The Cellardyke Echo – 23/04/2021 – Issue 283



Animated scenes were witnessed in the Parish Church of Kilrenny yesterday, when the Presbytery of St Andrews visited the church and conferred with the parishioners the ” vexed question ” of the services held in the church

At Kilrenny the minister (the Rev. George S. Anderson) attends at the church at the usual hour of forenoon service, and his contention is that no one attends. The only service of the day at Kilrenny is held at two o’clock in the afternoon. Before the congregational conference the Presbytery conferred with the minister and the Kirk Session in private. At the parishioners meeting the Presbytery desired to know why their injunction of two years ago calling upon the minister and Session to hold a forenoon service had not been complied with.

About one hundred parishioners were present, ladies predominating, the male members, mostly fishermen, being away from the district.

“A Piece of Nonsense.”

The Rev. John Turnbull, St Monans, moved that they proceed to inquire individually at any members who cared to make statements in regard to the situation.

The Rev. Dr Baxter said that that was absolutely impracticable, and a piece nonsense. .

The Rev. John Turnbull —I rise to speak.

Rev. Dr Baxter—You have no right to speak. (Laughter.)

The Rev. Mr Turnbull’s motion was carried.

The Rev. Mr Murray—The position amounts to this—Do you prefer an afternoon to a morning service? (Cries of “Yes,” and dissension from two ladies, one of whom exclaimed, ” The minister told not to come in the forenoon.”)

The Moderator —This most important. We should have the statement of these ladies on oath. Mrs Jane Rodger, East Pitkerrie, was then put on oath, and declared that on several occasions she turned up to the morning service. She had been a member of the church for sixteen years.

Did Not Want a Service.

Following on one of the occasions on which she was present at the forenoon service, the minister came to her house and asked not to come in the forenoon. He said that the Cellardyke folks did not want a service in the forenoon, they had their houses to tidy up, and the dinner to prepare. (Uproar.)

The Moderator —This disgraceful conduct must cease. Mrs Rodger, continuing, said the manner which Mr Anderson conducted the fore noon services last summer was such that it was impossible for her follow him.

Mrs Janet Wilson alleged that she had seen the Rev. Mr Anderson turn people away from the church door. These people, she said, had come to attend the forenoon service.

Miss Robina Reid, (George Street) who was also put oath, said she was member of the choir, and after the Presbytery’s injunction to hold a forenoon service Mr Anderson had written to her and the other members of the choir re questing them to attend. The church precentor, Mr Reid, corroborated the statement of Miss Reid.

The Rev. Dr Baxter moved that they put the question to each of the parishioners which of the services they preferred.

The Rev. Dr Playfair, St Andrews, moved that that be not done, and his motion was carried. . ,

The Rev. Dr Baxter asked that his strong dissent be recorded

The Moderator then pronounced the benediction. Angry scenes ensued, and for a time the parishioners refused to leave the church.

The members of Presbytery retired, and deliberated in private.


“Kilrenny’s makin’ a braw name for itself, but maybe we’ll get things put richt noo —an’ no’ afore time.”

The speaker was one of Kilrenny’s oldest inhabitants, with whom discussed the “kirk or kail” question within the shadow the picturesque old church, with its little God’s acre, where lie the sturdy ancestors of the present villagers.

His remark suggested that the present situation in regard to the vexed question of ” forenoon or n0 forenoon” service was the sequel to long-standing complaint, and my inquiries in that direction brought to light many events having a direct bearing upon the question now being so eagerly debated. The aged parishioner with whom I conversed has followed the events in the history of the Auld Kirk, and his retentive memory helped considerably in probing the deadlock which has provoked so much comment far beyond the bounds of the parish.

Discontent at Its Height.

While the harmony in the congregation has never been disturbed to such extent as at the present moment, it is quite evident that discontent has been prevalent for a long time. Now it seems to have reached its height, and, as I have pointed out, only the most tactful and masterly handling of this complicated problem will prevent what will undoubtedly prove most unfortunate and vexatious disturbance of church activity in a parish noted for the zealousness of its church attenders.

