RESOLUTION TO ERECT A NEW PLACE OF WORSHIP -FUNDS FOR IT OBTAINED BY IMPOSING A DUTY ON ALE – MUTINY OF THE BREWERS AGAINST THE IMPOST-ALARMING RIOT-PEACE RESTORED, AND THE BUILDING SCHEME PROCEEDED WITH-THE RUINS OF THE CASTLE PURCHASED, IN ORDER TO ACQUIRE A SITE FOR THE CHURCH-QUARREL BETWEEN THE COUNCIL AND THE CONTRACTORS-COMPLETION OF THE CHURCH -ARRANGEMENTS OF THE PRESBYTERY RESPECTING IT-FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES OF THE BURGH-A RENEWAL OF THE ALE DUTY, AND THE IMPOSITION OF A DUTY ON IMPORTS AND SHIPPING APPLIED FOR-SUCCESS AND COST OF THE APPLICATION -SALE OF BARKERLAND – A STEEPLE PLACED ON ST. MICHAEL’S CHURCH-THE CHURCH REBUILT.
LONG before the outbreak of the Rebellion, the want of adequate church accommodation was fully recognized by the authorities; and when peace was restored they adopted measures for obtaining a second place of worship. A difficulty having been experienced in compensating the inhabitants for their sacrifices when the town was threatened by the Jacobites, the device was hit upon of applying to Parliament for authority to levy such a duty on malt liquor as would discharge these patriotic claims, as well as build the church. On the 9th of April, 1716, the initiative in this ingenious scheme was taken by the Council; and when the bill took shape, the Legislature was asked by it to impose a duty of two pennies Scots on every pint of ale or beer brewed and sold within the Burgh for the purposes referred to-the preamble stating as regards one of them, “that the present church doth not accommodat more than the half of the congregation.” In due time the bill was passed, Government being very willing in this way to acknowledge the loyal services rendered by the Dumfriesians. In October of the following year, they were required by the Council to “give in upon oath the accounts of horse meat and man’s meat furnished by them, by the Marquis of Annandale’s order, to the country people in defence of the town, the time of the late Rebellion, and how much is resting to them unpayd, to the effect ane account thereof may be laid before the overseer named in the Act of Parliament, anent the duty lately granted to the Burgh.” [The outlay incurred must have been very heavy: a minute of Council dated 5th November, 1715, states that, owing to the extraordinary and inevitable expenses “entailed on the town, the treasurer is intirely exhausted of any effects;” and that he was authorized to borrow £80 sterling on that account.]
It was a comparatively easy thing for Provost Crosbie and his colleagues to acquire a right to tax the national beverage, but to enforce the duty was a different matter. Whilst they were preparing to give it effect, an adverse storm was brewing among the brewers. What ! Punish the beer-drinking lieges, and ruin our trade, by your kirk-building schemes? Not, by St. Michael! if we can help it! Actuated by such a spirit, the malting interest petitioned against the bill; and when that was of no avail, resolved doggedly and defiantly to look upon it as a dead letter. At this time there were no fewer than ninety-one brewers and retailers of ale in the Burgh: some of them had large establishments; others, little shebeens that could not boast of more than a couple of barrels each. The rating on the whole of the stock, numbering 255¼ barrels, amounted to £14 for six weeks, which would realize £112 per annum. About one-third of the trade quietly paid the impost; the rest offered a sullen, passive resistance; and when a determined effort was made to overcome their obstinacy, they rose with the occasion, forcibly encountered his Majesty’s representatives, and made the streets ring with the voice of tumult. A warrant having been granted to distrain “the goods and cattels” of the recusants to the extent of their liability, varying from £1 sterling down to 8d., the Burgh officers issued forth on the 8th of April, 1718, to carry it into effect. But the publicans, banded together, easily beat off the legal emissaries; whereupon the magistrates personally, accompanied by several burgesses, undertook the perilous task of poinding the defaulters. Meanwhile a mob of beerloving sympathizers had rallied round the victuallers, and joined in their cry of free trade in ale and confusion to the exciseman. The Provost and Bailies, nothing daunted, pushed forward in the belief that their dread presence would disperse the clamorous rabble. Vain delusion ! Before the august authorities could, with official finger, touch a plack’s worth of furniture, they were hustled by the crowd and driven violently from the streets. The magistrates and their supporters took shelter from the popular storm in the town clerk’s chamber; but as it had not been made, to resist a siege, they were soon joined in their retreat by the ringleaders of the populace; and though the Riot Act was read, and the friends of law and order offered a stout resistance, King Mob became for the time being master of the town and of its rulers, the latter of whom received no mercy. The rioters first broke the office windows, next threw stones and softer unsavoury missiles on the inmates; and having succeeded in forcing the door, they-how shall we tell it!-literally beat with their irreverent fists the magistrates of the Burgh. After perpetrating this crowning indignity, the rabble retired triumphant but appeased; and doubtless would be treated to a supply of “reaming swats that drank divinely,” by those in whose behalf they had fought and conquered.
