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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter XIX. - The Church Controversy in Glenlyon


THE early rumblings of the Ten Years' Conflict did not create any stir in my native glen. Our people were very well pleased with their successive ministers presented by the Crown after the Glen had been made into a quoad sacra parish, endowed and provided with a new church and manse out of the Parliamentary grant voted as a national thank- offering after the war with Napoleon. The first of these was Mr John Macalister, a native of the Island of Arran, who put his foot down on smuggling, although the story ran that before his conversion he had something to do with smuggling himself. If he had he knew the evils thereof, and he certainly exposed and denounced them vigorously. When the manse was being built Mr Macalister lodged in the house of our neighbour, Elder Duncan Macalum, and I used to toddle after him down to the river bank when he was angling for trout. He was a stern disciplinarian to adults who needed to be admonished or rebuked, but a delightful friend to children. When the manse was ready he went to live there and brought home a wife. There their eldest son, Donald, afterwards Free Church minister in Edinburgh, was born, arid often, on seeing from the other side of the river, his mother carrying him about in front of the manse, I longed to wade across to play with the child, but the depth of the water on the driest day of summer was beyond my small length. Mr Macalister was a fervent evangelical revivalist. In a few years he left us for the Gaelic Church, Edinburgh, whence he migrated north to become minister of Nigg in Ross-shire. I do not know on whose recommendation he was presented to Glenlyon, but the next two were appointed on the petition of the congregation through the influence of the Marquis of Breadalbane. These two, Mr David and Mr Duncan Campbell, were brothers, and natives of our Glen. We first got the younger brother, Mr David, while at about the same time Mr Duncan was appointed to Lawers, and married the eldest daughter of the Apostle of the North. Mr David's bright and clever wife, Margaret Macbean, was also from the north, the daughter of an Inverness-shire parish- teacher. Probably their marriages had something to do with the first introduction of the brothers to the notice of northern congregations, but it was because of their own undoubted merits that they were one after the other so soon wiled away from their native Glen over the Grampians.

Eloquent, warm-hearted, lovable, and peace- loving, Mr David was in 1836 so far "left to himsel'" as to accept a majority call to the East Church, Inverness. On January 12th of that year a meeting of the elders, managers, and male communicants of that church was held to elect a minister. Provost Eraser, who presided, proposed the election of the Rev. David Campbell, minister of Glenlyon, and Bailie George Mackay proposed the election of the Rev. Archibald Cook, of Bruar. Thirty-three voted for Mr Campbell and twenty- five for Mr Cook. The former on a majority of eight was declared elected. The acceptance of the call by Mr Campbell was laid before the Presbytery of Inverness on March 30th. He was not inducted until November 23rd, and meanwhile Mr Cook's adherents raised such a schismatic clamour, that to pacify them they got the North Church erected for themselves and their favourite. The new minister of the East Church was a man who hated strife. His position at Inverness was irksome to him, although he rallied round him many new members and adherents, who made up wholly or in great part for the departure of the Cookites. His fame as a powerful evangelical preacher spread further northwards. At the beginning of September, 1838, he was presented to the parish of Tarbat, East Ross-shire. The patron's choice was endorsed by a unanimous call from the congregation. In Tarbat he laboured faithfully, first as a minister of the Church of Scotland, and afterwards for some fifteen years as Free Church minister. His health, after his wife's death, broke down, and he craved for the air of his native Ben Lawers range, and was glad to accept a call from Lawers, where he died at a good old age. Unlike the then rulers of the Free Church, he died blessing the act which abolished patronage in the Church of Scotland, and hoping for the union of the Scotch Presbyterian Churches. He was a lover and preacher of charity, peace, piety, and industry, whose lot was cast in an age of strife and of social and ecclesiastical unsettlement. He liked right and hated wrong. In speaking to me, many years after the Disruption, of the Convocation which preceded it, and of which he was a member, he grew angry over Dr Candlish's adopted proposal to lock the doors of Roxburgh Church so that none could escape voting for or against the official resolutions. He went there, he said, determined to vote for the resolutions, but this made him feel that they were being coerced by the device of locking the doors. On the south side of the Grampians we had no minister of the stamp of Mr Archibald Cook and Mr Rory, of Snizort, whose intolerably narrow views respecting conversion, baptism, and communion fitted them better for heathenising than for Christianising congregations; but we had some braying lay-asses whose mouths had been opened, without a jot of the inspiration of Balaam's beast, by revival and Church dispute excitements. Years after the Disruption the Free Church Assembly appointed a Commission to go to the parish of Snizort, to see and report on the state of matters there; for complaints had been formally made that Mr Rory refused baptism to the children of parents of irreproachable life and character with whose conversion assurances he was not satisfied, or who refused to give him any such assurances at all. The Free Church minister of Tarbat was a member of that Commission, and at a meeting held in Mr Rory's church was subjected to an insult which deeply touched his sensitive nature. Mr Rory's admirers gathered in force from many quarters and roughly interrupted the Commissioners and complainers. One woman was conspicuously noisy and insulting. Mr David remonstrated with her, and in his earnest pleading for decent behaviour patted her shoulder. Then the virago shouted out, "Tha'm fear so cur laimh orm" ("This man is laying hand on me.") In Gaelic the phrase might mean taking indecent liberties, and such an insinuation, which a differently constituted man would only have laughed at, hurt Mr David so deeply that he would never go to Skye on a Church business again.

When Glenlyon lost dear Mr David, it got as his successor his elder brother, Mr Duncan Campbell from Lawers, and kept him until, shortly before the Disruption, he was presented and called to be parish minister of Kiltearn, Ross-shire. He was an excel- lent administrator, a worthy man, and a good solid evangelical preacher, although not so eloquent and sympathetic as Mr David. So far Crown patronage had been exercised in accordance with the expressed wishes of the Glen people. The three ministers who left us for northern parishes, Mr Macalister, Mr David Campbell, and Mr Duncan Campbell, went out at the Disruption. The Church dispute had not arisen in Mr Macalister's time among us. Mr David Campbell did not take it with him to the pulpit. Mr Duncan Campbell could not wholly ignore it, for he had Assembly documents to read and expound from the pulpit, but the subject got very little notice in his sermons.


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