Kirkstyle

SNIPPETS FROM THE KIRK SESSION RECORDS OF KEMNAY PARISH CHURCH, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE CARE OF THE POOR OVER THE YEARS. SNIPPETS FROM THE KIRK SESSION RECORDS.

The Kirk Session books recorded the weekly ongoings of the church: the name of the preacher (if other than the minister), the text for the day and the amount collected. It also records the disbursements to the poor and other payments ("To Kirk Officer for keeping out the dogs 2/6d", "To the Presbyterie Bursar 5/-"; "To mending the Bell Tongue and a new rope 4/-"; "To Janet Reid's coffin 5/-"); also mentioned are repairs to the church and also to the school - the church, manse, school and schoolhouse were the property of the heritor of the parish, in the case of Kemnay, the Burnett family of Kemnay House - the setting up of tables for communion and removal afterwards. An entry which appears from time to time "To loss from bad copper 6/-" (the amount may vary), arose from bad coinage being placed in the collection. This was sold in Aberdeen, to be melted down, and the money returned to the funds. The books were audited annually by the Session.

In 1770 it was recorded that the Kirk had no communion cups and the minister was asked to commission the making of two new cups when he next went to Aberdeen. These cost £7 12s. Another two cups were purchased the following year. It was some years before the cups were engraved (February 1775). In fact, it was following the minister's death and on the eve of the Rev Patrick Davidson's ordination that this happened. These four silver flagons are still used today, though their general use was superseded some ninety years ago with the introduction of individual glasses.

Text Box: Communion tokenDetails of the celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper are recorded in considerable detail. This event took place annually around July or August. On 20th June 1773 it was intimated that this event was to take place on the last Sabbath of July next, "and the people exhorted to a serious preparation for that solemn Ordinance." During the month of July the minister visited throughout the parish examining the people on their knowledge of the bible and things religious, aided by the elders. A fast day was held on 21st July at which Rev. Patrick Davidson preached, following which, tokens were given out to the people on the south and west of the parish. These tokens were small squares of lead with the letters "A R" impressed being the initials of the minister with the letter "M" above, signifying his university qualification of 'Master'.  On 24th July the Preparation sermon was preached by Rev. Thomas Shepherd of Bourty, The people were asked to come half an hour earlier on the following day. Tokens were then given out to those who had not already received. The minister read out a list of those who had been attending a course in preparation for joining the church. Following agreement of the Session these folks also received tokens. 

The minister preached on the morning of the communion and Rev Francis Dauney of Banchory helped with the serving of Communion, he also preached in the afternoon. A service of Thanksgiving was held on the Monday at which Rev. William Davidson of Inverury preached. A distribution to the poor followed. Whereas the normal weekly collections were around 2 or 3 shillings, the money taken in during the whole season of Communion amounted to £3 19s 3d..

Following Rev. Alexander Reid's death in August 1775 his widow handed over all items belonging to the church which her late husband had had in his possession. These included: a receipt for money held, on loan, by George Burnett dated 16 December 1754 amounting to 3100 merks Scots on which he paid interest at 4½%; another of the same dated 25 December 1764 for 418 merks Scots (interest on both these had been paid up to date); a parcel of receipts etc belonging to the Session; a record book which had been started on Mr Reid's ordination up to 7th June 1774 (this also included a note of all Session business and financial matters from that date to the end of July 1775); there were also a further six record books preceding Mr Reid's ministry; the Poor's Box; the following church utensils: four silver cups, two pewter plates, two table cloths, tables and forms for the communion, a bag of tokens, a baptism basin and cloth, a mortcloth and wallet for holding it.

The Registers were handed to the Session Clerk (the local schoolmaster – who was asked to complete the missing entries therein); all the church utensils, along with the Poor's Box, were given to George Stevenson (one of the elders); the treasurer had one key of the Box and the other was given to Thomas Moir, another of the elders.

Over the years, ministers came and went. An entry on 22nd August 1779 informs that Mr Patrick Mitchel, probationer, preached. – quite an innocent entry one would think. On 18th June 1788 this local lad (he was born in Craigearn) was "ordained and admitted to be minister of this parish". He ministered to his flock until his death on 1st December 1838 aged 83 years having been honoured with a Doctorate by Aberdeen University on 18th January 1802.

