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The Parish of Longforgan
Chapter VIII. The Pre-reformation Church, etc.


"Nor be it e'er forgotten how by skill
Of cloistered Architects, free their souls to fill
With love of God, throughout the Land were raised
Churches on whose symbolic beauty gazed
Peasant' and mail-clad Chief with pious awe;
As at this day men seeing what they saw,
Or the bare wreck of faith's solemnities,
Aspire to more than earthly destinies."

Wordsworth.

We cannot say when Longforgan village took its rise, and whether it gathered itself first round the church or the castle. Probably it was round the church. Its name seems to indicate this. There was a church before we know of a castle. It was usual to speak of the village as the Churchtown. Unfortunately, we have no information as to the appearance of the earliest church. Down to the year 1794 the people used to worship in what was the old pre-Reformation building. It is not known, exactly, when it was built. In form and architecture it resembled the old church of Fowlis, which makes it likely that both the churches were built about the same time, and by the same member of the house of Gray to whom both estates belonged. One who used to worship in it last century has given us a sketch of its appearance, "It was," he says, "an old, long, narrow, and inconvenient building, consisting of two parts, and evidently built at very different periods. The eastmost, which belonged entirely to the estate of Castle Huntly, was a substantial building, all of ashlar Kin-goody stone; and from a very handsome cross on the east gavel, and several recesses of hewn stone within, probably for altars, or shrines of some favourite saints, it had every appearance of having been the original church when the Roman Catholic religion prevailed. . . . The west end of the church, though apparently older, must have been of a much later date. It was a very insufficient building, of bad materials." The church tower was not added till 1690.

Previous to the Reformation, Longforgan Church and its emoluments belonged to the Priory of St. Andrews. The parish was served by a resident vicar-pensioner. Benvie had a rector (Rector de Benvie, Joh. Spanky, a.d. 1479-95); Longforgan had a vicar. There are several references to the church in the Chartu-lary of the Priory of St. Andrews. It is mentioned in a bull of Innocent the Fourth in 1248; and Martin, in the fourth year of his popedom, refers to the church of Langforgrunde. (Cf. p. 413, Lib. Cart.y Bannatyne Club.) A charter of William, Bishop of St. Andrews, dated 6 Kal. Feb. 1292, exists, granting to the Prior and Canons the vicarages of Forgrund in Gouirryn and of Forgrund in Fyf. (Appendix, p. 34.) Another is a charter of David the Bishop in reference to the church of Forgrund in Gouerin. This charter gives to God and to the Canons of the church of St. Andrews, the church of Forgrund in Gouerin, " cum decimis oblationibus et terris et omnibus aliis ad dictam ecclesiam de jure pertinentibus."

A little further light may be got from the following entry, which gives the valuation of the churches:—

Still a further entry may be given from another source—from the valuations of all the benefices of the kingdom of Scotland made by the legate of the Roman Pontiff.

Two of the St. Andrews Synodal Statutes in the fifteenth century may be referred to, as shedding light 011 the life of the church. One made it binding on every rector or vicar under severe penalties to report the " name of every person, of whatever condition or age, dying within his parish, to the first Consistory to be held after Easter, in the parish church of St. Andrews for the arch-deaconry of St. Andrews, in the church of St. Giles at Edinburgh for the archdeaconry of Lothian." I his has fairly been described as laying the foundation of parochial registers. (Stat. Ecc. Scot., Preface, 186.) Then each priest was bound to have a seal with his name for the authentification of writs and citations that might be sent to him.

There are few references in historical documents to the church. King James III. gave a charter under the Great Seal in 1471, confirming, for the salvation of his soul, grants made to the church of St. Andrews—amongst others, " ecclesiam de Langforgrunt, cum terra de Pilmure, et pertin, et una bovata terre in Monorgunt," etc.

A charter of some local value exists, granted in favour of the Perth Dominicans by the Countess of Huntly, which reflects curiously the life of the time. It does not refer directly to the church. When the reforming spirit began to show itself in Scotland, an attempt was made by some of the more serious Romanists to grapple with the abuses which threatened to crush the church. In this, the Dominican friars took a lead, and, in consequence, won for themselves considerable favour. After the death of the third Earl of Huntly, the countess, who, it may be mentioned, was the widow of Lord Glammis, made a grant to the Dominicans of her half-lands of Littleton in the barony of Longforgan, for the repose of her husband's soul and of her own. 'I he charter is dated 1525. It begins so—

