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In the Shadow of Cairngorm
XIII. Scraps from an Old Session Record

THE Session Records of our parish are very imperfect. It is said that some of them were destroyed by an accidental fire, and others seem to have been lost during the vacancies which occurred from the deaths of ministers. There are no records referring to the period when Episcopacy was the form of Church Government, and the Session minutes during the pastorates of Mr John Grant and Mr Martin have not been preserved. But two quarto volumes exist of minutes kept when Mr William Grant was minister, the one running from 1731 to 1749, and the other from 1749 to 1761, and they are extremely interesting and valuable as throwing light upon the social and religious condition of the parish, and the life and work of the Church in times of much disorder and difficulty.

ECCLESIASTICAL BUILDINGS.—-There is no mention of the Manse, but the state of the Church is frequently referred to. A meeting was held on 14th August, 1743, when, besides the Minister and Elders, there were present "the following Gentlemen, viz., John Grant of Ballimore, Lud. Grant of Lettoch, Duncan Grant of Achernick, Lewis Grant of Badenidin and John Grant Yr. of Gartenmore." After consulting as to the repair of the Church, and how to "make it water-tight again winter," the following curious resolution was unanimously adopted: — That "each Gentleman and Tennant repair the breaches or holes above his own seat, seeing it is now too late in the year to have the Church fully repaired." It was further ordained that the work should be done before the second Tuesday of September, and authority was given to the minister to employ tradesmen to make the repairs, where not executed at that date, at "the expenses of such as might be deficient." On July 21, 1748, a special meeting was held, of the Session and Gentlemen, for the Division of the Kirk of Abernethy. It is stated that complaints had been made by "severalls," "Gentlemen and Tacksmen," that "they had no Room or place in the Church allotted to them to build pews or seats, in order to attend ordinances," and the meeting took steps to apportion space to each, according to their rent. Alex. Fraser, mason, at Culnakyle, was employed to make out a plan, and from his report it was found that "the share falling to every hundred pounds Scots of Rent was two foot five inches and three-eights." The Division was made and recorded with much care. The part referring to Lurg may be taken as a sample. "The said Division began at the East Gavel of the Church on the North side where Lurgg’s seat lyes. The Rent of Lurg Clachack and Ellon being four hundred and sixty-four pounds Scots money. The Session and said Factor appointed nine foot three inches square measuring from the Gavel of the Church for the purposes of the above lands." Next came "the Upper and Lower Congeshes, rent £375 16s, cess included, and Aldcharn," rent £109 8s; then the two achterparts of Balliemore; two achterparts of Balnaglack; Croft of Balliemore; the achterpart of Buchcharn; and the achterpart of Badeniden; rent in all, £430 8s; and so on with Culnakyle, Rothiemoon, Gartenmore, and the rest. Nine foot square was left for the pulpit and the minister’s seat. The conclusion is:—"The above Division being made by the said Session and Factor, having the Laird of Grant’s order for that purpose, they therefore appoint the same to stand firm; and orders all the Gentlemen and Tacksmen of the said parish to possess their respective proportions as above determined, and to build seats for their own convenience, otherwise such as will not build seats and frequent the ordinances, their seats and Room in the said Church will be given to others to build seats thereon: And Further the said Session appoints all the parishioners to provide and carry to the Church-Yard Heather, and other material necessary for compleating the Reparation of the Kirk, and this by appointment of Session is intimated to all the parishioners after Divine Worship this thirty and first day of July one thousand seven hundred and forty eight years." These appointments do not appear to have had much effect, for at a meeting held at Rothymoon, July 9th, 1756, there is the following entry:—"The Session and above Gentlemen appoints with respect to the Kirk the possessors of every Davoch of Land within the parish of Abernethy to thatch their own respective shares of the said Kirk within the space of Twenty four Days hence, otherways such as will not thatch their own shares" would have the work done at their expense.

