. A graphic story-teller—of which he was himself frequently the hero—he had a keen sense of the humorous, as well as of the tender and pathetic side of the Highland character. Under the nom de plume of “ Hector Vallance, Gentleman, &c., &c.,” he was the author of an amusing little brochure, published by the Messrs Blackwood in 1873, entitled ‘ Experience acquired in learning Sheep-farming in the Highlands of Scotland.’ In testimony of their deep and affectionate regard, Mr Macfadyen’s congregation, soon after his death, erected a handsome granite monument to his memory in the churchyard of Laggan, with the following Gaelic inscription :—

“mar chuinhneachan air MR DOMHNULL MACPHAIDEIN,
MINISTEIR LAGAIN,
A CHAOCHAIL AIR A CHEUD LATHA DE’N GHEAMHRADH, 1880.
DUINE A CHOISINN MEAS ’SAN EAGLAIS AGUS URRAM ’NA DHUTHAICH.
CHUIR A CHOMHTHIONAL AN CARRAGH SO AIG A CHEANN.”

Let me give a few extracts from the eloquent tribute paid to his memory soon after his death by his old fellow-student, Dr Mackenzie of Kingussie:—

“Your minister was one of my oldest friends. Long before we were neighbours we were fellow-students, thrown very closely together, so that I knew him well. He was a brave fellow, a true man, a real Christian. These features of his character were marked at college; they continued in a more subdued form to the close of life. When a lad at the university he showed a manly independent spirit. He worked his own way. While attending the classes he earned his maintenance by extra labour, maintaining a sturdy independence. Amongst his fellow-students he was looked upon as a type of the true Highlander, fearless in his expression of opinion—seeking a fair field and no favour.

“He earned distinction in his classes, and gained a valuable money prize for an essay on a philosophical subject. . . . He resolved at an early period to study for the Church of Scotland. He did so at a time when to do this in the Highlands entailed from many ill-will and reproach. When a schoolmaster in Ross-shire, his sister was not allowed to take water from a public well because her brother was a Moderate, and he himself was shunned as an outcast. He boldly faced the trials of that time, and it was a cause of rejoicing to him that he lived to see in the North a wider toleration prevail, and old enmities and feuds laid to rest, by the growth of a kinder and more Christian spirit. . . .

“His career in the ministry was not a very prosperous one measured by the world’s standard. He was called to no eminent charge. His words were not chronicled in newspapers. No crowded congregation hung on his lips. He was a simple parish minister trying to do his Master’s will, and feeling honoured by the position to which his Master had called him.

“Beginning his ministry at Aucharacle in Argyleshire, he was, after four years, translated to the parish of Ardnamurchan, that immense parish which stretches along the western seaboard for miles. There he laboured cheerfully and successfully among a kind and devoted people for nine years. It was a parish that, which to work thoroughly, entailed immense bodily fatigue ; distances were great, but by boat or on horseback the faithful pastor found his way to the most outlying districts. He loved Ardnamurchan and the sea, and would never, I believe, have left it if he had not been compelled to do so from the state of his health.-

“Most of you remember his coming to Laggan at the unanimous request of the congregation then worshipping in the church, and all of you know what his ministry here has been. He had his faults, but how few they were compared with his virtues ! His impetuosity, which was the side of his character on which perhaps he tended to err, was prompted always by a thorough conviction that he was in the right. He was a pure-minded, simple-hearted man, with the guilelessness of a child. I never knew one more guileless and free from double-dealing. He was intensely single-minded, and absolutely disinterested in all his dealings.

You never could mistake him. As he was at college, so he continued to the last—a true Highlander full of Celtic fire, fond of his kindred, of his country, of its language, of its mountains, brave and full to the brim of courage. I don’t think he knew what fear was. . . .

