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May 22nd 1843

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Protesting the 'Free' Way

In 1582 it was ordained by Royal Charter that Dunbarney Church should belong to the “Provost, Bailies, Council and Community of Edinburgh.”  This somewhat unusual arrangement meant that the Patronage of the parish church was vested with the town of Edinburgh and until 1821 they appointed the ministers to the church and of course collected the teinds of the parish.

In 1821, while the minister was dying, a Mr Anderson, a merchant from Newburgh, bought the Patronage of Dunbarney from Edinburgh Town Council for £1,400. He promptly proposed his own brother as the new minister. Having achieved his own objective and no doubt being a shrewd businessman, he offered the Patronage at the same price as he paid for it. It was bought by the local landowner Sir David Moncrieff. It was a pretty blatant example of the ways in which the Patronage system could be abused and was not popular in the village.

Mr Anderson left in 1833 and was succeeded by a Mr Alexander Cumming. When the whole question of Patronage was debated at the General Assembly of 1843, Mr Cumming joined the group of ministers who withdrew from the Assembly and signed a Deed of Demission. When he preached in church that Sunday he made his position quite clear. “Where there is no room for Christ to be King there is no room for me to be His servant.”  He announced that in future he would be holding services in an empty coal store beside the old pier in Bridge of Earn.

It is a tale of faith and enthusiasm. Most of the congregation followed their minister and he was preaching to congregations of up to 400 souls. After initial difficulties with local landowners a sight was chosen for a new church and the foundation stone was laid on July 19th. By November the congregation was worshipping there. Within four years the Free Protesting Church of Dunbarney possessed not only a church but a church manse and glebe and its own Free Church schoolmaster and schoolhouse.

It is a magnificent story of determination, enthusiasm and achievement. It seems sad to have to report that today the Free Church is no more and the building serves as an antique shop in Bridge of Earn.

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