This serious emeute having been brought under the consideration of the Council at their next meeting, a resolution was adopted to transmit a report to the Government regarding it, and to prosecute the rioters at the town’s expense. The brewers, on their part, continued their opposition to the duty, transferring the war against it from the streets to the Court of Session; but an amicable interview having been brought about between them and the magistrates, mutual concessions were made, according to which the litigation was abandoned, and the obnoxious duty on beer was modified so as to amount only to “thirteen shillings four pennies Scots upon each barrel, consisting of twelve gallons, and soe proportionally for greater or lesser quantities, after deduction of the seventeenth pairt made by wrong valuation, and of two and ane half of each twentie-three shillings.” Though this arrangement does not seem very intelligible to us, it was deemed satisfactory by the publicans, who agreed henceforth to pay the duty in peace; and the mollified magistrates, overlooking the insulting treatment .liven to them, dropped the criminal process they had raised against the rioters, [A curious compromise was effected. “The brewers engaged in the late riot agreed to come under the judgment of the magistrates, while the magistrates engaged to endeavour to get the diet deserted against them in the Court of Justiciary; each party to pay the half of the fees to the King’s advocate and the clerks of Justiciary for deserting the diet.” The Provost went to Edinburgh, and succeeded in his mission of getting the diet deserted at an outlay of £,8 12s.-Pamphlet by MR. W. R. M`Diarmid on the Established Churches of Dumfries, pp. 21-2.] and proceeded with the scheme that had been the innocent cause of all these disturbances.
In October, 1722, a committee of the Council, appointed to select a site for the proposed ecclesiastical edifice, reported that ” John M’Dowall, younger of Logan, had been communed with anent selling ane part of the Castle closs and Castle garden pertaining to him, for that purpose; [They had, some years prior to 1715, been purchased from Lord Nithsdale by Mr. M`Dowall.] and that Logan declared himself willing to sell to the town such an part of the said closs and garden, with the stones of the old castle and old houses adjacent, as the burgh should have use for.” The committee recommended that this site should be purchased; and early in the following year a bargain was made with ” Logan,” in virtue of which the ground, and what it still bore of the venerable historical fortress, became the property of the town for £85 sterling. It was not till the beginning of 1724 that the building was actually proceeded with. The contractors for the mason work were James Waddell, William and Andrew Mein, and William White, who agreed to supply materials, and erect the church and steeple, after a design furnished by Mr. Alexander M’Gill, architect, for £730 sterling. The joiners engaged were: William Copland, Matthew Frew, James Johnston, and John Swan, who were to receive £820 for their materials and labour. No difficulty was experienced by the Council as regards a supply of stone and wood, and men to use them, such as they encountered when the Mid-Steeple was contracted for; but the undertaking, for all that, did not progress smoothly, and was not completed satisfactorily.
The masons were accused by the Council of violating their agreement; and at a meeting held in May, 1726, the latter resolved to send the contract to their Edinburgh agent, “that horning might be raised on the same,” so that the undertakers and their cautioners might be compelled to implement their obligations. On the 5th of the following July, a petition on the subject was presented to the Convention of Royal Burghs by the Commissioner from Dumfries, setting forth that the Burgh had contracted with sundry of its own inhabitants for building a new church at a cost of £1,550; that though the town had advanced nearly the whole of that money, yet the work was far from being finished; that “by a modest computation” it would cost above £400 additional to complete the church; and that it appeared to the Council the contractors had erroneously estimated sundry of the articles. On these grounds the Convention were asked to appoint a committee of their number to view the works, examine the accounts, “assist with the best advice, and grant such releefe to the undertakers as was necessary for finishing” the same. In accordance with this prayer a committee was appointed, consisting of the Commissioners from Sanquhar, Annan, and Lochmaben.