THE KIRK SESSION.—Elders were appointed from time to time as required. At a meeting held at Lethnachyle, December 1, 1745, "John Stuart son to the deceast John Stuart sometime in Lenachyle was chosen Elder in room of his said father, and also appointed Treasurer." Then on December 7, 1746, "the names and designations of the following persons were read from the pulpit before the Congregation: viz. James Grant in Revack, John Stuart in Lenchyle, James Grant in Tulloch, John Mackintosh in Achgourisk, and John Grant in Criftnahawn," as chosen for the Eldership; and objections being called for, and none offered, "they were elected in the usual manner before the Congregation," and took their seats with the other Elders. October 5, 1740, there is notice of the appointment of Donald Cameron, in Gartenmore, as Ruling Elder to the Synod of Murray, which was to meet at Elgin on the 21st October. He was ordained to repair to and attend the Synod, and "to do everything as beseemeth his character, as he shall be answerable to us." Then on November 9th it is stated that as the said "Donald Cameron was obliged to attend the Synod, upon a certain affair that concerned their bounds, which did put him to some charges besides the loss of business at home, therefore they appoint their Treasurer to give him Eighteen pence Scots out of the Box, which is to be paid in again out of the first and readyest penalties imposed upon delinquents." The Elders were, on the whole, very regular in attendance; but not infrequently, during winter and spring, there is the touching entry, "There was no Session this day by reason of the Cold."

CHURCH SERVICES. The usual services were two—Gaelic (called Irish) and English, and the texts are always given. In summer there were sometimes double services; thus, Abernethy, May 27, 1739, it is minuted that there was a lecture in Irish in the forenoon from Acts i. 1-5, then English, Matt. xvi. 26; and in the afternoon, Irish lecture on Acts i. 5-8, and English, Titus ii. 11. The same order was followed the next Sunday at Kincardine. Occasionally services were held in outlying districts, such as Glenmore and Glenbroun. Lenchyle, January 14, 1750, it is stated that the minister thought proper to preach here this day, upon account of some old persons who could not come to the parish kirk. The amount of the collection is always entered. At Abernethy it ranged from 6s to 15s Scots each Sunday. The following significant note is made April 8th, 1739:—"There was no sermon in the Church this day because the Congregation did not convene by reason of the Great Storm." Vacancies are recorded at times on the ground that the minister was absent assisting at Communions in other parishes. The Lord’s Supper was observed once a year; but there are years in which no notice of its observance is entered. Intimation was made beforehand of the day, and the Elders were carefully designed for their several duties. Thursday, 21st August, 1760, tokens were distributed, and the Elders were appointed to take the collections, "John Stuart in Lenchyle at the Church Door; John Grant in Gartenmore at the Isle Door; John Burges at the Easter Loft Door; Donald Cumming at the Door of Bellymore’s Desk, and John Stuart at the Garten Loft Door." On the Thursday, Mr Patrick Grant, Minister of Cromdale, preached in Irish from Isaiah liii. 3 (1st clause), and in English from James iv. 8 (1st clause). Collection, £1 16s. On the Saturday, called the "Preparation Day," the same minister preached in English from Isaiah liii. 11, and Mr George Grant, Kirkmichael, in Irish, from Psalm xxvi. 5. On the Sabbath, the "Action Sermon within the Church, was by Mr William Grant, Minister. from first Epistle of John 4th chapter and 14th verse. The Action Sermon in Irish, without Church (from the Tent) by Mr George Grant, Minister at Kirkmichael, John 3rd chap. and 16th verse. Sermon in Irish without Church (about 12 o’clock) by Mr Ludovick Grant, Minister of Duthil, Psalm 34th, verse 17th." Monday was the Thanksgiving Day, when the Minister of Duthil preached English, Matt. xxv. 41, and Mr George Grant preached Irish, Revelation ii. 10. On the Monday the Elders made their report—total sum since Thursday, £2 3s 0½d.

The Communion of 1754 was one of an extraordinary kind. It was observed on 25th August. There seems to have been a large assemblage of people. Besides the action sermons in English and Gaelic, there were two services "without Church" in Irish, and it is noted:—"There was no sermon in the Evening of this day as the Ministers had no time after serving of the Tables, being 19 in number, fearing the Comrnnnicants and others would be late at their respective abodes." The collection on this occasion was £29 0s 6d, of which £9 8s 6d was given to strangers. There are notices of national fasts, as for George III., and of thanksgivings, ordered by the Synod; also of special collections for Aberdeen Infirmary, and for the congregation of New York in their distressed circumstances.

