A KIRK OR A MILL: DUNDEE AND THE DISRUPTION OF 1843
by Ian McCraw. (March 1997 Lecture to the FDCA)
There is a story of a mid-nineteenth century traveller arriving in a small Scottish town and remarking to his cab driver, "What a lot of church spires - the people must be full of religious fervour." To which the cabbie replied, "It's nae religious fervour ava - it's cussedness of temper!"
The distinguished churchman, Norman Macleod, would have understood what the cabbie was saying, for he wrote in 1870, "Who does not know the happy valley with two or three good men, good ministers, all Presbyterians, engaged to do the work for which one is amply adequate? They preach the same Gospel, use the same form of worship and government, and are, in short, severed by a line so narrow, that when they do their duty faithfully, they may preach and work for months and years without ever reminding their hearers that it exists. Is it needful, is it right to perpetuate such divisions?"
My talk is about the most important of these divisions - the Disruption of 1843, principally as it affected Dundee. However, to try to understand the reasons for the Disruption we have to go back to 1712. In 1690 the presbyterian government of the Church of Scotland had been established but, after the Union of 1707, the Patronage Act of 1712 had given back to local lairds the right to appoint a minister to the parish, regardless of the wishes of the congregation. In the burghs the Town Council was normally the patron.
Arguably the system which produced Patronage was in essence a good one. From the Reformation the ordinances of religion were provided in all parishes absolutely free to the people of the parish. The heritors provided the stipend of the minister - stipend was based on teinds which came to be commuted for cash determined by the findings of the Fiars Court. The heritors also provided and maintained a church and a manse, usually with a glebe. It was perhaps understandable that they should wish to choose the minister who would enjoy the benefits they were providing.
During the eighteenth century there were several secessions from the Church of Scotland in opposition to patronage principally those of 1733 (Ebenezer Erskine) and 1761 (Thomas Gillespie). The sect of 1733 tended to divide again and again over issues which now seem obscure but clearly at the time were not so regarded. We thus end up with names such as the New Light Burghers which to modern ears might suggest a recently opened fast food outlet! The first Secession congregation in Dundee was School Wynd Church which dates from 1738.
There were in the eighteenth century two parties in the Church of Scotland - the Evangelical or High Flyers who were very opposed to patronage and the Moderates who were prepared to obey the law of patronage. Some of the Moderates regarded patronage as a good thing for the Church as a means of providing a better ministry. After all, they argued, patrons were men of position, better educated and more able to judge the qualities of a candidate than the unlettered folk who formed the bulk of the congregations. Sometimes one wing held sway, sometimes the other. The General Assembly which passed an act forbidding ministers to countenance the theatre was Evangelical in character ( a minister had written the play The Douglas which had been received with rapturous applause) while the General Assembly which adjusted its business so that its commissioners could attend the theatre to watch Mrs Siddons was Moderate.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s another factor emerged. There had been a substantial increase in the size of many towns with the Industrial Revolution. In the country there were demographic changes with new communities developing, often far away from the parish church. New churches were needed to serve these situations. The creation of what were known as Chapels of Ease helped relieve this problem but also caused others. A Chapel of Ease did not have its own kirk session, its own parish and had no seats on Presbytery, thus creating a two-tier system of government. Moreover, church door collections in parish churches were a main source for the relief of the poor, supplemented, if necessary, by an assessment on the heritors. The heritors were averse to seeing their assessment increase, as the existence of a chapel might do.
In Dundee in the 1770s there was a demand for a new church as the burgh churches were insufficient for the growing population. The Town Council as patron would not provide extra accommodation and the Trades and the Kirk Session of Dundee built the very fine St Andrews Church on the edge of the town with the help of subscriptions. However, the Town Council did later acknowledge the need for additional burgh churches. In 1788 the Steeple Church was built between St Mary's Tower and the other three burgh kirks and in 1823 the Council bought a building from the Haldaneites known as The Tabernacle and erected a new parish of St David's.
