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Kinlochbervie
Chapter III - Religious History


The Approach of Christ.

Though there is no record left as to when the Christian faith reached this part of Scotland, there is ample evidence of the manner of its approach, for the brave and venturesome pioneers of the Gospel have left indelible marks upon our rocky coast.

The celebrated missionaries of Iona approached our land and its people from the sea. They occupied some uninhabited islet which they made the base from which to reach the people of the mainland. That was their method, a method of peaceful penetration. They had no sword except that of the Spirit. They had no lord to whom they owed allegiance except the unseen Lord of the soul, whose commission they sought to fulfil as the supreme end of life.

Columba himself was called "the island soldier" and his followers adopted his method, as they manifested his spirit, in the work of evangelisation. The names of our islets still sing their glory. Eilean-nan-ron is not the isle of the seals, as is commonly supposed, but the isle of Ronan, a Columban saint. The stance and remains of his cell are still on the island. Eilean na Naoimh, the isle of the saints, points to its occupation by those devoted Gospel heroes of the unknown past. Eilean a Chonnaidh does not mean, as is generally supposed, the island on which the people of Oldshore pick up broken pieces of wreckage for firewood, but the habitation of the Mission Band or Brotherhood, Eilean a Chomhnuidh. It became their residence, their headquarters. So also Port Chalaigeag is a name given, not by the inhabitants of the coast, but by people approaching it from the sea. Ronan and his men left their coracle in Port Chalaigeag, the little wee harbour, while they evangelised the countryside.

In those far off days there were no people round Loch Laxford, and the Missionaries did not frequent it. But at a later date they found a harbour of refuge from the sea, as many another has since done, in Eilean-nan-Eireannach, the Isle of the Irishmen. Loch Doughall (Dugald's Loch) is a name that points in the same direction, the Irish or Argyllshire name of some venturesome soul who did his work and passed away, leaving the mark of his name upon our rocky shores in the Ceathrarnh Garbh.

Those men came to our coast with a song in their hearts. The gladness of the Gospel story bore them over the waves, and enabled them to endure the untold hardships of the sea, and the privations of life upon its uninhabited islands. Their faith sustained them, and they met all the dangers and trials of their lot with a triumphant hymn of praise.

I walk secure and blessed
In every clime and coast,
In Name of God, the Father,
The Son, and Holy Ghost.
We are all their debtors.

Covenanting Times.

Little or nothing is known of the religious life of the people during the silent centuries that lie between the introduction of Christianity and the period of the Reformation. Durness was the point from which the Church reached the people from Kylesku to Borgie river. That whole district was one parish in the diocese of Caithness. Balnacille was the centre from which all religious influence emanated till the year 1726 when the parish was divided into three, namely, Durness, Eddrachillis, and Tongue. The minister who was then in Durness, George Brodie, chose to leave it and come to live in Badcall Scourie, as the first minister of the parish. He died in 1740.

The most prominent minister in the Reay Country in the period between the Reformation and the Revolution was Alexander Munro of Durness whose truly apostolic labours were greatly blessed. He round the people sadly ignorant of the Gospel and wholly illiterate. They were, however, fond of music and song, a trait of character which he cultivated and used as a means of evangelisation. He composed hymns, in which the fundamental and experimental truths of religion were expressed in memorable form, and set them to easy and popular music. In this way he induced the people to recite and sing the Gospel in their homes, at their ceilidhs, and at their work. Mr. Munro's hymns, Laoidhean Mhaighstir Alasdair, as they were called, were widely known and highly popular in this part of his wide parish.

Before his death in 1643, an Englishman, a refugee from the non-conformist persecutions of the period, sought refuge in the remote fastnesses of An Ceathramh Garbh. His name was George Squair, a native of Warrwickshire. He set himself to learn the Gaelic language, which he so mastered that he was able to preach to the people in their native tongue.

With no ecclesiastical status, and with no salary he did the work of an evangelist in what was then a needy corner.

He lived happily among the people as one of themselves. His haunt, however, was discovered by the authorities, and red coats were sent to find him. When hotly pursued on one occasion he saw a girl weeding potatoes, which were then coming into use in these parts. He asked her what she was doing, and she replied, "Weeding potatoes." "And have you while so engaged any thought about the interests of your soul?" he asked. "Yes," she said. "While weeding I am praying that the Lord may weed the love of sin out of my heart." "If that be so" he said, "you will try to conceal me from my persecutors, who are close behind, and, in doing so, tell the truth." "Come quickly, then," she said, "and lie down in this deep furrow, and I will hide you with weeds."

When the soldiers arrived and asked if she had seen Mr. Squair, she said: "Yes, he came the way you've come, and stood where you are standing: if you are active you may catch him soon." They hurried on their way, and when they were well out of sight he rose, singing,

Ev'n as a bird out of the fowler's snare
Escapes away, so is our soul set free.

He married a native of the parish, that same young woman, it may be. A daughter of this marriage married a Mr. Munro, a native of the parish of Rosskeen, who held land near Dun-robin, which is now part of the home farm there. They had a son, George, who became the celebrated minister of Farr from 1754 to 1775, and whose generous hospitality Rob Donn, in his poem on The Presbytery, and in another piece, only one verse of which is extant, has immortalised.

