Scottish Episcopal Church History

17th Century

17th Century

The one in which the Episcopal Church becomes the Established Church of Scotland once more and then - again - is not, although it continues to call itself the Church of Scotland for years to come, and in which the King of Scots also becomes King of England

A Moment in the Century - The Honours of Scotland

South from Aberdeen is the Howe of the Mearns, a place which inspired saints but into whose red earth the blood of kings drained.

The Howe forms much of ancient Kincardineshire and early Scotland was ruled from the castle-palace which guarded the route to the north via Cairn 0’Mount. The palace was at Fettercairn, but nothing of it now remains. Its builder, King Malcolm II, died in 954, at Fetteresso, another Mearns royal castle. Later two other kings met violent deaths in the Howe - Kenneth II was murdered at Fettercairn and Duncan II, a few miles away at Mondynes.

Dunnottar Castle, near StonehavenPhoto: Dick Davies

Coming south from Aberdeen the coast road passes Stonehaven and Catterline before a by-road leads off towards the sea. This ends at the Old Church of Kinneff. No longer in regular use - but open each day – the church welcomes visitors with its story.

Saint Adamnan, a monk of Iona, travelled along the east coast of Scotland in the seventh century and he chose the tree-lined cleft, leading inland from the sea-cliffs, as a site of one of the churches he founded on his journey. There has been a church at Kinneff ever since. Although the present church building dates from a 1738 renovation, it is built on the foundations of its predecessor. The site of Adamnan’s cell is close by - under the steading of the former Manse.

Kinneff played a role in Scotland’s 17th century troubles. In 1652 the Royalist armies had been defeated and Dunnottar Castle, seven miles up the coast from Kinneff, was besieged by the English Parliamentary army and about to surrender. Within the castle were the Honours of Scotland, the crown jewels.

Just before the castle’s surrender, the wife of the minister of Kinneff, Christian Grainger, charmed Parliament's general into allowing her into the castle to visit her friend, the wife of Dunnottar’s governor. Mrs Grainger left with the crown jewels concealed about her person and the Sceptre and Sword of State wrapped in a cloth. The courteous Major-General Morgan even helped her onto her horse for the journey back to Kinneff, where the Honours were hidden beneath the pulpit of the church until the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.

The Chronological Story of the 17th Century

1603 Queen Elizabeth dies in England, aged seventy, and is succeeded by King James VI of Scotland, who becomes also King James I of England and Ireland. However, Scotland and England continue as separate nations, each with its own Church, Parliament and Judiciary - both nations being ruled by James in a personal union. He styles himself King of Great Britain and Ireland. He and Queen Anne are crowned at Windsor Castle.

1606 The Scottish Parliament removes restrictions placed on the office of bishop. Andrew Melville is imprisoned in the Tower of London.

1607 The first English colony is established in America. The Bishop of London is given responsibility for the Episcopal oversight of the emerging colonial church. Later, with the victory of the United States in the American War of Independence in 1783, such an arrangement is no longer appropriate. The first bishop for the United States, Samuel Seabury, is consecrated in Aberdeen in 1784.

1610 Episcopacy in Scotland is restored at the Assembly of Glasgow and three of the titular bishops – John Spottiswood of Glasgow, Andrew Lamb of Brechin and Gavin Hamilton of Galloway - travel to London for consecration, returning to consecrate other bishops.

1611 The King James edition of The Bible is published.

1612 Henry Frederick, James’s eldest son, dies aged eighteen. The King’s second son, Charles becomes heir, aged twelve.

1616 The Scottish Church establishes schools in every parish to teach children "Godliness and knowledge”.

1619 Anne of Denmark, the Queen, dies, aged forty-five.

1625 James VI and I dies and is succeeded by his son, Charles I. Two months later Charles marries, by proxy, the Roman Catholic Princess Henrietta-Maria, sister of King Louis XIII of France. The vows are exchanged in person at Canterbury a year later.

1633 William Laud becomes Archbishop of Canterbury and begins a series of reforms attempting to ensure religious uniformity in England. Puritan organisations are closed and some priests removed from their posts. He opposes Calvinist thinking and demands that the Church of England's worship be that of the Book of Common Prayer and that internal architecture of English churches emphasise the Altar. To encourage acceptance of all of this the Archbishop brings those who refuse before the Court of the Star Chamber (which allows evidence obtained through torture) and the Court of High Commission (which accepts self-incriminating evidence).

