Extract from Sandy Bell’s
“Reminiscences of Corsock”
was the son of Margaret Colquhoun Bell neé
Murray-Dunlop (1847- 1902.)Her father, his grandfather, was Alexander
a gifted lawyer and member of parliament,
he was prominent in shaping the movement that resulted in the “Act
of Secession”, (The withdrawal of membership of the Free Church from the
Church of Scotland in 1843).
Free Church was built through his generosity in 1851
affairs were an exceedingly important part of the every day life of this little
Scottish community in the seventies and eighties of last century. My grandfather
was a strong Free Church man and immediately on arrival at Corsock built the
present Free Church (now of course, part of the United Church of Scotland) and
manse and gave a large piece of ground surrounding the church, for use as a
graveyard. It thus happens that it is the Free Church of Corsock that has the
parish burying ground, not the parish church as usually is the case.
Free Church site is half a mile nearer the village than is the
Established Church and is altogether a more attractive building, though
the Established Church manse stands on the bank of the pretty
Drumhumphry burn and near the Urr, in a pleasant, though rather
low and damp situation.
Even to her latest days my grandmother preferred to have Free Church men as her tenants and occasionally was victimised by people who knew her ideas on this subject and managed to secure a favourable lease for an ardent Free Church man, when a better candidate was available, whose only fault was that he belonged to the Auld Kirk. However, she had a great idea of continuity and would always renew a lease to a son of an old tenant, whatever his religion. So there was a number of old and highly respectable farming families, mostly Griersons and Muirheads, who were not of the Free Church.
minister of the Free Church during my youth was a gentle old man, the Reverend
Robert Smith, D.D. He had been in his youth a missionary to the Hungar
was not instrumental music in
precentor and ruling elder at Corsock was John Ewing, my grandmother’s land
steward. He had an extremely powerful voice and was a master of what were called
“grace notes” and “repeats”, variations on the last line of each stanza,
followed by a repetition of it, not provided in the tune book.
John Ewing’s eldest son became a distinguished preacher and a D.D.,(Doctor
of Divinity) his
younger sons Robert and
population was distinctly musical and actually hired a music teacher from
family had the two back pews and usually filled them both. Special short cut
paths led from the house to the church, crossing and recrossing the main avenue
and merging on the high road just opposite one of the church yard gates. I never
remember my grandmother consenting to drive downhill to church, but
occasionally, not often, she would let herself be drawn back up the long hill in
a donkey chair led by an old attendant name
musical service at Corsock church consisted of three psalms and a closing
paraphrase. It was remarkable how the shepherds’ collies’ who attended their
masters to church and remained quietly outside or in the porch during the long 2
½ hours of service would recognise the strains of the paraphrase and start
moving about, sometimes even venturing up the aisle t their master’s pew
during the last verse, in expectation of the benediction.
Smith used to deceive quite innocently the smart society visitor to our pews who
had been warned to expect a long sermon. After the Scripture lesson he would
embark on what was called the “Exposition”, a discourse of about 20 minutes
duration, sometimes extended to half an hour.
At the end of this “exposition” the unwary visitor would say
“nothing like so long as I feared” or something of the sort. But this was
merely a prelude to the sermon, which would be surprisingly short if it ended in
three quarter of an hour. In addition there ere two long prayers and a third
very long prayer indeed, interposed between the second psalm and the exposition.
was not held every Sunday and was only attended by those lining n or near the
village. It was held in the school house and the precentor was Mr. Weir, the
school master. When the moon was full or nearly full, or in long summer evenings
a service was held in a cottage three miles away in the small
during the last century were functions at which attendance was just as much a
sacred duty as was attendance at divine service. The whole male population
turned out to every funeral, unless kept away by works of necessity or mercy. As
the graveyard was Free Church land, the elders of that Church met each coffin at
the churchyard gate and escorted it to the grave. One of a family of three
dwarfish, feeble minded brothers was the grave digger and did his duty with
enormous gust, wearing a red cap.
103rd psalm, or rather that portion of it which likens the life of man to grass,
was always sung to the tune “Coleshill”
(a weird and melancholy tune, which always struck me as most suitable to
the occasion and to the surrounding scenery) as the coffin bearers approached
the sentences of committal the strange red-capped sexton would shovel earth into
the grave with a speed that clearly indicated his mental peculiarity, stopping
after a few moments with a jerk that never failed to startle me as a boy and
would then whip off his red cap with the speed of lightening! After a shot
pause, during which my eyes were always fixed on the cap held stiffly at arms
length, the chief mourner would say “Thank you gentlemen for your
attendance” and all would slowly depart.