During the period of the covenanting struggle the sacrament of the Lord's Supper could be observed only with great secrecy by the dispossessed ministers. The blessing attending Mr. Squair's ministry was such that a strong desire was felt by his followers in the parish to have a communion service. The two places at which such services used to be held were Larach-narn-fiord, at Airidh-nan-Cruithneach, above Scourie, and at a point between Oldshoremore and Druim-na-gaoithe. Both places were regarded as too open and prominent for the purpose, and a spot on the riverside between Rhiconich and Loch Gharbad was selected. Word was sent out privately to those who could be trusted, and who were known to be interested. About one hundred met on Sabbath morning. "Those were the more devout and faithful in all the hamlets in Eddrachillis and Kinlochbervie. They approached the place as if by stealth, with feelings greatly agitated, but with hearts rising in earnest supplications that the Lord might grant them His protection and His gracious presence. When they came to the place they found themselves in the centre of a glade overgrown with birchwood, and sheltered by wild and beetling rocks. The pulpit desk was a birch tree, sawn off at a considerable height, and the tables were formed of turf covered with green, smooth sod.

The service was opened with singing and prayer, and after reading and a short exposition, and again singing, Mr. Squair took for his text the words of Thomas when delivered from his unbelief, "My Lord and my God." The whole service was a memorable one . . . .

"It was long believed that Obsdale, in the parish of Rosskeen, was the only place in the north in which the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered during the twenty-eight years' persecution. It will be seen, however, that the parish of Kinlochbervie divides with Rosskeen that honourable distinction."

Mr. Squair was for a long time the only Presbyterian minister in the Reay country. He was eventually joined by three other persecuted ministers, who travelled by Lochbroom and Assynt to Eddrachillis. One might be safe there, but four could not be for long. They resolved on common action. They went to Tongue, where Lord Reay was supposed to be sympathetic, but he dared not show any sympathy. He refreshed them secretly, and sent them on to his kinsman at Bighouse. There they met with similar treatment.

Thence they made their way to Ulbster House where the Sinclairs were supposed to he friendly. There they were kindly received and concealed for a time. The Bishop of Caithness had many sharp and long ears, and Sinclair feared detection. He sent a faithful messenger to the Earl of Sutherland who was known to be sympathetic, asking if he could shield the men. He had not been successful in shielding his own minister, the Rev. John M`Culloch, but he offered the men his protection, if they could be conveyed privately to Dunrobin.

They were kindly received in the dead of night from a boat at the jetty below the castle, but the Earl still feared they might possibly be spies trying to ensnare him. They might he prelatic detectives on the hunt for big game and large fines. After consulting the Duchess on the point, it was resolved to invite the men after supper to conduct a private prayer meeting, the spirit and conduct of which would discover to their hosts whether they were true men or not. During worship all suspicions and fears were banished. The visitors revealed themselves as true men of God, and they were received as the guests of God.

By Golspie Burn there is a cave, dry and commodious, completely concealed from the ordinary passers-by, but well known to local people. There the ministers were hidden, and served from the castle table by the very hands of their host and hostess, till the (lay of deliverance came. Then they were loud in praise of their protectors. They are said to have prophesied, as a special revelation of God, that all the lands of Assynt and the Reay country, over which they had been pursued, would one day come into the possession of the Sutherland family. The prophesy was fulfilled in due time.

Mr. Squair was so outworn by his toils, privations, and sufferings that he was never again able to come back to Kinlochbervie.

Missionaries.

For a long time before Kinlochbervie was erected into a a parish, it formed part of what was known as "The Eriboll Mission." An ordained minister, who did not enjoy the status of a parish minister, was appointed to the mission. He had to preach in Melness, Eriboll, and Kinlochbervie, on successive Sabbath days. Travelling in all sorts of weather through pathless moors, often without a horse, was always difficult, and sometimes dangerous.

The famous John Robertson, of Kingussie, was the first of a succession of excellent ministers, who served the Mission. He was succeeded by Mr. Neil M'Bride, afterwards of Kilmory, Arran. Major MacKay, of Eriboll, who was himself a professing Christian, had a piano in his home, and the minister refused to pray in his house so long as this instrument was played in it. The Major told him he was not to worry, as the Lord enabled him to conduct worship in his own home and in that of many others.

The difference of views and feelings came to a head on a New Year's eve, when the Major gave an entertainment and dance to all his dependents. "It was his habit to do this, that he might have them all at the same time under his own supervision, and save them from congregating in questionable places, where some of them were in danger of disgracing themselves with drunkenness and riotous conduct. Entertainment he knew they must have, and he thought they ought to have it in a harmless and healthful way, that would save them from having it in a way demoralising to them."

Mr. M'Bridc looked upon it differently, and thought the Major was setting others an evil example. He denounced the evil in public, and so the breach widened. Excellent as Mr. M'Bride was, and much esteemed, still the sympathies of the good people were more with the Major than with him.

This state of matters, however, led regardless characters to play a practical joke of a disgraceful kind on the minister. Like Mr. Robertson, Mr. M'Bride administered the Lord's Supper at Kinlochbervie as well as at Eriboll. Every thing necessary was not so easily obtained then as now. He had, therefore, to take a journey across the Moine to Tongue to get the needed bread and wine. On returning to Eriboll, these, together with the communion plate, were securely packed in creels, to be slung from a "crubag" and carried on horseback. All was so placed as to be ready for an early start next morning.