1633 Charles I makes his first visit to Scotland as king and is crowned King of Scots at Holyrood. The Diocese of Edinburgh is created by the king and is to rank third after the two Archdioceses of St Andrews and Glasgow. (The other Scottish dioceses pre-date the Reformation, although until 1472 the Diocese of Galloway was part of the Province of York and the Diocese of Orkney was, at various times, under the jurisdiction of the Archbishops of Hamburg, York and Trondheim).

1636 A Book of Canons, and the following year, a new Prayer Book are presented in the name of King Charles I, without any consultation with the General Assembly, or indeed all of the Bishops.

1638 The National Covenant is signed by thousands of Scots. It seeks to preserve Presbyterianism in the face of Charles I’s actions and intentions.

1638 Episcopacy is again abolished in Scotland by the General Assembly in response the King’s actions. The Marquess of Hamilton, the Royal Commissioner, dissolves the Assembly, but this is ignored and the Assembly deposes all fourteen bishops from ministry (excommunicating eight of them). In continuing to meet after the Commissioner’s dissolution the Assembly is in rebellion against the king.

1639 The Wars of the Covenant begin. Fighting is initially in the north east as the Marquess of Montrose, a signatory to the Covenant, occupies Aberdeen. The king’s army marches north from England but a truce – the Pacification of Berwick – is agreed. The Scottish Parliament confirms the decisions made by the General Assembly in the previous year.

1640 The English army marches south and the Scots capture Newcastle. A truce is signed at Ripon with Charles I agreeing to pay the cost of keeping the Scot’s army in northern England.

1641 Charles I travels to Edinburgh and confirms the decisions of the Scottish Parliament. A Roman Catholic rising in Ulster is contained with the assistance of soldiers from Scotland.

1642 The Civil Wars begin in England as the Parliament in London and the King clash. The Scots offer to support the Parliamentary side in return for English acceptance of a "Solemn League and Covenant", which would effectively makes England Presbyterian.

1644 A Scottish army of 20,000 men marches to support the Parliamentary Army in England. Charles I appoints the Marquess of Montrose (who has changed to the Royalist side along with other moderate Covenanters) as commander of the Royal army in Scotland. The Marquess wins battle after battle across Scotland, but in England the Parliamentary army and the Scottish Covenanters defeat the Royalist English army at the Battle of Marston Moor. Queen Henrietta-Maria and the Royal children leave England for greater safety in France.

1645 The Parliamentary army, with Oliver Cromwell its second-in-command, wins a decisive victory over the king’s army in England at the Battle of Naseby. In Scotland the Marquess of Montrose wins the Battle of Alford in Aberdeenshire and the Battle of Kilsyth and controls all Scotland for the king. However, the Scots Covenanting army returns from England and Lord Montrose is defeated near Selkirk.

1646 The king surrenders to Scottish Covenanters who are besieging Newark, and is taken to Newcastle. Charles I orders the Marquess of Montrose to disband the Royalist army in Scotland and leave the country - he travels to France.

1647 The Scottish Covenanters transfer Charles I into English custody for a payment of £200,000.

1648 A Scots army of 20,000 marches into England in support of the king after an agreement is reached between Charles I and moderate Covenanters. Oliver Cromwell defeats the Scots at Preston. He visits Edinburgh and leaves with radical Covenanters in power and also with an English army still in the Scots capital.

1649 Charles I is executed in London, without any consultation with the Scots. Within a week the Scottish Parliament proclaims Charles II as king and a month later the English Parliament declares England a republic. A delegation from Scotland travels to the Continent to ask Charles II to accept that all the countries of the British Isles should be Presbyterian. The king declines to do so.

1650 The Marquess of Montrose lands in Orkney on the king’s behalf, but his small force of Scandinavian mercenaries and Orcadians is defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale at the Kyle of Sutherland. The Marquess is taken to Edinburgh and executed in the castle. Charles II lands at Garmouth in Morayshire and immediately signs the Covenant and Solemn League. Oliver Cromwell marches an army into Scotland and wins an early victory at the Battle of Dunbar.

