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Photography © John Sowrey

From the Manse Hi Folks The weather has taken a wintry turn these last days but we have had an excellent November with more clear days of sunshine in recent weeks than was the case in the summer! However, you can sense the change - feel it in the air, so to speak…it will soon be time for log fires and mulled wine (old romantic that I am). The seasons have their own characteristics, thank God; variety is the spice of life after all. But there are also seasons of the soul and indeed seasons of the Faith. So what season is it for us? Well there is no doubt that from a Christian perspective, in Europe at least, we are at the point where autumn turns to winter. The leaves are falling off the trees and the cold winds will soon blow. The Church of Scotland is not in decline - it is in meltdown! To change the metaphor, we are at low tide and there is nothing that we can do about that. Just as we can’t stop the seasons changing, we can’t influence the tides either. The good news is that both seasons and tides change. No matter how deep or bad a winter is, spring will eventually break through and every ebb tide eventually turns again in flow. Therefore in these days we are called to be faithful, even if not successful. The illustration I like to use is that the Church is like a rock pool. Although the tide may be out, these pools are safe havens for a variety of organisms sheltering there until the tide returns once again. But more than that, in evolutionary terms, rock pools were the exciting places where new forms of life emerged that were eventually able to conquer the land. So perhaps we shouldn’t think of this time as a period of spiritual hibernation from dark and difficult days - but rather an exciting time for change and renewal. After all, our God is a God of new things (Isaiah 43:18, 19 / Rev 21:5). That change begins with us. In an age of incredible superficiality and widespread spiritual ignorance we need to be the small candles, however flickering and faltering, that shine in the darkness. As always, it is not about what we can do but, rather, what God can do in us, with us, and through us. One great treasure and indeed legacy that we have inherited is the wonderful sanctuary at Balquhidder. It truly is a “thin place” and there is a presence there that is palpable. In recent months I have been told two stories that relate to experiences some people have had in our church during worship. I will not give details of these as it is not appropriate, but for me this is a wonderful antidote to my over rationalising tendency regarding things of the faith. I have a lot to learn…God is obviously not finished with me yet; or, indeed, with us yet. Watch this space! I was thrilled with the support and attendance at our St Angus Day event in August. The musicians and singers greatly enhanced the event and hopefully this is something we can build on for the future. Once again our thanks to the clans MacLaren and MacGregor for their continuing support through their annual services and financial contributions. This is gratefully received. Given the number of visitors and pilgrims our church attracts throughout the year I believe this is an area we need to prayerfully examine as a means of expanding our life and witness and contributing to the growing awareness and spiritual hunger of our age. Please pray that we may seek the Spirit’s guidance in these matters this coming year. It only remains for me to wish you all a very blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. God Bless!


Russel Moffat (Rev Dr)


Welcome to our winter edition of The Belfry.

Note from the


Hello everyone! Lots for you to read in this issue, including a very interesting leaflet (starting on this page) from 1955 about Balquhidder’s places of worship, which we’ve reproduced directly from the printed item itself - apologies for the slightly inferior quality. There’s plenty of fascinating history here: some lovely descriptions of Rob Roy; the ‘stool of penitents’; the state that the old church was in when David Carnegie arrived to build to new one; and the ensuing difficulties in building a church in ‘such a moist climate’! Clearly some things haven’t changed so much! Also we have the first part of a very engaging lecture (about Balquhidder, and discovered on the internet by our Vice Chairman and Treasurer, Pauline). Written and delivered by one Reverend James MacGregor in 1896 in New Zealand to Scottish ex-patriots, it’s a joyful piece of prose, full of vivid descriptions. Thank you to Anne Gorrod, a reader in Cheshire who spent much of her childhood in Balquhidder, for sharing her wartime memories on page 10. Our lovely front cover photograph is the work of John Sowrey who supplies our fridge magnets (page 11) and we have this image in colour as a new magnet design. I hope you enjoy reading this issue for wintertime. Have a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year! Gill Waugh • Stronvar Farm • Balquhidder • FK19 8PB

IAN ALEXANDER MOIR MA BD PhD (died 1993) was the appointed lecturer in Christian Origins, Edinburgh, 1961 and Senior Lecturer, New Testament, 1974. He was the first (and almost the only) Editor of Liturgical Review (1971 to 1979), when he carried on as assistant Editor until the following year.