After much fatigue, Kinlochbervie was reached in due time, and, when the minister's wants were attended to, they set about all necessary preparation for the communion. On unpacking the creels, both minister and elders were shocked to find that everything had been abstracted—plate as well as wine—and their weight made up with stones and sod. This must have been done during the night before starting from EriboIl, and naturally enough—whoever the miscreants that did it—the doing of it was attributed to the state of feeling that existed between Mr. M'I3ride and Major MacKay.

Mr. M'Bride and those congregated for the solemnity, however, determined that the communion should not be deferred. Before Saturday, wine and flour were secured, Mr. M'Bride himself is said to have baked the bread, and stone ware was used instead of plate. Though the outward provision was thus of the humblest and most primitive kind, still the communion Sabbath was a day to be remembered—a day whereon the Lord vouchsafed His gracious presence in a way that filled the hearts of His people with a feast of good things.

The people of Kinlochbervie were indignant at what was done, as being a slight upon them, as well as upon Mr. M'Bride, so they determined to collect and present him with a new set of communion plate. They entrusted the securing of it to a Mr. Robert MacKay, who was called to Inverness or Edinburgh for examination in connection with his being appointed as teacher in the district by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.

He bought the plate, and got Mr. M'Bride's name engraved on it. But on his return, he found Mr. M'Bride had left the Reay country to enter upon his charge in Arran, and, being gone, the ardour of the people cooled, and the collection to defray the expenses of the plate was never made. Mr. MacKay, therefore, made a present of it to his friend, the Rev. Mr. Falconer, Eddrachillis, and his successor in office. At the Disruption it was the personal property of the Rev. George Tulloch, who joined the Free Church, and he in his turn left it to the congregation of the Free Church at Scourie, and we presume it is still used there at communion seasons.

Mr. N1'Bride was succeeded in the Mission by the Rev. John Kennedy, afterwards of Redcastle. His ministry in Kinlochbervie was richly blessed even if he had no more to his credit than Bean a Chreidirnh ;Moir herself. In The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire we have two passages that show us the difficulties under which the work of the church was carried on in those times: "On one occasion, walking from Eriboll to Rhiconich, he was accompanied by his beadle, and by his youngest brother, then a mere boy. They had not proceeded far when a snowstorm came on, and his little brother became quite exhausted. Raising him in his arms, my father carried him, and not only kept up with the beadle, but left him behind. The interval between him and the beadle was increasing so fast, that he at last waited till he came up, when he found him so wearied that he was compelled to relieve him of the portmanteau which he carried, and to strap it on his own hack. Those who were waiting his arrival at the journey's end were not a little surprised to see him coming with the bag on his hack, and the boy in his arms, and dragging the beadle by the hand.

"The Sacrament of the Supper was dispensed at Kinlochbervie, while he was missionary in the district. The only minister present with him on that occasion was the parish clergyman. The less that would he given him to do, the better pleased would he himself and all others be, and so the whole burden of the service was left upon the missionary.

"The only available and comfortable room near the place of meeting was occupied by the ministers. A considerable number of respectable persons had gathered, among whom were Major MacKay of Eriboll, Mr. MacKay of Hope, and several others. In a corner of the meeting-house there was a square seat into which heather had been packed, and there, covered with their cloaks, the Major and some others slept. The minister's house-keeper having to furnish the gentry with a light, as they retired to their sleeping places, failed to find a candlestick, and, being anxious to save appearances, was in no small ferment. In great perturbation, she came to her master to tell him that the only candlestick she could put before Major MacKay was a peat with a hole in it. "There was no better candlestick in the stable at Bethlehem," was his only reply to her statement of grievances. He knew well that those about whose comfort Abigail was so anxious, were quite content with whatever provision was made for them.

"A great crowd of people had gathered, and the parcels of provisions they had carried with them were stored behind a screen, formed by a sail hanging from one of the rafters of the meeting-house. Each one came, at stated times, for his parcel, that he might eat his crust beside a stream on the hillside. In barns they found accommodation during the night. But the Lord was in the midst of them, and many felt His saving power and saw His glory during that communion season. On Monday, in particular, so much of the Lord's presence was enjoyed by His people that to many of them it was the happiest day of their life. When the time for parting came, none had courage to say "farewell" to the minister. They lingered around him, and followed him to his house; and, before they separated, he and they sat down together, to a refreshment in the open air. That over, they walked together towards an eminence, over which the people had to pass. On reaching the summit they stood around the minister as he prayed, and commended them to the care of the Good Shepherd of Israel.

He then said to them, as tears ran down his cheeks, "This is pleasant, my dear friends, but it must end ; we need not expect unbroken communion, either with each other or with the Lord, till we all reach in safety our home in heaven," and, without trusting himself to bid them farewell, he turned away from them, and they, each one weeping as he went, took their respective journeys to their homes."