Following the passing of the Chapels Act of 1834 there was a spate of church building in Dundee: St Peter's in 1836, Hilltown in 1838, Dudhope and Wallacetown in 1840. (the last two largely through the efforts of the Revs John Roxburgh and Murray McCheyne). These chapels were not endowed and provision of stipend came from seat rents and collections. Referring to Dud-hope, presbytery recommended "the utmost economy that may be consistent with the neatness and respectability of a house devoted to the worship of God."
In the 1830s General Assemblies legislated to resolve these difficulties but it put them on a collision course with the civil courts. Various court cases made the parting of the ways inescapable. In the years immediately preceding the Disruption many public meetings were held throughout the country to debate the issues. I would like to mention one such gathering which took place in Dundee in 1841.
The meeting was arranged for 26 January, 1841, in St Andrews Church, and, as a large turnout was expected, admittance was by ticket only. However, the organisers were advised that tickets had been forged and it was necessary to issue fresh tickets. The civil authorities clearly expected trouble for on the evening a large contingent of police, augmented by special constables, was on duty. The church was well filled and the gates at the entrance to the church drive were locked and guarded by officers, but a large crowd, estimated to have grown to between 4 and 5,000, gathered outside demanding entry. This represented a large proportion of Dundee's populace which was around 50,000 at the time. Stones were thrown, an attempt was made to break down one of the gates with a plank used as a battering ram, and threats were made to break the church windows and set fire to it. The magistrates were called for and the church meeting was terminated in the interests of public safety. The police dispersed the crowd with a baton charge. Several officers were injured, including the lieutenant in charge.
Five men were tried and convicted of mobbing and rioting in connection with the incident. This was a time of Chartist agitation and the rioters had attempted to hijack the meeting for their own purposes. Those inside the church, which has a capacity of over 1,000, seem to have had, in the main, a genuine interest in the subject of the meeting.
The schism in the Kirk finally came in May 1843. When the General Assembly met in St Andrew's Church in George Street, Edinburgh, the retiring moderator, Dr Welsh, announced that he could not constitute it as it was not a free assembly and he left the chair and walked out of the church followed by around 200 ministers and elders who were joined by many others waiting outside who were not commissioners. Huge crowds had formed in anticipation of the secession, and the procession walked along George Street and down Hanover Street and Dundas Street through a mass of cheering people to Canonmills, where a hall had been prepared where the Free Church of Scotland was constituted and Dr Thomas Chalmers elected its first Moderator.
Lord Cockburn, the judge and man of letters, wrote, "It is the most honourable feat for Scotland that its whole history supplies". His friend and fellow judge, Lord Jeffrey exclaimed, "I'm proud of my country; there is not another country on earth where such a deed could have been done." Said a minister from the continent, "What would I not give to witness the like of this in my own country." The Morning Advertiser declared: 'The world has witnessed no moral event of equal importance for the last two centuries."
You can look at the Disruption from two standpoints. The idea of a man resigning on an important matter of principle, the dramatic occasion and the procession which I have just described, followed by a congregation leaving their church and working hard to build a new place of worship, the temporary difficulties of services held in a makeshift sanctuary, such as an old factory or even a tent, all appeals to our romantic leanings.
However, there is the other side. It may have been acceptable for a minister in the full vigour of life to secede, perhaps not yet having acquired many family responsibilities, but what of an older man, or someone in poor health, or with a large family. Not only was he giving up his appointment with its secure income, but he was vacating his and his family's home, uncertain that those who followed him would be able to pay his stipend, and then probably at a lower level than he had been receiving. His followers would also need to raise the capital to build a church and acquire a manse, and possibly a schoolroom. Remember too that a minister of the Church of Scotland held a public office and could not be removed, except for serious misconduct. As a minister of the Free Church his only security was as a party to a private contract. Nevertheless, over a third of the ministers of the Church of Scotland left for the Free Church, along with a similar proportion of the membership, demonstrating that principle had really triumphed over self interest.
