Kelso Secession Church History


1750 -- 112 seceders from the Established Church of Kelso, and joined with Stitchell. In 1753, Mr. Potts minister at Kelso; in 1761 Mr. Robert Nicol; (1779 built large and elegant meeting-house); 1784-1831 Mr. Robert Hall.

Jan 18, 1763 William Hay's birth record not found. William's sister's birth record not found (1760-1770?). William's parents' marriage record not found (1758-1762).

1787: Jane Ann Taylor and William Hay were listed in the Makerstoun Parish book as having been married irregularly in Cornhill, Northumberland, England.

1793: Margaret Hay is listed in the Makerstoun Parish Book as having her son William baptised by the Reverend Mr. Hall at Kelso (no father listed).

1812: Makerstoun Kirk 26th April 1812. That William Hay and Mary Wilson both of this parish were confirmed in marriage in the session by the Rev. Mr. Morison, minister of Gordin. -- not known if he was with the Established Church or a Secession Church.


Two Centuries of Border Church Life: With Biographies of Leading Men and Sketches of the Social
by James Tait

Chapter VIII - the Secession and Relief Churches in Kelso.

Till after the death of James Ramsay in 1749 there was no congretation in Kelso connected with the Associate Synod. Supply of sermon was granted for a time by the Anti-Burgher Synod, but the experiment did not succeed, and in February, 1749, the station was suppressed. Individual members, however, had joined the congregation at Stitchel, among whom was Alexander Mein, one of the elders who had left the church in October, 1739, because of Mr. Ramsay's violent speech in the General Assembly. Of Mr. Mein's departure there is no mention in the session minutes. James Ramsay had now been more than thirty years minister of Kelso, and continued to maintain unchanged his complete supervision of the parish.

James Ramsay died on the 3d July, 1749, and on the same day the Presbytery held a special meeting, "that the elders of the parish of Kelso might have an opportunity of asking supply of sermon." Two of the elders appeared and desired the Presbytery to take the case of their vacant congregation under their care and grant such supply as they might think proper. For the next Sabbath Mr. Thomas Pollock was appointed, to be followed by Mr. Walker, Mr. Leck and Mr. Hog. Supply was afterwards appointed for August and September; but on the 5th of the latter month a meeting of Prebytery was held, at which Mr. Charles Binning, advocate, "waited on the Prebytery, and represented to them that my Lord Duke of Roxburghe, patron of the parish of Kelso, intending to present Mr. Cornelius Lundie, preacher of the gospel within the bounds of the Presbytery of Haddington, to be minister of said parish and Parish Kirk of Kelso, desired that the Presbytery would invite Mr. Lundie to preach before the congregation of Kelso."

In short, the Duke of Roxburghe desired Mr. Lundie be the replacement minister, and a committee of heritors, elders and heads of families (Rev. Mr. Park of Foulden, proprietor of Easter Wooden; Mr. W. Ker, town-clerk of Kelso, appeared for John Carre of Cavers, Esq., Andrew Bell, tenant of Spylaw, and others; Charles Swinton appeared for Mr. Purves, a heritor; and George Swinton, saddler, appeared for his father as head of a family. They took the ground that Kelso was by far the most considerable parish in the bounds of the Presbytery, if not in the whole south of Scotland, and a congregation so numerous requires "not only a man of learning, but a man of experience, a man of weight, and known prudence." The petitioners proceed to say "our late pastor, of pious memory, was in use to comfort himself that "there was less division in his parish than in any other in the bounds," and they did not doubt that the Presbytery desired a continuance of this state of unity; but the settlement of Mr. Lundie would inevitably produce great discord and confusion, "to the great grief of many of the pious and godly in the parish." Not that they disputed the abilities of Mr. Lundie "as a young minister," or alleged anything against his moral character, for they knew little about him, but they had not confidence in his prudence. It was pleased that the parish of Kelso had never been settled with a young, inexperienced minister; and now, with many Episcopalians among them, and Seceders all round, nothing would prevent many from "falling in with errors and delusions except the settlement of an experience minister." On the 5th July Mr. Lundie was ordained, and a protestation against the proceeding was given in, signed by seven elders and 214 members.

The dissatisfied party, or the majority of them, applied for guidance to the Rev. W. Hutton of Dalkeith, moderator of the Burgher Presbytery of Edinburgh. A special meeting for the Presbytery was held at Edinburgh on the 3d October, 1756 [think this is a typo and should be 1750], when commissioners appeared, and presented a paper signed by 112 persons, craving to be accepted as seceders from the Established Church. They were readily received, but the supply of preachers being inadequate to the demand, were joined with the congregation of Stitchel, over which Mr. John Potts was ordained as minister. As a place of worship the Riding School was purchased and fitted up by the congregation.