1651 On New Year’s Day Charles II is crowned King of Scots at Scone in Perthshire. Later he marches into England and is defeated at the Battle of Worcester. After six weeks as a fugitive in England he sails from Sussex to France.

1652 General George Monck becomes Governor of Scotland.

1652 Dunnotar Castle on the Kincardineshire coast, the last Royalist foothold in eastern Scotland, surrenders after an eight month siege. However, the Honours of Scotland - the crown jewels - are smuggled out of the castle and hidden in nearby Kinneff Church until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

1653 Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector in England. A meeting of the General Assembly in Edinburgh is disbanded by Colonel Cotterel at the head of a military force.

1657 The "Tender of Union" gives Scotland thirty seats in a united Parliament in London. The English parliament passed the initial declaration in 1651 and after a number of interim steps a formal Act of Union was agreed in 1657. It was repealed by both the Scottish and English Parliaments at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

1658 Oliver Cromwell dies and is succeeded by his son Richard, who resigns in 1659. General Monck,, who had served Oliver Cromwell loyally, now, changes sides and marches into England from Coldstream. (Charles II later creates him Duke of Albemarle and his Regiment becomes the Coldstream Guards).

1660 Charles II, aged thirty, is restored to the throne and Episcopacy re-established in both Scotland and England.

1661 The Scottish Parliament passes the Rescissory Act, removing Presbyterian Church government and reverting to the pre-1638 position. The Episcopal Church is once more the Church of Scotland. However, of the bishops in 1638 only Thomas Sydserf, Bishop of Galloway, remains alive. He is appointed to the Diocese of Orkney and four new Scottish bishops are consecrated in Westminster Abbey on December 15th by the Bishops of London, Llandaff, Worcester and Carlisle. They are James Sharp (St Andrews), Andrew Fairfoul (Glasgow), Robert Leighton (Dunblane) and James Hamilton (Galloway). They return to Scotland and within six months consecrate a further eight bishops. However, opposition to the king and the newly re-established Episcopalian Church of Scotland continues.

1662 The fourth Book of Common Prayer is published. It is still authorised for use within the Church of England.

1669 The Assertory Act gives Charles II supreme authority over the Church and People of Scotland.

1669 Henrietta-Maria, widow of Charles I, dies in France. She left England during the Civil War, coming back at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 but returning to France five years later.

1670 Charles II agrees the Treaty of Dover with the French king, Louis XIV. Part of the Treaty is kept secret and, in this part, Charles agrees to declare publicly, at a suitable time, that he has become a Roman Catholic. He receives a large sum of money from King Louis to forward this project and lessen his financial dependence on Parliament in England, but no "suitable" time appears.

1679 James Sharp, Archbishop of St Andrews, is murdered and an armed Covenanter rebellion begins. The rebels have an initial victory over a Government army at Drumclog but are finally defeated at Bothwell Brig.

1685 Charles II dies and is succeeded by his brother, James VII and II. The new king is openly a Roman Catholic.

1687 James VII and II issues a Declaration of Liberty of Conscience in Scotland which grants freedom of public worship to all “non-conformists” – Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Quakers. The concept of "a liberty of conscience" is far in advance of most 17th century thinking.

1688 James asks that the Declaration of Liberty of Conscience to be read in all churches in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury and six English bishops refuse and are imprisoned in the Tower of London, charged with seditious libel. When they are acquitted after a trial James promises to uphold the rights of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, but it is too late. His son-in-law, William, Prince of Orange, invades England and James leaves for France. William and Mary, James's daughter, become king and queen, ruling together. In the south-west of Scotland there is considerable disorder during the winter of 1688-89 and more than a hundred Episcopalian clergy are “rabbled” out of their churches and homes. Dean Robert Scott presents a petition to William and Mary, on behalf of the Archbishop of Glasgow and his clergy, asking for protection. William forbids all disturbance and violence, although this has little effect.