It is curious that there is no reference to the Rebellion of 1745, save in some cases of discipline, it having been a common practice for women to father their illegitimate children on soldiers, who were out of the country; awl in one case the father given was said to have been "slain at the Battle of Culloden." The sermons at Abernethy on the 27th April, the first Sunday after the battle, were in Irish, from Judges vii. 7, to the end of the chapter. There was no English service. The next Sabbath, at Kincairn, the text was Irish, Proverbs xvi. 15. It is perhaps significant that there was no session on either day, by reason of the absence of the Clerk and the Elders. it was common to have "crying" of lost cattle and sheep in the churchyard after service. Kincairn, 17th November, 1745:—"There was this day proclaimed by the Ground Officer of this place, a two year old she-foal, black colour, which remains in the custody of James Stuart in Glenmore, Fiscall, and is without any visible mark." Kincairn, August 7, 1748:—"Proclaimed in the Church yard by John Baillie, Ground Officer, a four year old black Wedder, tarr’d above the tail, being in the custody of James Grant in Rishalloch." This custom of proclaiming continued down to a late period. Funerals sometimes took place on Sundays. Kinchardine, 22nd July, 1759:—"William Macdonald in Glenmore was this day Rebuked and Exhorted sessionally for breach of Sabbath, viz, for his giving more Liquor than what is ordinary given to the people that attended and accompanied his Wife’s funeral upon Sunday to this Kirkyard."

MANAGEMENT OF THE POOR.—Collections were taken every Sabbath for the poor, and the amount for each day was entered in the minutes. The accounts for Abernethy and Kincardine were kept separately, with a treasurer or thesaurus for each; in 1750, James Grant in Revack for Abernethy, and John Stuart in Tulloch for Kincardine. The treasurer had also charge of the fines imposed on delinquents, which constituted a considerable part of the revenue of the Session. Ordinary meetings of Session were held in church, after service, but the meetings for the division of the funds were special, and were held on a week-day, according to intimation, sometimes at Garlin, and sometimes at Rothiemoon and Belnagown. The following is an example:-"At Bellnagown, Aprile 8, 1742. After prayer met in Session with the minister, Ludovick Grant of Tulloch, James Grant in Revaick, Gregor Grant of Toberay, James Stuart in Lenchyle, and Donald Grant in Belnatomb, elders; and the following gentlemen, viz:— Lewis Grant in Badenidden, Ludovick Grant of Lettoch, John Grant, yr. of Lurgg, Alexander Grant in Corrachuillie, and James Mitchell in Rothiemune. This meeting being appointed by the Session to consider the case of the poor within the united parishes of Abernethy and Kinchardine. The Session finding that there was collected for the poor since the last distribution twelve pounds Scots, finding also that five pounds six shillings and eight pennies were given out at severall times to indigent persons within the said parishes, and others recommended by the Synod and Presbyterie, so that there remains now to be distributed six pounds thirteen shillings and four pennies. The Session finding that they have recovered from Robert Glass in Achnagonallen the fourty merks Scots, being the principal sum lent him severall years ago, with ten merks Scots of Ca rents . . . and considering the number and necessitous condition of the poor within the said parishes at present, do think it necessary to distribute the above fifty merks amongst them rather than give it out for interest." Classified lists of the poor are then given.

