14th March 1813

Mr Raeburn the Old Light Minister at Bannockburn was desired to preach a sermon for the relief of indigent Women and Widows, for which purpose the Old Light Meeting house here was bespoke, but on the Saturday previous Mr Willies the Old Light Minister here refused to allow it at the instigation of one of his managers.  Upon which the Magistrates were applied for the West Church which has been for upwards of 50 years vacant and not used as a parish kirk.  The Magistrates granted it but on Sunday evening when the door was about to be opened Somerville the Established Minister too the Key from the bellman and Keep the people out although it rained hard upon which access was given at the upper guild hall, but one half of the people could not get room however above £9 sterling was collected for the poor women.  This is another instance of the intolerant spirit of the Clergy!!!

Comment from Guest Blogger, Mr Andrew Muirhead:

The West Church had been separated from the Eastern half of what is now the Church of the Holy Rude in the 1650s.  The wall between  the two churches was only removed during the 1930s.  By 1813 the West Church had been largely unused since the deposition of Ebenezer Erskine in 1740, Erskine had been one of the founders of the Secession Church from which the Anti-burgers took their origins, so it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Somerville did not want to let them back in.  The established church had allowed the Reformed Presbyterian Church to worship there in the 1770s,  but that congregation was formed in opposition to the Seceders so this may have been a factor.

Why the Seceder minister in Bannockburn (which was in St Ninians Parish) should have thought it would be acceptable to preach in Stirling is unclear; the Burgh did not like to recognise its suburban neighbours, and it is tempting to think that Mr Willis took it as a personal slight that his neighbour was asked to preach rather than him.

The other factor in this incident is the question of money and poor relief.  The established church was financially supported by the Burgh and those attending were only asked to contribute to poor relief.  But the established church had the responsibility for all poor relief in the parish.  The Seceders, on the other hand expected their members to dip in to their pockets to pay their ministers and to pay for the building and upkeep of their churches.  Such money as they gathered for poor relief purposes would only be disbursed to those who had a connection with the church. Mr Raeburn then, in seeking to raise money in Stirling for poor relief succeeded in stepping on his colleagues’ toes on several counts.

 

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