"To all who shall see or hear this charter, Elizabeth Gray, Countess of Huntly, wishes salvation in Him, who is the common Saviour. From the beginning of the world, the Father Almighty, the universal Creator, three yet always one, ordained and hath rendered holy, by his laws both of the Old and New 1 esta-ments, the nuptial band between the man and the woman, and which he had strengthened also by the knot of mutual friendship and special love, so that the one party does not use to be forgetful of the other, whether they be present companions, or one of them has passed from this mortal life: I, therefore, being now mindful of my most beloved husband, Alexander, late Earl of Huntly, Lord of Badenoch, who conferred many benefits upon me, and being also devoutly striving for the salvation of his and of my soul, have determined to procure the assured suffrages of pious prayers, and to found, and by God's grace perpetually to establish, in some religious places, sacred obsequies for the augmentation of the divine service; And because among the several societies, in this kingdom of Scotland, who receive in common any property, such as lands and annual rents, the Predicant Friars are poor, promoters of religion, conforming to the Institutes of their spiritual fathers, reformed, abstaining, agreeably to their own Constitutions and those of their fathers, from all kinds of flesh, so that in life and doctrine they are an excellent pattern to the people, I have chosen that they chiefly shall perform the foresaid prayers and divine obsequies."

Then follow certain conditions on which the lands are given.

"The said Friars or their successors, to render to me and my heirs, for satisfaction of my lord superior of the said lands, two pennies of the current money of Scotland on the ground of the said lands, in the name of maill. Also the said Friars and their successors shall be bound and obliged as in law and equity they may, to chant and celebrate solemnly, with a memorial, in their dark blue vestments with deacon, sub-deacon, and acolytes in their choir, between the hours of seven and nine daily, a Mass of Repose for the comfortable rest of my soul, and of the soul of the late Alexander, my husband, except on solemn days and principal festivals, which, according to the Ordinary or Calendar of the said Friars, are double, on which a Mass shall be celebrated for us out of the Festival, with a collect, and memoriam for our souls. Also, every year, on the clay of the decease of my said husband — namely, the 16th. of January — they shall celebrate for our souls funeral exequies, or an anniversary, with nine lessons, with due solemnity."

In the event of the Friars failing to comply with the conditions, they were to " resign and renounce into the hands of the Lord Superior for the time the said lands of Littleton," etc.

The Friars found considerable difficulty in getting the land. Upon her death, which took place a year or two after the gift, Lord Glammis, the countess's son by her first marriage, contested the alienation. It took about a quarter of a century to settle the matter, but the Friars got it.

At the Reformation, along with other properties belonging to St. Andrews, Longforgan was annexed to the Crown. Nearly a century later, in 1641, it was transferred by King Charles to the magistrates of Dundee, for the benefit of the burgh. Alexander Wedderburn was, at the time, Town Clerk of Dundee, and amonofst favours which he obtained from the king for the city was " a gift of the patronage and tithes of the parochine of Longforgan, for maintenance of the ministrie and other pious works." Twenty years after, in 1661, the Scottish Parliament confirmed the charter which had been burnt at the siege of the city in 1651. The Act runs: "And, moreover, Our Soverane Lord, with the consent of the Estates of this pnt. Parliament, ratifies, approves, and confirmes the Charter of Mortification, granted be his Maiestie's said Royall Father, of everlasting memorie, with consent of his Commissioners of Exchequer therein-speit, of the date the said fourteinth day of September 1641, to the Provost, Bailies, Councill, and Community of the forsaid burgh of Dundie, and their successors, and annexed and incorporated to the forsaid burgh, of the tiend-shaves of all and sindrie touns, .lands, barns, and others whatsumever lying within the paroche of Long Forgund, and Shireffdome of Pearth, dispensing with the generallitie: As also of the advocation, donation, and right of patronage of the samen paroche kirk of Long Forgund, with power to them to present a sufficient minister to the forsaid kirk, and modified stipend thairof, so oft as the same shall vaik: which tiends and patronage his Maiestie's said Royall Father dissolved from the Crown and united and annexed the sanien to the forsaid burgh."