The congregation just now is unquestionably divided, and he will indeed be a diplomat of the first rank who can effect a real amicable and lasting settlement between them.

Will the Presbytery tackle the task? Much downright hard thinking will have to be done, and I venture to suggest that a most important duty for those charged with the work will be to visit Kilrenny, as have done, and take pains to become acquainted with the undercurrent of affairs. Evidence of great value is to be had, although there is 0n the part of the villagers a disinclination to stand in splendid isolation as the guide of the Presbytery. Already the evidence of two of the members is in possession of the Presbytery, but neither of the statements made on oath 0n the occasion of the Presbyterial visitation withdrew the veil upon many important points in this regrettable dispute.

Five Years Absent from Church.

For example, the head of one household declared that he has not set foot in the church for the last five years although he is, to the best of his belief, still a member the church, in respect that has’ not ” lifted his lines,” nor has he, he says, been interrogated to the reason for his prolonged absence from the church in which up to that point he had sat all his days.

A Presbyterial investigation of the whole facts of the case at Kilrenny is desired by the members, and in justice to all parties would most assuredly be a wise step.

The handling of the deadlock must of necessity be a patient and careful undertaking, for it will be found that opinions in Kilrenny are rock-like in their fixity. And the breach widens with time.


An outwardly calm and contented parish, Kilrenny surprises the stranger with its crosscurrents and discontent, “for ‘ and “against” aspect is everywhere to be encountered, and indeed so keen has the controversy become that the war has been completely shelved—save for a passing reference to the latest development in the great conflict in which, by the way, many sons of the parish are playing a noble part.

“Thrums” for its “window” is quite outdone in Kilrenny. Those douce folks attending the forenoon service are conscious of their progress to kirk being observed from cover of a curtain, and this consciousness is made all the more leal from the knowledge that the “afternoon section” is subjected to same scrutiny some two and a half hours later. This will afford some idea of the intense interest being manifested in the “kirk or kail ” question.

An Element of Comedy.

To the outsider there is an element of comedy in the dispute. To hark back to the history of few years ago, it should explained, to meet the requirements of this scattered parish a quoad sacra church was established in Cellardyke, the object in view being to cater to the wants the members residing in that section of the parish.

But how has the plan operated’ Certainly not in accord with the result anticipated its promoters. Every Sunday, for the afternoon service be it noted, a large number of the church-going walk to Kilrenny to worship in the “auld kirk” as though the newer edifice at their own doors was non-existent. And, on the other hand, not a few of the Kilrenny folks find their way either to Cellardyke or Anstruther.

That is a situation which is, to say the ‘least of it, a bit of a puzzle. And just why it should be  so must, the villagers say, be investigated by the Presbytery if church affairs in the parish are to be put upon a satisfactory footing. As matters stand at present, they are certainly quite contrary to what was expected when the desire for quoad sacra from Kilrenny was granted.

“Tae bide in Kilrenny and gang tae worship in Cellardyke,” said a villager to me, “and bide in Cellardyke and gang Kilrenny tae worship is a queer wey o’ things, but nae doot a’body has their reason.” This is the state of affairs, and certainly gives much food for reflection, even allowing for the sentimental aspect of attachment to the auld kirk of Kilrenny.

The Minister’s Mission.

Why is it that the forenoon service at Kilkenny is so sparsely attended? I set myself to find answer to this question, and travelling to East Pitkerrie, outlying part of the parish, interviewed Mrs Jane Rodger, who with her husband is a member of the church.

Mrs Rodger, at the Presbyterial visit to the congregation, was put on oath, and made statement in which she declared that the Rev. George S. Anderson, the minister at Kilrenny, had called upon her and suggested that she should not come the forenoon service.