Ministries

For a long period the parish was singularly unfortunate in its ministers. The first settled in the newly erected church was Mr. David MacKenzie. He had been a schoolmaster in the parish of Reay, and was licensed by the Presbytery of Caithness. He was ordained and inducted to his parish on the loth day of August, 1829. The Rev. Hugh MacKay MacKenzie, of Tongue, preached and presided at the ordination. His texts were, Rev. iii. 2 in Gaelic, and 2 Cor. V. 14, 15 in English.

The people were greatly uplifted, for hitherto they had been served somewhat irregularly by ministers and probationers. The minister of the parish was careless and addicted to drink. By timely resignation he saved himself from deposition, but not from his vice. Great expectations were entertained for a useful and successful pastorate under the new minister. Those expectations were not realised. He had a servant maid, named Annie Dodds, whom he was reported to have dismissed. Next summer he went from home and came back with her as his wife. Tongues at once began to wag. A wild flame blazed through the parish and a special meeting of Presbytery was held at Rhiconich to inquire into the facts of the case.

As witnesses were put on oath, it may be of interest to note the names of the members of the presbytery and of the witnesses present. The members of Presbytery were, the Rev. George Tulloch, Scourie ; Mr. Hugh MacKay MacKenzie; Tongue; Mr. William Finlater, Durness; Mr. David MacKenzie, Farr ; with Air. Hugh MacLeod, Divinity Student, clerk. The representatives of the congregation and witnesses were, Murdo Ross, Achlyness; Margaret MacKay, wife of Donald MacKay, Sheigra; Donald MacKay, Sheigra; Robert MacKay, Sandwood; Donald Morrison, Junior, Kinlochbervie; George Morrison, Kinlochbervie; Angus Calder, Achrisgill; John MacKenzie, Achrisgill; George Campbell, Kinlochbervie; Hugh MacKay, merchant, Kinlochbervie.

The minister was called to subsequent meetings of Presbytery, but having failed to appear, and having left the parish and the country he was deposed on the ground of contumacy.

During all this time the supply of ordinances was but irregular. In 1854 a royal presentation was issued in favour of Rev. Robert Clark, a native of Tongue, who was then minister of the Gaelic Chapel in Glasgow. The people, however, had set their hearts on having Mr. Archibald Cook, of Berridale and Bruan. He had been there previously giving supply, when he preached both on Sabbath and week-days. A petition in his favour, signed by 137 heads of families, was sent to the Presbytery. Mr. Cook had promised to come if he received a presentation.

At this juncture the people did something that stands to the credit of their layalty as clansmen, and to the nobility of their Christian spirit, though it reveals a pathetic lack of ordinary worldly wisdom. The Crown as patron presented Mr. Robert Clark. Such was the people's trust and confidence in their superior that they actually petitioned the Duke of Sutherland, who had permitted them to be harried and fired out of their ancient homes, to recommend to the Crown a minister who would be an acceptable spiritual guide to them!

The people were opposed to Mr. Clark as he was not their choice. He was a man of good standing and of good qualities, but they would not have him. Mr. Angus M'Gillivray, of Strathy, was appointed to moderate in a call to Mr. Clark. There was a large congregation present, but only the factor and ten heads of families signed the Call. When persons came forward to sign, audible desparaging remarks were made about their public and private character, which had the effect of intimidating others. In any case only ten signed.

The three elders of the congregation, Angus Calder, Robert Gunn, and John Mackenzie, were appointed to petition the Presbytery against Mr. Clark and in favour of Mr. Cook. The terms of the petition are as follows:—"The petition of the undersigned inhabitants of the district of Kinlochbervie humbly sheweth that the late most noble and excellent Duke of Sutherland, in answer to a petition from the people of Kinlochhervie, was pleased to signify to them his intention to recommend to them the fittest person for being their minister, who should be agreeable to his tenants of that district, being satisfied that the usefulness of a minister depends both on his own acquirements and his being generally agreeable to those over whom he may be called upon to preside. That favourable communication was generally understood as granting the petitioners their request, and accordingly a deputation from them attended upon and obtained from the Rev. Presbytery their authority to call ministers or preachers in connection with the church to preach at Kinlochbervie in the interval between their own supplies, that in virtue of this authority, the Rev. Archibald Cook, an ordained minister of long standing in the church, whose eminently pious character and singular diligence and faithfulness were previously well known to many of the people, was invited to preach at Kinlochbervie, and did so on the Sabbath and a week-day to the universal satisfaction of a very numerous congregation : that immediately thereafter another petition in which every individual in the district, except two or three, harmoniously joined was sent to the present Duke and Countess Duchess of Sutherland, earnestly praying to get Mr. Cook to be their minister, which the petitioners have no doubt would have been conceded to them if improper representations had not been made of the case by persons wholly unconnected with the district. The petitioners beg leave to say that they are fully sensible of their noble Landlord's deep interest in their welfare, and that the selection of a fit person had been the real and only object at heart with them : and therefore the responsibility of those persons, who have misrepresented Mr. Cook to them must be very great and awful: and now it rests with the Rev. Presbytery alone to decide whether the people of Kinlochbervie, after the well known lamentable circumstances in which they were recently placed in regard to a minister, shall be deprived again of their dearest and most valuable rights as a Christian people, by refusing to give them the minister of their unanimous choice, and by intruding another upon them, who, for what they consider weighty and important reasons to be stated in due time, is unacceptable to the whole parish, at least to a great majority of them.

