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

United Presbyterian Church, Dalry (United Secession)

THE original name was Balmaclellan, a parish on the S.E. of Dalry. An application was presented to the United Secession Presbytery of Dumfries on 6th November 1820 by fifteen men residing in that village, or its vicinity, for sermon every alternate Sabbath. This arrangement was kept up for two years, and then, owing to pecuniary difficulties, the people requested to have the supply reduced to once a month. On this limited allowance the cause subsisted till about 1825; only members of Presbytery came in, ever and again, to fill up blank Sabbaths by preaching gratis. Aid was also afforded to the extent of £5 on several occasions. It was scarcely possible that there could be decided increase on this system, and in May 1825 the congregation asked the Presbytery to grant them a collection from each congregation to aid them in erecting a place of worship, and also to endorse a paper they had drawn up to be sent for subscriptions to other parts of the Church. Encouragement was given, and a committee appointed to advise with them on the proposal. We have the outcome in a minute, of date 6th November, when a petition for sermon was received from the congregation of Dalry, and the explanation is appended: "Formerly Balmaclellan, a place of worship being now built in the parish of Dalry." The cost, we learn in another way, was a trifle over £200, and the number of sittings 200. To what extent the expense was met is nowhere given, but both the people and the Presbytery were exercised in mind, before the opening, by a gentleman in the neighbourhood refusing to pay the £50 he had subscribed unless compelled by law. It was some time after the new stage was reached that the congregation could afford to receive regular supply, though in April 1829 they saw their way to apply for a moderation, undertaking a stipend of £80, together with a house and sacramental expenses.

First Minister. JOHN REID, from Mauchline. There were calls brought before the Synod to Mr Reid in April 1829 from Cowgate, Edinburgh, and Nicholson Street, Glasgow, and Dalry followed on the 30th of that month. But two days before this the Synod appointed Mr Reid to Cowgate, Edinburgh (now Fountainhall Road), though he had plainly intimated his inability to undertake so difficult a charge. Edinburgh Presbytery did their utmost, as instructed, to remove his objections, but without effect, and on 2nd June he got free. The way was now cleared for Dumfries Presbytery sustaining the call from Dalry, and Mr Reid was ordained over the little society there on 8th October 1829. The call had the signatures of only 29 members, but there were 74 adherents. Success was now to be looked for up to the measure of what that rural district could afford, but within four years confusion arose. On the last Sabbath of March 1833 Mr Reid entered the pulpit and read a paper in which he stated that he had resolved to retire from the pastorate at Dalry, and then left the church, "amidst the astonishment and grief of the whole congregation." Next Sabbath there was again no service, and the minister attended the parish church. At a meeting of Presbytery on Tuesday Mr Rogerson of Thornhill was appointed to preach at Dalry on Sabbath and meet with the congregation on the previous afternoon. His report bore that a paper of reasons for the step he had taken was expected to be laid on the table of the Presbytery by Mr Reid that day, and that it had been already read to the congregation. Instead of this he sent in the demission of his charge, and owing to his conduct in the whole affair he was laid under suspension. At a meeting of Presbytery on 8th May inquiry brought out that a marriage engagement was involved, from which Mr Reid was, in the opinion of his brethren, attempting to resile in a deceitful way. He alleged that another young woman stood in the way, though both parties in this case admitted that there had been nothing beyond certain attentions which might have been presumed on. On 4th June the Presbytery decided to proceed by libel, and have witnesses examined upon oath, when Mr Reid rose, expressed his conviction that there was no wish to do him justice, renounced their authority, and immediately left the court. On 8th July he signified by letter his withdrawal from the communion of the United Secession Church, and his name was erased from the Presbytery Roll.

The warning Mr Rogerson gave the people at the outset was opportune and greatly needed: "to forego all private partialities as well as animosities," and "by all means to live united, for to be divided was to be destroyed." The first petition from Dalry was for two Sabbaths of pulpit supply each month, and Mr Reid s successor testified three years afterwards that at this time the congregation suffered a considerable diminution in the number of its members, and specially in the number of seat-holders. It was well, perhaps, that in less than two months they had spirit enough to apply for a moderation, which issued in a call to Mr David Henderson, who was invited soon after to Dalry in Ayrshire, which invitation he preferred.

