From the "History of the congregations of the United Presbyterian Church, from 1733 to 1900," Volume 1. By Rev. Robert Small.

United Presbyterian Church, Kirkcudbright (Burgher)

THIS congregation did not originate till 1818, though attempts were made at an earlier time, first by the Relief Presbytery of Dumfries, and second by the Burgher Presbytery of Kilmarnock, to obtain footing there. On the former of these occasions sermon was granted for the second and third Sabbaths of October 1801, in answer to a petition "from a respectable number of persons in Kirkcudbright." For a time there was almost constant supply, but in August 1802 it ceased entirely. The other attempt, in November 1809, was so slight as scarcely to deserve mention. It was only a day’s sermon that was asked for, and granted, and though Kilmarnock Burgher Presbytery was active in Galloway about that time nothing followed. The third attempt, however, was to be successful. This took shape on 22nd December 1817 in a petition from some of Kirkcudbright people to the Burgher Presbytery of Annan, "to appoint some of their number to attempt the erection of a congregation in that town." Sermon was granted for the first and second Sabbaths of January, the reason assigned being the destitute situation of the place with regard to the gospel. The parish minister was at this time some years over eighty, and we infer from the above that he had been the reverse of evangelical, though he was able to testify in 1794 that among his parishioners there was not one Dissenter or Seceder of any denomination whatever. The application just referred to may be traced to some evangelistic work in Galloway by Mr Dunlop of Dumfries and some other Burgher ministers immediately before. Once commenced, supply was kept up till the summer of 1819, though on an average half the Sabbaths were blank, but at this time it entirely ceased. In December there was the appearance of reviving interest through the Presbytery receiving a letter from Kirkcudbright asking them to commence services anew. This was done, and difficulty having been experienced in obtaining a site from those in high places a petition was addressed to the Synod in April 1820 for assistance in purchasing a freehold. Though no grant was allowed mean while the people ventured within six weeks to ask for a moderation, promising a stipend of £110.

First Minister. GEORGE WOOD, from Blackfriars, Jedburgh. Called to Kirkcudbright and Lochwinnoch. The Burgher Synod met on Tuesday, 5th September 1820, and the union with the Antiburghers was to be consummated on the 8th, but though their time was limited the whole sederunt on Wednesday evening was occupied in discussing the conflicting claims of the two calls, and the debate had a notable ending. The numbers for each were equal, but the minister who presided pro tem, had vacated the chair during the calling of the roll, and given his vote. What about the casting vote now? To get out of the difficulty they would go over the ground anew next forenoon, when the bulk of another sederunt was consumed. When the vote was taken a second time Kirkcudbright was carried by a great majority, and Mr Wood was ordained, 20th December 1820. This was the co-presbyter, "a man stately and able-bodied, and possessed of solid spiritual and mental attainments," to whom the Rev. James Towers referred in the denominational magazine for 1889 (page 438). Lochwinnoch, he said, "was a well-established church, which he was just the man to feed with the bread of life. The other was a new cause, where dissent was unpopular, and would have required a man of quicker step, disposed to preach simpler and shorter sermons. My friend preferred the settled congregation, but the Synod, in its wisdom or unwisdom, sent him to the infant cause, to labour in a sphere for which he was not adapted." The new church was opened in May 1822 at a cost of about £1,100, including the purchase of the ground, and the people were few in number, only 50 members having signed the call.

For a clear view of the congregation’s affairs we pass on to 1836. The stipend aimed at had not been reached by a goodly sum, having averaged only £85 during these fifteen years, without a manse. The communicants were 100, but the attendance was double that number. Of the families belonging to the congregation nearly a third were from the parishes of Rerrick, Girthon, and Twynholm, and ten of these came from more than six miles. As only one-fifth of the sittings yielded more than 3s. a year it cannot be said that the financial arrangements were on a satisfactory footing. A burden of £300 rested on the property till 1845, when it was extinguished, £180 being granted by the Liquidation Board and £120 raised by the people. Mr Wood had to contend long with straitened means, but, remarked Mr Towers, “It is pleasing to add that, when he reached a good old age, his stipend from Augmentation and other sources amounted to £150 or £160." This is rather an under-estimate, as some years before his death Mr Wood had a stipend of £200 besides a dwelling-house, £137, 10s. being paid by the people. A manse was built in 1865 at a cost of £750, of which the Board paid two-fifths. In 1869 a colleague became indispensable.

Second Minister. WILLIAM WATSON, from Douglas. Called also to Lumsden and Findochty. Ordained at Kirkcudbright, 14th July 1869. Mr Wood died, 7th March 1870, in the seventy-eighth year of his age and fiftieth of his ministry. Amidst long drawbacks it is much to have Mr Towers testimony that Mr Wood had among his elders and members as godly and prayerful men as it had been his lot to meet. On 14th July 1880 the present church, with sittings for 480, was opened by Dr George Jeffrey of Glasgow, when the collection amounted to £316, and it was reckoned that no debt remained on the building. The entire cost was £3228. Mr Watson died, 7th October 1894, in the fifty-third year of his age and twenty-sixth of his ministry. His son, of the same name with himself, is now one of our probationers, and the Rev. J. Mitchell Watson of Leitholm is a younger brother of Mr Watson’s.

Third Minister. RICHARD GLAISTER, B.D., from Lanark (Hope Street). Ordained, 3oth July 1895. The membership at the close of 1899 was 107, and the stipend from the people £165, with the manse.

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