“His character was tried at the last as the character of few is tried. With the sentence of death hanging over him for weeks, with pain unceasing and no hope of recovery, his faith never wavered. He looked the last enemy in the face with an unquivering eye. For him, resting on his Saviour, with the everlasting arms around him, death had no terror. He told me that he was full of thankfulness to God for His goodness to him throughout his life, and especially for continuing his faculties unimpaired to the end. If he had sorrow, it was for those he was leaving, not for himself. ‘ Be kind to my mother,’ were almost his last words as he bade farewell to his aged parent, who had indeed been a true mother to him. His deathbed was a peaceful scene. Kind friends and parishioners of all denominations were unceasing in their attention and inquiries. His colleague in the parish—the minister of the Free Church—stood more than once at his bedside, and prayed fervently with him and the sad household. May he, when his time comes, not want a man of God to render to him the same holy and blessed ministry he rendered to your pastor ! So your minister—my friend of many years—passed to his rest in God. The grass on his grave in Laggan churchyard will soon grow green, and other interests will cause him to pass out of mind—no one can be long remembered on earth. But to-day his memory is warm among you. . . .Unselfish, true-hearted, brave-spirited Christian soul! we sorrow that thou art gone from us—most of all, that we shall see thy face on earth no more. But we sorrow not without a sure hope of meeting thee again in the land of peace and joy.”

21. Duncan Shaw Maclennan, 1881.—The present incumbent, Mr Maclennan, who had been previously minister of Kilcolmonell and Kil-berry, was called by the congregation, and admitted as minister of Laggan 8th July 1881. A faithful, upright, and devoted clergyman, Mr Maclennan has won the esteem and goodwill of all classes of the community. Taking a warm and sincere interest in the welfare of the people of Laggan he has proved a judicious and prudent counsellor, as well as a most reliable and true-hearted friend.

Soon after the catastrophe of 1843, the Free Church of Laggan was fortunate in securing the services of the Rev. Dugald Shaw, who for a period extending to nearly half a century, ministered with great acceptance to that congregation. While ever earnest and active during his long ministry in promoting the life and work of the congregation committed to his care, Mr Shaw’s sermons and prayers were characterised by an unction, delightful quaintness of expression, and personal directness of application peculiarly his own. I had the pleasure of hearing him the last time, I believe, he preached in the Free Church at Kingussie. In giving out to be sung in course of the service on that occasion the 46th Paraphrase, beginning—

“Vain are the hopes the sons of men I Their hearts by nature are unclean, Upon their works have built; Their actions full of guilt.

and ending—

“Jesus ! how glorious is Thy grace!
Our faith receives a righteousness
When in Thy name we trust,
That makes the sinner just ”—

“Now, my dear friends,” he said, in his own quaint way, “you have both the law and the Gospel in that beautiful paraphrase, and you’ll just sing the last verse twice over,” which the congregation very heartily did. The Free Church of Laggan having been unfortunately burnt down some years ago, the present comfortable and handsome edifice was erected on the same site, and, mainly through the unwearied efforts and persuasive appeals of Mr Shaw, is now entirely free from debt. Mr Shaw died at Laggan on 15th October 1890, at the advanced age of eighty years, deeply regretted by his attached congregation and by all the parishioners. His only daughter is married to the Rev. Murdo Mackenzie, the worthy and popular successor of the late venerated Rev. Dr Mackay in the ministry of the Free North Church of Inverness. Singularly enough, Mr Shaw’s successor, like his colleague in the parish, is also a “Duncan Maclennan.” Mr Maclennan is a native of Kingussie, and a distinguished graduate of the University of Edinburgh. Prior to his harmonious appointment as minister of the Free Church at Laggan, he was for some time minister of that Church at Glenelg, where he was greatly respected.

In concluding these imperfect sketches of the Protestant ministers of Badenoch, I cannot, I think, do better than quote the touching words uttered on the occasion of the recent centenary of the Glasgow Society of the Sons of Ministers of the Church of Scotland, by a Son of the Manse, the well-known A. K. H. B., who so worthily filled the high position of Moderator of the General Assembly for 1890.