To these gentlemen was also entrusted the duty of “answering the ends” of another petition from Dumfries, which represented “the very great burthens of debts” the town was suffering from, with the probability of their being increased, “especially by the apparent danger of three arches of our bridge that were likely to fall;” that several portions of the commons lay unimproved, and, by reason of their remoteness, were very liable to be trespassed upon by neighbouring heritors and tenants; and prayed that the Convention would allow the Burgh to feu or let long leases of the land at the sight of a committee of their number, in order that a fund might be raised towards liquidating the debts of the town.
Through the agency of this committee, the matters at issue between the Council and the contractors were adjusted. Some slight deductions were made from the sum originally bargained for, on account of deficient work; new charges were allowed for additional work; and when the balance was struck, the town had to pay a supplementary account of £335, which brought the entire cost of the church, including site, up to £1,970, or about £470 more than the cost of the Mid-Steeple, with its accompanying buildings. After all, the original design was never fully carried out. The spire was scrimped of its fair proportions, and had a squat, stunted appearance, that contrasted badly with the handsome square tower on which it was placed. The New Church, as the building was named, was opened for worship on the 5th of September, 1727; arrangements for the settlement in it of Mr. Robert Paton, the colleague of Mr. Patrick Linn in St. Michael’s Church, having first been completed between the Council and the Presbytery.
That reverend body met at Torthorwald Manse, and came to a deliverance on the subject, the principal points of which were as follows:-The Presbytery find, from many years’ experience, that the old church of Dumfries is not large enough to accommodate the whole parish; that the town has now built a new church for the greater and better accommodation of the ‘ inhabitants, and that they at this time are not in a condition to mate suitable provision for a third minister; that the Presbytery therefore judge, in present circumstances, “it will be for the glory of God, the greater interest of the Gospel in the place and corner, and to the further usefullness as well as comfort and satisfaction of their reverend bretherine the ministers of Dumfries, that each of them preach and dispence all other Gospell ordinances in a separate church;” and seeing that this whole affair has been remitted to the Presbytery, they therefore, from a sincere desire to promote the foresaid ends, hereby ordain that the Reverend Robert Paton, and his successors in office, shall preach and dispense ordinances in the new church, and have pastoral care over that part of the town that lies ” from the bridge to Hoddam’s stone house, including that and the whole closs adjoining on the one side, and from the Townhead to the end of Lochmaben-gate, including the west part of that street, on the other side with the Mid-raw, containing about one thousand three hundred and thirty-four examinable persons, from ten years old and upwards.” They likewise appoint the Reverend Patrick Linn, and his successors in office, to preach and dispense ordinances in the old church, and have under his pastoral superintendence “the whole country parish, with that part of the town which lyes next to the said church, extending to the end of Lochmaben-gate on the east side, and to Hoddam’s lodging on the other side, containing about six hundred and ninety-five examinable persons, from ten years old and upwards, in that part of the town beside the landward parish.” For purposes of discipline, the Presbytery judge it expedient that there be only one session; that the same shall meet every Thursday, or any other day on which the weekly sermon is preached, and which is required to be in the two churches alternately.