The initial reaction when ministers returned to their parishes was not always favourable. George Lewis, of St David's Dundee said that his decision "was received generally in solemn silence, not infrequently, also, with a look of doubt and hesitation, as if enquiring whether we had done wisely. . The prudence and caution of the national character now showed itself as decidedly as its love of the logic and discussion of the question in the preceding ten years. They seemed to hang back and shrink from the practical issue, as if a thing never in their contemplation. The more outspoken would say, 'I hope you have well thought of it' 'Are you sure there is no other course?' 'Have you not been hasty?' (After ten years!). In my then state of mind, it seemed as if the people were about to desert their ministers and they were about to be left alone in that sacrifice to principle." He was soon to be undeceived.
In years to come the romantic side was played up by the Free Church as pictures from Annals of the Disruption show, illustrating the difficulties experienced at the time of obtaining sites for places of worship.
Let us look at the pre and post Disruption situation in Dundee. Until 1841 the burgh churches (what we for long have called the city churches) consisted of five churches, four under one roof, namely, East or St Mary's, the South Church or St Paul's with two collegiate charges, The Cross Kirk or St John's, and the Steeple Kirk or St Clement's. The other town kirk was St David's in Tay Street. The Town Council were patrons, they presented the ministers, paid the stipends, and maintained the buildings. There was an added complication in Dundee. On Sunday, 3rd January, 1841, two years before the Disruption, fire gutted the East, South and Cross churches, leaving only the Steeple Church. Temporary arrangements had to be made by the Town Council for the worship of the congregations. In May, 1843, the East Church was worshipping in the former Original Secession Church in Reform Street, the Cross in the new Gaelic Chapel in South Tay Street, and the South in Lindsay Street Independent Chapel.
There were a number of other churches in the town, the Cowgate Kirk, (St Andrew's) and several new churches, some of which I mentioned previously - St Peter's, Dudhope, Wal-lacetown, Chapelshade, Hilltown. There was also the original Gaelic Chapel in Long Wynd. This congregation had built their new church in Tay Street but had been unable to meet the costs. Willison Church had recently joined the Established Church, it having been a Secession Church. The Seaman's Mission had been started in 1839 and used a hall in Castle Street known as the Caledonian Hall for its meetings. This was in the building occupied in recent years by Stephens the ironmongers.
Following the Disruption it was a greatly depleted Established Presbytery that assembled in the Town House on 1 June to deal with the business of the Kirk within its bounds. Its bounds included the country area extending to Monikie in the East, Auchterhouse in the north and Kinnaird in the west. There was no moderator as he had left for the Free Church and Dr Cannan, the minister of Mains and Strathmartine took the chair. The meeting could not be constituted as there was no bible and the door keeper was sent to borrow one from a nearby bookseller. A letter was read from the Clerk who, after 32 years in office and clearly aware of the heavy workload about to materialise, wished to make way for a younger man. While only two of the six ministers holding town charges had left for the Free Church, both young men, all of the ministers of the other eight churches had seceded. In addition St Peter's was vacant due to the death of the saintly McCheyne who had been planning to join the Free Church. The St Mary's miniser who remained in, Dr McLachlan, was 80 while Mr Thomson of St Clement's was 72. The career of the artistic Dr Arnot of St Paul's (he was painter, sculptor and musician) was to benefit by remaining in place, for in September he was called to the prestigious charge of the High Kirk of Edinburgh, commonly called St Giles' Cathedral. He also became chaplain to the Royal Scottish Academy. David Davidson, minister of Broughty Ferry Chapel of Ease, now known as St Aidan's, signed the Protest on his deathbed, dying a few weeks later, aged 41.
In some congregations most of the people seem to have left for the Free Church. Even in those cases where the minister remained in the Establishment there was an exodus. On the Sunday after the Disruption, according to the offerings book, the collection at the door of St David's Church amounted to 6d [2½p]. According to one account, when the sittings in St David's came to be let, after the Disruption, they were advertised for a fortnight but not one was taken up. In St John's only one seat was taken and that was by a poor old woman by mistake.
