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History of the Church of Kettins

     HISTORICAL RECORDS do not tell us, but it is probable that on the site of Kettins Parish Church Druids, once performed their weird and mysterious rites.


     At all events we do know that nearby disciples of the Columban Church planted a Christian cell. The arrival of St. Columba at Hi or Iona marked the beginning of a forceful Christian Church in the land which eventually became the Kingdom of Scotland. Long after the supercession of the Celtic Church by the more highly organised Church of Rome, a remnant lived on under the name of the Culdee Church and it is believed that a Culdee cell existed in Kettins. There can be little doubt that the present Church had a predecessor of Celtic origin and that a house of worship did exist for many years prior to the consecration of the present "Ecclesia de Ketnes" to Saint Bridget by David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews, on 18th April 1249.


The Church was subordinate to the Abbey of St. Mary of Cupar (Coupar Angus), one of six chapels and the only one to survive, although the remains of another can still be seen at Peattie in the Parish of Kettins. It is recorded that the monks of St. Andrews built a house for rest and meditation on the site of what is now the farm house of Baldinnie.


The living of the Kirk of Kettins was granted by King Alexander III to the Hospital of Berwick on Tweed. Later on it was given to the Cross Kirk of Peebles, but by a charter of King Robert III it was transferred to the Kirk of the Red Friars in Dundee. Little is known of the pre-Reformation history of the Church but Kettins was a thriving religious community which held strongly to the faith. Some of the parish priests appear as witnesses to the charters of St. Mary of Cupar and a few of these may have had administrative duties in connection with the Abbey. There is no evidence that the reforming zeal of the early 16th century led to violence or trouble which so marked the advent of the Reformation in other parts of Scotland and which brought about the destruction of Cupar Abbey.


After 1560 the Church of Kettins became and remained Protestant notwith­standing a nucleus of Roman Catholic opinion in the district; it weathered equally well the Stuart attempts to establish Episcopacy and the Prayer Book. We hear of some trouble however during the reign of James II of England and VII of Scotland who made vigorous endeavours to restore Popery in the Kingdom. There was a suspicion that the parish minister of Kettins, James Paton, was favourable to the royal demands. With the establishment of the Church of Scotland as part of the Revolution settlement the friction between minister and session appears to have been lessened but Paton was eventually deposed in 1716, after being imprisoned by his uncle, George Duncan, a Lieutenant of the shire, and prevented from preaching.


During this period of controversy a frequent visitor to Kettins was Dr George Hallyburton, Bishop of Aberdeen, who on several occasions dispensed the Sacraments between 1682 and 1714. He was a member of the family of Hallyburton of Pitcur and died in 1715 at the age of seventy seven in the fifty-seventh year of his ministry.


From this period to date the records of the Church of Kettins date back to 1682 and have been preserved continuously from that year. From them we learn a great deal about the parish and its inhabitants, its social and economic life and the exercise of religious devotion through the years.


At the beginning of the 18th century the population of the parish was consider­ably greater than it is to-day. The village was divided into an East Toon and a West Toon. Sixty-two weavers, seven shoemakers and two brewers resided in the village, and there were many others engaged in agricultural and allied pursuits. The records preserve many interesting sidelights on the daily life and behaviour of the people of Kettins-no doubt they were typical of many hundreds of parishes up and down Scotland. Drunkenness and lax morality were prevalent and provided many problems for the Kirk Session which dealt with all cases of discipline within the parish. More serious cases, such as consistent neglect of duty and wife selling, were handed over to the Justices of the Peace. These however have no place in a short sketch of the history of the Church.


Naturally enough the records of the Church are concerned mainly with the life of the Church, its administration and with the upkeep of church property. We learn that two services were held each Sunday and that attendance was desirable if not exactly compulsory. Seats were let and sometimes rouped. This latter practice has been long since dispensed with. Considerable repairs had to be carried out at various times to the roof of the Church; there are numerous entries recording expen­diture for this purpose. The repairs were executed by local craftsmen. No doubt the ravages of time were having their effects on the buildings and by the middle of the 18th century extensive repair operations were due.


        In 1768 the walls of the Church were heightened, For this purpose it appears that many stones were taken from the ruins of Coupar Angus Abbey, which was then little more than a quarry for local builders. Other alterations were made at the same time but it was not until after 1870 that further structural changes were made. In that year alterations were proposed for the north side of the Church. At that time the Council House or Vestry stood at the west side of the Church, two porches stood out ten feet from the walls at either end of the buildings. In 1930, when the ivy was removed from the Church to allow the walls to be pointed, it was clearly revealed where the porches had been. A stairway outside the south wall gave access to the pulpit from the back. In 1891 the gallery was reconstructed and through the munificence of the Misses Jane and Susan Carmichael, in memory of their deceased brother, the tower was erected on the West gable. The architect was Alexander Hutcheson Esq., F.S.A.(Scot.). The stones were supplied by Mr David Reid from the Leys Quarry and the builders were Messrs. Gray of Newtyle. The tower, erected at a cost of £525, is in the style of Norman architecture. A new bell weighing eight hundredweights and set to the tone of "B" Flat, "Come," cast by J. Taylor Esq. of Loughborough, was installed in the tower.


It was during the incumbency of Dr Fleming that the greatest alterations to beautify the interior of the Church were undertaken, more especially after the erection of the tower in 1891. The church now possesses no less than sixteen stained glass windows, the earliest of these being that gifted by Lord Frederick Gordon, then laird of Hallyburton, in 1878. Much of the credit for the beautifying of the church goes to Mr W. D. Graham Menzies, the new proprietor of Hallyburton, who became chief heritor, to Mr Peter Carmichael of Arthurstone, Mr Alexander Geekie of Bal­dowrie and Mr Mungo Murray of Lintrose. Their memory and an appreciation of their generosity is kept ever green and reflected in the beautiful windows dedicated by their relatives.


Dr Fleming himself was a benefactor of the Church, putting in a Memorial window to the memory of his son, James, who died on 21st November, 1885, and leaving a sum of £80 to provide two stained glass windows for the Vestry after his death. Later the parishioners and congregation subscribed for and erected a mem­orial tablet, now on the north side of the church, dedicated to his memory and faithful service over many years. The designer of the tablet was Sir John Lorimer, architect, Edinburgh. An oak framed plaque in brass was erected inside the church to the memory of those members of the congregation and parish who fell in the First World War of 1914-18.


        The parishioners indeed have reason to be grateful to the heritors and others who have done so much for and given so generously to the work of beautifying the church. It has been estimated that a sum approaching £4,700 has been gifted to the church in one form or another for this purpose alone and this sum does not induce the ex­pense of erecting the Lych Gate which Mr Graham Menzies of Hallyburton erected in 1902 in memory of his mother.


Instrumental music was introduced into the church services in 1884 when a beautiful Mason and Hamelin organ "vas gifted by Mungo Murray Esq. and Mrs Murray of Lintrose in memory of their nephew John Murray who died at sea on his way from Australia to this country on 1st July, 1884.


The church possesses many objects of rare and historical value which are described herein. These objects, the like of which are but seldom to be found in the possession of small parish churches in this country, offer a store of interest to anti­quarians and provide a rich heritage worthy of the long history of the Church of Kettins.


To commemorate the seven hundredth anniversary of the consecration of the church special services were held on Sunday 17th April, 1949. The forenoon service was conducted by the Very Rev. Matthew Stewart, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and at the evening service the pulpit was occupied by the Rev. Hugh Alexander, Ogilvie Church, Dundee.