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chapter. The appearance of the Churchyard is very striking as you enter it from the peculiarly porched gateway which guards the entrance. Before you is the green uneven sward studded with memorials of the departed, and a little way off the church, a very plain, rude looking building with a jutting aisle which bears date 1654. An interesting fact connected with this place of worship is, that Oliver Cromwell contributed a sum of money towards defraying the expense of its erection when he sacrilegiously turned the historic church of Saint John (then the only place of worship in Ayr) into an armoury and built a portion of a fortification upon its buryingground.
After surveying the exterior of this curious structure I entered by a door which was fortunately standing ajar and began to examine the interior without let or hindrance, for the place was entirely deserted. My footfalls echoed strangely through the vacant building, and the “dim religious light” which streamed through the stained glass windows had a solemnising effect upon me, but I reverently advanced and leisurely examined the surroundings. Although neither remarkable for beauty nor style of architecture, yet it is much to be regretted that the interior of this old church has been at various times altered so as quite to have changed its character. Indeed “improvements” have been carried on to such a degree that its ancient appearance is entirely obliterated by the introduction of “whigmaleeries” which new-fangled notions have suggested. It has three galleries, or lofts, which are designated the merchants, the trades', and the sailors'. That of the sailors had the model of a full-rigged ship hanging in front of it, but like every other characteristic feature, it is improved out of sight. On either side of the pulpit are large windows filled with stained glass of rich and interesting design. One is a memorial of John Welsh and William Adair, ministers of the church in olden times.
The design hlustrates the preaching of John the Baptist and the announcement of the Nativity by the angel to the shepherds of Nthlehem. One half of the other window is a memorial of Lly Jane Hamilton, and the other half is inscribed to Charles Dalrymple Gairdner. The Scriptural groups are tineated and wrought out with remarkable success, and the
colouring, relieved by blending shades of white glass,
sheds a mellow pure light upon the interior. The rest of the church need not detain us long. Besides these brittle, but brilliantly coloured memorials of good men, there are several monumental tablets on the walls which will repay examination, and also a fine organ behind the neatly fitted up pulpit.
After viewing the interior of the church, I began an interesting ramble through the churchyard, and there scanned the memorial stones of several men who were friends and associates of Burns, and others who have gained a kind of celebrity by being alluded to in his poetry. For instance, close to the southern wall of the church aisle rest the remains of the gentleman to whom the poet inscribed “the Brigs of Ayr.” The tablet which marks the spot bears the following inscription :—"IN MEMORY OF JOHN BALLANTYNE, ESQR., OF CASTLEHILL, BANKER IN AYR, WHO DIED 15TH JULY, 1812, AGED 68.” Judging from records on two old stones at the foot of the grave, the secluded nook seems to have been the burying-place of the Ballantynes for several generations. Robert Chambers sums up this gentleman's character in few words. He says :—"There could not have been a nobler instance of benevolence and manly worth than that furnished by Provost Ballantyne. His hospitable mansion was known far and wide, and he was the friend of every liberal measure.”
Robert Aiken, the poet's earliest Ayr patron, rests near the worthy Provost; and within a railed enclosure by the side of the church are the graves of Drs. Dalrymple and M‘Gill, the well-known heroes of “The Kirk's Alarm.” The following is inscribed on the monumental slabs to their memory :
“ TO THE MEMORY OF THE REV. WILLIAM DalryMPLE, D.D., MINISTER OF AYR, WHO DIED THE 28TH OF Jany., 1814, IN THE 91ST YEAR OF HIS AGE, AND THE 68TH OF HIS MINISTRY; AND OF SUSANNA HUNTER, HIS WIFE, WHO DIED THE 29th Nov., 1809, AGED 83. ALSO, OF THEIR CHILDREN ELIZABETH, M'CRAE, AND CHARLOTTE, WHO DIED INFANTS. OF RAMSAY, WHO DIED IN HER TENTH YEAR. OF JAMES, THEIR ONLY SON, WHO DIED IN HIS TWENTIETH YEAR.
OF SUSANNA, WHO DIED 2ND JANY., 1817, IN HER GOTU YEAR; AND OF SUSANNA HUNTER STEWART, THEIR GRANDDAUGHTER, WHO DIED IN HER 12TH YEAR.'
“TO THE MEMORY OF THE REVEREND WILLIAM MʻGILL,
D.D., THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED BY THE MAGISTRATES OF AYR, IN TESTIMONY OF THE SENSE WHICH THEY AND THE COMMUNITY THEY REPRESENT RETAIN OF HIS DISTINGUISHED WORTH IN THE DISCHARGE OF THE PASTORAL DUTIES OF THIS PARISH FOR A PERIOD OF 46 YEARS. HEAVEN CALLED HIM HENCE ON THE 30TH DAY OF MARCH, 1807, IN THE 76TH YEAR OF HIS AGE.”
Dr. Dalrymple was senior, and Dr. M'Gill junior minister of the parish church of Ayr, and during the long period of their joint incumbency-forty-six years—the utmost cordiality existed between them.