Your petitioners, considering that the Rev. Presbytery have already signified their willingness to give the people their choice, providing the appointment fell into their own hands, beg leave most humbly and respectfully to express their confidence that they will give no countenance to a violent settlement of the presentee against the will of the congregation, but on the contrary shall stop proceeding in the settlement until they are fully satisfied as to the harmony of the parish. Your petitioners are aware that Mr. Cook, on whom the mind of the people is fixed, has been represented to the most noble landlords as deficient in ministerial qualifications, but the Rev. Presbytery, constituted in the name of Christ, and acting by His authority alone, will judge as it belongs to them to do so, whether he is really qualified by life and doctrine according to the rule of the Apostle 1st Tim. iii., and whether he is not by his principles and habits of life particularly suited to the people of Kinlochbervie, among whom there are none of a higher rank than schoolmasters and fishers. It has been observed that men of decided piety, and of universal diligence, and of close application to the duties of the ministry, though of ordinary talents, have often been more useful in the church than men of greater talents and learning, and unquestionably this is the sole ground on which the religious public in general, and the people of Kinlochbervie do particularly cleave to Mr. Cook, 1st Cor. i., 26-29. And Mr. Loch has admitted in his letter that a doubt is not even intimated against the piety of Mr. Cook's character and conduct. Consequently the petitioners cannot help viewing the intrusion of a minister of a different stamp upon them, and one who by accepting the presentation to Kinlochbervie in face of repeated intimations given him of the feelings of the people and from other circumstances stands on a footing with them very different from what he did formerly, as a direct violation of the rights of the Christian people, and the promise made to them to be allowed to choose their own minister, as well as contrary to the word of God and the standards of our church. May it therefore please the Rev. Presbytery of Tongue only to consider the promises, and not to sustain the presentation in favour of Mr. Clark until they have made inquiry into the harmony of the parish, and to act therein in all respects as they will judge to be most to the glory of God and the edification of the people, thus uniting them together in a regular attendance on divine ordinances, according to the Word of God and the rules of the church, and your petitioners shall ever pray."

The petition was signed by the three elders and 137 persons, heads of families, in the parish. It is difficult to understand how the ministers who constituted the Presbytery at that time could have intruded a crown presentee upon a people like those of Kinlochbervie. They did so, however, with the result that the three elders resigned office, and the body of the people never owned Mr. Clark's ministry and never attended his church.

The Disruption

After the intrusion of Mr. Clark, the people continued to meet under the leadership of the elders who ha resigned, together with Donald Lamont, Badcall Inchard, Angus MacKay, Oldshoremore. The latter was a man of high religious standing among the people and was doing the work of a catechist, though he never received an appointment or remuneration as such. The Presbytery was petitioned to appoint him as catechist, but for want of funds this was not done. These men were not only ministering with devotion to the spiritual needs of the people, but were at the same time keeping them in touch with the revived spiritual life, that was spreading over the land, and that issued finally in the Church of Scotland Free.

From the first, Mr. Clark (lid not find it easy to work in the parish. For some years he had but few to help him, and when the Disruption took place, lie chose to remain in the state connection. The enthusiasm with which that historic event was hailed by the people who had suffered for years the spiritual disadvantages of an intrusion, was widespread. The entire population declared for the Free Church, with the exception of three families. One man, a native of Tongue, on being asked why he continued to attend Mr. Clark's ministry, replied, "Do you suppose I could forsake a man who had his back to the wall? "

Mr. George Tulloch, minister of Eddrachillis, and Mr. William Finlater, minister of Durness, helped to organise and consolidate the congregation. Mr. Eric Finlater had just received license and was sent to serve the parish for a time. Many years afterwards he wrote his reminiscences in "The Free Church Monthly Record." "My first sermon in the Free Church was under the shadow, or more strictly speaking, in the shelter of a rock, the people sitting on the high road. This was in the parish of Kinlochbervie; and although comparatively young and inexperienced, and certainly not possessed of popular pulpit talents, the whole church going population of the district came to hear me, not only on that but on every succeeding Sabbath, while I sojourned among them. AIthough we were not out of sight of the parish church that day, the minister chose, rather than open the church, to go to a distant corner of the parish, where, if he had any service, lie must have held it along with an old Gaelic Society Schoolmaster and another man, who happened to be a native of the same parish as himself."

Though Mr. Clark had lost the entire respect of the people as a minister of Christ, there was no act of disrespect towards himself or the church, such as amused and even disgraced other parishes. In Durness on the first Sabbath after the Disruption, the tongue of the church bell was rapt in an old stocking, so that it gave no sound, while in Farr, a dead dog was suspended above the pulpit.