...On the 6th February, 1753, the congregation of Kelso was disjoined from that of Stitchel, when Mr. Potts, being allowed his choice, preferred to be minister of Kelso. Three months later, on the 1st May, 1753, Mr. Potts was suspended by the Presbytery from the exercise of his office. While in London he had fraternized with Congregationalists, adopting their views regarding free communion, taking part in a fast day appointed by the State, and omitting to hold one appointed by the Synod, of all which he was summoned to give an account to the Suynod at Stirling. Explanations resulted in "a patched-up peace," which did not long continue, and there was obviously a want of mutual confidence. In June, 1752, matters came to a crisis, and the occasion was a communion at Jedburgh. The elders had been distributing tokens of admission; and some members from Kelso were present, who reported that on the previous sabbath their minister had said he was in favour of a mixed admission to the table, as was used by the Dissenters in England. A letter, signed by John Brown, minister at Haddington, John Smith, minister at Jedburgh, and five Jedburgh elders, in name of the session, was sent by express, asking to know the truth of this matter. Next day was sent a reply couched in somewhat lofty terms, and claiming Ralph Erskine as one who held the same opinions; but this was not considered satisfactory, and he was not only excluded from the communion at Jedburgh, but summoned before the Presbytery. Ultimately, Mr. Potts was suspended; and, in a pamphlet of thirty-three pages, besides a dedication and introduction, he then delivered his "protest against the Seceding Presbytery of Edinburgh" and his "appeal to the Protestant Reformed Churches." The dedication was to Sir Robert Pringle of Stitchel, to whose "impartial censure" Mr. Potts offered "these sheets," in which will be found "an antidote against Seceding regimen," and a miniature of those men with whom Sir Robert"once stood in connection." ... He maintained that they knew five years before, when he was sent as a missionary to London, that he was in the habit of joining in worship with other Churches than that of the Secession, and yet when he came down to Scotland after the breach they had not, either publicly or privately, condemned his prqactice in that particular. ... He had joined the Burghers, thinking they would be more tolerant; but now had discovered his mistake, and believed their forbearance at first had been only with a view to make proselytes. The matter ended in his suspension, after which he returned to London, and became minister of a Congregational Church, but died early.

...The next minister at Kelso was Robert Nicol, also a native of the town. He entered the Theological Hall under Professor James Fisher in 1757, five years after Mr. Coventry, who was settled in Stitchel, and in the same session with Alexander Shanks, who became minister at Jedburgh. Mr. Nicol was ordained on the 30th September 1761, having previously declined a call to London. He was an attractive preacher, and the congregation increased so rapidly in numbers and wealth that in 1779 they were able to build a church, described in the "Kelso Records," 1789, as "the largest and most elegant of any meeting-house in Scotland, the society being very numerous, and the congregation very wealthy people." On the 7th March, 1783, a newspaper, The British Chronicle, was started in Kelso; and in its columns on the 2d April, 1784, appeared the intimation -- "This morning died here the Rev. Mr. Robert Nicol, minister of the Burgher congregation."

The third minister of Kelso was Robert Hall, of whon a distinct impression still remains in the district. He was born at Cathcart, near Glasgow, where his father lived on a farm that had been occupied by the family for several generations. Robert was the youngest of a family that included, besides himself, two brothers and three sisters. One brother, James, became minister of Broughton Place Church, Edinburgh, and for fifty years stood conspicuous as one of the most attractive ministers in a city noted at the time for able preachers. With sound erudition and fascinating eloquence he conjoined a remarkable nobility of disposition, a courtly dignity that would have fitted him to shine in any social circle, great widsom in all the business of life, and a degree of piety and grace which eminently qualified him for the sacred office of the ministry. The same general features were observable in the younger brother, who had undoubtedly great capabilities and did much excellent work, but might have done still more had not some eccentricities of character acquired a gradually overshadowing prominence.

The parents of Robert Hall and his illustrious brother belonged to that excellent middle class who, in the eighteenth century, furnished a large proportion of evangelical ministers. From their father was obtained the feuon which was built the meeting-house of Shuttle Street, now Greyfriars, Glasgow, the earliest Secession Church in the city, and for many years the most prominent. Their mother owned some land contiguous to Kirkintilloch, and presented the Seceders of that place with land on which to erect a church and manse. .. In 1779 he entered the Theological Hall under Professor John Brown of Haddington, and, after the usual course, was licensed as a preacher. An offer of a living in the Establishment was made to him, as it had been to his elder brother, but was rejected with scorn.

The great acceptance of Robert Hall as a preacher appears from the fact that calls were addressed to him from Renton, Fenwick, and Eaglesham, as well as Kelso. Two candidates were proposed at Kelso, the other being John Dick, afterwards of Greyfriars, Glasgow, and Professor of Theology to the United Associate Synod. Even against an opponent so justly distinguished, Mr. Hall had a decided majority, but the settlement was not harmonious, and at least a portion of the minority left the congregation. Those who continued steadfast found in Mr. Hall a faithful pastor, and so thoroughly evangelical that he was distinctively known as "The Gospel Preacher."

...The congregation continued to flourish under the ministry of Mr. Hall; and the meeting-house was enlarged by removing the stairs which led to the gallery, and placing them outside the building. The congregational property was, and still is, very valuable. It is conveniently situated, quite near the market place, and central for all parts of the town. In front of the manse is a large and good garden; and there was an extensive green, on which the summer sacrament was held in former times, the minister preaching from a tent, the members bringing seats according to their pleasure or convenience.

... Early in January, 1830, Mr. Hall obtained as his colleague Mr. Henry Renton; but they worked together only for a brief period. Mr. Hall was seized with paralysis on the 1st of July, 1831, and became gradually worse till the 7th, when, at eight o'clock in the evening, he peacefully expired, in the 73d year of his age and the 46th of his ministry.


Note: film #441406 includes QUAKER records for Scotland. Supplementary registers of the Society of Friends, v. 1-4, by Gilbert Cope. Items 1-2 Vol 3 c1649-1729, quarterly meetings of Durham, Warwick, Leicester, Rutland and Vol 4 c1640-1729, quarterl meeting of Yorkshire. Item 3 is English Friends records Scotland -- marriages, births burials, 1647-1728 from the Aberdeen monthly meeting.