1689 A meeting in London between William and the Bishop of Edinburgh, Alexander Rose, does not go well. The Bishop had travelled to London during the troubles of the previous year, carrying a letter of support for James VII and II from the Scottish bishops. But instead of James he meets William. The new king is willing to keep the Episcopalian form of church government in Scotland but Bishop Rose is unable to take sole responsibility for the Scottish bishops’ allegiance to the new monarchs. At their meeting the King says “My Lord, are you going for Scotland?” The Bishop replies “Yes, sir, if you have any commands for me.” William says “I hope you will be kind to me, and follow the example of England.” The Bishop replies cautiously “I shall serve you as far as law, reason or conscience shall allow me.” King William turns away without another word.

1689 A second opportunity for the Scottish bishops comes in March when the Convention of Estates, 150 members of the Three Estates (including the Archbishop of St Andrews, the Archbishop of Glasgow and seven bishops) meets in Edinburgh. William wishes to win the support of the Scottish bishops (as he has done with the majority of English ones) and the Duke of Hamilton promises that the Episcopal Church will be secure and continue as the Church of Scotland if the bishops will support the new king and queen as the English bishops are doing. The Scottish bishops say they cannot break their oaths of allegiance to James. Many of the Jacobites leave the Convention which then declares that James has forfeited his right to the throne. The Crown of Scotland is offered to Mary, James’s eldest daughter, and her husband William. Clergy are ordered to pray for the new monarchs. In accepting the Crown William makes it clear that he intends to allow no persecution.

1689 The First Jacobite Rising begins. In April John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, raises King James's Standard on Dundee Law. By July he has eight battalions and two companies, almost all Highlanders. This army defeats a much larger force at the Battle of Killiecrankie on July 27th 1689. About two thousand of King William's troops die in the fighting and about six hundred Jacobite soldiers are killed, including Bonnie Dundee himself. The Battle of Dunkeld the next month ends in a Jacobite defeat. However, much of northern Scotland remains opposed to rule by William and Mary.

1689 In July a petition is received by the Estates from the Aberdeen Diocesan Synod asking for a meeting of a free General Assembly to heal division and settle the government of the Church. The Presbyterians oppose this as they would be outnumbered six to one by Episcopalians in such an Assembly.

1689 The Estates (of peers, barons and burgesses) ratifies the Westminster Confession of Faith and establishes the Presbyterian form of government of the Church. However, many Episcopal priests remain in actual charge of parish churches with the support of their people. (For example, William Dunbar - appointed to Cruden parish church after the Revolution, without taking oaths of loyalty to William and Mary - remains until removed one Sunday morning in 1718 by a troop of soldiers for his role in the 1715 Rising. The entire congregation goes with him.)

The bishops are deprived of the income of their dioceses. They are slow to re-organise the Church as they consider the new settlement to be provisional, and continue to look forward to the Episcopal Church being once more the established Church of Scotland.

The future of the thirteen pre-Revolution bishops (and one bishop-elect) varies. They had all been appointed under congre d’elire from either Charles ll or James Vll.

· Arthur Rose was Archbishop of St Andrews, and Primate, from 1684 until his death in 1704. He had been Bishop of Argyll, Bishop of Galloway and Archbishop of Glasgow before his appointment to St Andrews. In 1689 he retired into private life, although nominally remaining Archbishop. He died in Edinburgh on June 13th 1704 and is buried at Restalrig, Leith.

· John Paterson was Archbishop of Glasgow from 1687 to 1708. He had previously been Bishop of Galloway and Bishop of Edinburgh. He was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle in 1692 and lived in London between 1695 and 1696, petitioning for permission to return to Scotland. When this was granted he lived in Edinburgh and sought to help dispossessed Episcopal clergy. In Queen Anne’s reign he visited London again and enlisted her sympathy and help. He died in Edinburgh on December 9th 1708 and is buried at Holyrood.

· Alexander Rose was Bishop of Edinburgh from 1688 to 1720. His father, another Alexander Rose, was the priest at Monymusk in Aberdeenshire and his uncle was Arthur Rose, Archbishop of St Andrews. Before his appointment to Edinburgh he had previously been Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University, Principal of Saint Mary’s College, St Andrews, and Bishop of Moray.