On 1st December 1785 the minister announced to the Session that he had received a legacy of £5 sterling from the late Mr Mitchell in Cairnfold, Sauchen for the benefit of the poor of the parish. This money, along with a small sum from the box, was invested with the laird of Kemnay, thus bringing the total sum he had belonging to the church to £200 sterling on which he paid 4½% interest annually. On 25th December 1792, Alexander Burnett of Kemnay returned the £200 of the Session funds and it was reinvested with John Leslie of Balquhain at 4½% interest annually. On December 29th 1816 it was reported that Balquhain had returned the £200 and that it had been reinvested with James Ferguson of Pitfour who was M.P. for the County of Aberdeen. In June 1827 Pitfour returned the money to the Session and it was lent to Mr Morison of Auchintoul. Things did not go altogether too well for Auchintoul and in December 1831 he signed a trust deed. By June 1838 Auchintoul's Trustees had repaid £190 of what was due and the Kirk Session increased this sum to £200 sterling and invested it with the City of Aberdeen at 4% interest (See Troup Legacy below).

On 13th September 1788 a new bell, total weight 230lb (104kg) was supplied and fitted in the belfry by Andrew Lawson, Founder in Aberdeen – the previous bell had been cracked for some time.

Text Box: Bridge over the Sheriffburn, near KIntore.On June 14 1789 the minister announced to the elders that William McKnight, farmer at Nether Coullie, had visited him and asked if he would take up a collection to help fund a bridge over the Sherriffburn, where the road from Kemnay to Aberdeen crossed the said burn. This bridge still stands though its use for carrying traffic ceased long ago. It can be seen if one looks upstream from the bridge beside the roundabout on the old A96 near Sandy Thain's premises. The bridge in question spans the burn some 200 yards upstream. The collection amounted to 15/5d (67p).

Cases of discipline appear regularly in the pages of the Session records and the majority mean very little to us today. Occasionally one seems to jump out from the pages.

On 25th November 1792 a young lass, Isobel Reid, appeared before the Session and admitted that she was pregnant. On being asked as to who was the father of her child she said that she did not know, not having seen the person before having intercourse and not having seen him since. Pressed by the Session to give further details of the train of events she said that she had met this man while walking home from Aberdeen one Saturday forenoon and they had gone together for some time when he seduced her by the roadside and despite the girl asking details of his name and whereabouts he eventually made off in the direction of Auchmill or Craibstone, she didn't know which. The Session were somewhat at a loss as to how they should proceed in the matter and it was reported to Presbytery. The Session postponed any further discussion on the matter until additional information might be found.

On 2nd June 1793 the minister informed the Session that Robert Blackhall, a married man in Pictillum had reported to him that he was the father of Isobel Reid's child, which had been given up for adoption. The two delinquents were called before the Session and agreed that the newly revealed facts were indeed correct and they were both asked to appear before the Presbytery the following week. The Presbytery ruled that they should each make at least one public appearance before being absolved. Isobel Reid appeared on 23rd June and paid her fine of 10 shillings; Blackhall made his public appearance before the congregation on 21st July having paid £2 for committing adultery with Isobel Reid. Fast forward and in the minute of 21st July 1820 we find that the Session had received £5 sterling as a donation to the "Poor of this Parish, from James Blackhall of Halifax, Nova Scotia, son of the late Robert Blackhall in Pictillum. On 30th August of the same year we read that ten shillings was given by order of the Kirk Session to Isobel Reid, mother of James Blackhall of Halifax. James Blackhall had emigrated to Nova Scotia and was one of the first to become involved in timber framed building – one of his buildings is still in existence today, having been dismantled and re-erected on a fresh site and now houses a museum. A number of his descendants have visited this area over the years.

