Crossmichael, Parton & Balmaghie
Church of Scotland
Presbytery of Dumfries and Kirkcudbright
Scottish Charity Number SCO14901
The first official mention we can find of the ancient Parish of Crossmichael is when Uchred, younger son of Fergus, first Lord of Galloway, founded the Abbey of Lincluden in 1164. Apart from the revenue it received from the lands around the Abbey, it also included the baronies of Drumsleet and Crossmichael. In1275, Crossmichael was transferred to the Abbey of Sweetheart by Devorgilla the great grand-daughter of Uchtred and mother of John Baliol.
In 1331, Simon, Bishop of Galloway, granted a charter of the Parish of
Crossmichael to the Monastery of Sweetheart with whom it remained until 1587 when it was claimed by the Crown under the
Annexation Act of that year.
The present Parish Church of Crossmichael was built in 1751 and is the second to be built on the site. Like its predecessor, it is dedicated to St. Michael, the patron saint from whom the parish takes its name. No records exist which might tell us when the previous church was built, but by checking the earliest tombstone in the churchyard (erected to the memory of Randolf Ross who died in 1547) we can assume that the church was already in existence. It was a single-story structure and at ground level was four or five feet lower than the present church.
There can be little doubt that the Romans brought Christianity to Crossmichael with a permanent fort being built at Glenlochar but the first Christian centre is considered by historians to have been an Abbey built close to the fort in what is now known as Abbey Yard.
The outstanding feature of the present church is the round bell-tower, but very little is known about it. There is no doubt that it was built many years after the original church was built and is the only part of it which was retained and incorporated into the present church building in 1751.
The church was enlarged and repaired between the years 1783 and 1790 but as far as is known, there were no further changes until 1965 when a new vestry was added and, in 1971, the old porch was demolished to make way for a new, more spacious porch.
In the porch is a list of ministers who have served in the Parish of Crossmichael from 1567 until the present day. Most notable amongst these persons is the Reverend David Welsh (1821-1827) who later became Professor of Church History at Edinburgh and in 1843, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. An earlier minister is also memorable, but for quite a different reason. Minister Andrew Dick (1724-1738) died suddenly in the pulpit when announcing his text- "Strive to enter in at the strait gate"! His tombstone is near the bell tower.
Of the many and varied tombstones to be found in the old part of the churchyard there are numerous examples of the old monumental sculptors' art, but one which holds special appeal is the grave of William Graham, a young Covenanter who was shot by a party of dragoons in 1682 while trying to flee from his mother's house at Mollance.
Extract from the church leaflet "Crossmichael Parish Church- a short, historical note" written in 1977 by the late Sam Thompson member and Church Elder
To bring things up to date
The new millenium brought a new chapter in the history of Crossmichael Church. After an enthusiastic fund raising campaign by the members of Crossmichael and Parton Church, work started on the construction of the new church hall. The foundation stone was laid jointly by the oldest member of the Church, now sadly the late Mrs Marion Dickson, and the youngest, Sam Hodson.
The hall has good disabled access, so the service is held there on the third Sunday of the month for the benefit of people who find find the steep steps up to the Church difficult.
The hall is also used for Church social activities, and fund raising events which support the work of the Church.
The present day Kirk was designed by architect Walter Newall and built in 1834. It replaced an earlier auld Kirk, known as Killennan, which was dedicated to St. Inan [Ninian] and which was built sometime during 1502 and then rebuilt in 1534. Within the auld Kirk ruins, which stand in the present churchyard, is the grave of Benjamin Rigby Murray, a great benefactor of Parton who, amongst other things, provided the village with its Village Hall and row of small cottages which the Kirk overlooks. The bell, built into the Kirk tower in 1901, was gifted by the Murray family in memory of Benjamin Rigby Murray. Also to be found within the auld Kirk ruins is the grave of James Clerk Maxwell, world renowned physicist whose scientific creativity has given us so much that we take for granted in our modern world. Maxwell was born in Edinburgh, but his home was at Glenlair in Parton parish. Maxwell’s father, John, was an elder at Parton Kirk and chairman of the heritors in 1834 when the present Kirk was built - it is his signature on the plans drawn up by Walter Newall. The decision to replace the auld Kirk was taken in 1818 following complaints by the then minister, Rev. James Rae, and the congregation and after inspection by the Presbytery which affirmed that a new building was required. The reasons were clear even as far back as 1791 where an extract from the “Statistical Account of Scotland” described the auld Kirk as being “remarkable for little else except its darkness and disproportion”. Other references describe an “offensive smell” due to the fact that outside, along one side of the auld Kirk, the earth was “three feet and a half above ground level on the inside”.
The auld Kirk itself replaced a Barony Chapel which was demolished in 1502. The Barony Chapel was dedicated to St. Andrew and situated near an old fortified building [circa 12th century] whose foundations still can be seen in the grass above the walled gardens close to Parton House. The original Barony House was located on the Motte in the field adjacent to the graveyard of today’s Kirk. Sadly, nothing remains of this original structure, apart from the Motte itself which is now a scheduled monument.
Some links to the past have been preserved however. Parton’s old ornately carved oak pulpit, dated 1598, now stands in the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh although for some time it lay in the stables at Parton Manse. In a wall of the vestibule in today’s Kirk there is a small fragment of a priest’s effigy sculptured in low relief. The ornamentation of the vestments is rich and is thought to date from the first half of the 16th century. In 1296, the living of Parton parish was held by one “Gilbert Cavan” and it is his name which can be found at the top of a list, on display in the vestry, giving the names of all the ministers of Parton parish since that time.
The Present Day
|Crossmichael, Parton & Balmaghie Church is
part of a linked charge with Corsock and
Kirkpatrick Durham Church
with whom we share our minister.