The Kirks of Balquhidder by Ian A Moir MA BD (Aberdeen) PhD (Cambridge) Centenary Edition 1955

see left

The Angus Stone


Balquhidder Church

David Carnegie



Rob Roy’s grave

The church of 1631 and the old school

above right

Continued on next page

village shop at Strathyre Main Street Strathyre Near Callander FK18 8NA 01877 384275

CTN & Groceries 5

Continued from previous page

St Angus’s

The converted church at Lochearnhead

Old church building, Strathyre

Thanks to Mrs Fergusson, Auchleskine, for the photograph of the old school.


Briar Cottages on Loch Earn

Luxury & Pet Friendly Self Catering fishing • putting • petanque Twitter @Briarcottages Tel Kim 07917 416 497 7

Balquhidder and District in Victorian Times Exerpts from a lecture

by the Rev. James MacGregor, D.D., Oamaru I had known Balquhidder when I was a very young boy, now more than 30 years ago; and having occasion to revisit it in 1876, at a time when I had much need of “the healing powers of nature” in her solitudes, I found what I had not sought—a lecture to be delivered to Celts in New Zealand.


alquhidder, in the northern part of the basin of the Forth, lies west by north of Stirling, about 30 miles away. Though thus near the border of the Lowlands, it is at this hour a quiet Highland parish. Callander, its next neighbour to the south and east, no longer answers to that description. In my boyhood there it was a quiet Highland village: everybody spoke Gaelic, and we boys all wore the kilt. But now it is a noisy, fashionable little Lowland town. The Gaelic is no longer the language of the place. The kilt is seen only on imitation or artificial Celts— from London or elsewhere. All seems changed. When I recently sat down in the Church there, I did not recognise the face of the congregation in which I was born and bred. So great has been the change within one portion of one short life. But Balquhidder, beginning within some six miles of Callander village, was unchanged from what I had found it long ago. Some circumstances were changed for the better: the land seemed better cultivated, and the houses more neat and comfortable, with corresponding improvements of the Clachan or Kirkton, including a very pretty new church, with handsome new school premises, and the old church made into an ornamental ruin, really prettier than the new one. But in substance the place was unchanged. Of course there was no change on the everlasting hills around. The Gaelic language was, as of old, in use, with the simple and cordial, though slightly ceremonious, Highland manner. The very individuals seemed unchanged. The minister at the manse was the same fine and true gentleman who had shown me much kindness nearly a generation before. At Auchtoo Beg Donald (“blue-eyed”) M’Laren was recognised by me half a mile away, just the same man, apparently of the same age, as when in that past age he had flourished as ploughman to Peter Stuart at Auchtoomore. There, too, was his brother Duncan (“brownhead”), sauntering, as of old, on the way to his sister’s, the minister’s widow farmeress of Beannoch Aonghais (“Angus’ blessing”). All over there was the sweet pervading sense of quiet. It was not the quiet in view of Lord Cockburn when he said, “As quiet as the grave—or Peebles.” It was the quiet, not of death, but of life; like that of their own Balvaig (“dumb stream”), slowly and silently gliding through the valley. The very sounds were somehow all but silent. The voices of men, and the bleating of lambs by the wayside, or the more distant wail of the curlew, did not disturb, but intensified, the sense of soothing stillness, so sweet to a dweller in cities who had need of repose. Even the railway train, embodiment and symbol of noise, resistless, seemed to be not noisy as it skirted round by King’s House from Strathire to Lochearnhead. Men called it “the innocent.” It went almost as slowly