The Presbytery also proposed “that the town shall pay or give bond to Mr. Paton for the sum of one hundred pounds sterling yearly, in regard that he has in his old age undertaken a separate charge, reserving to him also what he already possesses in teinds, glebe, and manse; [A curious little document lying before us furnishes an “Inventory of Household Plenishing pertaining to the Town of Drumfries, and left in the Manse thereof, for the use of Mr. Robert Paton, Minister of the Gospell of the said Burgh, to be made forthcoming to the said Burgh be him, his airs and executors.” It is drawn up by Mr. Paton himself, as follows:- “Imprimis, ane old Dutch cupboard in the high hall; Item, four bedsteads; it., four graits; it., ane large cupboard in the kitchen; it., ane kitchen table there, and shelfs for peuthery.” The minister acknowledges his obligation to produce the articles if called upon, by appending his signature to the list.] and that the town shall become bound to allow Mr. Linn also the sum of one hundred pounds per annum.” These and other conditions were agreed to by the Council, who, in their minute. of approval, pointed out in more detail the sources from which the stipends for St. Michael’s Church were derived; it being there stated that Mr. Linn was to receive six hundred merks over and above his previous income of one thousand two hundred merks, derived from the teinds payable to the Crown out of the Parish, and the rents formerly payable to the bishop out of the parish of Newabbey; the whole amounting to eighteen hundred merks, or fully one hundred pounds sterling. Thus the town obtained the additional church that it needed so much; and in the course of a few years afterwards, as we shall see, chapels or meeting-houses for other religious communities than the Established Church, began to rise up. Many of the stones in the new structure had rather a singular fortune : at first they formed part of the Friary; then of the old fortress; and last of all, they were retransferred for a religious purpose, by being embodied in the walls of the new place of worship. [When, in 1866, the New Church was taken down, many stones were discovered that had evidently belonged to the Castle, and some which, it is supposed, had formed part of the Monastery. From an interesting paper regarding them, read to the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society by Mr. Barbour, architect, we borrow the following notice of the Castle stones:-“A number of rope mouldings; two curved and moulded stones that have formed part of the corbelling of a corner turret; portions of steps of a wheeling stair; several pieces of a fine string-course corbelling, consisting of three cavettoes, one over the other, and having ovolo dentils in each cavetto. There is a part of a very beautiful tapering pinnacle, probably from the top of a door-piece; the stone has a rope bead on each corner, a semicircular hollow on each side, and fillets between the hollows and beads. There is one large block corbel, such as is usually found under the parapets. There are portions of two stones that seem to have formed part of a coat of arms; on one of them is a naked figure, with the head broken off, and there is a broken line extending from the hand across the shoulder, which seems to indicate a club. From the boldness and richness of the few details of the Castle that have come down to us, I think it may be safely inferred that, grand as the remaining baronial buildings of Scotland are, the Castle of Dumfries has not been below the average in its imposing appearance and ornamental character. The upper parts of the walls have been corbelled out so as to overhang the lower portions, and the corbellings have been enriched with mouldings and dentils. The corbellings, after running horizontally, have suddenly taken a perpendicular course for a short distance, and then returned again to the horizontal. Large rope mouldings have been interwoven with the building, and probably followed horizontal and perpendicular courses like the corbellings; and circular turrets have projected from the corners, resting on corbellings and projecting their cone-shaped roofs above the main building, thereby giving an irregularity arid picturesqueness to the outline in harmony with the broken line of the mouldings.”]
Mr. Paton, who died in 1738, was succeeded by Mr. John Scott of Holywood; and he, at his death, in 17 70, was succeeded by Dr. Andrew Hunter. The latter was appointed professor of divinity in the University of Edinburgh in 1780; and the vacancy thus occasioned was filled up by Dr. William Burnside, whose manuscript history of Dumfries has been frequently quoted from in these pages. Dr. Burnside was made first minister of the Parish, by his translation to St. Michael’s, in 1794. His successor in the New Church was Dr. Alexander Scott, who also, ten years afterwards, succeeded him in St. Michael’s. In 1806, Dr. Thomas T. Duncan of Applegarth became minister of the New Church, continuing so till his death, in 1858. Mr. Andrew Gray (now of St. John’s, Glasgow), Mr. Malcolm C. Taylor (now of Crathie), and Mr. Donald M’Leod, have since successively been incumbents of the New Church, which is now (September, 1867) about to be rendered vacant by the translation of the latter clergyman to Montrose.
A few years after the remains of the Castle had been absorbed in the building of the New Church, the more modern stronghold, that stood north-east of the Market Cross – the New Wark – was partially demolished, on account of its dangerously ruinous condition. In 1737 it was, for the same reason, still further reduced; what remained of the roof, the entire gables, and other portions, having been taken down at that date by the order of the Town Council. Only about one half of the edifice was left after these repeated assaults; and much of that, incorporated with a range of dwelling-houses, remained till 1846, when it was removed with them, in order that Queensberry Square might be rendered more spacious and salubrious.
