Difficulties in our Jacobite Past
As many of you may know I have been training for the Readership with SEI. During the year we have a residential week and a number of residential weekends which take place at St Mary’s Monastery at Kinnoull, Perth. Our last weekend was reduced to a residential ‘virtual’ day, but it was good to see those in training if only online, just as it was good to see people from church at the Wednesday morning virtual coffee morning. While it might become tiresome as the weeks pass, I am sure that the message to stay at home has all our best interests at heart.
St Mary’s Monastery, Kinnoull, Perth
Many people have commented on how strange it is to have the churches closed and how they can never remember this ever happening before. That got me thinking, this is not exactly true, at least as far as our own congregation is concerned. Bishop Mark in his latest letter has started to outline something of our churches history and this is important, as it is very distinctive. We are in communion with, but we are not some outpost of the C of E, our history has nothing really to do with Henry VIII and his divorce. I thought it might be the right time to say something about an earlier occasion when our church was closed down.
In Dingwall Parish the last Episcopalian incumbent was the Rev John Macrae who died in 1704, yet it would be 1716 before the Rev Daniel Bain was settled as the first Presbyterian minister of Dingwall. Why had this happened? Basically, the Scottish bishops had not given sufficient assurance of loyalty to King William of Orange. Had they done so; this might have avoided their removal from the established church. As a result, for most of the 18th century the Scottish Episcopal Church was to be closely identified with the Jacobite cause in its support for the exiled Stuart Dynasty.
My specimen of Rosa Alba Maxima ‘The Jacobite Rose’ last June
Early in 18th century, a meeting house was opened in Dingwall High Street. I was told some years ago, by good authority i.e. Canon Bill Gow, who was the incumbent from 1940 to 1977, that it was the house next to the Bank of Scotland. This was to be our place of worship until a chapel was opened in 1806 on the site of the present-day St James.
In the aftermath of the battle of Culloden in 1746, many Episcopalian meeting houses were closed down, being regarded as centres of Jacobite propaganda. This is what happened to the meeting houses served by Rev James Urquhart here in Dingwall and also that of his larger congregation at Urray. The Penal Laws were to reduce the Episcopal Church to what Sir Walter Scott in his novel Guy Mannering referred to as the ‘Shadow of a Shade.’ Under these laws it was illegal for an Episcopalian clergyman to meet with more than four other persons, beyond that of his immediate household. All sorts of ingenious solutions were used to get around this, the most common being to meet with the legal number in one room while a larger group would listen to the service from an adjacent room. It was to be as late as 1792 before the Penal Laws were lifted. Perhaps as we move out of lockdown, we might discover some ingenious ways to allow us to worship once again.
Before the Battle of Culloden in 1746 some of the troops are said to have sung Psalm 20 in its metrical version. A very appropriate psalm for an army just about to do battle in the name of their King.(James of course not George!) Have a look at it and you will see what I mean.
Turning to the Psalms is often a source of solace in difficult times and I feel just now that Psalm 46 has much to say to us. This psalm was of course the inspiration for Martin Luther’s great hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott’: