BLAIRGOWRIE PARISH CHURCH
First Free Curch
In 1843, at the time of Disruption, the Rev. Robert Macdonald, who was the minister of the Parish Church (The Hill) 'came out' along with most of the congregation and formed the Free Church in Blairgowrie. They worshipped in a large tent in the Glebe (where the old Hill Primary School now stands) until their church was ready.
The building of the church in James Street took about five months and cost £823. It stood where the church halls now stand. It opened for public worship in November 1843. Its associated school was established in James Street shortly afterwards. The manse, 'Bush House', was built in 1851, with Rev. Macdonald as its first resident.
In 1857 the Rev. Macdonald translated to Leith and the congregation split over his successor. It was reported at the time that a proposed call to the Rev. John Walker of Newton Stewart was objected to by a number of the congregation, and that this resulted in three elders and one deacon along with 150 members and adherents leaving the church and setting up a second Free Church in the town. The Rev. John Walker decided to decline the call.
The following year, 1858, the Rev. John Baxter accepted the position and became the second minister of the First Free Church. He was a native of Blairgowrie and had been educated for a time in the local parish schools. He gained his degrees in St Andrew's University. He had served in two other churches prior to Blairgowrie. During his incumbency the church choir was formed. He ministered there for 35 years until his death in 1893 and is still the longest serving minister of this church.
Artwork by Mary McGregor
Rev. William Muir came in 1894. Many changes took place during his incumbency. In 1900 the church was one of many Free Churches which united with the United Presbyterian Church, and its name changed to St Andrew's United Free Church.
The previous year, the Deacons Court had set up a Building Fund Committee to raise funds for a new church. In 1901 Lord Overton laid a memorial stone in the new building, at the outside corner of the tower, next to the school. A casket was placed there containing a copy of the Blairgowrie Advertiser and various items pertaining to the church. At the end of the ceremony an inscribed silver trowel was presented to Lord Overton. The building was completed at a cost of just under £8,000. It was opened for worship on 19th June 1902 by the Rev. John Watson from Liverpool. It is built in the early English Gothic style and has four doors leading from the vestibule into the aisles of the church. There is a large transept on either side of the nave. In the apse behind the pulpit five beautiful stained glass windows all connected with the life of Moses. They were gifted by Mr. David Mitchell in memory of his parents. Furnishings inside the church include the christening font in the chancel which is in memory of the first two ministers, Rev. Robert Macdonald and Rev. John Baxter. The pulpit was a gift of the young people of the congregation. An additional plaque was added in memory of Rev. Muir who ministered in the church from 1894 to 1907 and died in 1920. In 1904 the Milne family gifted the communion table and chairs in memory of their father, Mr. David Milne, a former session clerk. All are suitably inscribed. The vestry, session room and the other rooms were furnished by the ladies of the Church Work Group.
In 1901 the 2nd Blairgowrie Boys Brigade was formed, with a company of 30 boys under the captaincy of a Mr. Carmichael. Over the years the company was disbanded and restarted a couple of times. It is now the only Boys Brigade company in the Blairgowrie and Rattray district.
The Rev. Muir left in June 1907 and was followed in December by the Rev. David Smith. The same year a water driven pipe organ was installed by Norman and Beard of London, at a cost of £700. The console sits on the chancel in front of the pulpit, with the pipes behind, in the apse of the church, under the stained glass windows. The Rev. Smith left in 1909 to take up a post in the Magee College in Londonderry.
The Rev. William Niven came in 1910. He wrote the words and the tune for a hymn called Shades of Evening Round Us Fall. In 1914 individual cups were purchased for Communion. During the war, in 1915, the school asked for use of the church halls as the Ministry of Defence were using their premises. The Rev. Niven left after the war, in 1919.
The Rev. Walter Bell was inducted about three months later, in July 1919. In August that year a memorial plaque to the fallen of World War I was erected at the entrance to the church. Unfortunately Rev. Bell died suddenly in 1922.
Rev. Robert Hastie was inducted in July 1923. In 1929, when the United Free Church and the Established Church united, the church went back to the Church of Scotland and changed the name to St Andrew's Church. The lectern on the chancel was gifted in 1937 in memory of Mr. William Howat of Hillside House. In 1940 the hall was used by the Polish troops as a recreation centre. After the war, in 1947, electricity was installed in the church and halls. Mr. Hastie was to have retired in December 1950 but he died a fortnight before. The following year six communion plates were bought and were suitably inscribed in memory of the Rev. Hastie.