“When we pray" says Dr Boyd, “for the peace of Jerusalem, who among us, that ate the bread of the Kirk through those years, needs to be told what is in all hearts? When we say, Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Sion, we think of fragrant Sunday mornings in summer when all the parish, undivided, Nonconformity pretty well unknown, and rich and poor meeting together, yet lifted up a voice of praise that was wonderfully hearty if likewise homely, in the homely parish church of Kyle. Ah, make every church as majestic as this : and still the grand thing about the church will be the living congregation ! Looking back, my brothers, it is always the golden summer-time. She stands out, hallowed with the memories of our own golden age : delightful with all sweet scents and sounds of the breathing country-side: mother-like and all-comforting to her travelled sons, now somewhat sophisticated : beautified with a simple sanctity that was well content with a homely worship forasmuch as it never had seen any other : that Jerusalem which is underneath the skies : which is free as never other National Church was,—no, nor Christian communion not National:—and which is the mother of us all. . . . We have changed many things, in the main surely for the better : some decent conventionalities are done with : and now, at least, from first word to last (and the words shall not be many), we are to think of what is uppermost and warmest in our hearts, looking back from this centenary on these hundred years. Let the old remembrances of the old time come over us today ; so shall we be kinder and truer men :—the manse where we were born, amid its old evergreens and its blossoming trees : the Church where our fathers conducted God’s worship,—the homely place amid the green graves : the father and mother who have left us, leaving in us unworthy all they most cared for in all this universe: the brothers and sisters that grew up, over the land, amid the like kindly surroundings, and that understand each other’s ways so well: surely, Brothers of the Manse, rich and poor, successful men and beaten men, you who must practise to the end the thoughtful economy amid which we were all reared, and you who have grown outstanding men and wealthy men,—looking back to the time, ages since, when each of us was the minister’s little boy,—it is truth we said in our prayer to God Almighty, that all of us are brethren through strong and tender ties : claiming kindred to-day under that grand roof and allowing it from our very heart: and minded, if God help us, that the righteous shall not be seen forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

“We wish, all of us, to be humble: and most of us have met takings-down enough to make us and keep us so. But we shall put on no sham-humility, thinking of the Church of our fathers. We are proud of our birth. It ought to have made us worthier and better men. We are proud, with no unworthy pride, of what our sainted fathers were, and of what our brothers have grown to be. You know how many of our most eminent preachers and theologians have been Sons of the Manse : Look over the list of this Society, and thank God. High on the judgment-seat, as high as may be : Foremost at the Bar,—why, it has grown proverbial where the Law finds her heads, whatever the Government in power; second to none in the Senate, for eloquence or statesmanship : and in more stirring walks of life than you might have thought of for the quiet minister’s son, amid wild African perils, where half what was done had earned the Cross for Valour in another vocation not more heroic : still our brethren are there, and the kindly remembrance of the manse opens the heart to you. Quiet stay-at-home folk as most of us are, we do not forget Archibald Forbes, any more than our own Presidents, John Campbell and John Inglis : 4 and if Goldsmith reaches all hearts when describing the village preacher in lines to last with the language he paints his father, not a whit less touching is it when figures familiar round the manse-door live for evermore on the canvas touched by the pathetic genius of David Wilkie. Pathetic, I said. Yes, and humorous too. Evermore they go together. But I pass from this, my honoured friends. We know it never was difficult work to praise Athens, speaking to the Athenians. Just a sentence more on this line. If you go a generation down : if, leaving the sons, you go on to the grandsons; where shall we end our count ? They did not love each other: but let just two be named together: Brougham and Macaulay. It is not often that a parliamentary blue-book contains even one sentence which stirs anybody very much. But when men brought up as we were brought up think of all the words mean, in the respect of poorly paid toil, of long self-denial, of wearing anxiety, of ‘ plain living and high thinking,’ I will confess that it is ever through a certain mist that I read them, ‘No institution has ever existed which, at so little cost, has accomplished so much good.’ It is in that fashion that a Committee of the Commons reported concerning (let us take the words of the most eloquent Anglican who ever spoke up for the Kirk) ‘ That institution which alone bears on its front, without note or comment, the title of The Church of Scotland.’ And it was not an ordinary Committee which said that in the face of the British Parliament: Two of its members were the great Sir Robert Peel, not yet forgot, and the grand old representative of Oxford University, Sir Robert Inglis. Yes, we don’t cost much : not though you reckoned all our old endowments as coming (and they do not come) from the pocket of the taxpayer.”

To these eloquent words let me simply add the following lines as applied to the “ Brothers of the Manse ” ruling in our Highland glens :—

“If men were free to take, and wise to use
The fortunes richly strewn by kindly chance,
Then kings and mighty potentates might choose
To live and die lords of a Highland manse.

For why? Though that which spurs the forward mind Be wanting here, the high-perched glittering prize, The bliss that chiefly suits the humankind Within this bounded compass largely lies—

The healthful change of labour and of ease,
The sober inspiration to do good,
The green seclusion, and the stirring breeze,
The working hand leagued with a thoughtful mood:
These things, undreamt by feverish-striving men,
The wise priest knows who rules a Highland glen.”


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