First, a List of such of the poor as are either confined to yr. Beds by sickness or Cripples or Blind, or have children not acceding two or three years of age to maintain:—1, Isobell Grant in Belinagoun, confined to bed, 15s; 2, Jean Leslie, a Cripple, 15s; 3, Marjory Michallach, confined to her bed, 15s; 4, Janet M’Intosh in Clachaig wt. fatherless children, 15s; 5, Isobell Stuart, a blind in Lenchyle, 12s; 6, Janet Grant, a Cripple, Milntown, 12s; 7, Barbara Grant in Rinaforack, confined to bed, 15s; 8, Anna Stuart in Belnagown, confd. to bed, 15s; 9, Janet Gregorach there, do., 12s; 10, Margaret Grant in Belnaglack, a blind, 15s; 11, Katharine Cumming in Gartenmore, a blind, 18s; 12, Isobel Beannach in Belnagown, a blind, 12s; 13, James Ratrie in Tulloch, wt. motherless children, 18s; 14, Donald Shaw in Kincairn, and Anna Grant, his spouse, both confined to their beds a long time ago, £1 10s; 15, Elizh. Brachader in Congesh, confind. to bed, 12s; 16, Robert Glass in Achnagonallen, w. motherless children, £3; 17, John Grant in Belnaglack, a poor, sickly man, 12s; 18, Mary Gregorach, his spouse, confd. to bed, 12s; 19, Elspet Grant, his daughter, a Cripple, 12s; 20, Duncan Gregarach in Clachack, w. moy. less Children, £1 0s 4d; 21, Elspet Grant in Drume, w. two young children, 15s; 22, Christan Grant in Muckroch, spouse to Lach. Bain, 18s; 23, Alexander Mitchell in Tulloch, 18s; 24, Mary Cumine, yr., with her five fatherless children, 15s; 25, John Fraser in Belnagown, and his spouse, with their children, 12s; 26, Wm. Gregorach in Tulloch, w. motherless children, 15s; 27, Janet Grant in Cluchaig, a Cripple, 15s.

2. The next list is of "such of the poor as can travail to seek their bread:"—1, Janet Stuart in Belnagluck; 2, Janet Clerach in Milntown; 3, Isobell Ross in Rothiemune; 4, Janet Camron in Miln Croft; 5, Isobel Porter; 6, Marjory M’Intosh, widow in Rothimune; 7, Elspet M’Intosh in Clachack; 8, Helen Grant in Milntoun; 9, Margaret Grant, her sister; 9, Janet Fraser in Gartenmore; 10,. Janet M’Pherson alias M’Huistan in Kincairn; 11, Mary Clark in Clachglass; 12, Cath. Grant, Daughr. to Peter More, in Corrachullie; 14, Madge Gregorach in Cullavaillen; ‘5. James Mitchell in Tulloch, his Relick; 16, Angus Turner in Clachglass; 17, Angus Cameron in Rimore; 18, John Ross in Tulloch and his spouse; 19, Janet Grant in Easter Tulloch; 20, Elspt. Grt. in Garten, spouse to John Lisach; 21, M’Ercher, a Dumb boy, in Gartenmore; 22, Wm. Barron in Belinagowan; 23, John M’Intosh, weaver in Corrachullie; 24, Donald Dow Camron in Garlyne; 25, Duncan M’Irvine’s Relict; 26, Janet Grant in Culouillen; 27, Margt. M’Intosh in Clachack; 28, Wm. Stuart, a poor boy in Garlyne; 29, Margt. Fraser, widow, in Milntoun. These got from 6s to 18s each. It is added that Donald Calder, Taylour: John Macdonald in Croft; an4 Alex. Gow at Garlyne gote six pence to be divided equally amongst them.

A list is also given of "such as are Dead, whose Interment had been paid for:"—Ludovick Nairn, a stranger, 12s; Anna Campbell in Belnaglack, £1 04s; Isobell M’Intosh in Clachack, £1 10s. In some years the poor of Abernethy and Kincardine are classified separately.

From these lists it would appear that there was a deplorable amount of poverty in the parish. In 1740 the condition of things was specially severe, and the minister called a meeting, which was held at Garlyne On the 10th June, to consider "the lamentable state of the poor and the scarcity of maintenance for their relief." He proposed that the parish "should be stented to pay an peck of meal out of each aughten part yr for their present relief," but the gentlemen present would not agree, and the "pious design," "after many admonitions and entreaties," had to be abandoned. There are many notices of charity given casually or in urgent cases. For example, it is minuted 30th August, 1741, that "this day’s collection was given to inter William Gregorach, who died within the bounds of this parish;" 17th November, 1754--—" the collection was given to Anna Mackay, a gentlewoman in Inverness, who by fire and accident was reduced to poverty and straits;" and in the minute of May 18, 1756, there is the curious entry—"A sixpence of this day’s collection was given to three English men wounded by the Spaniards." Certificates were granted to persons who had fallen into poverty from accidents. March 29th, 1741, is minuted—"The Session appoints a testificate for John Burges, Smith in Croftcroy, having his house, tooles, and instruments, &c., consumed to ashes by accidentall fire; also appoints testificates for Alex. Stuart in Conger and Janet Grant, spouse to Archibald M’Donald in Croft," but the reason is not assigned. Persons who held such certificates went begging in other parishes, and thus the balance was so far adjusted as regards charity given to strangers.

