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The Parishes of St. Andrews-Lhanbryd & Urquhart

The names of the parishes in our triple-linked charge point to a long Christian heritage in these parts. They also reflect the major changes in ecclesiastical government over that period – Celtic, Roman Catholic and National Church.

Lhanbryd, the church of St Bride or Bridget, first mentioned in 1225, takes us back to the ancient Celtic Church with its roots in Ireland. Irish missionaries – ‘church organisers’ might be a better term for them – like St Moluag (6th century) and St Maelrubha (7th century) organised Christian outreach in these parts, as well as much of northern Scotland, and may even have been – dare I say it? – more influential than Columba. It could have been either Moluag or Maelrubha who set up a little church on a hillock (perhaps reflected in Kirklandhill) beside the main route along the Moray Firth coast and dedicated it to St Bride. It would have been a very appropriate dedication since Bride was the patron saint of cattle and poultry workers, crafts and creativity, scholars and poets, all of whom are or have been part of our community. By the late 18th century, this building had become ruinous and was demolished in February 1796. However, the village name and the church name still connect us with Christians of more than fifteen hundred years ago.

The original parish church of Urquhart, which was established before 1237, was dedicated to St Margaret, presumably the queen of Malcolm Canmore and mother of David I, King of Scots – the ‘sair sanct tae the croun’. Margaret and David worked hard to establish the Roman Catholic church government in place of the much more loosely organised Celtic Church in order to give greater unity and stability to the kingdom. Since David I established a Benedictine Priory in Urquhart in 1136, there may be some link between that and dedication of the parish church to his mother.

The original Urquhart building became ruinous in the early 19th century and was replaced by a new building on Gashill on the outskirts of the village. After the union of St Andrews-Lhanbryd and Urquhart in 1988, that building became a private house and a Bed and Breakfast business. The Free Church members used the stones from the old church to build St Margaret’s Church and church hall (around 1843) between the Royal Oak and the graveyard. The Free Church manse was also known as St Margaret’s. After the Union between the Free Church and the Church of Scotland in 1929 the Free Church building and the manse were sold and the proceeds were used to refurbish St Margaret’s Hall. Two stained glass windows from St Margaret’s Church were incorporated in the Hall, as was a Celtic Cross thought to have come from the medieval priory. We have kept St Margaret’s name for the hall which is now our place of worship and gathering in Urquhart, thus maintaining a link going back over eight hundred years.

St Andrews is, of course, named for the national patron saint and appears to be a later foundation than the other two parishes, probably 14th or 15th century. It may have been a ‘mensal parish’, that is one whose revenues went to the bishop of Moray to pay for his groceries. (Latin mensa = a table) The parish lies between Lhanbryd and Elgin and the church building was in or near the graveyard of Kirkhill. After the Reformation, St Andrews was bounced in and out of various unions until it settled down as an independent parish in the eighteenth century. However, the church was in a constant state of disrepair. A boy shooting at doves on the thatched roof caused it to burn down in 1727. By 1739, however, it was reported that the church was in good repair and that the manse had been built. Much time and money was spent in providing people with the means to cross the Lossie. First, there was a boat and then wooden bridges all of which needed constant repair.

In the early years of the reformed church, parishes were frequently united in order to make best use of the limited number of reformed clergy available. Langbride, Urquhard and Rothes was one such union in 1576. In 1578, Urquhart and Langbryde were united, and by 1579 Alves had been added to it. In 1580 Urquhart became a separate charge, Lhanbryd was on its own in the early 17th century and St Andrew’s was independent in 1660s. Whatever was the equivalent of presbytery’s Parish Reappraisal Committee cannot have had to jump through too many hoops in those days! By the later eighteenth century, however, both St Andrew’s and Lhanbryd church buildings were in a poor state of repair and so the parishes were united in 1782. Neither the parishes nor the presbytery liked the arrangement, but the union went ahead. In 1796, both churches were demolished. The ground at St Andrew’s was cleared to form a cemetery for the united parishes. St Andrew’s manse became Kirkhill House. A new church for the united charge was being built by 1806 halfway between the two former churches. The manse was built in 1817. Since then, a vestry and session room were added around 1930; the small hall was built around 1960; and the big hall celebrating the bi-centenary was completed in 1984.

By the 1980s, Urquhart, which had been linked with Garmouth and Kingston, was struggling. In 1986, St Andrews-Lhanbryd became vacant with the departure of Rev David Lunan, and a year or so later, Urquhart’s Rev Stanley Forsyth retired. Moray Presbytery then united St Andrews-Lhanbryd and Urquhart in 1988. Garmouth and Kingston were disjoined from Urquhart and incorporated in Speymouth which was and is linked with Bellie.

The Spelling of Langbryde/Langbride/Lhanbride/Lhanbryd/Lhanbryde

In 1791, Rev. William Leslie decided he liked ‘Lhanbryd’ for the parish name. No-one knows why, but he was the minister. It is now settled that the parish is ‘Lhanbryd’ and the village ‘Lhanbryde’. It used to be a source of amusement to certain ministers and presbytery elders to point out the misuse of the two spellings in presbytery minutes and reports.

History Links 

By Boat or Bridge

Church History

History of our Church

Pickings from the Past

Reflections on Parish People and Historical Objects

Urquhart Churches

Urquhart and Pluscarden

Urquhart Long Ago

Whatever happened to the Church Organ?