The Story of Kirkmaiden Parish Church
In his map published from a survey made about 1610, the early mapmaker Pont shows the Parish Church - 'Kirk Madin' - on its traditional site on Mull Farm, near to the site marked 'Maiden's Cave'. (The variation in spelling is his). The outlines of this little kirk are just discernible as grass covered mounds near to what was known in living memory as the Kirk Burn. Before the Reformation, this Church was served by the monks of Soulseat Abbey, in the Parish of Inch.
After the Reformation, by an Act of Parliament of 1587, the Church of Kirkmaiden was vested in the King, James V1. The patronage was included with the grant of lands of Drummore by James to Ninian Adair of Kinhilt in 1602, and was eventually passed with these lands into the possession of the Earl of Stair.
The story of this old Church begins in 1638. In that year the Presbytery of Stranraer received a petition from the Kirk Session of Kirkmaiden that a new church be built for the Parish on a site more convenient to the needs of the people. The Kirk Session's petition was granted, but a dispute involving the Heritors - the landowners of the Parish - delayed the completion of the building for some years. However, the year 1638 being the year when the National Covenant was signed in churches throughout Scotland, later generations, albeit unofficially, began to call this sanctuary 'Kirk Covenant'.
Its small proportions might indicate that in 1638 the population also was small. Two hundred years later the population had greatly increased. When the Disruption of 1843 split the Church of Scotland, it was very much on the issue of Patronage, and the intrusion of Ministers to a Parish against the wishes of the congregation. But for some members of Kirkmaiden, and notably for William Todd - schoolmaster, session clerk and historian - a powerful contributory factor was total inadequacy of the Parish Church to give a seat to even half of those who were by law supposed to attend public worship in it. So, not surprisingly, he and a number of his fellow Elders, with some 200 members of the congregation, 'came out' to form the Kirkmaiden Free Kirk. They brought their Minister, the Reverend John Lamb, with them.
The Patron, Lord Stair, in an attitude that was rare among the landowners of the period, granted the Free Kirk Session their request of a plot of ground in Drummore village, on which they built their church, and then a schoolroom for the teaching of their own children. Later they built a handsome Manse for their Minister, which is now called 'Ardmore'. In 1903 the congregation, recently become the United Free Church of Scotland, moved across the road to their new place of worship, which is now St. Medan's Church. The original Disruption Church became the Church Hall, and continues so today with only minor alterations. The original schoolroom was sold to the Benevolent Society, known as the loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds, and today it belongs to the local Masonic Lodge.
THE DIVIDED PARISH
In place of Mr. Lamb, the Patron settled in the Parish Church the Reverend William Williamson, who continued as Minister until his death in 1888. His son, the Reverend David R. Williamson, was appointed Assistant and Successor in 1881, and at his father's death, became Minister of the Charge. As the system of Patronage had been abandoned in 1874, the Reverend D.R. Williamson became the first Minister of Kirkmaiden Parish to be called by the free election of the congregation. He retired in 1914, but lived on in the Parish as Minister Emeritus until his death in 1941, almost a century after his father came to Kirkmaiden.
In 1885 the gallery of the Old Kirk was altered, giving extra seating, and the belfry was repaired. Opportunity was taken to bring down the ancient bell, which was reported to be damaged, and the Heritors supplied a new one in its place. As in most congregations the idea of 'a kist o' whistles' was long resisted, but eventually a harmonium was installed in 1898, and an organist replaced the traditional precenter who had raised the tune for all those centuries.
The old bell is on display in the Church. It bears a Latin inscription telling that is was made in 1534 for Nicholas Ramsay, Lord (or Laird) of Dalhousie, by one John Morrison. Tradition is that it was acquired by the Gordons of Kenmure, who gave it to their kinsfold of Clanyard Castle, who presented it to the new Parish Church. So for two and a half centuries it called the faithful to worship.
In 1921 a new vestry was added at the West door of the Church, and the first heating system with a coal-fired boiler was installed. About this time the Heritors were finally relieved of the centuries-old responsibility for maintaining the Church and Manse, and for the first time ever, the 'fabric' passed onto the care of the congregation, under the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland.
ALL TOGETHER AGAIN - AND MORE
The established Kirk and the Free Kirk in Scotland were happily reunited in 1929. For a short time there were two congregations of the Church of Scotland in this Parish. The one centred in Drummore elected to be called St. Medan's, while the folk 'up the hill' held to the name Kirkmaiden. Fortunately, on a vacancy occurring in St. Medan's, successful talks between the congregations resulted in a very cordial re-union under the Minister of Kirkmaiden, Mr. John Honey. The Ancient name of the Parish was retained. Services were held in St. Medan's except on the last Sunday of the month, when the whole congregation went 'up the hill'. During the Second World War when heating was difficult, these monthly services were cancelled for the winter months, and so they have become something of a pilgrimage for the congregation and their friends in the summer months. In 1938 the Reverend Alan Shearer led a fully reunited congregation in a memorable celebration of the Tercentenary of Kirkmaiden Parish Church.
In 1988, Kirkmaiden entered a linkage with the neighbouring Parish of Stoneykirk and the Minister is based in Sandhead Manse, central to the two Parishes. In the same year, Kirkmaiden congregation and friends took part in another unforgettable Celebration of Thanksgiving for the 350 years old - and still working - 'Kirk on the Hill'.
PATRICK ADAIR'S PRAYER
According to Todd, the Parish Historian, the small wooden plaque was found in the ruins of the earlier Parish Church on Mull Farm. It was deemed to be from the head of a special chair, the property of one of the Adair family who held lands of Drummore, and the Patronage of the Parish Church, from the end of the 16th Century. The carved inscription reads:
'Padr (for Patrick Adair) O God mak me to heir in faith and pracktels in love they holy wird and comademetis thou art only my suppoit God mak me thankful, 1618'
THE 'TREACLE BIBLE'
The 'Treacle Bible' was given to the Church by the family of Peter McCosh who came into the Parish from Ayrshire. It has lost its covers and the title page, but has been identified as the 1574 edition of the 'Bishops Bible', widely used before the new translation of the Authorised Version in 1611. The name comes from the quaint reading in Jeremiah 8:2, where the word 'treacle' is used where we now read 'balm' in Gilead. .