At the Revolution Bishop Rose remained in Edinburgh. He opened a meeting house in Carrubber’s Close (a fore-runner of Old Saint Paul’s Church, Edinburgh) and was the most active of the bishops. He is regarded as the first Primus of the Church, assuming the presiding role on the death of his uncle, the Archbishop of St Andrews, in 1704. He died, aged seventy-four, at his sister’s house in the Canongate, Edinburgh, on March 20th 1720 and is buried at Restalrig Church, Leith.

· The Bishop of Aberdeen, between 1682 and 1715, was George Haliburton, He had previously been Bishop of Brechin. At the Revolution in 1689 he retired to his estate at Denhead, Coupar Angus, in Perthshire, where he supported the Episcopal incumbent of Newtyle in resisting the appointment of a Presbyterian minister to the parish. The bishop acted as priest at Meigle from 1693 to 1705. He died at Denhead on September 29th 1715.

· The Diocese of Argyll was in a vacancy in 1689. Alexander Monro, Principal of Edinburgh University, had been nominated by James Vll on October 24th 1688 but had still to be consecrated as a bishop. He resigned from his ministry at Saint Giles’, Edinburgh, in April 1689 to avoid taking the Oath of Allegiance to William and Mary and the following year faced a Commission whose task was to remove “all scandalous, inefficient or disaffected persons” from Edinburgh University. He was neither scandalous nor inefficient but refused to change his political opinions and so was removed as Principal. He died in London in 1698.

· The Bishop of Brechin from 1684 to 1695 was James Drummond. He had previously been the priest at Muthill in Perthshire and at the Revolution retired to Slains Castle at Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, the home of the Earl and Countess of Erroll. The bishop was a kinsman of Countess Anne. He was a great support to the Episcopalian incumbent of Cruden, William Dunbar, and gave two silver chalices to the church (they are still in use in the Presbyterian parish church). He also built the Bishop’s Bridge over the Water of Cruden, and this too is still in use. He died on April 13th 1695 and is buried within the present parish church of Cruden, although the site of his grave is not known.

· Andrew Wood was Bishop of Caithness from 1680 to 1695. He had previously been the priest at Dunbar in East Lothian and, by Royal Prerogative, he continued to hold the incumbency as bishop. He was appointed Bishop of the Isles in 1677 and translated to Caithness in 1680. He died in Dunbar in 1695.

· John Hamilton was Bishop of Dunkeld from 1686 to 1690. He had previously been Sub-Dean of the Chapel Royal and priest of the Tolbooth Church in Edinburgh. He was nominated as Bishop of Dunkeld in 1686 when Andrew Bruce was deprived of the See by James Vll for opposing the king’s plan to extend toleration to Roman Catholics. He died in the autumn of 1690.

· The Bishop of Dunblane from 1684 to 1716 was Robert Douglas, cousin of the Duke of Hamilton. He had previously been Dean of Glasgow and then Bishop of Brechin. In 1689 he retired to Dudhope Castle, Dundee, and died on April 22nd 1716.

· The Bishop of Galloway from 1688 to 1697 was John Gordon. He was born in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, and served as a Naval Chaplain and as a Chaplain to James Vll. He was with James in Ireland and served as Chancellor of Dublin. He subsequently went into exile in France with James and conducted services for Episcopalian and Anglican members of the exiled king’s Court. He resigned as Bishop of Galloway in 1697 and in 1702 was re-ordained in Rome by the Pope as a Roman Catholic priest. He died in Rome in 1726, the last survivor of the pre-Revolution Bishops of Scotland.

· Archibald Graham was Bishop of The Isles from 1680 to 1702. He was also incumbent of Rothesay from 1667 to 1685 and of Kingarth from 1682 to 1689. He died in Edinburgh of a fever on June 28th 1702. He left his library to the Parish of Rothesay.

· William Hay was Bishop of Moray from 1688 to 1707. He had previously been Master of the Music School in Old Aberdeen (succeeding his father) and then priest of the East Church in Perth. In July 1689 (three months after most of the other bishops) he was deprived of the income of the See and retired to Inverness. He died at the house of his son-in-law, John Cuthbert of Castlehill, on March 19th 1707. The bishop's grandson, Seignelay Cuthbert, born in 1735, became the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rodez in France.