In St David's Mr Lewis had delivered a series of six talks explaining the church division and on the last night over 400 signed their adherence to the Free Church (a figure that was later nearly doubled). When Mr Lewis looked over the list he wrote that "it was obvious that both the intelligence and heart of the congregation were with us ...All who had been most ready to do aught for the young ...all who took an interest in missions in our Church at home and abroad ... all who were readers of Scottish history, or ever took an interest in questions peculiarly national and Scottish".
Some congregations were able to stay put, while still adhering to the Free Church. Several churches had considerable debt outstanding, having been built on the strength of bonds taken out by wealthy individuals. Clearly, it was not to the advantage of the Establishment to take over these buildings, especially when most of the congregation had seceded. This happened in the case of St Peter's.
Where a minister and most of his congregation had to leave their building alternative accommodation had to be arranged. One of the most celebrated leaders of the Free Church, Brechin-born Dr Thomas Guthrie, declared just before the Disruption, "We shall give them their stipends, their manses, their glebes, and their churches. These are theirs, and let them make a kirk or a mill of them." In Dundee in a number of instances the choice literally WAS a kirk or a mill. You could stay put in the kirk or join the Free Church in a mill. The evangelical Rev James Ewing, minister of St Andrew's took most of his flock to a mill in King Street made available by Baxter Brothers. On the Sunday following the Disruption there were not less than 1,300 present. Even the congregation's library went over to the Free Church resulting in a dispute over its ownership. A complication here was that St Andrew's was the Trades Kirk. Some members of the Trades who joined the Free Church continued to serve on the committee of management of St Andrew's, refusing to resign. In Lochee the people kept their church for two years until they were forced to leave it for a mill loft. Mr Roxburgh and the St John's Cross seceders had a factory loft in Perth Road fitted out as a temporary place of worship.
The Established Presbytery had a lot of business to conduct over the next few months, indeed for several years. Ministers had to be officially removed from office, congregations had to be preached vacant, a difficult task in those instances where the new Free Church congregation had retained the building. Court action was resorted to in order to recover certain churches (Chapelshade, Wallacetown where the Free Church people remained until 1853) New ministers had to be inducted to the vacant charges. There seems to have been quite a pool of ministers available. Indeed, throughout Scotland there were between 600 and 700 licentiates waiting for churches.
There was also the problem of the schools. Some Established churches ran a school known as a Sessional School or an Assembly School and antagonism was such that the Free Church people would not continue sending their children to those schools. One such school had been started by Mr Ewing in William Street when minister of St Andrew's. In some cases schoolmasters adhered to the Free Church and were liable to dismissal by the Establishment. There was a bitter correspondence in the press over St David's school in Brown Street, between an ex-provost and Mr George Lewis, the minister of St David's who had gone over to the Free Church and wished to take the school with him. The Presbytery was petitioned by those members of Lochee Chapel wishing to remain within the Establishment who complained that the "General Assembly's school has been used since the Disruption for preaching and other schismatic purposes, the school vacated and the children set at liberty." There was no complaint from the children! Some Free churches set up their own schools. For example Mr Ewing now of Free St Andrew's opened a school in Meadowside under Mr Alexander Hood, schoolmaster.
As I mentioned earlier the Burgh Churches were provided and maintained by the Town Council. However, the councillors were now largely Free Church. The Council delayed presenting ministers to the vacant Cross and St David's churches. They also reduced the stipends of the Burgh charges resulting in a long running and very costly court action which ended in the Town Council receiving one of the severest censures ever pronounced by the Court of Session. They avoided rebuilding the South and Cross Churches which were in ruins, although as mentioned earlier they did provide alternative accommodation. It was not until 1847 that the new South Church between the Steeple and St Mary's Churches was built. The Cross was not rebuilt.
The Free Church Presbytery was constituted for the first time on 7 June, 1843 in the vestry of St Peter's Church. Although they declared that they were "now without the pale of the Establishment" they emphasised their adherence to the constitution and fundamental standards of the Church of Scotland. This is important as it explains why they did not wish to join up with certain of the other seceding churches, the United Secession, the Relief Church (these two joined in 1847 to become the United Presbyterian Church), the Original Secession, or the Reformed Presbyterians. The salient point was that the UPs were in favour of voluntaryism with no State connection, while at this stage the Free Church still supported Church and State.