DISCIPLINE.—It has been said that the evil which men do lives after them. This holds true, though in a sense different from what Shakespeare meant, as to Session Records. While there is much that is good recorded in these old books, the evil certainly predominates. The minister’s texts are carefully noted, and then comes a woeful comment in the cases of discipline. Sunday after Sunday it is the same; the black calendar runs on without stop. Almost at every meeting there are two or three cases to be dealt with, and then besides there was the frequent horror of rebuking of offenders before the congregation. Two things strike one forcibly in reading these records—-first, the vastness of the claims of the Church in supervising the conduct of the people, and then the ineffectiveness of the methods pursued for this purpose. In the present day the complaint is often made that the Church has lost power, and that discipline is not carried out. This may be true; but whatever may be done in the way of reform, there will be no disposition to go back to the rude and repulsive ways of our fathers. The cutty stool is gone forever. In our parish the last instance of public rebuke was in the days of Mr Martin. The usual notice had been given. Then the ladies of the congregation concerted what they would do. So when Mr Martin called upon the culprits to come forward, Mrs Grant, Birchfield, and Mrs Macdonald, Coulnakyle, from the galleries, and Mrs Gordon, Revack, and Mrs Forsyth, Dell, from the body of the church, rose and walked out. This silent protest had the desired effect.