TROUP LEGACY

In May 1802 the Kirk Session received information to the effect that William Troup of the parish  of Portland in the County of Surrey and Island of  Jamaica by his last will and testament dated the 21st day of June 1800 … "Gave and bequeathed to the poor people of the parish of Kemnay in the shire of Aberdeen wherein he was born the  sum of One Hundred Pounds Sterling to be applied to the  use of  the said poor people by the Minister and Elders of the said parish of Kemnay as they the said minister and elders may judge best." On 24th July 1808 it was announced by the minister that he had received £120, being the amount of the Troup legacy plus interest for four years. In August 1810 the interest on the legacy, amounting to £16 4s 8d (£16.23), was withdrawn from the Commercial Bank "for converting the pews in the area of the church into square seats, more convenient for Communion Tables than the pews were." This cost £6 19s 4d (£6.97) and the rest of the interest was put in the Poors Box. On 22nd June 1812 it was announced that the amount of the Troup legacy (£107 14s 3d - £107.71 including interest) had been withdrawn from the Commercial Bank of Aberdeen and along with a legacy of £50 sterling received from the late Helen Burnett, an aunt of the laird of Kemnay, had been invested with the City of Aberdeen at 5% interest per annum. Annual interest of £7 10s (£7.50) was paid annually until 1817 when only £3 18s 9d (£3.93) was received. The City of Aberdeen had by then landed on hard times and was unable to pay the full amount of interest until in December 1824 when they paid the arrears in interest. The money, along with further sums which took the total to £180, was reinvested with the City of Aberdeen at the reduced rate of 4½% annually. This sum was increased to £200 in December 1828. So it appears to continue until the 1840s when there was a change in the law relating to the Care of the Poor.

Rev. Patrick Mitchell grew old amongst his people and the frailties of life began to take their toll. Increasingly we find other preachers filling the pulpit and on 8th January 1837 the entry reads "Minister's illness". A Mr Whyte preached for the most of that year and in 1838 a Mr Leslie took over the pulpit until the end of May when the preacher's name is Mr Straith. The entry in the Session Record for December 2 1838 reads; "Dr. Mitchell having died yesterday, there was no sermon this Lord's day." The following Sunday Mr Simpson preached the "Funeral Sermon", the text being from Numbers xxiii, 10 "Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" Thus ended a ministry of just over fifty years.

On 19th March 1839 the Kirk Session met "by appointment of the Presbytery of Garioch" to set in motion the settlement of a new minister. An up to date Roll of Heads of Families was drawn up and agreed as correct by the Session and was to lie with the clerk for public inspection. The Session met again the following week when it was announced that there had been no objections to the Roll of Heads of Families which was duly attested by the Moderator and the Clerk. On 31st March "The Presbytery's edict was read appointing Mr George Peter, Presentee to this Parish to preach on Sunday the 7th April and again on Sunday 14th April, and fixing the 18th April as the day for moderating in a call to the said Mr George Peter." Mr Peter was duly ordained to the pastoral charge of the parish on 25th June 1839 to begin a ministry which was to last for some fifty eight years.
Andrew Stevenson, the parish schoolmaster, who had acted as clerk to the Session for some twenty years, was ordained to the eldership on 12th December 1841. The following day, at a meeting of Session, he was nominated as "Commissioner to the Provincial Synod of Aberdeen" which nomination was approved by Session as was his appointment as representing elder to the Presbytery of Garioch -    posts he appeared to have held until his death in June 1857.

On 6th June 1843 George Peter was asked to "make a representation to the Heritors of the State of the Parish Church". Below is a copy of his report:
Unto the Revd the Presby of Garioch

The petition of the Revd George Peter Minister of Kemnay Humbly sheweth That the Parish Church of Kemnay has become so ruinous, that regular attendance on public worship is impeded by the extremely uncomfortable state of the building &a feeling of its insecurity which has of late become prevalent in the Parish that the present Building as its date bears was erected in the year 1632 & that although it has at different periods undergone repairs its insufficiency is now so extreme – as the correspondence herewith lodged fully sets forth – that it seems incapable of such repair as to render it a safe & comfortable place of worship.
    May it therefore please the Revd Presbytery to appoint a visitation of the Parish of Kemnay & to direct this application & proposed visit to be intimated to the Heritors from the Pulpit & by letters to absent Heritors or their Agents & to direct the attendance of qualified tradesmen that they may report on oath as to its state & condition & thereafter to do in the premises according to justice. And your Petitioner shall ever pray &c (sgd) George Peter Kemnay 2d January 1844

The entry in the Session Minute book of 2nd June 1844 relates: This day the congregation met in the school and adjacent dining room kindly granted for their accommodation by Mr Stevenson till the erection of a new church in place of the old which was partly dismantled during the previous week.
In the entry on 27th October 1844 we read: The new church was opened for public worship. Mr Peter; Haggai 2. 9 latter clause [and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts].

