Local Ministers



Old Aberdeenshire Ministers - Presbytery of Garioch....


Mr Burnett of Daviot - Mr Thomas Burnett, inducted as minister of Daviot in 1829, is inseparably associated in the mind of the writer with Drs. Cushney and Bisset; the trio always acted together, and were as brethern. Thy were all marked by individuality of character. Mr Burnett was the impersonation of personal and professional orderliness, which in him had attained to something akin to mechanical perfection. A well-formed man, he scarcely varied, in public appearance or in habit of body, form youth to age, save that his hair whitened to snowy brilliance. His manner in ministerial services was as unchanging as his mode of expression. He was a nervous man, but so repressed the weakness that it was imperceptible save in the uniformity that characterised his discharge of every public duty. The minister of Daviot was uniformly esteemed the most trustworthy of men. His parishioners were wont to say - "Our minister is a gentleman in the pulpit and out of the pulpit." He had, during his active years, gained so much of the regard of his flock that, on three successive occasions, they unanimously joined in petitioning the patron to present, as assistant and successor, the person he had selected. A large number of Episcopalians dwelt in Daviot than in any other parish of the Presbytery - a remainder from the time when a popular minister, Mr Alexander Lunan, was deposed for taking part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715; but these parishioners were as friendly to Mr Burnett as their Presbyterian neighbours. It was, however, in his parish that reverence for the sacramental fast-days fixed by the Church was first disregarded by Episcopalian farmers.

The manse of Daviot is less changed than most in external appearance since his day. He ornamented the ground with strictly formal plantations. Part of it had long grown to form a covered walk, commanding the pleasant prospect of the braes of Saploch and the Mounie Valley. The finest of the trees still remain.

Mr Peter of Leslie - The parish of Leslie had been, since 1830, under the pastoral charge of Mr James Peter. He was obliged to supplement a small stipend by farming, which he did successfully in a small holding in the fertile valley of the Gadie. He was a bit of a politician, of the same colour as the neighbouring Whig lairds. His style of conversation was somewhat didactic, and, in those days of keen political controversy, he occasionally contributed to the newspapers. An eminently social man, it was said of him that before he was married he was never at home, and after marriage he could not be got to leave home. In figure he was well balanced, of moderate height, and erect as a soldier; his seat on horseback was the firmest in the neighbourhood. He died suddenly on a Sunday morning, May 2nd, 1870, aged 64.

Mr Middleton of Culsamond - Mr Middleton, the innocent hero of the "rabblement" so graphically described in "Johnny Gibb," was an elderly, gentle-looking man, slightly lame, and bent, when he came to Culsamond, in 1842, as assistant and successor to Mr Ferdinand Ellis, and, unwittingly, set the torch to the local fire of Disruption. No man could have been less deserving of the rough reception he got. He was a bright, social member of Presbytery, having had the advantage of associating with many characteristic old ministers during a prolonged "probation." He fell heir, by a brother's death, to a farm, which gave him a sort of title among his familiars. "Tituboutie," was the full designation, but it was cut down to "Titus" by his witty clerical colleagues, who already numbered among them a I Peter and II Peter. Mr Middleton lived till 1853, surviving his principal a few months.

Mr Keith of Keithhall - Mr John Keith, who succeeded his widely-known father, Dr Skene Keith, was one of the "non-intrusion" minority of the Presbytery of Garioch, but did not secede, and, on that account, suffered no little obloquy from the outgoing ministers in Aberdeenshire. He did not attend many meetings of the church court after 1843, but looked after his own parish faithfully. Though, like his father, exceedingly benevolent, he was not so often imposed upon. He effected a marked improvement in the "drouth" of his flock by a simple expedient. His father's habits of somewhat inconsiderate hospitality included the providing of a pailful of small-beer in the manse kitchen on Sundays for the refreshment of parishioners tired with a long walk to church. Mr John substituted a pail of water, and the parish thirst at once abated marvellously. A throat infection (probably constitutional, as his brother, Dr Alexander Keith, of St Cyrus, and the latter's son and assistant were also afflicted, and ultimately incapacitated by it) made him a husky and ineffective speaker, and discounted somewhat his really excellent sermons. He was a man of medium height, and colourless in complexion. He had a habit of rapid walking, which, along with a strong family likeness, Dr Skene Keith seems to have transmitted to a number of descendants.

Old Aberdeenshire Ministers
by Rev. John Davidson DD

Rev John Davidson author of
Old Aberdeenshire Ministers