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

United Presbyterian Church, Mainsriddell


On 24th June 1776 the Antiburgher Presbytery of Edinburgh received a petition from Kirkbean for sermon, and on 8th July a day s supply was appointed to that place. On 5th August the petition was renewed, but by-and-by both petitions and appointments ceased. But on 17th September 1789 a minister was intruded into the parish of Kirkbean by orders of the General Assembly, and this prompted Dissent to lift up its head anew. In the earliest extant minutes of Edinburgh Relief Presbytery two calls are presented to Mr James Smart, the one from Waterbeck, and the other from Kirkbean. This was on 22nd March 1791. He was in great perplexity how to decide, he said, but if they would give him till next meeting he would then accept either the one or the other. On 12th April he was clear for Kirkbean. They had, first of the two, intimated their design to him, which he did not discourage. Besides, he looked on that country as well adapted for his health. The church was built at Mainsriddell, in the parish of Colvend, but close to the borders of Kirkbean.

First Minister. JAMES SMART, of whose antecedents we only know that he got licence from the Relief Presbytery of Dysart. His stipend was to be £60 and a house the first year, and then there was to be an addition of £10, and whatever more might arise from the surplus of the seat-rents. Ordained, 14th July 1791. The inadequacy of the stipend may have prepared Mr Smart for an early removal. In the end of 1795 he was called to Largo, when something of his former hesitancy returned, but on 5th January 1796 he informed the Presbytery that his objections to accept were removed, and he hoped they would consent to the translation. Under the Relief system the will of the minister in such a case was decisive, and accordingly Mr Smart was loosed from Kirkbean.

Second Minister. EDWARD DOBBIE, M.A., from Dovehill, Glasgow (now Kelvingrove). Ordained, 13th April 1797. He had been previously called to Lanark, where there was large promise, but he declined, and now settled down for twelve years at Mainsriddell. In 1807 he put Milngavie also aside, but on 4th July 1809 he accepted a call to Burnhead.

Third Minister. WILLIAM MUIR, from Sanquhar, where he had been brought up in the Antiburgher church. Ordained, 12th June 1810. He was called to the large and important congregation of Strathaven in the beginning of 1819, where the emoluments were £150, but when the day for decision came he stated to the Presbytery that "on account of various circumstances he had made up his mind to remain in his present situation, and had taken upon himself to prevent the commissioners coming forward in prosecution of their call." The Presbytery thereupon expressed their hope "that the congregation of Mainsriddell will faithfully fulfil their obligations to him as their pastor, and that he and they will long continue in mutual concord and happiness." But in little more than a year Mr Muir demitted his charge, pleading inability to perform the duties of the office as he could wish, and at next meeting, on 27th June 1820, the resignation was accepted. In July 1821 Mr Muir became stated supply to the vacant congregation of Langholm, and this went on till 2nd February 1824, when he wrote a letter to the Presbytery renouncing connection with the Relief Synod "for reasons which it was unnecessary for him to mention." They enjoined him to appear personally before them or explain by letter why he was acting in this way. All that followed was a further intimation that he adhered to his former resolve. He was thereupon declared to be no longer in connection with the Relief Church. Of his subsequent history we can trace nothing, but Dr McKelvie states that he became assistant to a minister in Newcastle connected with the Church of Scotland.


THIS is the same congregation, but in another ecclesiastical connection. For some time after Mr Muir left it kept by the Relief, but on 21st April 1821 a paper from Mainsriddell was laid before the Secession Presbytery of Dumfries, craving supply of sermon. The recent Union had given the Secession increased importance throughout the land, and the hope might be that the congregation, with stronger backing, would now attain to prosperity. Supply was readily granted, but in a few months it ceased to be applied for, and was discontinued. There was a blank now till the close of the following year, when a member of Presbytery stated that he had preached on a recent Sabbath at Mainsriddell, and that about twenty-seven heads of families had expressed a wish to have the gospel in connection with the United Secession Church. Services were now resumed, and in April 1823 the people there reported that they had upwards of 200 seats let, so that things were in a hopeful state. But still there was a struggle with straitened means, and even during the summer months sermon was asked only for alternate Sabbaths. Thus slowly did the cause at Mainsriddell advance towards a fixed pastorate.