An entry on 31st March 1850 intimates: "Mortcloth to A. Duncan". This was the Poor Inspector.
At a meeting on 25th April 1850 Alexander Hadden Emslie, assistant to Mr Andrew Stevenson at Kemnay Academy was appointed Inspector of the Poor.
On 6th August 1850 it was put to a meeting of the Board that following the distribution about to be made there would only be about £45 left in their funds which would leave a shortfall of £95 for the current year to May 1851. It was then put in hand to make arrangements for an assessment of those liable to pay in the parish.

It was noted on 1st December 1850: "The Weekly Collections here cease, the Session not considering it requisite to continue them under the new arrangements for the support of the poor."

It will be remembered that the schoolmaster received an annual payment of interest from a bequest of long standing. In December 1850 the capital of this bequest (850 merks - £47.22) was left in the hands of treasurer of Aberdeen, but Mr Andrew Stevenson, at that time, made up the sum to £50 sterling "in all time coming for behoof of himself & Successors in Office." 

This is the end of Parochial Board reports in the Kirk Session records, all future reports being held in separate minute books for the Parochial Board.
This was also the end of the historic legacies for the poor in the parish, these having been used up by order of the Board of Supervision for Parochial Boards. Monies continued to be received by the Session from bodies outwith the session for behoof of the poor. One of these was the John Burnett Mortification from which the Session received £20 in 1852 (this bequest is still received every third year). Another such bequest was the Dr John Anderson Fund which is also still functioning at the present time.

It was noted in February 1853 that the weekly collections had been resumed in order to meet congregational expenses.
At this time also, annual disbursements to the poor not on the Parochial Board's list were started, funded by monies in the Session's hands (such as from the two funds mentioned above).

On 1st October 1871 the minister preached from Luke 7. 5. "For he loveth our nation & he hath built us a Synagogue": Inauguration of addition to the fabric of the church, erected by subscription, to accommodate a largely increased population.
A month later the entry for 5th November reads … Collected for the sufferers by the conflagration of Chicago - £4. 6s. 10d (£4.34) [the average collection was 4/2d (21p)].

One thing that might strike the modern reader was the number of guest preachers – in 1869 there 12 such visits and in 1872 – 17. A regular visitor was Rev. James Peter, a brother of the minister, who was minister at New Deer. On occasion, Mr Proctor, the local schoolmaster, preached, he being a fully fledged minister. Neighbouring ministers visited, possibly on exchange visits, sometimes by order of the Presbytery.
In September 1885, due to insufficient collections by plate at the Church door, it was decided to revert to the old method of collecting by ladles before the end of the service. In May 1886 William Wright, a local tradesman, was paid 15/9d (78p) for three wooden ladles which are still in the church today.
The Kirk, apparently, still had an interest in the ongoings of the Parochial Board as on 4th July 1887, Richardson Mackie, James Hacket, George Petrie, George Reid, and George Adam, elders, were appointed to be members of the Parochial Board.
On 26th June 1889, it was reported: "The Reverend Presbytery met with the Parishioners and a large number of the Minister's Friends ab extra to celebrate his Jubilee [50 years] completed the previous day. Mr Macpherson, Moderator of the Presbytery, conducted an Open Air Service his text being 2 Cor. 14. 7.

On Wednesday 3rd May 1893 Rev. Alexander Hood Smith was ordained and inducted as assistant and successor to Rev. George Peter.
It is to be noted that following the arrival of Rev. A. Hood Smith, the centuries old custom of recording the preacher's name, his text, and the amount of the collection ceased.

It was reported that a Bazaar was held on 26th and 27th June 1896 "in furtherance of a Scheme for removing the Parish from the list of Small Livings, and realized a sum of £337. This with what had been otherwise collected making a sum of £552 in all, was forwarded to Alexander Sloan Esquire C.A. Glasgow, with a view to getting the Grant from the Small Livings Committee, and the Baird Trust."  As part of this venture a publication, extending to 48 pages plus card covers, entitled "Kemnay Bazaar Book, June 1896" was produced. Copies of this may still be available through the Library service. 
Following the death of Rev. George Peter on 12th December 1897, there appears a lengthy tribute to him (extending to two pages) in the Session Minute book, a copy of which was to be conveyed to his sister who had kept house to him for many years. He had been minister to the parish for fully fifty eight years and was held in high regard, not only by his flock, but in the wider field by his colleagues in Presbytery. He was, possibly, the last remaining minister in the Presbytery of Garioch of pre disruption (1843) times.