Balquhidder Church in earlier times

as Balvaig. And sometimes it did not go at all; but quietly stopped for a talk with some farmer, or gamekeeper, or shepherd by the way. Any noise it made became a harmonious part of the eloquent stillness—a stillness like that musical effect promised by an enterprising advertiser in Salma-gundi—”the indescribable silence that follows a fall of snow.” It is said in the district that no armed foe of Albion has ever succeeded in entering the Highlands through the Leny Pass. The last and sorest material foe of our Home Country—noise, with its distracting tear and wear—appears not to have entered Balquhidder, excepting like Bottom, the stage lion, who would roar you as gently as a sucking dove.” You can perceive that I was prepared to take things on their sunny side. At the Clachan we had the great good fortune to find the minister of the parish, the Rev. Alexander MacGregor, now deceased. He received our party with true Highland hospitality, and laid himself out for the day to be our guide, philosopher and friend. In especial he led us over the churchyard, with its precincts in the kirkton, giving a running antiquarian commentary, the fruit of a life’s labour of loving study, on the various things he showed us. For instance, near the eastern door of the now ruinous old church, he stood with us at the foot of a lair, or burying-plot, over which there extended, between us and the door, three horizontal tombstones. And there and then he gave us a full, true, and particular account of the family to which that lair belonged, namely, the family of Rob Roy MacGregor; whose own tombstone is the central one of the three, having carved on it a broadsword, the clan-emblem of the fir-tree, and the proud clan motto, As rioghaill mo dhream Ard-Choille—”My tribe is royal, Ard-choil”—a motto peculiarly appropriate in Rob’s case, because his father had been the proprietor of Ard-choil. Again, a MacLaren tombstone inscription occasioned an account of that famous clan battle, between the MacLarens and the Lenies, which was the great central event in the civil history of Balquhidder before the Mac-Gregors were installed there on an equal footing with the MacLarens. And, again, on the same little platform on which now stand the new and old churches and the churchyard, there has stood every edifice for public worship ever erected in Balquhidder proper. Close to the churchyard, though not within the precints, there is even the conical mound which is known to have been the centre of Druidical worship for the district, which is appropriately bounded on the south by Benledi (“Hill of God”)—a sacred name whose origin goes back to pre-Christian times. Thus, as he went on speaking we went on gaining, not only many interesting details of information, but a sort of panoramic view of the whole