The opposition of the Duke of Sutherland to the Free Church and his refusal to grant sites had the effect of delaying the settlement of ministers, for they had no church to worship in and no manse to live in. The years immediately after forty-three were years of almost incredible hardship and suffering for both ministers and people. The case of Kinlochbervie was peculiarly difficult. At first they had no place to meet in except on the public highway under Craig na Speireig. The elders who resigned after Mr. Clark's intrusion were not willing to accept office again. They were all keenly interested in the work of the church, but their past experience made them hesitate. Eventually in 1846 four were appointed, namely, Angus Calder and John MacKenzie, Achrisgill; John Macleod, Oldshoremore; and Donald Morrison, Sheigira. They were the first Free Church elders in the parish. Mr. Eric Finlater has left a pen portrait of one of them in the Annals of the Disruption. "He had what you could conceive as being the look of Ezekiel. He was a tall dark complexioned man, with a countenance as if cast in bronze, a sharp black eye, deeply set in the head, and surmounted by shaggy eyebrows. His hair was long and dark brown, and he wore a great coat made of homespun cloth. His look was downcast, and his voice deep, but not harsh . . . You felt that before you stood one who had deep experience in the Christian warfare." This was Angus Calder.

The people were poor, and at that period suffering the utmost privation through the failure of the potato crop. Many were at the point of starvation, yet the collectors who formed the Association for the Sustentation Fund were able to guarantee a sufficient amount to enable them to call a minister. In 1848 they called the Rev. Thomas Fraser, who had been supplying the pulpit for some months. The hearts of the parish as one went out to him, and he accepted their call.

No sooner was the Duke shamed to grant sites than building began. The new church was finished in 1846, but when Mr. Fraser was called there was no manse nor any immediate prospect of getting one. He gladly accepted the call of a people who gave him their hearts though they could not give him a home to live in. In spite of their poverty they were happy together. The parish minister was well housed, state paid, but soul starved, while he was homeless, often hungry, but very happy. While they had no money to give for the erection of either church or manse they had great goodwill which in the form of free labour became the equivalent of a large sum of money. Early in 1851 the manse was finished. It was the gift of the Manse Building Fund of the Church. When it was finished it cost about 5o more than the original estimate, and the contractor refused to hand over the key till that sum was paid. George Corhet, who acted as congregational treasurer, wrote to the Manse Building Committee, and the 50 came, which turned the key in the door, and let the waiting minister inside.

There is no tradition of the house warming, but obviously he did not find it as home-like as he wished. There was a young lady in Melvich, Mary Innes Sinclair, who had agreed to come to help him to make the manse a home. They were married in 1855, but their happiness was short lived. She died, leaving two daughters, one of whom is Mrs Macintosh, Melvich. It is said by those who knew him that he was never the same afterwards. He died in 1862.

The affection of his people is commemorated in a memorial stone over his grave in the Oldshore Cemetery, bearing the following inscription:-

In Memoriam
OF THE
Reyd. THOMAS FRASER,
Minister of the Free Church, Kinlochbervie,
Who died 18th September, 1862, In the 46th year of his age, and in the 14th of his ministry.
This stone is placed here by his sorrowing congregation to mark their profound attachment to him as a pastor, and their high value of his unwearied exertions to promote their temporal and spiritual interests during the period of his ministry among them.

Mr. Donald Corbet, who succeeded, was a remarkable man. A native of Ross-shire, he was for many years a teacher before entering the ministry. He was appointed parochial schoolmaster of Ardnamurchan in 1830, a position which he held till 1843. At his appointment the Presbytery recorded that they found him "in all respects duly qualified to teach the several branches required of him."

He was a warm supporter of the Evangelical party in the church, and as the Ten Years' Conflict proceeded, he became involved locally in the heated controversy that prevailed. Mr. Corbet acted as Session Clerk of the parish. A Mr. Neil MacPhail was employed as a teacher within the parish, and certain charges were lodged against him before the Session. He appealed to the Presbytery, who acquitted him on all the charges, and ordered those who made them to be suspended from church ordinances. Mr. Corbet was summoned before the Presbytery for his part in the matter, but for two years he failed to obey the citations of the court. Eventually he appeared, and was rebuked for his conduct in the case. The fact was that he, being a pronounced evangelical and the members of Presbytery being predominantly moderate, was made to suffer for his principles and for his unguarded tongue at the same time. He had qualified for the ministry and was a probationer of the church at the Disruption. In July 1843 he was declared by the Presbytery to be no longer a preacher of the Church of Scotland.

In the early fifties Mr. Corbet came to Sutherland, and was employed as supply in Strathy and Halladale. The charge had been vacant since 1843. The majority of the communicants and more than half the adherents were strongly opposed to him. The opposition first favoured Mr. Colin Sinclair, afterwards of Invergordon, a native of the parish. The division was so strong that a Commission of the Assembly was sent to make peace. The controversy went on for years, Mr. Corbet's friends refusing to consider any other, and his opponents refusing to give in. His opponents then favoured Mr. William Fraser, Lochgilphead, and another trial of strength took place. When Air. Fraser, Kinlochbervie, died, Mr. Corbet got a unanimous call, which he cordially accepted. He was a thoughtful and studious man. He collected and carefully wrote accounts of religious life in the Highlands. The Rev. Dr. Andrew Bonar published one of his MSS. under the title of "Strange Footprints of our King."

He was a spare slightly built man, tidily and smartly dressed, gentlemanly in bearing, speech and habits. He wore a silk hat and carried a yellow stick, the recognised pastor's staff and symbol of the evangelicals, whose party the other side called "Creidimh a bhata bhuidhe" or "The faith of the yellow staff."

