St Cyrus Auld Kirk

 

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A Glimpse at an old abandoned Church Site....

 

 

Strange that this place, now so lonely, should once have been a busy centre of human life. Here in the Middle Ages the monks of the priory were busy studying the Fathers, copying MSS., engaged in the duties of the cloisters, and waiting for the preferment in the church. The youthful and aspiring students once walked here by the river side, or crossed to make an expedition to Montrose, an ancient town, and then more than now a port for foreign ships. Here the barons and their retainers gathered weekly to hear the chaunting and the solemn services of the church. But all are gone now. No more the bell tolls for the matins and vespers, the intrigues of churchmen are over, and though the sea still breaks on the yellow sands, and the river folows on with a never ending stream, the former haunts of learning have long been deserted. Not a stone of the buildings is left, and even the traditions respecting those times have perished, and nothing now remains but - the Auld Kirkyard.

After the darkness of the mediaeval period, the light of the gospel once more dawned on the world. In this locality there were not wanting witnesses for the truth. Among these was David de Straton, brother to the Laird of Lauriston. When worried for payment of tithes, he ordered his servants to cast every tenth fish into the sea, and told the priests that if they would have the tithes of fishes, they should go and get them whence the stock was taken. He had been a turbulent and violent man, but on being instructed by that eminent Reformer, Erskine of Dun, he shewed that he ahd received the gospel in its power by his heavenly life. Such a man could not escape the fiery trial. He was taken to Edinburgh, and notwithstanding the offers made him to recant, he firmly adhered to the truth, and gave great encouragement to Norman Gourlay, who was burnt with him at the stake in 1534.

From the Reformation in 1560, and for seventy years afterwards, things were greatly changed in this spot beside the N. Esk. The old ritual had been abolished, and now the parishioners were summoned by the Sabbath bell to hear the word of life. Here was the simple pastor, the manse, and the little church. In 1632, however, the church was removed to its present site on the commanding height, the edge of which forms the braes; and the name of the parish has also been changed from Ecclesgreig to St Cyrus. There is no music of the Sabbath bells in the old place to summon the simple worshippers to the house of prayer, though the place itself has a perpetual Sabbath; there are no gatherings on fast days, and no communion seasons here now; there is no church and no manse; all is gone, and nothing now remains but - the Auld Kirkyard.

Within the Kirkyard there are several old roofless buildings, which are used as burying places. One of them belongs to the ministers of St Cyrus, and bears a Latin inscription on the lintel, with the date 1673. The stone at the back of this one is marked with an older date of 1647. There is a beautiful recent monument to one of the Stratons, and beside it an old decayed tumulus to another of them, which bears the date of 1646. Among the tombs in the churchyard, there is date older than 1687, on a flat stone, and 1693 on a raised tumulus. The oldest standing stone is marked 1729. We may feel surprised that in so ancient a churchyard there should be no older tombstones; but this arises from the tombs of the rich having perished, and the headstones of the poor at an earlier date had no inscription.

The monument of deepest interest is near the south-east corner. It is the tomb of George Beattie. The pathos of its simple inscription accords well with his touching story. A wild honeysuckle, which has grown up in the enclosure, entwines its branches with the railings, and hangs its clusters of fragrant blossoms over the tomb of one who was loved in life and is not forgotten in death.

George Beattie of Montrose
by A S MtCyrus
1890


Some of the gravestones seen today
in St Cyrus Nether Kirkyard