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Inverness Kirk-Session Records

Extracts from Inverness Kirk-Session Records 1661-1800, edited by Alexander Mitchell (Inverness: Robt. Carruthers & Sons, 1902).

Many stirring scenes have been witnessed in the streets of Old Inverness, but none more picturesque than that in which the peace-loving but undismayed burghers were compelled to resort to arms to defend the town from the Highlanders who were pressing in on it. The entry in the Session Register is the only record of the event so far as known.

28th Aprille 1689
"That day sermon, preached be Mr Gilbert Marshall in the forenoone at the Cross, and that by reason Cole M’donald was about the town boasting to com in with his whole force, consisting of 8 ore 900 men, to plunder the toun. Afternoone, Mr Mackenzie preached as aforsaid, all the citizens being necessitate to stand in a posture off Defence."

May 5th, 1689
"No sermon, and that by reason of our Confusions."

August 24th, 1690
"That day sermon preached by Mr M’Kenzie in his ordinaire, but before sermon ended wee wer surprysed by General Buchan’s highland armie, who lay betwixt Castell and Culloden, so that qt Collection was uplifted, was given to the poor."

Records destroyed by fire

From 20th January 1704 till 15th April 1707 there is no Session minute, as explained in the minutes of the latter date —

"This day it was represented in the Session That an accidental fire happened in the clerk’s chamber betwixt the hours of ten and twelve o’clock at night, which continued until two o’clock in the morning, being the eight and ninth instant which fire during the continuance of it was most violent, and that the whole roof, loft, and other things belonging to himself was consumed by the sd fire ; only the registers were very providentially preserved, and that the minuts for the years of God seventeen hundred and four, five, and six years, till this date were burnt, as also the register of baptisms from the year of God seventeen hundred and three the 26th day of January were burnt, together also wt the register of marriages and burials from the year of God one thousand six hundred and eighty eight years, Which being considered, the Session appointed that publick intimation be made after forenoone sermon on Sabbath next in both churches, that the whole inhabitants of town and parish who have had children baptized These four years bygone should come to yr clerk, Alexr. Bishop, and give up the names of their children, wt the date of their birth and baptism to the nearest of their remembrance, together wt the names of the witnesses for the tyme for said, and that in order to make up the forsd register of baptism that is lost, and that the same shall be recorded gratis."

Moral discipline

The Elders, with the ministers, constituted the Kirk Session. They dealt with morals, took care of the poor, the aged, infirm ; the youth at school, the orphan, and the foundling. In essence, they controlled the whole social economy.

28th of Aprile 1691
"Agnes ffraser, Servitrix to Widow McPhaille, who was citted for her Scandlouse Deportment with one Beasand, a souldier, Compeared, but confest nothing, but the Session having a pregnant presumption of her carriage, ordered her to prison till they were better informed of her deportment."

8th March 1703
"William Miller, being interogatt annent the knowing of his wiffe befor marriage, denyed the same and that he has no suspicion of his wiffe. The session recommended to David Stewart, James Thomson, and Donald Fraser to speak to the midwiffe annent the childe whither it be a seven months’ childe or if it be come to the right time, and that they bring their report again the next Session day."

It appears that some delinquents did not submit tamely to the Session’s discipline. For four years the Session harried young Fraser of Culduthel, and it was only after all manner of procrastination had been practised and exhausted that it finally compelled him to submit to the discipline. [Ed: Alexander Fraser 4th Culduthel (1665-1736), eldest son and heir of Malcolm Fraser 3rd Culduthel (c1636-1709) the Duke of Gordon’s chamberlain]

16th Febry. 1692
"Also delated Alexr ffraser, younger of Culldithel, for keeping a woman in his house and, as it is reported, is with childe to him, qrfor wes ordained to be citted again ye next day."

5th January 1696
"Alexr ffraser, younger of Culldithell, was citted from pulpit to compear the morrow be two of the clock in the afternoone to the Session under pain of being remitted to the Presbiterie."

"Alexr ffraser, younger of Culldithell, wes yesterday call’d from pulpit, meanwhyll did not compear, only sent a letter to one of the Elders wherein he promised faithfully to come to the Lord’s day to church and give the Session and Congregation all the satisfaction imaginable. The letter the Session having taken to yr serious consideration, delayed him with this certification, if he did not that forthwith he should be remitted to the Presbiterie, as also the Session ordered me writter hereof to go to the said Alexr ffraser of Culldithell that he com to the minister’s lodgings whereby he may converse with him in presence of two or three of the Elders."

12th January 1696
"Compeared Alexr ffraser of Culldithell and was sharply rebuked and exhorted, and was afterwards ordered to wait the Session the morrow."

13th Janry. 1696
"Compeared Alexr ffraser of Culldithell, haveing yesterday appeared in face of the Congregation, the Session finding the said Alexr. to be as to the outward appearance sufficiently remorse for his fall, voted that his rebuke yesterday and exhortation should serve for his absolvitor."

Febr. 22, 1726
"Isobel McKenzie, Being Called, Compeared, and Confessed a fall in fornication with John Fraser, Brother to Fairfield. She was seriously Exhorted to Repentance, and ordered to compear Before the Congregation next Lord’s day. Mr Stuart Reported that the said John, since he took his voag for America, did draw upon his Brother for three pound sterling to the poor of this place, to be disposed of By the Session, As his fine for this fall and the former, which Bill was delivered to the penalty Treasurer in order to pursue Fairfield for the Said Sume."

Inverness Market Cross, 1726
Picture: Inverness Market Cross, 1726

Thanks to Marie Fraser, Clan Fraser Society of Canada, for this article.

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