One of the first acts of the Free Church Presbytery was to ordain the Rev James Law. Mr Law had been the Seaman's chaplain in charge of the mission which met in the Caledonian Hall in Castle Street. However, the Vicar of Bray had nothing on Mr Law who had been an Episcopalian, then an Original Seceder, before joining the Established Church. Now he had turned to the Free Church. Before the Disruption the substantial sum of £1,000 had been subscribed for a Seaman's Chapel but no building had been acquired. In the circumstances of the Disruption it was considered appropriate to return the money to the subscribers but most of it was immediately re-subscribed for the Free Church and a hall in Reform Street was purchased for the congregation's use as a church to be known as Mariners'.
Not long after his ordination Mr Law was in trouble with the Free Presbytery. He had been levying fees on couples being married which was against church law. He was also accused of allowing his pulpit to be occupied in his absence by Irvingite preachers known as 'angels'. The followers of the Irvingites in Dundee, named after Edward Irving, an expelled Church of Scotland minister, were led by Charles Boase, manager of the Dundee Banking Company. They became known as the Catholic Apostolic Church and Boase became bishop of the sect. Shortly after his dispute with the Free Church Mr Law applied, with some of his congregation, for readmission to the Church of Scotland. The Free Church were probably relieved to be rid of him, while the Established Church may have welcomed an early defection from the Free Church. Mr Law and his followers, who oddly included a large contingent of lady admirers, now returned to the Caledonian Hall. Now back in the Established Church he almost at once became the centre of what, at the time, was regarded as a public sensation and he was duly suspended by the Established Presbytery. It came to light that he had been in correspondence with the Bishop of London with a view to taking orders in the Church of England. Indeed, he had travelled to London in this connection. The issue was featured widely in the press throughout the country. However, in due course his suspension was lifted and he went on to serve in the Church of Scotland at Kirriemuir and then at Arbroath. His eccentricity manifested itself in Arbroath, for he insisted on joining as a private a company of Volunteers and drilling with them although by then he was in his sixties.
To return to the Free Church Presbytery. One of their problems was to accommodate the people who had left the burgh churches but whose ministers had remained in the Auld Kirk. There were about 2,000 of them and in due course a Central Congregation of the Free Church was formed. This was united with the remnant of the Mariners' Church to form St Paul's, worshipping in the building built in 1852 and now known as Meadowside St Paul's.
The Free Church nationally was soon to face a moral dilemma connected with its fund raising activities. Early in 1846 there arrived in Dundee an American called Frederick Douglass. Douglass was not his original name which had been Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He was a negro who had escaped from slavery and was on a two year speaking tour of Great Britain. Douglass, who had a commanding appearance and was a fine orator, contended that the Free Church had received monies from American churches which accepted slave holders as members and that these funds should be returned. Soon the call went out throughout Scotland to the Free Church leaders, "Send back the money!"
St Peter's Kirk Session discussed the issue and resolved that there should not be fellowship with such churches and any money which had been received should be repaid, and asked that their deliverance be put before Presbytery. The February meeting of Presbytery was well attended and Mr Islay Burns, minister of St Peter's brought forward the motion. Representatives of the Free Church had travelled to America late in 1843 and had addressed churches there, receiving contributions to the Free Church Building Fund. Indeed two of the first to go had been Dr William Cunningham, one of the most prominent Free Church leaders, and Mr Fergusson, a merchant from Dundee. I think he may have been Mr Henry Fergusson of Dudhope Works. A New York clergyman had felt some surprise at the choice of Fergusson on meeting him until he heard him address a meeting. He then wished his speech of an hour and three quarters had been twice as long!
Mr Roxburgh of St John's reminded the meeting that the deputations had accepted assistance without attaching themselves to any party, of which there were several in America holding different views on the slave question. Mr Lewis of St David's, who had been a mem ber of a delegation, stated that the largest portion of the money had been contributed by Scotsmen or descendants of Scotsmen. While it would be no hard matter to return the money, estimated at £3,000 out of a total Building Fund of £300,000, it would be an insult to those who had donated it. It was agreed that the St Peter's resolution should lie on the table.
