Meigle: Religious Development in the Parish
A great standing stone known as the Macbeth stone, inside the wall of Belmont Castle is believed to be of religious significance to people who lived in the area more than 4000 years ago.
It is likely that the existing church stands on a spot considered sacred from pre Christian times.
6th & 7th centuries: Christian messages spread east from Iona gradually replacing ancient beliefs and religious practices.
565: Tradition tells us that St Columba (who came to Iona from Ireland) came to Meigle possibly during his journey into Pictland. He and his fellow monks were preaching the gospel of Christ.
606: A church of turf was established
9th century: the register of St Andrew mentions a ‘church at Miggil’ dedicated to St Peter; and a chapel about a mile to the west dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This was at the place now called Chapelton where in the 19th century, the Kinloch Mausoleum was built over the chapel ruins.
The church would have been a simple stone building but many carved slabs with Pictish and Christian symbols surrounded the church or were built into its walls. More than 20 of these stones are on display at the Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum.
One of the stones in the museum is thought to depict Queen Guinevere, wife of King Arthur, being attached by wild beasts. (Other scholars believe the carving represents Daniel in the lions den.) According to legend, Guinevere was imprisoned in Dumbarre Castle on Barry Hill near Alyth before she met her horrific end. She was buried in the churchyard at Meigle under the mound near the main door of the church. An ancient tradition held that any young woman crossing over ‘Vanora’s mound’ would never bear children.
1177: Simon de Megill gifted the ‘living’ (i.e. the income from the tithes paid by parishioners) of the church to the canons of St Andrews. Meigle was an independent barony whose lords used the surname ‘de Miggil (or Meggil or Megill)’
1431: The church was rebuilt according to records.
1474: The ‘living’ of the priest was paid for by an endowment made by David, Earl of Crawford, of the income from rents of various lands which he owned in Strathmore.
1502: Kirkhill (now Belmont) in the Parish was built as the official residence of the Bishops of Dunkeld. So, Meigle would have seen many important visitors to the Parish.
1504: Walter Tyry of Lunan, on behalf of and in the name of Gilbert Tyry (Vicar of Cargill) granted to the altar of St Paul in Meigle church an annual rent of £10 from the Lands of Lunan. The Tyry family at one time owned Drumkilbo in the parish.
1560: The Scottish Parliament voted to abolish the authority of the Pope in Scotland. Scotland officially became a Protestant country. Most of the Roman Catholic clergy joined the new Church and the people generally followed suit. Meigle was no exception.
1562-69: Sir Alexander Moncrieff is shown in Kirk records as Minister after the church had become part of the Church of Scotland.
17th Century: It is believed that the Protestant Church was built about the beginning of the 17th century and was cruciform in shape.
1790: A wing was added to the west gable with a turret on the top and a bell was suspended inside it. The bell had been donated at this time by Mr Patrick Murray of Simprim who lived at Meigle House.
1843: The time of the ‘Disruption’ when about 400 (a third) of the Church of Scotland Ministers walked out of the General Assembly and left the Kirk. They wanted to be free of interference from Parliament or local landowners; and able to choose their own Minister. The Minister at Meigle remained within the Church of Scotland, but all the elders (except one!) left the Church.
1850: The church was further improved with the installation of a new wooden floor to replace the clay and a stove.
1869: On Sunday 28 March the Church was burned to the ground. This followed a period of much restoration with a new vestry and wooden floor, a repositioned front door and crucially a new stove – which more than likely caused the fire!
March 1869 to July 1870: The Church of Scotland congregation were worshipping at the Free Kirk
1870: A new church was built at a cost of £2,000 and opened on 3 July. The bell from the old church was saved and incorporated into the belfry. The heritors of the parish were responsible for the cost of the new church. They were:
- Sir George Kinloch, the Earl of Strathmore,
- Lord Wharncliffe (owner of Drumkilbo)
- Admiral Popham of Cardean.
On the opening day there were three different preachers:
- the Reverend John Nicoll preached at the morning service and read from the 100th Psalm: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courts with praise.” This text is carved above the main doorway of the church
- Mr McPherson of the Free Church, (where the congregation had been worshipping during the rebuilding of the Church of Scotland) was the preacher at the afternoon service; and
- Dr Fleming from the neighbouring parish church of Kettins led the evening worship.
1887: Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the liberal politician, bought Belmont Castle and was a prominent worshipper. He became Prime Minister in 1905. He died in 1908 and was buried in the churchyard. The parish saw many distinguished visitors both while he lived here and also for his funeral procession.
1900: The congregation expanded around the turn of the century. Businessmen from Dundee moved to the countryside and travelled to work in the city by train from the village station.
1907: The church was redecorated with a range of artefacts including a Communion Table and Chair; a baptismal font; and a Stewart Crystal vase and stand.
1931: The congregation of the United Free Church of Scotland in Meigle joined with that of the Church of Scotland.
1970: In June, a service marked the 100th anniversary of the rebuilding of the church after the fire in 1870.
1981: The parish of Meigle united with Ardler and Kettins to become the Parish of Ardler, Kettins and Meigle
Meigle Parish: Other Denominations
1843: At the time of the ‘Disruption’ a new Free Kirk congregation was formed in the Parish. At this time they had no buildings of their own.
1854: A Free Church and manse were built. They can still be seen in the village at the southern end of the Dundee Road.
March 1869 to July 1870: The Church of Scotland were worshipping at the Free Kirk while their own church was being rebuilt after being destroyed by fire.
1892: The Reverend Peter Maltman was ordained as Minister of the Free Kirk and remained there for 30 years.
1900: At a national level the Free Kirk (the Frees) opted to join with the United Presbyterian Church (UPs) (formed from an earlier amalgam of denominations from earlier secessions from the Church of Scotland). At Meigle, the Free Church congregation was part of this Union.
1931: The United Free Church (UF) in Meigle joined with the Church of Scotland. (At a national level, the United Free Church had opted for Union with the Church of Scotland in 1929). The Free Church building was sold and the manse was let.
Pre 1852: It is believed that the Episcopalians of the Parish held their services at one of the buildings in Meigle House.
1852: St Margaret’s Episcopal Church was built at the north end of the village at the junction of the Alyth and Kirriemuir roads. It was largely funded by the generosity of Admiral Popham, the owner of the Cardean Estate.
1869: St Margaret’s Episcopal church was enlarged to include a pulpit and reading desk. It was said to be a fine building both inside and outside with a fine gothic window. The passage in front of the altar and the floor of the chancel were beautifully laid with a richly patterned Mosaic. A pre-reformation font which had been put out into the Kirkyard of the Church of Scotland building was brought to the Episcopal Church (later returned).
In November, a Messrs Gray and Davidson (London) organ was given by Admiral Popham. It was fitted into the recess of the chancel.
Little now remains of the church except part of the wall and railings which surrounded its churchyard.