The death, on 20th October 1898, was announced of Rev. George Proctor M.A. who served the area as schoolmaster from 1857 until his retirement in 1892. He was Clerk to the Kirk Session for many years, as also Registrar of births deaths and marriages, Inspector of Poor and Collector of Poor's Assessment. Following his retirement from the school, he built the house now known as Birkenshaw, in Victoria Terrace, where his widow continued to live until her death on 22nd March 1911.

In 1901 two solid silver wine flagons were presented to the Kirk Session, for Communion Service, by Sir James Reid, Bart., Domestic Physician to the late Queen Victoria, and John Peter Reid Esq., London, in memory of their uncle, the late Rev. George Peter. At the same time a solid silver bread paten was received from James Leith, Dowanhill, a member of the Kirk Session, in memory of departed friends, another of the same was received from "three persons".

Communion was celebrated on 3rd July 1904 at which time it was announced that Rev. A. Hood Smith had closed his ministry in Kemnay – he was leaving to go to the parish of Newmachar.

On 11th November 1904 Rev. Peter George Smith B.D. was ordained and inducted as parish minister of Kemnay.
Collection bags, to replace the 'Ladles' were presented by John Lindsay, a shopkeeper in the village.
At a Kirk Session meeting on 1st August 1906, it was intimated that a legacy of £1000 from the estate of the late Mr John Fyfe was to be given "to the Kirk Session of Kemnay for behoof of poor persons natives of and resident within said parish who are not in receipt of Parochial relief: declaring that the said Kirk Session by acceptance of this legacy shall be bound to hold in trust and invest the said sum of one thousand pounds, and to apply the free annual income thereof for behoof of such poor persons in such proportions and in such manner as the Kirk Session may from time to time judge proper".
Receipt of the money was announced at a meeting of Kirk Session on15th May 1907. Eight hundred pounds was lent to the School Board of Kemnay, the remainder being invested in Edinburgh Corporation 3% stock.

An oak communion table and three chairs were gifted to the church by Miss Mary Robb, an enthusiastic member of St. Stephen's Church in Glasgow, Rev. P. G. Smith's previous charge. These were dedicated at the service of Communion held on the first Sunday of August 1907.
Towards the end of 1907 the vestry was extended to provide a meeting place for the Women's Guild.

On 3rd November 1907, a pipe organ made by E. H. Lawton of Aberdeen was inaugurated. Mr Charles M. Stephen, A.R.C.O., Organist and Choirmaster of Ferryhill U.F. Church, a Kemnay loon, presided at the organ.

It was announced that on 1st November 1908 Rev. P. G. Smith preached his farewell sermon. He was moving to the Parish of Kippen.
From 1908 onwards a separate ledger was used for the distributions from the Fyfe Bequest.

On 12th March 1909 Rev. Andrew Downie was ordained and inducted to be minister of the Parish of Kemnay. He died quite suddenly on 29th December 1923. His ministry of almost fifteen years was commemorated in glowing terms in the Kirk Session Minute book.

Following the death of Mrs Isabella Proctor, widow of Rev. George Proctor, on 22nd March 1911, the Kirk Session received a legacy of £100, the free income of which was to be paid "in one sum, to one person, the oldest deserving case in the parish".

It was intimated on 4th July 1915 that Alexander C. Milne of Roslyn Cottage, Kemnay had left £50 sterling, the interest from which was to be "expended for behoof of the poor of the Parish not in receipt of Parochial Relief". The Kirk Session invested this money in War Loan Stock. In the 1901 census he is listed as being aged 71 years, a retired blacksmith who had been born in Fintrray. Living with him were two sisters, Margaret (76) and Elizabeth (73), both were stated to be housekeepers.

On 19th December 1924 it was announced that a legacy of £200 had been received from the estate of the late Robert McDonald of Mains Cottage, Kemnay, the terms of which state: "that the Kirk Session do invest the same and, after payment of five shillings per annum to the Sexton of the Parish for keeping the Testator's grave in order, do pay over the free annual income to the Womans Guild and to the deserving poor of the parish belonging to the congregation who are not in receipt of parochial relief or old age pensions in the proportion of Two Thirds to the Guild and One Third to the deserving poor". The money was invested in 5% War Loan 1929 – 1947.

