Cruden Church

 

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Cruden Parish Church....

 

There are few pleasanter places than the environs of Cruden Old, in its sheltered valley beside the stream and the old bridge, almost within the sound of the sea. Yet, when we look into history we find that all this ground was once a battlefield where the Danes received their final defeat in the days of Malcolm II, being driven inland from the seashore and finally decimated. For centuries their graves could be seen in the Howe of Ardendrought and elsewhere.

The first church in the Parish is said to have been erected in the year 1012 by Malcolm to commemorate the victory and to mark the spot where the dead were buried. It was on a sandy spot near the sea - by what is now the golf course - and suffered the fate of other churches, such as Forvie, having been buried in the sand. Another church was buried further inland, south of the Church Burn, near where the Port Errrol bridge now stands. But of this too, all trace has disappeared. There stands in the present churchyard, however, by the entrance gate, a slab of marble which was brought there over a hundred years ago from the vicinity of the old church. Popular tradition which, of course, is not always to be trusted, says that it was sent from Denmark to be placed over the grave of a prince who was slain in battle. The church was dedicated to St Olaf.

It is not known when the next church building was erected, but it may be presumed that it was built on the present site some time prior to, or soon after, the Reformation. Nothing is known of the appearance of the building, and little of its history except that it was confirmed to the See of Aberdeen in 1157. It was one of the prebends of the Cathedral of St Machar. A relic of the Church still exists, now placed in the church beneath the pulpit. It has been suggested too, that the stones forming the ribots of the wiindows of the older part of the present building may have been incorporated from the Church which was pulled down in 1776, for these are of limestone and show signs of sculpture, while the building is otherwise of granite.

The new Church was described as a plain and substantial edifice, of no ecclesiastical pretensions, its one claim of interest being that it was built entirely out of one block of granite known as "the grey stone of Ardendrought" on which hallow fires used to be built. It is also said to have been a landmark to fishermen at sea. The Church was enlarged in 1934, the North wall being removed and a new wing added; the access to the gallery. The session house was built in 1840. The Church was renovated in 1913, the apse behind the organ and the circular windows dating from this time. The reading desk in the Church is a memorial to the fallen of two world wars. A new bell, the gift of the Women's Guild, was hung last year, while the old bell was transformed into an alms-box.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Church, possibly something unique, is the plaque on the East wall. This is a memorial tablet to Bishops Drummond and Dunbar, erected in 1911. It is a telling illustration of the contrasts to be found in the story of Cruden, of peace and storm, of divisions and underlying unity. At the unveiling, the dedication service was conducted by the Right Rev. Alexander Stewart, Principal of St Mary's College, Edinburgh, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. After the service, the brass tablet was unveiled by the Most Rev. Walter John Forbes Robberds, Bishop of Brechin and Primate of the Episcopal Church. The erection of the tablet was a joint effort, Presbyterians and Episcopalians subscribing to the cost. The plaque is

Sacred to the Memory of The Right Rev. James Drummond, D.D., Bishop of Brechin, 1684-1689, who was deprived of his bishopric at the Revolution Settlement, and who resided at Slains Castle, in this Parish, until his death at the age of 66, on 13th April, 1695. He was a good pious man, diligent in his office. By his generosity this Church was enriched with two silver Communion Cups, and by his help and means the bridge which leads to it, still known as "The Bishop's Bridge" was built. He sleeps in the aisle of this Church.

And of The Right Rev. William Dunbar, M.A., Minister of this Parish, 1691 to 1716,
who was compelled to vacate his living by civil force in 1718. He subsequently became Bishop of Moray and Ross, 1727-1733, and of Aberdeen, 1733-1745 (of the Episcopal Church). Whilst minister of this parish, he was much esteemed by his flock, and proved himself a faithful pastor and diligent preacher. Under his influence, and largely by his pen, the remarkable book "A Representation of the Church in North Britain and of the Sufferings of the Orthodox and Regular Clergy" was written at Cruden in 1716. He died in 1746, in the 85th year of his age.

Mr Dunbar came to Cruden in 1691, and was therefore an "intruder" - but he remained on good terms with the Presbytery of Ellon. In 1715 he made the mistake of openly praying for, and countenancing, the cause of the Pretender. He was formally deposed in 1716 and deprived of his living two years later. The entire congregation "went out" with him, and there was difficulty in finding a Presbyterian minister bold enought to settle in the Parish. The Rev. James Wardlaw, who was at Length appointed, stayed only one year. Short ministries, however, have been the exception at Cruden. Since the Reformation there have been only sixteen ministers, and of these, four ministries have been short, owing to the troubles in the Church. Of the others, the Rev. Mr Cocks was minister for 59 years, and died at the age of 82. The Rev J McQueen, the last minister of Cruden Old, served the Parish for 41 years.

Transactions of The Buchan Club
By Rev John Murray
1964