“Do you prefer forenoon service?” I asked her.

“Well,” she replied, “I have always been accustomed to it, and when I knew that the church was open for one I attended.”

“How often did you attend?”

“Four or five times. I took the children with me, and they remained for the Sabbath School. ” I think was after the fifth Sunday that Mr Anderson called. After chatting with my husband he- rose, and just as he was leaving said to me, ‘ Oh, Mrs Rodger, I would prefer that you would not come to the forenoon service. You know the Cellardyke folks do not want a service in the forenoon, as they have their houses to tidy and the dinner to prepare.

Kail and Kirk.

“That was all, but I understood from his remarks that it was plain hint that he did not want to have forenoon service.”

‘”Can you manage to tidy your house and prepare the kail?”

“Oh, yes; quite easily. I thought it was a strange remark for a minister to make, generally they are very anxious to encourage people to come to church. After that I remained away from the forenoon service, and after what happened at the meeting last week I do not intend to go back again. What I told the Presbytery was the truth, and nothing but the truth. I made the statement of my own free will, and the words were not put into my mouth.

” Was the forenoon service well attended?”

“No. On one occasion there were thirteen bairns and seven grown-up folks, and on other Sundays there weren’t so many. One Sunday I remember the congregation comprised the minister’s wife and housekeeper and two visitors. There seemed to be a difference between the forenoon service and that of the afternoon, and, to tell the truth, the experience one Sunday didn’t leave me with any great desire to go back. I, all events, felt unsatisfied somehow, and you must bear mind that Mr Anderson is, as a general rule, a very able arid interesting preacher. However, I continued to go until I was requested to stay away.

“Bell for the Empty Kirk.”

After leaving East Pitkerrie I called at a house in Kilrenny, where I gleaned information which was not volunteered to the Presbytery. Once more it was put me that Mr Anderson had dissuaded people from attending the forenoon service.

“What the minister said to me,” said the party interviewed, “was, ‘I know you’ll hear the bell ringing, but you need not come out to church, as there won’t be anyone there.’

‘ Will you be there?’ I asked, and he replied, ‘Oh, yes; but nobody else comes.’

” It struck me being strange well as amusing that a minister should go out of his way to discourage attendance at church.

” As the result of that conversation the family now attend church in Anstruther. The Kilrenny bell tolled every forenoon, and we remark to one another, ‘ There’s the bell for the empty kirk.’ “

The attitude of those absenting themselves from Kilrenny Church is summed up in this way, ” If we’re not wanted at the forenoon service, then we’ll stay away altogether.” This will show how seriously many of the villagers have taken  the matter to heart.

A Feathered ” Orchestra.”

Kilrenny Church would delight the eye of the artist viewing it from the brow of the hill. It’s elevated site sets it out in relief against rural scenery, and the pigeons which flutter around where once a clock recorded the passing hour —rude Boreas some years ago played havoc with the ” nock,” and its repair and reinstatement have been indefinitely postponed—add a pleasing note to , picturesque scene.

These self-same pigeons frequently take it upon themselves to supply accompaniment to the singing, but the unromantic beadle —is a beadle ever romantic? —does not see the beauty of this impromptu orchestral effort, and leaving his seat to put a check on the zeal of the feathered congregation, his vigorous ‘ shoo ‘ the signal for a regular uproar up where the ‘ dim religious light’ battles with the darkness. Forenoon or afternoon, it is all the same with the pigeons; the church is their shelter, their home, and from it not a regiment of beadles will alienate them. A sermon in contentment and complete harmony in themselves!

Minister Calls For a Vote.

At the service on Sunday the minister (the Rev. George S. Anderson) requested those of his congregation who desired a forenoon service to stand. Only one did so. On a similar request being made with regard to an afternoon service those present again showed their unanimity by rising  as one man. Excluding children. 190 stood up in favour of the present afternoon service, while only one voted in favour of a forenoon diet.

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