A native of Udny, Robert McDonald came early to Kemnay as a gardener at Kemnay House and remained there the rest of his working life, eventually rising to the post of forester. Both Robert and his wife Margaret ended their days at Mains Cottage on Paradise Road in the village.

Since time immemorial the buildings used by the church had belonged to the local laird (since 1688, Burnett's of Kemnay) who had also been responsible for the upkeep of the same. With the introduction of The Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act of 1925 all buildings were to be vested with the Church of Scotland Trustees. Along with this transfer, the heritors were to pay over a sum which would absolve them of any responsibility for future maintenance of these buildings. In the case of Kemnay, £800 was given towards the church and £300 towards the Manse and other buildings. The Kirk Session decided that improvements be carried out to their properties. The church was enlarged by the building of the chancel area, re-flooring the body of the church and reseating the lower area and the inserting of the wooden roof trusses and linings amongst others. The church was rededicated on 5th May 1929 by Very Rev. Dr. Montgomery Campbell, then Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

CARE OF THE POOR

In times gone by not only did the church care for the souls of the folk of the parish, they were also entrusted with looking after the poor, a system which had been enshrined in law since 1579. Funding for this purpose came from various sources; invested capital, annual donations from the heritors of the parish (Burnett of Kemnay House and the Earl of Kintore who owned the southernmost part of the parish – the farms of Lauchentilly and Scrapehard) - income from the letting of seats in the church, church collections and income from fines paid by those who committed misdemeanours etc.

Alexander Reid started his ministry in Kemnay in July 1758 and he soon met with the Kirk Session to find out the state of their funds. One of the first actions taken was to let the pews in the church. Each family wishing to paid money for the right to use a certain pew within the church – a practice that lasted, off and on, into the second half of the 20th century. The money thus collected was disbursed; the schoolmaster received 6 shillings (30p) for teaching poor boys, 9/5d (47p) was paid to eight named people, the Kirk Officer received a year's salary 9/- (45p) as also 7d (3p) for digging a grave to a poor woman. These amounts are all in sterling and related specifically to the meeting dated above, values vary according to circumstance.

The Session then set about calculating what funds were available to the church. First, there was twelve pounds Scots (96p – that does not take into account any multiplier over the years) in the care of Alexander Law in Craigearn, one of the elders; 5 pounds Scots in the hands of James Mackie in Scrapehard; it was also revealed that the schoolmaster was due £4 11s 4d sterling at the forthcoming term of Martinmas.

The previous minister, Mr Peter Simpson, had given Alexander Reid, the present minister, a bond of the Laird of Kemnay for the sum of 3100 merks Scots, due to the Kirk Session, of which 850 merks Scots were mortifications to the schoolmaster by Sir Thomas Crombie & Strachan, former Lairds of Kemnay, and the remainder, 2300 merks Scots, belonged to the poor of the Parish.  Mr Peter Simpson had also furnished Mr Reid with a statement of the account between the Laird of Kemnay (George Burnett) and the Kirk Session from which it was noted that Burnett was somewhat in arrears with his payments of interest on his bond. Peter Simpson had also money belonging to the Session amounting to 100 merks Scots. The total funds belonging to the church amounted to 3200 merks Scots.

The minister announced to the Session that the west gallery of the church (this was the building previous to the present building and sat on an east west axis) was somewhat decayed and that there was a shortage of seats for the people. The Laird had been proposing that the west gallery should be repaired and a new gallery erected on the north side of the church. This could be funded from some of the Kirk's capital and the pews could then be let, with the income then used to help the poor. This action was agreed on by the Session and the work was let to Barzill Law, a wright from Midmar.

There was much poverty around the area and in times of need the people looked to the Kirk for help. In August 1758 there had been several approaches made to the minister for assistance; "and particularly a poorman John Craig in Craigearn had been petitioning for something to enable him to buy a Cow for the support of his young family". It was also noted that the Kirk had several coffins for poor people to pay for and some of the poor had needed shoes amongst other articles. It was agreed to give John Craig one guinea. Barbara Montgomerie, one of the recipients of poor relief from the Session had recently died and it was agreed that her effects should be auctioned off in order to help to pay her funeral expenses. One of the elders along with the Session Clerk were ordered to oversee the sale and receive the money.