The Committee appointed by the Convention of Burghs, in 1726, did little to help the town out of its financial difficulties. These increased, till absolute bankruptcy stared its rulers in the face. Year after year the expenditure had gone on increasing; the new buildings erected, and the general improvements made, being far too costly for the resources of the Burgh. In 1731, the desperate device was resorted to of selling a portion of the Burgh lands ; but even after that had been done, a Committee of the Council reported, in 1735, that the debts amounted to £3,807 11s. sterling, the interest of which was £120 7s. 6½d.; that the yearly salaries, ministers’ stipends, and other annual disbursements, with the interest on the debt, amounted to £770 10s. 6½d.; that the revenue arising from grass maill rents, customs, multures, seats in the New Church, feu duties, and miscellaneous sources, with a sum of £112 11s. 6d, due by the deceased Robert Johnston of Kelton, amounted to only £552 12s. 4d. yearly; so that there was an annual balance on the wrong side of £217 18s. 2½d., and no provision made for liquidating the debt. Still further, the Committee reported that the public school-house was in a very ruinous condition ; that sundry arches of the bridge were very much decayed; that •the navigation of the river was in a miserable state; and that heavy annual charges would have to be incurred for repairing the churches, mill, caul, pavements, bridges, and other public works.
Truly a disheartening report. The Committee did not give way to despondency, however, but unfolded another scheme for relieving the town from its embarrassment. They proposed that Parliament should be asked to allow the town to continue the duty on ale-which was at first granted for nineteen years -and to impose certain other duties and customs, so as to bring the income to something like an equality with the outlay. This proposal was adopted, and carried into effect. A bill in accordance with it was prepared, and Provost Corrie and Mr. John Goldie of Craigmuie, who were commissioned to watch over the measure in London, had the satisfaction of being able to report to the Council, in May, 1737, that it had been sanctioned by the Legislature. Their report may be quoted from, as it is instructive and curious. They set out on horseback for the English metropolis-a momentous journey at that period-on the 21st of February, arrived on the 4th of March, and remained there five weeks, facilitating as best they could the passage of the bill. William Kirkpatrick, Esq., member for the Dumfries Burghs, ” did exert himself in a most active manner, not only in obtaining dispatch in the Houses, but also in getting it done at the most frugal charge, in which he was exposed to charges out of his own pocket.” All the members of this neighbourhood cheerfully assisted him, as did Mr. Erskine, the Solicitor-General, the latter gentleman having been especially of service “in prevailing with my Lord Findlater to take on him the management” of the bill in the House of Peers. They left London on the 8th of May, and reached home on the 16th; bringing with them, as the best proof of their success, a copy of the bill, now clothed with the authority of law. [The entire expense of their mission was £215 18s. 6d., which sum was made up of the following, among other items:-Retaining fee paid to William Murray, Esq., counsellor-at-law, £2 2s.; paid to John Crawford for the fees of Parliament, and his own fees “soliciting the affair,” £143 14s. 4d.; to the clerk of the committees, £11 2s. 2d.; expense of their journey to London with a servant, £6 12s. 11½d.; expense of their horses, five weeks in London, £8 13s. 6d.; expense of barbers there, 18s.; charges for their lodgings, fire, and candles, £2 13s.; for their spendings, £28 19s. 10d.; expense of their journey home, £7 1s. 6d.]
The Act took effect on the 24th of June, 1737, and was to remain in operation for twenty-five years, and until the end of the next session of Parliament. Though needed to extricate the Burgh from its difficulties, its influence upon trade must have been discouraging. It imposed a duty of eightpence sterling on every ton of “goods, wares, merchandise, or other commodities,” brought into the port or exported from it, with the exception of coals, lime, and limestone; and a duty of threepence per ton on every vessel from foreign parts, and of three-halfpence per ton on every vessel from Great Britain and Ireland, entering the port. It also renewed the duty on ale for the same period. The latter impost proved much more productive than the one on general goods and shipping. During the first year the entire dues, after deducting the charge for collection, amounted to about £214 sterling, four-fifths of which were yielded by the ale duty; and by this welcome addition, increasing with the trade of the port, the financial difficulties of the Burgh were considerably reduced.