Abolition was more of an issue in Britain at the time than in America. Even the public of the Northern States were unwilling to adopt abolitionist policy which ran counter to the Constitution. Slave holding was recognised as a legitimate activity in some States and slaves escaping to other States had to be returned, (until Article XIII of 1865)
In the following month an Anti Slavery Soiree was held in George's Chapel. George's Chapel was the name given to School Wynd United Secession Church (next year following the union of the United Secession and Relief Churches it became United Presbyterian Church) whose minister was the Rev George Gilfillan (1836 -1878). The soiree was held in honour of Frederick Douglass and two companions, Messrs Wright and Buffum, and to approve of their objectives. The church was crowded, even the passageways were crammed. The platform party included two councillors, Mr Gilfillan, Rev David Marshall, minister of Lochee United Secession Church and Dr Wood, minister of the Established Church in Broughty Ferry. While protesting his general approval of the Free Church, Gilfillan proceeded to criticise it for having accepted funds from churches who admitted slave holders and for not returning the money. Clearly this was a great opportunity for those not in tune with the Free Church to have a go at it.
Douglass visited other parts of Scotland, and ladies in Edinburgh raised funds to assist him in buying his freedom and starting an anti slavery newspaper. During the Civil War he became a consultant to Lincoln. The Free Church did not "send back the money".
Nationally the Free Church opened a large number of schools. By 1869 there were almost 600 and the immense sum of £600,000 had been raised for educational purposes. In 1869 there were 14 Free Church schools in Dundee. Many of them were probably quite small and located in the church premises. Following the establishment of School Boards in 1872 some of them were taken over. There were four former Free Church schools under the Dundee School Board in I878. Four of the Free Church schools continued to operate under the Church. Teacher Training Colleges were also established. The scholastic standards of the Free Church schools came to be regarded as the highest in the country. A Government report of I867 stated, 'The actual work done by the Free Church schools was quite as high as that done in the average parochial schools." The Free Church also raised money to set up its own Theological Colleges in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow, as well as to fund overseas missionary work. It even organised emigration, establishing a colony at Otago in New Zealand in 1848. This settlement, which was led by the Rev Dr Thomas Burns, nephew of the poet, was originally called New Edinburgh but renamed Dunedin.
Despite its initial huge loss of membership in Dundee the Established Church seems to have made this up relatively quickly, due partly to the increasing population. There was . also apostasy for some people objected to the regular financial demands made on them by the new denomination. In order to fund the Free Church a Sustentation Fund was established, and monthly visits were made to members by office-bearers to collect their contributions. In the years between the Disruption and 1874 the total sum of £10,750,000 was raised. In present day terms I suppose this would be at least £500,000.000.
While the Free Church was supposed to be more democratic, in time a few individuals would sometimes wield the main control in a congregation and no doubt some people would become disillusioned and drift away, perhaps to the Auld Kirk. The Free Church seems to have had special success among the upwardly mobile middle class and the skilled artisans. Its financial demands may have limited its appeal to the urban poor.
In one case, Free St John's, a body of members disagreed with its affairs and left to form a new Free Church congregation meeting initially in the Thistle Hall, Union Street, under the Rev William Knight. A church called St Enoch's was opened in Nethergate. Knight soon fell foul of the Free Church Presbytery, having preached in the Unitarian Chapel. As a result he left the Free Church and, along with his loyal congregation, was admitted to the Church of Scotland. He was the biographer and leading authority on the poet Wordsworth and later was appointed to the chair of Moral Philosophy in St Andrews University.
The expansion of the town saw all denominations opening new churches in recently developed areas. Some of the original churches built by the Free Church proved to be inadequate in various ways and several were given up for new buildings. For example Free St John's church in Park Wynd was disposed of and a fine new church built at the corner of Roseangie and Perth Road in 1884. The established St John's Cross Church remained in Tay Street, in the church intended for the Gaelic Congregation, until in 1912 under the leadership of Marshall Lang, they were transported from their insalubrious inner city location to Blackness Avenue, the centre of a developing area.