LIFE IN THE 18TH CENTURY

It will be remembered that when Alexander Reid started his ministry at Kemnay in 1758 it was noted that Alexander Law in Craigearn held 12 pounds Scots money belonging to the Session. In July 1759 it was reported that he had died the previous August leaving his family "in a very poor way." It was decided that they could not expect payment of the money but his widow "agreed to give up to the Session a seat which he had built on his own charges" - this the Session accepted. It was also reported at this time that the new galleries in the church were nearly completed and it was decided to let these and the rest of the seats in the Kirk on the 10th July.

Distributions to the poor took place four times a year, around February, June, August and November, with other needy cases being supplied when they arose. The treasurer, or boxmaster as he was referred to, was appointed annually from the Session and given the key of the box, hence the name. The Poor's Box, which is still in existence, held all the Kirk's finances and had two keys, one of which was held by the boxmaster, the other by the minister.
Besides the income from letting seats in the church there were other sources from which the poor could benefit. One of these was income from leasing the mortcloth. This was a pall (a decorated cloth of velvet) which covered the coffin on its journey to the churchyard – the charges being 1/6d (7.5p) to parishioners and 2/- (10p) to those from outwith the parish. Fines imposed by the Kirk Session brought in further monies – offences included; antenuptial fornication, or bearing a child in uncleanness (outside wedlock). There is no doubt that these offences were pursued in an attempt to raise the morality of the people. There is one case (in 1767) of a lass who had fallen pregnant whilst in employment here and later moved to St Fergus. She had to return to Kemnay to answer discipline in the church. The male involved announced that he "instantly was to leave the Country", appeared before the congregation and was "rebuked and absolved". The lass, on the other hand, appeared before the congregation on three consecutive Sundays to be rebuked before being absolved on the third occasion of her appearance. Quite often these offences were dealt with by the Session, each party paying a fine of 10/- (50p) a not inconsiderable sum at that time. Cases of adultery could attract a fine of £1.

In these far off times before the days of a welfare state a collection was taken up annually for the Infirmary in Aberdeen. Whereas the normal weekly collections were around the two shilling mark, the collection for the Infirmary came to between £2 10s and £3 – evidence that the folk appreciated the existence of the Infirmary.

PAROCHIAL BOARD

The quarterly distributions to the poor carried on until 19th October 1845 when the following announcement was made from the pulpit: "The Board of Supervision for the relief of the Poor have fixed Tuesday the 28th day of October Current for the first meeting of the Parochial Board of the Parish of Kemnay, under the provisions of the Statute 8 & 9 Vict. Chap. 83 Sec. 32. The Meeting will take place in the Church of Kemnay at 12 o' clock noon."
Despite the fine new title the body was still very much Kirk led – the attendees being; the Chairman, Revd. George Peter the others at the meeting were Messrs John Malcolm, William Malcolm, John Tough, elders and Mr Andrew Stevenson, elder and Session Clerk. Dr John Robert Trail Esq M.D. was appointed Inspector of the Poor for the Parish and he was to receive £5 per year. The Chairman, John Blaikie Esqr Advocate, agent for the heritors, and William Malcolm, Craigearn, were appointed as a committee to "take into consideration the State of the Poor's Funds" and the meeting was adjourned until the next quarterly distribution.

The quarterly distributions continued more or less as previously including payments to the Precentor, Officer's shoes and penny, Schoolmaster's interest, and the Inspector's salary. At the Board meeting held on 4th November 1846, Dr Trail, in a letter, declined re-election as Inspector of the Poor and Alexander Duncan in Dalmadilly was appointed in his place.

At the half yearly meeting of the Parochial Board held on 5th February 1850, the Minister and Elders unanimously expressed a desire that an assessment should be made to raise funds for distribution, and what was left to be kept as a reserve in case of crop failure or other calamity. Mr Macdonald, representing Mr Burnett of Kemnay and the Earl of Kintore- the two heritors of the parish - opposed raising funds as long as there were any of the existing funds left. The treasurer was instructed to uplift the remaining moneys in the hands of the City of Aberdeen and lodge it in the Town and County Bank in Inverury for convenience. The minutes of meetings following 5th February 1850 are contained in a standardised Minute Book – the pages being headed: MINUTES of the PAROCHIAL BOARD of …

SUMMARY OF THE 20TH CENTURY POOR FUNDS.