It appears that the Burgh’s application to the Convention, for liberty to feu out a portion of its landed patrimony, was granted. A beginning was made with Barkerland – a fertile tract comprising about a hundred and fifty acres, lying southeast of the town, and which had belonged to it from time immemorial. On the 11th of February, 1731, two sections of this estate were disposed of-one to Bailies Bell and Ewart, for £150 premium, or grassum, and an annual feu of £5 10s.; and the other to Bailie John Johnstone for £50 premium and a feu of £1 10s. The money thus acquired and the ordinary revenue were insufficient to meet the requirements of the Council; and their language was still like that of the thriftless Lord of Linne :
“My gold is gone-my money is spent;
My land now take it unto thee :
Give me the gold, good John o’ Scales,
And thine for aye my land shall be.”
Acquisitive men like John o’ Scales were standing by ready to take advantage of the straits of the town to enrich themselves; and as regards the further slices of Barkerland obtained by each, the words of the same ballad were still applicable:
“Then John he did to record draw,
And John he gave him a god’s pennie;
But for every pound that John agreed,
The land, I wis, was weel worth three.”
Again the disinheriting sales were proceeded with. Commissary Goldie and Mr. Hynd purchased, on the 10th of January, 1738, a lot for £60 premium and an annual feu of £2, with 8s. of teind or tithe; on the same day, Mr. Thomas Kirkpatrick acquired another for £74 premium, an annual feu of £2 3s. 4d., and 8s. 8d. teind; and a third lot became the property of Mr. George Gordon for £32 premium, fen 25s., and teind 5s. There was still a goodly fragment of the estate left. “Shall we keep it, or let it go with the rest?” “We cannot afford to keep it. Who bids for the last lots of Barkerland?” Bailie Francis John stone did, on the following 6th of February, he paying for his portion £84 premium, feu £2 5s., teind 6s. – the feu including the house occupied by the herd [The present mansion of Frankfield occupies the site of the herd’s house.] who, in happier days, looked after the cattle of the burgesses as they grazed on the surround ing meadow; Mr. Thomas Kirkpatrick acquired a second section for £31, feu £2 6s. 8d., teind 7s.; and Mr. Robert Corsane of Meiklenox had a third section knocked down to him for £35 premium, feu £2 13s. 4d., teind 8s. All the lots that we have specified were sold by public auction-clogged with this condition, however, that none but resident burgesses or heritors were allowed to make an offer. A few good patches-cuttings and carvings left over when the large lots were squared off still remained; and these, with several roods that did not form part of Barkerland, were acquired privately by Bailie Francis Johnstone, price £56, feu £1 10s., teind 4s.; by Mr. Robert Corsane, price £3 13s. 10d., feu 5s. 8d., teind 10½d.; and by Mr. George Gordon, price £25, feu £1 5s., teind 2s. 6d. The amount received for the whole of Barkerland was £590 13s. 10d. of premium, £22 14s. of feu duty, and £2 10s. 0½d. of teind – a small sum indeed: when the feus are capitalized, at thirty years’ purchase, and added to the premiums, the aggregate is less than £8 10s. per acre. By these sacrifices the Council obtained at least temporary relief. Upwards of a thousand acres still remained to the Burgh, a great proportion of which lay in moss and pasture.
With the view, we suppose, of putting St. Michael’s Church on a footing of equality with its younger sister fabric, its patrons resolved, in 1740, to place a spire on the tower attached to it; and on its being ascertained that the walls of the tower were too weak to bear the proposed superstructure, the bolder and better proposal for an entirely new steeple was eventually adopted. At first a contract for the erection of a tower eighteen feet square on the site of the old one was entered into; and that having been finished, an agreement was made, in 1742, with Alexander Affleck and Thomas Tweddle, masons in the Burgh, to build upon the tower, for £100, “a stone spire fifty feet high, with an iron spire of nine feet, surmounted by a weather-cock, the cock and other ornaments on the top of the spire to be exactly such as on the New Church.” The cost of these erections appears to have been exclusively defrayed by public subscriptions, Lord John Johnstone, the repentant Jacobite, generously contributing £31 10s., or, as nearly as we can learn, about a sixth part of the whole.