The Free Church was only in independent existence for 57 years. At the end of 1900 it merged with the United Presbyterian Church to form the United Free Church of Scotland, which in turn rejoined the Church of Scotland in 1929. The differences which had divided them had been largely removed. However, as always in church unions there were small groups which remained apart, some of which are still separate today. Unions of congregations and the movement of population have resulted in many of the buildings erected in the post Disruption period having disappeared or being put to other use.
Only two Disruption churches are still in use in the Dundee area, Strathmartine Church, built in 1845, has, however, been substantially altered from the original plain low building. Members of Liff Church left at the Disruption, meeting originally in a tent. A church was built in 1843, the local farmers giving and transporting the stones. This church is now known as Muirhead of Liff.
What did the Disruption achieve? What were its consequences? It certainly provided a lot of work for stone masons. Some of the buildings, particularly among the second generation ones, were fine buildings, for example Free St John's, now Roseangie Ryehill Church, and St Luke's, Broughty Ferry.
The stand on a matter of principle may be regarded as a fine manifestation of an element of the Scottish psyche. However, there is a thrawn streak in our national characteristics, and an earlier attempt at negotiation might have resulted in an acceptable accommodation. On the one hand it was divisive, further dividing Christians. On the other hand it brought about a great evangelical revival in Scotland. At a time when there was a population upheaval and parish kirks were often inconveniently located it helped to bring the ordinances of religion to the new housing areas. You will have noticed that at the date of the Disruption most of Dundee's churches were in the central area.
It will also not have escaped your notice that it occurred at a time of Reform. It was an opportunity for action to be taken to deal in some way with the educational shortcomings and the social wrongs. Dr Thomas Guthrie, a native of Brechin, and a Free Church minister in Edinburgh is renowned for having set up the Ragged Schools which provided shelter, training and education for hundreds of children who otherwise roamed the streets of Edinburgh. At his funeral a girl from his school was heard to say, "He was all the father I ever knew." Nearer home the Rev George Lewis, minister of St David's, and then of Free St David's, published in 1834, Scotland a half educated nation which pointed out the decline in the parochial system of education in early nineteenth century Scotland. In the 1840s he issued a series of pamphlets dealing with the social conditions in St David's parish, attributing some of the blame to absentee landlords. The railway meant that the wealthy could now live in the country or suburbs. He pointed out that, whereas there was one spirit shop for every twenty families, there was only one public school for the whole parish. The New Statistical Account under the date 1833 states that there were 3,700 children receiving education in 80 schools in Dundee. What it does not tell us is their quality, size, or location. In 1841 there were reported to be 280 children under the age of 14 in Aberdeen maintaining themselves by begging. I expect there were a similar number in Dundee. Dr Thomas Chalmers regarded the contemporary industrial society as dehumanising. He called for restored community values. John Roxburgh whom we met at St John's in Dundee had been fired by the enthusiasm of Dr Chalmers and his work in church extension and with the poor of Chalmers' parish in Glasgow, As a young man Roxburgh had been assigned the Cowcaddens in Glasgow, one of the worst localities in the city.
Free Church congregations tended to be financially more independent than the Establishment. In the Auld Kirk you did not have to pay the minister's stipend, nor upkeep the building. There was a collection for the poor fund. Even that had been financed formerly largely from the rent of mort cloths and fines for breach of discipline. Now those new Free Church congregations, or those who took responsibility for them through office, had to manage their affairs, maintain the fabric and steward the finances. No doubt in some instances the experience gained here fitted these individuals for responsibility in other spheres.
Writing in 1960, Sir Thomas Taylor, a distinguished elder of the Kirk, brought up in the Free Church tradition, held that the Disruption led to an immense quickening of spiritual life in Scotland, the effect of which lasted sixty or seventy years. By then of course most of the divisions had been healed and reunion had been achieved or was in course of being achieved.