© Francis Frith

Part One

civil and religious history of Balquhidder from the point of the Churchyard and Clachan, which, historically as well as topographically, has always been the head and heart of the district. Of the things thus set forth by him I swiftly took elliptical notes, which I read to him before we parted, and which he kindly corrected and supplemented to completeness on the spot, afterwards sending me a MS account of a leading event which he had prepared for publication some years before, with free permission to make whatever use of the whole I should think proper. I ought to mention that, in addition to what can be learned from books, and through reasonable divination of the significance of monuments like those in the Strathyre, 1899 Kirkton, Mr MacGregor, near the beginning of his ministry, had received the then living tradition of the people from its latest living depository, an aged have perhaps heard the song of “Allandu”; or, “Row weel, woman of the clan Gregor in Rusgachan, of Strathire. And my boatie, row weel.” It seems to me perfect as a sample now therefore I, having received the tradition from him, of true song—melodious eloquence, “music wedded to and being, I suppose, its only depository now alive, feel immortal verse.” Well, in a singularly fresh living book about entitled to address you, not with the flattering humilities Perthshire, recently published by Mr Drummond, of Perth of a descriptive tourist, but with the authority of a qualified city, it is stated that, while the music of “Allandu” is by the sennachie, who has brought his story to you from the famous R. A. Smith, of Kilmarnock (or Paisley?), the words sources, through a voyage of “semi-circum-plus-a-bit-ofare by one Campbell, of whom it is known that he resided demi-semi-circum-navigation of the earth.” somewhere on the side of Loch Lubnaig. After passing Further, Mrs Findlater, of the Free Church manse of Anie, on the east side of the loch, you reach about the middle of it, Ardchullery, at an angle (Lubnaig means “Bend Lochearnhead in Balquhidder improper, sent me a pretty er”), where the loch bends to the west and north. Opposite sketch of the old church with its precincts, done by her Ardchullery Benledi sends out into the west side of the loch own skilled hand. For she knew that I had written out my the tremendous promontory of Craig-na-Cohilig, whose notes of the visit to Balquhidder into a sort of gossiping rugged grandeur impresses the beholder with an awe lecture or article, such as one may prepare for the home that represses his natural feeling of delight in the sublime. circle after a journey which has interested him. Further still, Ardchullery was at one time the summer retreat of the about some antiquarian questions that had risen in the famous traveller James Bruce of Kinnaird; and from that churchyard, I afterwards had the benefit of conversations he would sometimes cross the loch to Crig-na-cohilig for with Mr Joseph Anderson of the Antiquarian Museum in the purpose of undisturbed prosecution in its wild solitude Edinburgh, the greatest living master of really scientific Scottish archæology, and whose recent Rhind lectures of studies connected with his world-renowned travels in have almost made a new era in real study of Scoto-Celtic Egypt and Abyssinia towards the sources of the Nile. But antiquities. To these things I now refer, partly in order to Bruce was an exotic; and Campbell may have been. Let us apologise beforehand for a certain gossipy quality of this look for flowers of literature native to the district. communication, which has survived from the original cast; I have not the heart to pass without a word my old and partly also in order that you may be assured I do not acquaintance Abasdair a Bhaile (“Alexander of the city” or speak without book. Literally, indeed, I do in a sense speak “town”—perhaps he had at some time been in Glasgow or without book. My book, the original paper, was lost on Edinburgh). When I was a young boy he was an aged man, my way from old Dunedin to new Edinburgh. It had been venerable in character as well as in years. I see him now, carefully placed by me, along with other keimelia, in a with his fine white head and spacious tartan waistcoat, box which, I suppose, is somewhere; but where precisely, and radiant spherical-silver buttons, coming down like a or whether “in earth or ocean’s cave,” perhaps no creature gracious and spacious Michaelmas moon to kirk or market knows. Still, even the circumstance of my having written it, in Callander from his hamlet of Kilmahog (“fane of St. and the circumstances which occasioned the writing, have Hogg”). This is beside the Balquhidder branch of the Teith, made the whole matter clear and distinct in a memory almost at the mouth of Leny Pass, where rushing through remarkably tenacious of some things. and from the wildly beautiful pass, the stream is known, not This introductory part of my lecture I will close with as Balvaig (“dumb stream”), but as Garvald (“rough water”). some notes on the literary history of the district. It has a life And this geography brings me round to my literary history. of literary production at this hour. After going West from It is reckoned that perhaps the best Gaelic prose in print is Callender through the Pass of Leny, and turning northward that of the Teachdaire Gaudhealach (“Gaelic Messenger”), alongside of gracefully majestic Benledi, you come upon edited by the elder Dr Norman Macleod, of Campsie and the foot of Loch Lubnaig, deep and calm. The farm steading afterwards of Glasgow. In that periodical (or was it in its of Anie is on your right. The farmer, Robert MacLaren, is a successor, Cuairteir Nan Gleann, “Circular of the Glens”?) living son of song. He not only sings and beautifully plays there are communications from a correspondent who on the violin what others have composed, but writes and signs himself “An gaidheal liath ri taobh a gharbh-uilld” publishes original verse. His publications are in English. But (“the hoary Celt beside the rough water”). At first reading a genuine Gaelic poet is found at the furthest extremity of I did not know, nor think of inquiring, who might be this Balquhidder improper, in Glenbeich, on the north side of writer; but I afterwards, with pleasure came to know that it Lochearn, in the person of another MacLaren farmer. Let was my old acquaintance Alasdair a Bhaile. (To be continued in our next issue.) me now speak of those who live only in their works. You


War and Peace in Balquhidder 1938 - 1946

In the manse and from a child’s point of view My brother and I lived for long periods with our grandparents Rev Malcolm and Blanche Macleod as our parents were abroad until we went to boarding school at Norwegian soldiers at the Manse, Balquhidder, c. 1944. Miss Macpherson, the school teacher at the time, is on the far right. the age of 7 and 9 years. Although we knew we were in a dangerous war – that grown ups were listening to the “wireless” for news – that we had to observe the blackout and that a policeman came to fit us with gas masks (Papa smiling benevolently) we were little affected in comparison with the not too distant cities. But some families had sons or brothers in the forces and our aunt was in the ATS in the Middle East. Their names are on a brass plaque in the church porch. As electricity came relatively late to Balquhidder coal and paraffin were the mainstays for heating and lighting. Miss Macpherson, the schoolteacher organised country dancing on cold mornings to warm up the pupils before lessons. Sweets were in very short supply and food rationing was in force but we were not short of nourishing food having a barrel of Stornoway salted herring in the larder – (Balquhidder station was still open) hens in the outhouses and at one time a hive of bees. An itinerant gardener came to work seasonally and lived in the Manse – this was a good help within the large garden. Clock golf on the lawn was a recreation for some of the men working for the Forestry Commission at the time. Around 1943 – 44 a detachment of Norwegian soldiers were based at an army camp at Strathyre. Our Grandfather