Some illustrations of discipline may be given. The commonest offences were breaches of the Seventh Commandment. Of these, ordinary cases were dealt with by the Session, and fines and censures imposed, but cases of an extraordinary kind were referred to the Presbytery. Sometimes with the contumacious the assistance of the civil powers had to be obtained. May 24, 1741.—" The Session appoints Donald Grant, ground officer, to repair to Glenlochy, and apprehend the persons of John Stuart and Janet Cumine. servants to John Grant in Glenlochy, for their contumacy, according to his order from the Baillie of the Regality of Grant." January 17, 1748.—" The Session taking under consideration the contumacy of the following persons, viz. :—Isobel Clerach in Milntown, Margaret Sinclair in Lettoch, Janet Fraser in Achnagonallen, and Christen Stuart in Corrachuillie, do think fit to make application to the Civil Magistrate, in order to banish them out of the parish, as all of them give up fathers to their children that cannot answer the charge laid against them." Another and earlier minute, February 24, 1740, explains as to "banishment "—A list of 10 women, "strangers, who came from other countries," who, for their misbehaviour and contumacy, had been banished by order of the Baron Baillie, is given, and it is added "that if any person or persons within this parish shelters, harbours, or gives a night’s lodging to any of said vagabonds, after the 16th day of March next, he or they for so doing shall be lyable in payment of five pounds Scots each night, toties quoties, and the same being intimated this day by the minister from the pulpit, certifying as said is." Fines were sometimes applied to the making of Bridges. May 29, 1741.— "The Session appoints the penalty due by Thomas Burgess, Soldier, for his fall . . . to be paid to John Grant Maclachlan in Rothiemune for the bridge built by him at the Laigh Miln of Abernethy, the said penalty being five pounds Scots." Similar appointments are made December 8, 1745, for a bridge "upon Burn which runs by William Davidson in Pytoulish his house," and a bridge upon "The Burn of the Miln of Tulloch"; July 20, 1751, for "Bridges upon Dorback, at Newton of Ellon, Nethy at Croft, and Altyewly at or about Lurg," it being stated "that Bridges upon these places, were not only usefull and necessary for the parishioners, but also for Strangers, the above places being upon the public roads." The money was given on the following conditions :—"That the said Delinquents may not he employed in the Work and that the Bridges may be worth the money"; Croft Croy, 20th March, 1760, "penalty allowed for putting a Bridge on the Altmore under the Minister’s house," the Manse then stood in the hollow, opposite the Sunday Well, below Milton; August 11, 1761, the penalties paid by James Grant, Surveyor of the Window Lights at Culnakyle, £20; James Stuart, in Connage. £10; and Lewis Grant son to Rynethan, £10, were allowed "for putting a Bridge on Nethie at Breas of Cullawullin," and a like sum was allowed to Ludovick Grant of Lettoch "for putting a Bridge over Dorback, opposite to his house." Sabbath-breaking.---In 1749, William Roy, in Lyngarrow, was dealt with for "cutting and bringin home timber upon Sunday"; 10th February, 1753, "John Grant, Souldier in Capt. Fairburn’s Company, Andrew M’Culloch in Rothiemune, Jr., and Robert Finlay, weaver in Achernack," are delated for rioting on Sunday, and were subsequently referred to the civil judge, the Session reserving the question of breach of the Sabbath; March 1, 1756, "James M’Bean in Torgarrow and Donald Smith in Croftmore, were delated for "profaning the Sabbath-day by selling Timber" to John M’Gillivray in Clury, and Donald Cummine, sometime in Tulloch, and afterwards examined and fined. Defamation was sometimes dealt with. Kincairn, January 10, 1748, John Cameron, in Gartenmore, complains that "Satirs were made upon him, and upon Donald Cameron his brother, implying curses and imprecations, which were rehearsed in William Fraser in Achtergaudach his family." After inquiry the Session wisely referred the whole matter to the Baillie of the Regality. On July 5, 1748, Marjory Cattanach, spouse to John Grant, Bellnaglach, was, after trial, found guilty of being "a Scandalous Calumniatrix, and lyer, as also malicious," for defaming an unmarried girl, Anna Grant, and was ordered "to compear before the Congregation in this place on Sunday, the 17th curt, and to stand in the place appointed for Delinquents, and there to be censured, and rebuked that others may fear hereafter to asperse the characters of any honest person." Lykwakes were often attended with disorders. Kinchardine, 22nd May, 1757, it was delated that "at Donald Lisach’s in Inchhruach’s Lick-walk, which was on Friday and Saturday nights, the 13th and 14th curt., there was Violing, Dancing and such like heathenish enormities"; January 15, 1758, "Compeared James and Donald McIntosh, Violers in Rymore, and confessed their error in playing at the Viol at Donald Lisach’s Lick-walk." ‘[‘he Session, after admonition, granted them absolution on the condition that "the one of them will be Cationer for the other that they will not be guilty of a like crime again, under the fuilzie of twenty pounds Scots," The most serious cases recorded were an alleged case of poisoning at Bochonich in 1743; the complaints of William Davidson, Pytoulish, 1753, of the slandering of his wife, Marjory Grant, by James Macbain in Torgarrow; and of Thomas Stuart in Cotterton, 1756, of vile and opprobrious language being used against his wife by Anna Maculloch and her children; and the petition of John Stuart in Clachglas, 1746, as to himself and his wife, Marjory Stuart, being slandered. These cases were investigated with much care, and, after reference to the Presbytery, were settled by the punishment of the offenders. The last case recorded was one of child murder:—"Clachglass of Kinchardine, 16th August, 1761.—The Session having received the following dismal and shocking. Report viz., That a male child lately born, was found yesterday by the Fishers drowned, anent the house of Kinchirdy in Spey, in the Pool commonly called Pool Marstack. The Session taking this affair under consideration have appointed a meeting at this Place on Wednesday next the nineteenth current to make all the search possible, as far as Law will, for the Mother of the said child, by calling all young women unmarried, under fifty years, and Maidens above fifteen years, That they may be seen and searched, if there be any New milk in their breasts, whereby any of them may be suspected to be the mother of the said child, and appoint the Minister to Intimate this from the pulpit after Divine Service this day." Here the Session-Book ends, and the curtain drops upon this delicate ordeal.

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