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

United Presbyterian Church, Castle Douglas (Relief)

On 1st September 1800 a preacher was appointed to Castle Douglas for the first and second Sabbaths of November by the Relief Presbytery of Dumfries, in answer to a petition from a number of people in and about the town, and after that supply was continued with regularity. In July 1801 the congregation called Mr Decision Laing, minister of Wamphray, but by a majority so slight that it was considered better to go no further.

First Minister. WILLIAM BOAG, from Dovehill, Glasgow (now Kelvingrove). Called unanimously, and the call accepted in preference to another from Waterbeck. Ordained, 8th March 1803. The church, with its 700 sittings, is stated to have been erected in 1801, but as the ordination was intimated "from the tent" on 4th February 1803 this indicates that the church was not yet taken possession of. The stipend was £80, with dwellinghouse and garden, and £2, 10s. each communion. In the course of seven years "certain grievances" became oppressive, and on 4th December 1810 Mr Boag gave in his resignation. When the Presbytery met on the 18th they found that an agreement had been come to between his congregation and him in order to a separation. They were to give him £40 as an acknowledgment for past services, and also as much additional as might be raised by subscription, of which £24 had been already obtained. The Presbytery were dissatisfied with this system of having everything cut and dry, as if the pastoral bond had been little more than a money transaction, but they consented to accept the demission, and declare Castle-Douglas vacant. Mr Boag, after officiating for a time as a preacher, was admitted to Strathkinnes.

Second Minister. ROBERT CAMERON, like his predecessor, from Dovehill, Glasgow. Ordained, 18th July 1811. The money adjustments were quite up to the original standard, being £80 of stipend, £2, 10s. for each communion, and £15 for a house, besides a formidable item which sometimes comes into view in Relief congregations at that period - £20 in name of travelling expenses. Mr Cameron accepted a call to East Kilbride on 3rd June 1817, and for twenty years a stated ministry ceased in connection with the Relief cause at Castle Douglas.

A few weeks after the vacancy occurred some residenters applied to the Burgher Presbytery of Annan for a day’s supply, which was granted, and this proved the beginning of a rival cause. The two parties struggled on together for three years, and then on 5th September 1820 the Relief Presbytery expressed surprise and regret that no application had come up from Castle Douglas for sermon. On 7th November they were told that the property had been disposed of, and one of the ministers was appointed to visit Castle Douglas, and make full inquiries. The title-deeds having been examined, it was ascertained that they contained no clause binding the place of worship to the Relief body, and the Presbytery resolved to give themselves no more concern about the affairs of that congregation. The building was gone, and the Reformed Presbyterians were the legal possessors by right of purchase. The Secession cause in Castle Douglas still held on, but it was on a humble scale and in the face of difficulties. They were wishful in 1821 to have their church finished, but they got little encouragement from the Presbytery and no aid whatever from the Synod. Their request by-and-by was for supply on alternate Sabbaths, with the hope superadded that the Presbytery would pay for every third appointment. In November 1823 they pressed their desire to have the place of worship seated, and asked advice from the Presbytery as to how the money they required was to be had. They were told in reply to delay operations till winter was over. Tired of bearing up in the face of hope deferred, the people seem to have parted with the building at Whitsunday 1824, and allowed it to be utilised in some other way. After supplies had ceased for a year a society in Glasgow for propagating the gospel in connection with the Secession voted 10 guineas for providing sermon at Castle Douglas, but the people thought it better not to accept, as there was no probability that the gift would be of any permanent advantage. For the next ten years the Secession and Relief alike disappeared from Castle Douglas.

In July 1835 the Relief Presbytery of Dumfries commenced sermon anew in this town on petition from a number of the inhabitants, and in November the adherents were recognised as a forming congregation. On 13th September 1836 Mr Cross of Langholm reported that he had preached at Castle Douglas, and opened their place of worship. This church had been built for the Secession congregation, but it was never occupied, and had been turned to everyday purposes. It was now secured by the friends of the Relief, and fitted up with fully 300 sittings. A call followed to Mr Alexander Nelson in April 1837, but he declined, and obtained Carluke soon after.

Third Minister. JAMES JENKINS, from St Ninians. Ordained, 2nd August 1837. The meeting-house would not be costly to purchase, and with the aid of £65 from the Liquidation Fund in 1846 the debt which remained was entirely cleared off. Mr Jenkins died, 14th March 1867, in the sixty-seventh year of his age and thirtieth of his ministry.

Fourth Minister. JAMES ROTHNIE, M.A., from Old Meldrum. Ordained, 19th November 1867. A manse had been recently erected at a cost of £658, of which the Board paid £200, and the present church, with 375 sittings, was built in 1870 at a cost of £1300. Mr Rothnie died at Sidmouth, 25th January 1875, in the thirty-second year of his age and eighth of his ministry. Mr Turner of Craigdam, who knew him well in his early days, and was always measured in his statements, testified that a finer, purer, more admirable, more lovable nature than Mr Rothnie’s he had scarcely known.

Fifth Minister. JAMES AITKEN, M.A., from St Andrews. Ordained, 27th April 1875. The stipend from the people was to be £135, with the manse, and the membership at the end of the year was 170. Mr Aitken accepted a call to Northumberland Square, North Shields, 6th February 1877, whence he was transferred to Lothian Road, Edinburgh, in August 1881.

Sixth Minister. ROBERT S. WILSON, M.A., from Stewarton. Called also to Hallside, and to Greenhead, Glasgow. Ordained, 6th November 1877. The membership at this time was about 180. At the close of 1899 it was 262, and the stipend from the people had risen £30, being £165, with the manse.  

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