This, it need not be said, was a valuable source of revenue to the town ; but, as may be supposed, it was not without difficulty that it obtained its rights. The times were unsettled, the roads were few, access was difficult; and when measures were taken to collect the tithes, it proved anj'thing bul easy to do so. "At an early period," Mr. Maxwell writes, "the Earl of Kinghorn, one of the principal heritors, entered into a temporary ' contract with the town anent his tithes,' but the other parochiners did not pay their teind-bolls for the crop 1642, and although the Council gave warrant to the treasurer to agree with them ' at moderate prices,' they neither paid in money nor in kind, and a legal charge had to be made against them for that crop. ' The laird of Monorgan alleged that he had already got ane tack of his teinds, which he proposed should be ratified,' but the Council cautiously ' continued their answer till they advise with their lawyers thereanent'; and when he pressed ' for the answer anent the renewing of his tacks,' they resolved 'to entreat the Lord Fothrines' — a Senator of the College of Justice—'to meet for them in a friendly communing, and quhen he shall return to the country ane day to be appointed.' ... A little later, 'William Bruce, tenant of the Knapp, gave a band in payment of his bygone teinds, the present crop being included, for five hundred merks'; but the most of the lairds were obdurate " {History of Old Dundee, pp. 448-9). The Master of Gray, for example, would not hear of his tenants of Littleton and Lochton paying any at all. The patience of the fathers of Dundee was, at length, worn out. They named two of their number "to deal with the haill heritors and tenants of the parochine for ane sattled course for recovery of the teinds." And after David Yeaman, notary, had "caused denunce such of the heritors as hes been charged," poinding of their produce followed. But even this proceeding, as Mr. Maxwell adds, did not "prove to be very effectual, for the victual which was seized having been brought into the burgh, it was ' wrangouslie taken upon Saturday last be ane number of poor people perteining to the Countess of Kinghorn and Lord Brechin,' who carried it off to some place of hiding. Whereupon, ' it was thought expedient that the Council sail still try quhat meal can be yet gotten in secret in the town, and quhat can not be gotten thereof that the Lord Brechin and the Countess be dealt with to share with the town.' Lord Brechin, afterwards the Earl of Panmure, was father of the Countess, and he about this time held the Earl of Kinghorn's Perthshire estate of Castle Huntly under mortgage.; consequently he would have an interest in the poinding and recovery of the victual" (p. 450). This is not the end of the tale. Failing by force to win the lairds, the Council tried to persuade them, and so they determined "to convene with the parochiners of Longforgan, to treat concerning such byrun teinds as they are awing to the town, and to set them at such a heich rate as may be had therefor." This, however, came to nothing. The heritors would not yield, and this, in spite of their being threatened with "the pain of horning, and being presently denuncit for non - payment." ''"he difficulty was, at length, overcome in this way. The Council resolved that instead of using the tithes for the ordinary purposes of the town, the stipends of two of the ministers "presently serving the cure of the kirk in the burgh shall be providit from the teinds of Longforgan," and to this they were eventually destined, "saving and expecting as much thereof as is or sail be appointed to Mr. Alexander Mylne, the present minister." 'The tithes now began to be paid, the Earl of Kinghorn and Colonel Brown of Muirtone leading the way. One or two held back, among these being the Master of Gray; but the Council "were content to supersede any process against him until his lady be weill." Nevertheless, they came in, and' so plentifully that, in addition to providing for the minister of Longforgan and two ministers in Dundee, it was definitely proposed to support-the third minister of the burgh from them.

This was too much, and, fortunately, it did not take place. The Civil War entailed a heavy expenditure on Dundee, and involved it in debt, and, to relieve the situation, the Council determined "that the teinds shall be sold to any of the heritors who will buy the same." These were readily bought. So, in a short time, the magistrates of Dundee had alienated the grant of King Charles, and the right of patronage passed into the hands of the Earl of Strathmore, from whom it was subsequently acquired by Mr. Paterson.

Earl Patrick of Strathmore makes this entry in 1689: "Two years agoe I settled wl the Archbishop of St. Andrews for a new Tack of the Teinds of my Lands of Castle lyon for the pay1 of the former tack dutie of .£40 lib. stg. yeare, and six chalders of victuall to the minister of Lonforgan yearlie, I gave him bond for the entry wch was agreed upon to be tuelve hundreth pounds scotts" (Glands Book of Record, p. 96).

Longforgan is now in the Presbytery of Dundee. In the draft scheme of Presbyteries presented to the Assembly of 1586, which continued " till Episcopacy came in, and, with a few alterations, was standing at the Assembly, 1638," Langforgand appears in the Presbytery of Angus and Mernes along with Dundie, Maynes, Lyf (Lyphe), Inner Gowrie, Foulis, Inchestare, Banvy, etc. It was only last century that Forfar and Meigle were constituted independent Presbyteries.


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