He was a systematic worker. He did not go from house to house, but held diets of catechising, as they were called, in each little township weekly. To these all the people were supposed to gather to be catechised. He visited the sick and the aged, but not such as were able to attend the regular ordinances of the church. He had a rare knowledge of herbal and other medical remedies, which proved most useful in a district without a doctor.

As a preacher he was passionately earnest and evangelistic. In his absorbed apprehension of the spiritual and eternal he frequently forgot the swift passage of time. On one occasion in Strath Halladale he preached from 6.30 on Sabbath evening till 1 o'clock on Monday morning! On a communion Sabbath evening in his own pulpit he preached from 6.30 till 10.45, when a well known character of the period, Doll a Chollector, shouted out "Shut up, you babler, and let the people home."

In May, 1880 he had a paralytic stroke from which he never recovered. He passed away in June in the presence of his two sisters who had served him with loving devotion thoughout his ministry. Mr. George Sutherland, who was Ladies' School teacher at Fannagmore, was also present, and was a source of strength and comfort to the sorrowing sisters, is now senior minister of Bruan.

He had made all arrangements for the Communion, which was then held in June. Mr. Duncan MacGregor of Ferintosh, and Mr. John MacKay of Althaharra had promised to assist. These arrangements were carried out by the sisters, who were guided and supported by Mr. Sutherland.

His tombstone records his people's high esteem and estimate of him.

Erected by his Congregation
to the Memory of
Revd, DONALD CORBETT,
Minister of the Free Church, Kinlochbervie,
for 16 years.
A servant of Jesus Christ, sound in the faith, full of zeal for the truth, faithful as a reprover of sin and preacher of the Gospel. Brought under gracious influences from his youth, a man of unspotted life, a mind well-informed and studious in his habits, well-versed in the doctrines of grace and Christian experience, he sacrificed position and prospects for the crown rights of the Redeemer in 1843, to which he firmly adhered to the end. His abundant labours and trials ended, he departed in peace on 31st day of May, 1880, aged 75.
"The memory of the just is blessed."—Prov. x, 9.

The men who ruled the congregation, as elders, at that period, were John Gunn and Murdo MacKay, so very much alike in their devotion to the Lord and His kingdom, and so very different in their natural disposition. Murdo was a quiet gentle soul, who adorned the offices he held by a humble and prayerful performance of the duties with which he was entrusted. For many years he acted as precentor and as Presbytery elder. John Gunn was one of the best-known among "the men" of Sutherland in his time. In Caithness and Ross-shire he was well known and highly esteemed as a faithful and helpful speaker on communion Fridays. In the parish he bore witness to the Lord and His grace such as no one else before or since has ever done. If the minister was from home John Gunn conducted the service of the Sabbath to the delight of the discerning. Every Sabbath evening while he lived, he held a meeting in his kitchen that proved a means of grace to many. He read Bunyan and Boston, Flavel and Fuller, and other sappy Puritans—strong meat which he enjoyed himself and which he delighted to break down for the use of his hearers. His influence in the parish was paramount. For many of us in those days the fear of Shockie Guinne was incomparably more effective in our general conduct, especially on Sabbath, than the fear of God.

The strength and efficiency of the Christian Church depend not so much on a few men of outstanding piety, brilliance, and position, whose lives and labours in the high places of the field confer distinction on, and give lustre to, their church in the eyes of other churches and of the world, as on the men who, in every parish, hold aloft the banner of the Cross, bearing witness to the love of Christ and to the power of His grace, by their devoted and active lives among their own friends and neighbours. To the latter class William MacIntosh belonged. For many years his humble and retiring disposition prevented him from taking the position that his piety and ability entitled him to occupy. A great admirer and devoted friend of John Gunn he never felt himself called upon, so long as that veteran lived, to take a leading place, but as soon as he was called away, William MacIntosh was, by general consent, acknowledged the most prominent Christian in the parish.

At the fellowship meeting his prayers breathed a spirit of passionate longing for the manifestation of power from on high, together with a humility and self-abasement that made himself and his hearers rely wholly on sovereign grace for all their blessings. On question day he was a general favourite. When he gave out the question, as he often did, it always dealt with the love of Christ and the experiences of grace in the soul ; and when he spoke he invariably dwelt upon the same themes. He avoided controversy and bitterness. He could not help that, for there was no bitterness or censoriousness in his nature, and even if there had been, his apprehension of the Iove of Christ and his level common sense, would have prevented him from expressing it. The people of the neighbouring parishes loved him greatly for what of Christ they saw in his life and character, and the people of Durness, in particular, showed their regard in a fitting testimonial.