and their Padre were in contact resulting in a social occasion for a number of them at the Manse. It was an enjoyable day for everyone. The musician in the group was Cpl Håkon Hammer who gave us music from KAMPSANGER for Den Norske and the Norwegian National Anthem. At other times the Padre came with his two children for us to show around. Of course we went to church every Sunday – were diligent is saying our prayers and learning the parables. The war effort, for myself at any rate was knitting some simple items to be sent with others to the soldiers in Europe. An advantage of petrol rationing and fewer cars on the road was that we were able to roam about the village, visiting the local shop / Post Office, Kirkton Farm or my school friend at Auchtubh or wander into the Fairy Glen at the back of the church. All in all our “wartime” will always be remembered only as a quiet time despite the relative proximity of the bombing in Glasgow and further south. We were very lucky to be in Balquhidder. So although those years were a time of WAR for much of the world, for our family in Balquhidder it was a time of PEACE. Anne Gorrod, Cheshire

CHURCH OF SCOTLAND Balquhidder Parish Church WEEKLY SERVICE Every Sunday at 11.30am 10



Gifts and Souvenirs of Balquhidder Church



Pamela MacKenzie 1919-2016

Always a lively, interested and active person, Pam managed to do many things and live in many places in her long life. She began life in Surrey, did well at school and won a place at Oxford where she studied English Literature. During the war she worked in the Air Ministry and met and married Scot, Bill (W.J.M.) MacKenzie. In 1945 it was back to Oxford where he was briefly a classics don and their first children were born. In 1950, following Bill’s new academic career as Politics Professor, she moved to Manchester and in 1967 to Glasgow. She herself retrained as a social worker. In Manchester her work was with the pioneering Family Service Unit. By the time they arrived in Glasgow she had retrained as a Psychiatric social worker and found work at the new Child Guidance Clinics. She helped many families and children during this time. Originally from Edinburgh, Bill was the driving force that brought the family back to Scotland. In 1954 the couple had bought an abandoned house in Kinloch Rannoch and the whole family (5 children) spent many happy holidays there as the children grew up. In 1972, following an inheritance from her family, they were able to purchase and plant Muirlaggan Forest in Balquhidder. Many happy retirement years followed especially after daughter Les, Juan, Rowan and Alcuin moved there from Spain to join them and Juan became a sheep farmer. After Bill’s death in 1998 Pam continued to live between Glasgow and Balquhidder where she planted

Aged 82 - and flying a kite. Balquhidder, 2001

and cared for a wonderful garden. For her last three years she lived at Ashlea care home in Callander where she continued to recognise and enjoy her beloved music; her favourite language – French; not to mention her family, loyal friends and carers, until her peaceful death in December 2016. She is sorely missed by her five children, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The Belfry is published twice yearly by The Friends of Balquhidder Church Association Chairman Rev Dr Russel Moffat

The Manse, Main Street, Killin FK21 8TN

Vice Chairman Pauline Perkins & Treasurer

1 Auchtubh, Balquhidder FK19 8NZ

Membership Rosemary Whittemore Secretary Editor Gill Waugh

Tannoch Taigh, Balquhidder FK19 8PB 01877 384359 Stronvar Farm, Balquhidder FK19 8PB 07778 702304

The Friends of Balquhidder Church Association is a Registered Charity - No. SC008569

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The Belfry winter 17  

Stories and news from Balquhidder Kirk including The Kirks of Balquhidder by Ian A Moir MA BD (Aberdeen) PhD (Cambridge) Centenary Edition 1...

The Belfry winter 17  

Stories and news from Balquhidder Kirk including The Kirks of Balquhidder by Ian A Moir MA BD (Aberdeen) PhD (Cambridge) Centenary Edition 1...