When the Poor Law (Scotland) Act 1845 came into being, all monies and endowments belonging to the Kirk Session had to be disbursed (see immediately above), in accordance with the terms of the newly appointed Board of Supervision for relief of the Poor, before the Parochial Board would permit the raising of monies for the support of the poor by assessment on the people of the parish. This meant that these legacies, some dating back to the early 17th century, became a thing of the past.

All legacies now in the care of the Kirk Session date from the early 20th century and include: John Fyfe Bequest; Alexander Milne bequest; George Proctor bequest; Robert McDonald bequest; monies are also received from the trustees of the Dr. John Anderson Trust and John Burnett Mortification, both of which are managed by trustees independent of the local Kirk.

FYFE BEQUEST

John Fyfe, quarrymaster, who operated the quarries at Paradise Hill, Kemnay from 1858, amongst others, left the sum of £1000 (following his death in 1906) "to the Kirk Session of Kemnay for behoof of poor persons natives of and resident within said parish who are not in receipt of Parochial relief: declaring that the said Kirk Session by acceptance of this legacy shall be bound to hold in trust and invest the said sum of one thousand pounds, and to apply the free annual income thereof for behoof of such poor persons in such proportions and in such manner as the Kirk Session may from time to time judge proper".

MILNE BEQUEST

It was intimated on 4th July 1915 that Alexander C. Milne of Roslyn Cottage, Kemnay had left £50 sterling, the interest from which was to be "expended for behoof of the poor of the Parish not in receipt of Parochial Relief".

PROCTOR BEQUEST

Following the death of Mrs Isabella Proctor, widow of Rev. George Proctor, on 22nd March 1911, the Kirk Session received a legacy of £100, the free income of which was to be paid "in one sum, to one person, the oldest deserving case in the parish".

MCDONALD BEQUEST

On 19th December 1924 it was announced that a legacy of £200 had been received from the estate of the late Robert McDonald of Mains Cottage, Kemnay, the terms of which state: "that the Kirk Session do invest the same and, after payment of five shillings per annum to the Sexton of the Parish for keeping the Testator's grave in order, do pay over the free annual income to the Womans Guild and to the deserving poor of the parish belonging to the congregation who are not in receipt of parochial relief or old age pensions in the proportion of Two Thirds to the Guild and One Third to the deserving poor".

Dr. JOHN ANDERSON'S TRUST

Amongst other bequests in the will of John Anderson of the Island of St. Christopher's, Clerk, dated 3rd July 1735, and registered in the presence of the Lords of Council and Session in their Lordships' Books at Edinburgh the 10th October 1740, is one of … "ten pounds sterling yearly, payable at the said term [Martimass], to the poor of the Parish of Kemnay," …

JOHN BURNETT MORTIFICATION

In the will of John Burnett, merchant of Aberdeen, dated 24th March 1783 and registered in the Sheriff Court Books of Aberdeen on 12th September 1803, he directed that monies be paid out to most parishes within the Synod of Aberdeen, but excluding the town and Parish of Aberdeen, in rotation throughout each Presbytery according to the size of the respective congregations with a maximum payout of £50 and a minimum sum of £20 both sterling money. At the present time (2019) each parish receives a disbursement every third year.

As the 20th century moved on the need for distributions to the poor became less and less – basically the original remit of these bequests was now obsolete as everyone was entitled to relief from the government by way of pensions etc.

In March 1983 the Kirk Session decided to sell off their poor funds investments. £1299.55 was invested in 3½% War Stock which realised £441.24; £363.19 was in 3% British Transport Stock which realised £264.68 making a total of £705.92. The Kirk Session made this up to £1000 which was invested in City of Edinburgh Bonds at 11% redeemable in March 1990. At a distribution on 14th February 1983 one person received £22 in cash, one received coal to the value of £22 and 11 people received £22 of electricity stamps.

At the present time (2019) the Benevolent Funds belonging to Kemnay Parish Church are invested in Church of Scotland Investors Trust and their use is at the discretion of the Parish Minister.

 

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