Mr. Corbet was succeeded by one of nature's choicest gentlemen, Mr. Duncan Finlayson. Born in 1838 in S. Uist, he went, on the invitation of a kinsman, to Australia at the age of eighteen. Two years later he returned, and resided at Knock, in the parish of Sleat, where the saintly John MacPhail was then minister of the Free Church. Under his ministry the returned emigrant was savingly impressed, and he was immediately led to devote his life to the work of the ministry. After being licenced he acted for a time as assistant secretary of the Highland Committee under Dr. MacLauchlan. Thereafter he served as assistant to the Rev. Alexander Lee in Nairn. He was ordained and inducted in 1881. It was a time to be remembered. Most remarkable scenes were witnessed at his first communion. Mr. Lee was his chief assistant. The services were well attended throughout, and a very deep impression was made. On Monday the congregation was swept by a wave of high feeling and enthusiasm. When the benediction was pronounced the congregation did not disperse. The ministers stayed in Rhiconich Hotel because the manse was not yet in habitable order. A procession was formed, and the majority of that large congregation marched to Rhiconich, a distance of four miles, in expectation of getting another sermon ! They stood in a body outside the front door in tense expectation. At length Mr. Alex. Munro, the Hotel-keeper, came out with a chair, which Mr. Lee mounted, and from which he delivered a powerful appeal from the words, "If any man thirst let him come unto ME and drink." His dramatic gestures, his vivid illustrations, and his powerful appeals still live in the memory of some surviving members of that deeply moved audience.

In Mr. Finlayson's time the Disruption Church, built on the Tanfield Hall model, with the pulpit to the side and a door at each end, was reconstructed and reseated, as it is to-day. The repairs to church and manse cost over 800.

After the passing of the Declaratory Act, in 1892, a number of families throughout the parish withdrew from the Free Church, and formed the congregation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. This Secession was in no sense due to the minister, nor a reflection on his work and character. The movement was due entirely to what its supporters regarded as a matter of principle.

After a lingering illness, extending over two years, Mr. Finlayson died on the 13th of June, 1905, at the age of sixty-seven. He is survived by a widow and two daughters who reside in London.

The memorial over his grave bears the following inscription:-

Erected by his sorrowing Congregation
In Loving Memory of
Revd. DUNCAN FINLAYSON,
Who was for 24 years their faithful Pastor.
Born in South Uist, 1838.
Died at Kinlochbervie U.F. Manse
on 18th June, 1905.

In the spring of 1905 the Rev. John Macaskill, probationer, was happily settled as colleague and successor to Mr. Finlayson.

In the Church of Scotland Mr. Clark was succeeded, in 1856, by Rev. John Adam Macfarlane, who was translated to the parish of Urray in 1861.

In 1862 the Rev. Peter Calder, M.A., who had been a teacher at Grantown, and was for two years minister of Fort Augustus, was inducted at Kinlochbervie, where he remained for less than two years. He accepted a call to Clyne in 1864. He died there in 1870.

The Rev. Kenneth MacKenzie was admitted in December, 1864, and was translated to Kinlochluichart in 1876. Three years later, in 1879, he came to Badcall, Scourie, where he remained till 1903, when he retired. He died in 1915 at the age of eighty-seven. He had been twice married, first to Annie Macpherson of Kirkmicheal, Banffshire, and second, to Penual Grant, daughter of Rev. William C. M. Grant, minister of Dumess.

The Rev. Simon Hally, M.A., a native of Glasgow, and a graduate of Glasgow University, was ordained at St. John's, New Brunswick, in 1873. He returned to this country and served at Carnwath for a time. He was inducted at Kinlochbervie in April, 1877. He married, and his wife and he became very popular. Both were greatly beloved. Next year a daughter, Mary Catherine Margaret, was born, but the mother passed away, to the deep regret of all who knew her. He accepted a call to Kinlochluichart, where lie died in 1880.

Mr. Hally was succeeded by the Rev. David Lundie, M.A., in March, 1880. He was translated to Tongue nine years later where he now lives in retirement, enjoying the high esteem of all the people.

The Rev. Alexander Crerar, M.A., was the last, and in some respects the most interesting, of the old Church of Scotland ministers. He was a distinguished honours graduate of Aberdeen. He was licensed by his native Presbytery of Weem in 1869, and became minister of the Presbyterian Church of Southport. His studious habits and his retiring disposition did not find in Southport a congenial sphere, which he quickly quitted and took up work under the Royal Bounty in different parts of the Highlands till he was admitted to Kinlochbervie in 1889, where he continued till his death in 1929.

Unknown to himself, he was the occasion of doing a widespread and highly spiritual service to evangelical religion in the Highlands and Islands. When on his way to the Grammar School, Aberdeen, for the first time, one of his fellow-travellers was the Rev. J. Calder MacPhail. The big-hearted minister took a kindly interest in the student, noted his deep devotion, his high ambition, the faith and self-sacrifice of his parents, and the provision made by the Church of Scotland to help promising candidates for the work of the ministry. At that time the Free Church had no scheme for helping boys to attend a Grammar School preparatory to entering the University. The minister was moved to reflection, and by the time he reached Aberdeen the MacPhail Bursary Scheme was outlined. Soon thereafter it was launched, giving wise and well-planned assistance to deserving and promising students, at a stage in their career when they needed sympathetic guidance. It raised the educational standard of the ministry in the Highlands by giving students an elementary education that enabled them to make the best use of a University course.

Within recent times the parish has given four men to the work of the ministry. The late Rev. Hugh Gunn, born at Rhuvoult, spent his ministerial life in Skye. The Rev. James D. MacDonald, M.A., born at Oldshore, is minister of St. Oran's Church, Edinburgh. The Rev. Lachlan Angus Calder MacRae, born at Badcall Inchard, is minister of Shebster Caithness, and his brother, Alexander, the author of this work, is minister in Tongue.


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