· The Bishop of Orkney from 1688 to 1699 was Andrew Bruce. He had been Professor of Divinity and Rector St Andrews University, Archdeacon of St Andrews and a Chaplain to King Charles ll, who nominated him as Bishop of Dunkeld in 1679. He was removed from that See by King James Vll and II in 1686 as he opposed the king’s intention of allowing greater freedom of worship for Roman Catholics. After two years he became Bishop of Orkney and was deprived of the income of his Diocese, as were all the other Bishops, just months later. He retired to Kilrenny (his first charge from 1665 to 1671) and died there on March 18th 1699.

· The Bishop of Ross from 1684 to 1696 was James Ramsay, son of the incumbent of the High Kirk of Glasgow. James Ramsay was ordained by the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1653 and became incumbent of Kirkintilloch and then of Linlithgow, where he remained after the restoration of Episcopacy in 1660. He later became incumbent of Hamilton and Dean of Glasgow. In 1673 he became Bishop of Dunblane and the following year argued for the calling of a National Synod. He was opposed in this by James Sharp, Archbishop of St Andrews, and three weeks later was moved to the Diocese of The Isles. This appointment was recalled by the Privy Council, at the command of the King, on his agreeing to live “in all becoming duty and faithfulness to his Metropolitan and brethren”. In 1684 he opposed the repeal of anti-Roman Catholic Statutes. He became Bishop of Ross in 1684 and was deprived of the income of the See in 1689. He died – in considerable poverty – in Edinburgh on October 22nd 1696 and is buried in the Canongate Churchyard, Edinburgh.

1690 The first penal law - the Act of Assembly - requires all clergy to subscribe to the Westminster Confession.

1690 The Battle of Cromdale results in a Jacobite defeat and Fort William is built (on the site of a previous Cromwellian fort) as a northern base for the Government army. King William's victory over King James at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland effectively brings an end to the Rising in Scotland, although skirmishes continue.

1691 In August William offers the Jacobite clans a pardon for their part in the Rising, if they take an oath of allegiance before January 1st 1692. Clan chiefs ask James, in exile in France, for his sanction for this. James gives it but it is mid-December before his message reaches the Highlands. Some are able to take the Oath before the year's end, and the massacre of Episcopalian MacDonalds in Glencoe in February 1692 focusses the minds of others . By Spring 1692 the Jacobite clan chiefs have sworn allegiance to William and Mary.

1693 The second penal law – The Oath of Assurance - requires all holding office to swear that William is king in law and in fact.

1694 Queen Mary dies, aged thirty-two, and King William rules alone.

1695 The third penal law – The Act to Forbid Deprived Episcopal Clergy - prevents Episcopal clergy from conducting marriages or baptisms.

Another Moment in the Century: Glasgow Cathedral's Reformation

Glasgow’s ancient cathedral is today a place of quiet and tranquillity in the midst of the city. But it was not so in the century which followed the Reformation. The Reformers did not like the enormous, soaring building and so they set about making changes.

The Archbishop of Glasgow, James Beaton, travelled to France just in time to avoid the Reformation, taking with him the cathedral treasures and also the mace and charters of the University of Glasgow. He was Ambassador to France for the remainder of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, and for much of that of her son, James VI. He never returned to Scotland, although the mace was restored to the University in 1590. Much of the University archives and many of the Cathedral’s treasures remained in France and were lost during the French Revolution in the 18th century.

Glasgow Cathedral

The Reformers left the Cathedral building intact externally but decided that there was space within it for two, and then three, separate churches. A wall was built across the nave and the west end of the Cathedral became the Outer High Church. A second congregation, the Inner High, worshipped in the Cathedral’s Quire.

In 1647 came the third congregation - the undercroft, which had housed Saint Kentigern’s Shrine, was adapted for use by the Barony Church. Its congregation met there between 1647 and 1801, when a new building for the Barony was completed. The undercroft was then filled with five feet of earth and became a burial ground for the Barony congregation.

Fortunately, sense eventually prevailed and these structural changes were undone later in the 19th century. The Cathedral’s stained glass windows were added in the 19th and 20th centuries and with them the Cathedral was restored to something of its mediaeval magnificence. It is now in the care of Historic Scotland and is home to a Presbyterian Church of Scotland congregation.

