Skip to content Skip to footer

Urquhart Long Ago

The records of Elgin Presbytery began in 1635 and the Kirk Session records of Urquhart date from 1647. A Presbyterial Visitation of Urquhart took place on 10th February 1642 when the Rev. James Guthrie was described as “a faithful and painfull” Minister! In fact, he was an outstanding Minister. He came to Urquhart in 1595 and died in harness in 1647. He was Moderator of Elgin Presbytery for a number of years which was most unusual.

In the same year, the Rev. James Park was elected Minister. He had been “servitour” to the laird of Innes’s children. His was a stormy reign. In 1648 “Robert Innes in Urquhart was accused for breaking up the Church doors and burying his wyff”. He denied breaking up the doors!

On 16th August 1660, Mr Park was brought before the Presbytery accused of crying aloud from the pulpit against kings and monarchs, Duke and Marquesses – “a button for them all” … likewise against the brethren and ministers… he debarred 600 communicants from Communion and so only about 80 attended. On 28th August, Mr Park having been admonished several times by Presbytery and Synod, was deposed.

Happier days lay ahead for the Congregation of Urquhart though the vacancy lasted for two and a half years. They called the Rev. Robert Tod, the Minister of Rothes (?) and he was inducted to Urquhart on the 27th November 1662. His eldest son, Alexander, was elected Schoolmaster and Precentor on 10th February 1664. On the 2nd May he demitted this office as he had been elected Minister of Langbride (note spelling!). A call was then given to Mr George Tod, the second son of the Rev. Robert, to be Schoolmaster at Urquhart. To complete this remarkable family record, William Tod was later elected Schoolmaster at Urquhart.

It is interesting to note that on the 3rd May 1663, the sermon was preached by Mr. Alexander Marshall, chaplain to the Laird of Innes. In July 1673 the Lord Bishop convened a meeting for the visitation of the Church of Urquhart. Among the Elders present were Sir Robert Innes of that ilk, Mr John Innes of Leuchers, Patrick Innes of Nether Meft, Robert Innes portioner of Urquhart, etc. Mr William Tod, the Schoolmaster, was the Session Clerk.

The entry for 26th January 1746 is “no sermon the day being stormy” and this continues until 16th March and the next entry after that is 1st June! The Minutes of the Kirk Session of Urquhart Church may help to explain the plight of the Highlanders before Culloden. If Morayshire was storm bound, the Great Glen must have been almost impassable for marching men.

The Minutes are not produced in printed form after 1791, but the Rev. James Maclean wrote the Statistical Account in April 1825. It is interesting to note that he married Elizabeth Tod, daughter of George Tod and secondly Elizabeth Tod, daughter of William Tod. The Tods gave great service to Urquhart Church. The members of the Church are given as 1030 in 1798 but the average number of communicants in 1835 was 200. The subjects taught in the school were English, English Grammar, Latin, Greek, writing, arithmetic, algebra and practical geometry.

The old Church was dismantled in 1844, the stones having been purchased for use in building the Free Church. The Sunday after the opening of the new Parish Church, the Free Church congregation met in the old Parish Church and not in Meft’s barn, as they had done before. They were immediately interdicted from so doing by the Duke of Richmond.

The Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843 ended a Chapter in the history of Urquhart Church.

Reverend Dr. J.S. Stephen