First Minister. ROBERT GELLATLY, from Kinclaven. Ordained, 2nd January 1828, after thirteen years of probationership. He had supplied repeatedly at Mainsriddell during those years, and the impression might be that, though not popular, he would be well adapted for the place. Next year he was married to a daughter of the Rev. William Inglis, Dumfries, a union which brought him into a large and respectable family connection, and proved of advantage otherwise. But the funds of the congregation required to be subsidised from the Synod Fund year after year, and at last these slight grants were withheld. At the close of 1839 it was found that the income for six years had afforded Mr Gellatly a stipend of only £28 on an average, exclusive of the manse, garden, and other pertinents. In a few months the congregation expressed the opinion that their minister’s usefulness was gone, and, Mr Gellatly having tabled his resignation, it was accepted on 8th April 1840, the Presbytery ascribing the congregation’s want of prosperity, in some measure, to imprudences of expression and conduct on his part. On 11th
June the affairs of Mainsriddell came before the Presbytery in a threatening form. Certain of the office-bearers and members were to be prosecuted for arrears of stipend to the amount of £500, and they appealed for protection to the courts of the Church. This meeting was in Edinburgh, and the case was handed over to the Synod, which was in session at the time, and by their orders Mr Gellatly was suspended from the office of the ministry. He had trampled on a deed of Synod relating to the temporal support of ministers, but on agreeing to desist from the prosecution he had the sentence uplifted. It is to be inferred from references in the Presbytery minutes that Mr Gellatly, apparently through his marriage, was independent of stipend arrears. He applied in October 1843 for admission to the ministry of the Free Church, but the matter was delayed. He was more successful in his next venture, being received into the Established Church by the General Assembly in 1846. He died at West Toft, Stanley, on 18th April 1860, in his seventy-seventh year.

Mainsriddell congregation was now at the expiring point. The membership was 50, and the annual income under £40, which little sum had to be encroached on for payment of interest on a debt of £200. But the Mission Board wished to keep up ordinances at Mainsriddell for the sake of the wide district around, where there were five stations at which preachers supplied. At this point the Debt Liquidation Board allowed a grant of £120, and the people, through earnest efforts, raised the other £80. The way being thus far opened for obtaining a settlement, the Rev. Alexander Cuthbert was invited to become their minister, but after some hesitation he declined to accept, and was settled in Bathgate. Then in 1846 they called Mr William Cowan, who accepted Buckhaven.

Second Minister. PETER MERCER, from Lochee. Ordained, 27th October 1846. Resigned, 26th June 1849, and returned to the preachers list. Admitted to Drymen in the end of 1850. It is interesting to place over against Mr Mercer’s humble beginning at Mainsriddell the fact that he was ultimately appointed to train the students in Sacred Languages and Exegetical Theology in the Presbyterian Church of Victoria.

Mr William Porteous, son of the Rev. James Porteous, Coldstream (East), was now called to Mainsriddell, but he accepted the collegiate charge of Spittal, where he was ordained, 16th April 1850, and died, 22nd February 1881, in the fifty-seventh year of his age.

Third Minister. THOMAS FULLARTON, from Saltcoats, Relief (now Trinity Church). Ordained, 5th November 1850, when he was in his forty-third year, and had been married for fifteen years, his wife being a daughter of the Rev. David Ewing of Saltcoats. Mr Fullarton moved quietly on in his little sphere of labour till his death on 22nd May 1890, in the fortieth year of his ministry, having retired from the duties of the pastorate only two months before. His age has been wrongly given even in the parish register, where it is put as high as eighty-nine. But in a return he made to the Widows Fund Society he gave 21st December 1807 as his birthday, so that at his death he was in his eighty-third year. Mr Fullarton by his will left £400 to found the Fullarton Bursary in the U.P. Hall.

After this an earnest attempt was made by Dumfries Presbytery, and specially by the Rev. David Kinnear of Dalbeattie, to keep up the cause at Mainsriddell, but owing to discouragements this was not persisted in, and the congregation was dissolved, 7th February 1893. The last return gave only 20 members and a total income of £24. In October 1896 the sum of £167 was handed over to the Home Mission Board as the proceeds of the property when sold. The neighbouring Free church had obtained a new minister, and there was no end to be served by the building standing empty.

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