Second Minister. ALEXANDER RITCHIE, from Perth (North). Ordained, 21st August 1834. This call was signed by 70 communicants, but the adherents were down to a half-dozen. The stipend was £10 lower than before. But the Presbytery was not done as yet with Mr Reid. A year after he had been loosed from Dalry he comes before us as minister of a congregation in Mary’s Chapel, Edinburgh, which was petitioning to be received into fellowship with the United Secession Church. The application was signed by 64 members, 31 seat-holders, and 63 who designated themselves friends. Edinburgh Presbytery found on inquiry that the petitioners had gathered round Mr Tully Crybbace, a Secession preacher whose peculiarities had placed him outside the denomination. Mr Crybbace having gone on a missionary tour to England put Mr Reid, who had recently married a sister of his, into his place, and the bulk of the people became bent on having the substitute altogether. This was followed by a written call to Mr Reid, which he accepted, and this again by a resolution to petition the United Secession Presbytery for admission and to be constituted pastor and people. But before progress could be made Mr Reid had to appear before Dumfries Presbytery with a request to have the sentence of suspension under which he was lying removed, and the case was handed over to the Synod. With the aid of certain assessors the Presbytery went into the merits of the case anew, but the Synod in October 1835, guided by the report before them, declared the suspension to be still in force. At this point we take farewell of the Rev. John Reid, to meet him amidst better fortunes when we reach Bathgate (Livery Street).

In 1836 Mr Ritchie reported the membership at 103, of whom 37 were from the parish of Balmaclellan and 27 from the parish of Kells. Of the families in the church, fifteen were distant more than four miles. Mr Ritchie explained that about the year 1833 the hold the congregation had of the district was very considerably weakened, and the reason is to be found in connection with the close of the former ministry. On 2nd March 1841 Mr Ritchie demitted his charge, and on 19th July, after arrears of stipend had been made up, the demission was accepted. Having proceeded to Canada as one of the Synod’s missionaries Mr Ritchie was inducted into West Dumfries, 4th May 1842, and of his success there Dr James Robertson testified in 1848: "There is not a more thriving congregation than this in the whole body." Mr Ritchie died, June 1861, in his sixty-fifth year. He was brother to the Rev. W. Ritchie, West Linton.

Third Minister. ALEXANDER PATEKSON, M.A., from St Nicholas Church, Aberdeen. Ordained, 3Oth May 1843. Mr Paterson had been previously called to Smyrna Chapel, Sunderland, after being located there for some time, and was about to be ordained, but money difficulties emerged at the last hour, and the congregation had to be dissolved. Though Dalry could not promise more than £50 from their own funds Mr Paterson agreed to accept, and the Presbytery, without waiting for the award of the Mission Board as to a supplement, decided "to encourage this interesting congregation" by fixing the ordination at once. The membership at this time was only 70. In 1845 the whole debt of £230 was cleared off, the Liquidation Board allowing one-half. About this time feeling was stirred by the erection of Glenkens Free Church at a distance of little more than a mile from the village of Dalry. The Mission Board reported to the Synod that by this movement, taken in connection with the thinness and poverty of the population, Mr Paterson’s usefulness as a minister had been to a considerable extent affected. But the work went on with slight variations till 30th September 1884, when arrangements were completed for Mr Paterson retiring from active service owing to advancing infirmities. But he died on 7th November at Edinburgh, in the seventy-third year of his age and forty-second of his ministry. He is best remembered in connection with his son, the Rev. James A. Paterson, D.D., Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Literature in the U. P. Hall.

Fourth Minister. JAMES MATHER, formerly of Langbank, which he resigned in January 1882. Inducted, 31st March 1885. The membership at this time was 63, and the stipend from the people was to be £55, with the manse. In 1897 arrangements were entered into for the erection of a new church, and with this view a field in a very suitable situation was bought for £336. Through the aid of friends and the proceeds of a bazaar, along with a grant from the Central Board, it is hoped that the church will be opened free of debt. The entire cost is estimated at £1800. At the close of 1899 there were 69 names on the communion roll, and the Free Church of Glenkens, which entered into formidable rivalry with Dalry forty-five years ago, had nearly double that number.

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