Dr. Dalrymple is said to have been a man of extraordinary benevolence and worth, and many strange anecdotes are related regarding the philanthropic traits of his character, but it was more than hinted during his lifetime that his views regarding the Trinity were not altogether orthodox. Burns possibly had this in his mind when he penned the following stanza regarding him :
* D'rymple mild, D’rymple mild,
Though your heart's like a child,
Yet that winna save ye,
Auld Satan must have ye,
For preaching that three's ane and twa." As Dr. M‘Gill raised the “heretic blast” which gave Burns the key-note of the celebrated satire “ The Kirk's Alarm," a somewhat fuller notice may be accorded him. He was born at Carsenestock, in the parish of Penninghame, Wigtownshire, on the 11th July, 1731, and was early destined for the Church of Scotland. After receiving a preparatory education at the parish school, he entered the Glasgow University, and in due time was fitted for the ministry. Shortly after being licensed, he preached several times to the congregation of the Parish Church of Ayr during a vacancy in the second charge, and gave such universal satisfaction that at their earnest solicitation he was inducted to the living on the 22nd October, 1761. Some two years after his settlement he married Elizabeth Dunlop, a niece of his colleague Dr. Dalrymple—a lady of a somewhat capricious temperament, who had a small fortune of £700 ; but the
sum being placed in the Douglas and Heron bank, it was unhappily lost when that unfortunate concern collapsed in 1772. To eke out his slender official income he received boarders into his house, and many country families whose sons were attending Ayr Academy availed themselves of the privilege of placing them under his excellent supervision. His life may be said to have passed without incident until the year 1786. Then he published a theological work entitled-A Practical Essay on the Death of Jesus Christ, in two parts ; containing (1), the History ; (2), the Doctrine of His Death. This bulky octavo volume of 550 pages is dedicated to his colleague, the Rev. William Dalrymple, D.D.; but it no sooner made its appearance than it was denounced as a heretical publication. It was said to favour Arian and Socinian doctrine, and declared contrary to the standard theology of the Church of Scotland. attacked by the clergy and laity, and replied to by pamphleteers. Indeed, many zealots in blind enthusiasm did their utmost to crush the writer, and stifle freedom of thought in matters of religion. Amid all this commotion, Dr. M'Gill remained silent, and never so much as deigned to explain or defend the opinions which the work contained until “ Pebbles frae the water fit"-as Burns terms the Rev. William Pebbles, D.D., minister of Newton-upon-Ayr-published a sermon which he preached in commemoration of the Revolution on the 5th November, 1788. In this he spoke disparagingly of Dr. M'Gill and his work, and declared that “ with one hand he was receiving the privileges of the church, while with the other he was endeavouring to plunge the keenest poignard into her heart”—a most unworthy charge certainly. War was now declared between hitherto warm friends. Dr. M'Gill at once replied by publishing the sermon which he delivered on the 5th November, and along with it an appendix, in which he defended what he had written, and severely censured his accuser. Up to this time the Presbytery exercised a prudent forbearance and took no notice of the controversy, but the instant it assumed such a flagrant form steps were taken to vindicate the standards of the church, and the case was laid before the Presbyterial Court of Ayr in April, 1789-exactly three years after the publication of the essay. Dr. M‘Gill adhered to the opinions
expressed in the work, and continued to defend them, but ultimately an elaborate report was drawn up which stated that the work contained heretical doctrines which were entirely opposed to the standards of the church. Afterwards the case was laid before the Synod which met in Glasgow on the 13th April, 1790; but, to the surprise of everybody, the Doctor requested that no further proceedings should take place, apologised, and gave an explanation of his views which entirely satisfied the assembled divines and ended the discussion.
The memory of this ecclesiastical squabble would have perished had not the satire of the bard rescued it from the oblivion which shrouds many a similar rupture. He had a keen relish for such conflicts, and doubtless watched this one with deep interest, for his noble nature rebelled against the gloomy Calvinism of his day. He wrote “ The Kirk's Alarm” in the very heat of the dissension and circulated it in manuscript amongst his friends. In a letter to John Logan, Esq., which contained a copy of the satire, and shows in what direction his sympathies ran, he says : “If I could be of any service to Dr. M'Gill I would do it, though it should be at a much greater expense than irritating a few bigoted priests; but as I am afraid serving him in his present embarass is a task too hard for me ;” and in a letter to his friend, Robert Graham of Fintry, containing another copy, he makes use of the following language regarding the persecuted doctor : “I think you must have heard of Dr. M‘Gill, one of the clergymen of Ayr, and his heretical book. God help him, poor man! Though he is one of the worthiest, as well as one of the ablest of the whole priesthood of the Kirk of Scotland, in every sense of that ambiguous term, yet the poor doctor and his numerous family are in imminent danger of being thrown out to the mercy of the winter winds."
This was the only eventful chapter in the life of Dr. MʻGill. Besides his “Practical Essay on the Death of Jesus Christ,"
published various detached sermons, but none of them seem to have attracted much attention. Robert Chambers states that “he was a Socinian in principle, though not a disciple of Socinius, none of whose works he had ever read. In his personal and domestic character he was a strange mixture of simplicity and stoicism. He seldom smiled, but often