Rev. Robert Howieson came in 1951. The Quarterly Newsletter, set up in 1954, contained reports from the Sunday School, Choir, Bible Class, Boys Brigade, Social Club, Womans Guild and Mission to the Berrypickers. A few alterations to the halls took place in the fifties and the organ was changed from water driven to an electric blower.. In 1967 'Marchmont', in David Street, was bought to become the Manse. The old manse in Newton terrace, 'Bush House' was later sold. The Rev. Howieson retired in January 1968 – which meant that all three Blairgowrie Church of Scotland congregations were without ministers. They were the three that would eventually become Blairgowrie Parish Church.
Rev. Stewart Young was inducted in 1969 and was the first minister to live in the manse in David Street. Over the next few years a number of improvements were made to the church, halls and also the manse. In 1973 the choir chairs were gifted by the family of the late Mr. & Mrs Milne of Forgue House. In 1989 extensive repairs and upgrading of the organ cost about £26,000. In 1994 Rev. Young celebrated 25 years as minister of the church and two years later he retired,
The Rev. Robert Sloan was inducted in 1997. In 1999 it was decided to celebrate the Millennium by making a Millennium Tapestry. Four tapestries were made by various members of the congregation and these now hang in the church. A Centenary Committee was also set up to look at ideas for celebrating in 2002 the centenary of the building of the church. In May 2000 the Boys Brigade Company celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boys Brigade in Blairgowrie and Rattray with a service of celebration on the church.
In 2001, the Rev. Sloane translated to Scone. As the minister of St Mary's-South had left earlier that year, an agreed Presbytery Plan came into effect, which meant that the two charges would now unite and become one congregation, worshipping in the St Andrew's building. The last service before the union was held in St Andrew's Church on Sunday 27th January 2002.
UNION WITH ST MARY'S-SOUTH CHURCH
The following Tuesday, 29th January 2002, the service of union took place in the James Street church, now known as Blairgowrie Parish Church, as agreed by both congregations. The Deacon's Court became the Congregational Board. On 19th June a service was held to celebrate the centenary of the opening of the then St Andrew's Church in 1902. During the service elders from both congregations gave brief histories of the four Church of Scotland churches in Blairgowrie, from the first Parish Church (The Hill Church) to the present day Blairgowrie Parish Church. In the summer of that year the Centenary Committee saw the start of their project to install ramps and lifts and other alterations which would allow disabled people access to all parts of the church and halls.
The Rev. Donald Macleod was inducted as the first minister of Blairgowrie Parish Church in August 2002. The Rev. Ian Knox was appointed Associate Minister in December 2002. A year later the Side Chapel was created in the transept nearest James Street, when some pews were removed and replaced with new chairs and some furnishings from the former South Church and St Mary's Church. The area is used for various small occasions. The memorials from St Andrew's church, The Hill Church, St Mary's Church, The South Church and Mount Ericht Church all hang in the vestibule. The stone font from St Mary's Church sits in the side garden and the Littleton stone is beside the entrance to Blairgowrie Parish Church.
In 2004 Epacts (East Perthshire Action of Churches together in Scotland) was launched, replacing the Presbytery Partnership. In 2005, a new mezzanine floor was built above the small hall. In the summer of 2006 a monthly service at 9.30am was introduced, mainly for younger families. The Rev. Harry Mobray came as Auxiliary Minister and after completing a fifteen months placement, left in October 2007. In November 2007 a member of the church, Grace Saunders, was ordained into the ministry of The Church of Scotland. In July 2008, Rev. Donald Macleod retired.
The Rev. Harry Mobray was inducted as the second minister of Blairgowrie Parish Church in August 2008. 'Homecoming' was celebrated in 2009 when a variety of events took place in the hall and church. In 2010, to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the Reformation, local churches got together to present a history of their churches in the hall.
The first Messy Church for younger families was launched in November 2011. A tenth anniversary of the union of the church was marked in March 2012 with an exhibition and a review of the first ten years. In July 2012 Rev. Ian Knox retired as Associate Minister, to be replaced by Rev. Bill Ewart in August that year.
Future Focus was set up to look at formulating a vision for the church for the twenty first century.
For further information about churches in the area, see the Social History of Blairgowrie and Rattray. Details on the Publications page