Yet Another Moment in the Century - The Great Survivor

Michael Fraser, Priest of Daviot and Dunlichity 1673-1726

Strathnairn is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland – wonderful in summer and magnificent in winter – its tranquillity cloaking a long history.

The cairns and hut circles speak of a people long ago, the church sites of Celtic saints thousands of years later, the strath itself of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ride away from the battlefield of Culloden .....all are here.

And hidden stories can be found in the lives of those who lived in the glen - that of Michael Fraser, priest of Daviot and Dunlichity for 53 years, reveals a great survivor in troubled times.

He was the child of Thomas Fraser and his wife Katherine Gordon, daughter of Sir Robert and Lady Gordon of Embo. He studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and in 1670 was appointed schoolmaster, often in those days a forerunner to ordination, at Thurso in Caithness. He was ordained on February 19th, 1672, and the Bishop of Moray, Murdo Mackenzie, nominated him as priest at Daviot and Dunlichity on October 20th of that year.

His appointment came twelve years after the restoration of both King Charles II, and the Episcopal Church as the Church of Scotland. The change, however, had produced little alteration in the worship within parish churches – no Liturgy was introduced, the priests wore black gowns and the only distinguishing features from the Presbyterian worship which preceded it were the inclusion of the doxology, the Lord’s Prayer and, at a baptism, the Apostles’ Creed.

However, pressure on Presbyterians had increased during these years and ministers who would not conform to the Episcopal ways were forbidden to exercise their ministry and, indeed, from living within 20 miles of their former parishes. In Strathnairn Alexander Fraser, minister of Daviot and Dunlichity, was deposed for his Presbyterian views, thus creating the vacancy which the bishop wished Michael Fraser to fill.

There was, though, an immediate problem. Sir Hugh Campbell of Cawdor claimed that the bishop had no authority to appoint anyone to Daviot and Dunlichity as that right belonged to him as patron of the parish. Sir Hugh wanted to appoint the Reverend Donald Macpherson of Cawdor Church instead.

Bishop and Presbytery united in favour of Michael Fraser, but Sir Hugh persisted in his claim until the bishop eventually withdrew his nominee. However, having gained his victory, Sir Hugh himself nominated Michael Fraser as the new priest - and the long ministry in Strathnairn began on March 4th 1673.

It was not without incident! Bishop Mackenzie’s opinion of the new priest soon changed and just after Christmas 1674 he rebuked him for being absent from the parish for too long, visiting his brother in Edinburgh. A few months later the Synod, annoyed by his artistic endeavours, demanded that "he abstain from all limning and painting which hitherto has diverted him from his ministerial duties".

Patience had run out by 1678, the year Bishop Mackenzie died (he had resigned in 1677) and Michael Fraser was suspended from office. He was eventually restored but an enormous change was coming to the church. In 1688 James II and VII was replaced on the throne by his daughter Mary and her husband William, the Prince of Orange. The Scottish bishops declined to recognise the new king and queen and in consequence, in 1690, the Episcopal Church was replaced as the established Church of Scotland by a Presbyterian regime.

In Strathnairn, Michael Fraser continued blithely on. In 1694, the Presbytery declared the parish vacant but he took no notice of that, and the Presbytery took no further action against him for the next 21 years! It was only after he played a prominent role in the failed 1715 Jacobite Rising that the Presbytery attempted another intervention. It declared Michael Fraser to be "an intruder at Daviot and Dunlichity". The priest then offered to resign, but only on condition that a competent person was appointed in his place. Nothing came of the offer and so he stayed.

Five years later a Presbytery visit to the parish received a hostile reception from parishioners eager to defend their priest – stones were thrown and the pulpit of Dunlichity Church broken. The following year the leading gentlemen of the parish asked the Presbytery’s forbearance for the priest, saying that they would concur with the Presbytery’s wishes in the event of his death “which now, in the course of nature, cannot be long”. But it was another four years before Michael Fraser, the great survivor, died – still, of course, in office.

An Altar edition of the Prayer Book, which in all likelihood belonged to Michael Fraser, was found during the 2010 renovations at Saint Paul’s, the present day Episcopal Church in Strathnairn. It can be dated - from those named in the prayers for the Royal Family - to between 1685 and 1688.