In the Beginning…

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“In the beginning ….” (Genesis 1:1)

The birth of Ferintosh Church occurred on 30 October 1900 when a majority of the members of the General Assembly of the Free Church, meeting in Edinburgh, united with members of the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church to form a new association known as the United Free Church of Scotland.

Following this Union, the new UF Church felt it had a right to take over all possessions and funds of the Free Church. Not surprisingly, the Free Church thought differently and raised an action in the Law Courts, culminating in an appeal to the House of Lords in August 1904 which found in favour of the Free Church minority. This decision was unacceptable to the UF Church and support was sought from the Government to overturn the decision of the House of Lords, resulting in The Churches (Scotland) Act 1905 which took possession of all Free Church property, with power to a Royal Commission to allocate the property between both churches.

In the first four years of the life of the new UF Church, the Rev Roderick Mackenzie, who had been Free Church minister in Maryburgh until 1900 when he was reported in the Ross-shire Journal as having “the support of practically the entire congregation in his attitude to entering the UF Church”, had remained in occupation of the Maryburgh manse and conducted services in the Maryburgh (now styled UF) Church. However, the chairman of the Royal Commission granted joint temporary occupancy of the Maryburgh Church to both congregations. The UF Church held Gaelic services at 11.00 am and English at 3.00 pm, and on each alternate Sunday at 6.30 pm, while the Free Church congregation worshipped at 12.00 noon for Gaelic and at 1.15 pm for English, alternating with the UF Church on Sundays at 6.30 pm. Prior to this arrangement, those who elected to remain within the Free Church worshipped with the Dingwall Free Church congregation in the Masonic Hall, Dingwall (in future to become ‘the Picture House’), and sometimes in Maryburgh School.

Returning for a moment to 1900, a report in November of that year on the first meeting of the United Free Presbytery in Dingwall finds a deputation from the Ferintosh congregation “favourable to the Union” asking Presbytery “to arrange to have services”, but Presbytery did not wish to interfere until they knew the position adopted by Rev Donald Munro, minister of Ferintosh Free Church. Later it transpired that Rev Donald Munro wished to remain within the Free Church, and so the Ferintosh UF section had no church building in which to worship, using instead the Kinkell School in the following years.

In March, 1905, the Free Church decided to withdraw from the Commission and on 31st March interdict proceedings were introduced in the Court of Session on behalf of the Maryburgh congregation in order to gain sole possession of the church property, since they felt that joint occupancy had been found to be unsuitable and unworkable.

A meeting of the Church Commission took place in Maryburgh School in May 1906 to take evidence on the subject. It is reported that about 20 witnesses were called and that at times “the Commissioner had to sternly repress undue exuberance of feelings”. The outcome was that, in October of that year, the Commission allocated the Maryburgh property to the Free Church congregation.

In view of the decision in favour of the Free Church, on 25 January 1907 the Rev Roderick Mackenzie vacated the manse at 1.30 pm. Standing on the doorstep, and surrounded by the United Free Church elders, Mr Mackenzie read a psalm, offered a prayer, and then read a protest. The elders who signed the protest were: William Mackenzie, Session Clerk; D Mackenzie; William Macintosh; John M Mackenzie; John Murray; Donald Mackay; Duncan Logan.

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Rev Roderick Mackenzie continued to live in a house in Maryburgh, having obtained temporary tenancy.

On 10 January 1908 the Ross-shire Journal reported: “The Maryburgh United Free Church congregation met in Maryburgh public school on Tuesday evening. Rev R Mackenzie presided and two important points came before the meeting: first, the question of amalgamating with the Ferintosh section of the United Free Church, the new name to be Maryburgh and Ferintosh United Free Church congregation. The second item was the question of a site for the new church and manse.”

The meeting agreed unanimously to the amalgamation of the congregations of Maryburgh and Ferintosh and to acceptance of the site in Conon Bridge offered by Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, Bart. of Gairloch.

And so the way was opened to establish what we now call Ferintosh Parish Church.

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