When the steeple, which is a very handsome and stately one, was completed, it made the little building below look more insignificant than it had ever done; it was, besides, getting rather debilitated; and so, after sundry ineffectual attempts to put it into a decent state of repair, the Council determined to rebuild the Church. On the 3rd of September, 1744, Provost Ewart, in name of a committee appointed to contract with tradesmen for the purpose, reported that they had entered into a contract with the two craftsmen aforesaid, Alexander Affleck, deacon-convener of the Trades, and Thomas Tweddle, mason, as principals, and William Reid, blacksmith, as cautioner for them, “to take down the old walls of the church to the foundation, and twa east-most pillars thereof to the floor, dig a new foundation for the out walls, four feet deep from the surface of the earth and four feet wide, and to erect and build the whole stone and mason work of the said church of new, sixty feet wide and sixtyseven feet long, betwixt and the first day of July next to come,” according to the plan produced, the contractors providing all materials necessary for the said work except centres and scaffolding; “for which the committee, in name of, and having full power and commission from, the Council, and taking burden on them for the heritors of the country parish,” became bound to pay to the said contractors the sum of £185 3s. 10d. sterling. As also, that the committee had agreed with James Harley, wright, as principal, and Thomas Tweddle, Alexander Affleck, and William Wood, wrights, as his cautioners, “for the whole carpenter work of the roofs and windows of the said church, to be finished after the walls and arches are built, the contractor to provide all timber and rails that are required, and deals for scaffolding to the masons, for which the committee become obliged to pay to him the sum of 1186 sterling.” This report was approved of by the Council; and they recommended the committee to provide lead for the gutters and spouts, slates for the roof, glass for the windows, locks, bolts, and bands for the doors, as these articles were not included in the previous contracts. At the same meeting the Council took into consideration an Act of the Presbytery, in which the cost of the Church was estimated at £402 3s. 1½d.; and the country heritors were required to pay, as their proportion of that sum, £130, on being assigned a fifth part of the area for their accommodation. The Council agreeing to this arrangement, passed a resolution requesting the Presbytery to assess the heritors, according to their valued rents, in the foresaid amount; and the Council, in the event of all the conditions being complied with, bound themselves, their successors in office, and the community, “to keep up the fabrick of the said church, when rebuilt, in sufficient repair, for all time coming, upon the town’s expense, except in the case of rebuilding the same, if by decay or otherwise it shall become necessary to be rebuilt.” A portion of the gallery, amounting to two thirds of its whole extent, was assigned to the Seven Incorporated Trades, on their agreeing to fit up the same, and contribute £80 towards the erection of the Church.
Whilst the operations were being proceeded with in the following year, the town was taken possession of by the Highland army under Prince Charles; and there is a tradition that the building was placed in serious peril by a party of the rebel clansmen. Whilst wandering up and down in search of plunder, or to gratify curiosity, they passed unceremoniously within the precincts of the sacred edifice; and, on being chased by the workmen, they snapped their pistols among some straw, by which the wood-work was set on fire, and then decamped. Fortunately the flames were extinguished before much damage had been done; though, it is said, the mischievous Celts withdrew in the belief that they had ruined the fabric. As the old materials were extensively used, and as no site had to be purchased, the modern St. Michael’s Church cost much less than the New Church, though it is a more imposing structure; and the steeple-a Gothic spire on a Roman tower-has a beauty which the stunted steeple of the latter building could not boast of.
On the death of Mr. Linn, in 1731, Mr. Robert Wight became minister of St. Michael’s Church. He was succeeded by Dr. Thomas Mutter in 1764; and the latter was succeeded by Dr. William Burnside. Dr. Alexander Scott was the next pastor of the Church, his induction taking place in 1806. He had as successor Dr. Robert Wallace, who died in 1864. Early in the following year, Mr. John Duncan of Abbotshall was appointed to the charge; and on his translation to Schoonie, Dr. James Fraser, formerly of Glasgow, became his successor; but Dr. Fraser died six months afterwards, causing a vacancy in St. Michael’s, which at this date (September, 1867) has not yet been filled up.