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BY THE REVEREND MR JOHN URQUHART

 

Fearn is evidently derived from the arn or alder in the Gaelic Fearnn as there were many of these trees growing at Mid-fearn, in the parish of Eddertown, in this neighbourhood, where the foundation of  the abbacy was in the 12th century first laid and intended to be built.  But the churchmen in those days finding the land confined, and not to fertile as they would incline, desisted from their purpose, and got a new bull from the Pope, for building the abbacy where it now stands, in a fertile and extensive plain of good land.  It was founded here by Farquhard, or Farquhar, fifth Earl of Ross, in the reign of Alexander II.  GO TO PAGE

 

There was no register kept here preceding 1783, when there was an act of Parliament for taking a small duty of 3d. for every baptism, marriage and burial registered in any parish.  This act is rather defective, in that it does not oblige each parish to registrate; from which defect, not only many parishes, but, as is said, some counties such as Sutherland, keep no register at all in any of their parishes; and even where such registers are kept, those that do not incline to registrate, and pay 3d. are not obliged to registrate at all.  GO TO PAGE

 

A part of the old Abbey was repaired at considerable expense in 1772, and is now used again as the place of worship.

GO TO PAGE

 

The Abbacy is one of the most ancient buildings here.  It is said to have been made up of mud.  The principal part of it was 99 feet in length, within walls, 25½ feet in breadth, and the walls 24 feet above the ground.  The abbacy was not the only place of worship before the Reformation, but ever since, until October 1742, when on a sudden, in time of public worship, the roof fell in.  There were 36 persons killed instantly, by what fell in of the roof and slate, on that melancholy occasion; 8 more died soon after.  GO TO PAGE (Antiquities and Curiosities.)

 

Farqhuar, the first Earl of Ross, and founder of the abbacy, was buried in this parish, as were several others of the Earls of Ross.  There is an area in the abbacy, appropriated for all of the name of Ross; almost all of whom in the north, bury there’.  General Charles Ross of Balnagown,  who was advanced to the highest military honours, and who had a hand in 2 very bloody wars, against the King of France, for the liberty of Europe, under the auspices of William and Anne, was buried here.  This man was equally famous for the arts of peace and war.  He died at bath in the 66th year of his age, 1732.  There is also buried here, the valiant and brave Admiral Sir John Ross of Balnagown.  GO TO PAGE

Transcribed from the STATISTICAL ACCOUNTS of SCOTLAND ONLINE with the kind permission of © EDINA

1227

Malcolm.

About the year 1227, Ferquhard, Earl of Ross, founded an Abbey of Premonstratensian Monks at 'Farne beside Kincardin in Strachcarrin' and Malcolm was the first Abbot, who ruled about 15 years.  Application was made to the Pope to sanction the transfer the Abbey to the spot now occupied by the present Established Church.

   

1238

Malcolm of Nigg.

Malcolm of Nigg succeeded Malcolm about 1238.  It was during his rule that the Abbey was removed to the spot where the Established Church now stands, after it was styled 'New Fearn.

   
  Machabeus Makersin.
   
  Sir Colin.
   
  Meretain.
   
  John.
   

1321

Mark Ross.

In 1336 the Abbey being built of rough stone, it was, on the suggestion of William, Earl of Ross, agreed to have it rebuilt. The building began in 1338 under Abbot Mark, who died in 1350, and was buried within the Abbey.

   
1350 Donald Pupill.
   
1398 Adam Monilaw
   
  Thomas Keithimathin.
   
 

Finlay.  (Died in 1436.)  He 'theikit (thatched) the Kirk of Ferne'.  

   

 

Finlay MacFaed.  (He died in 1485, and was buried within the Abbey Church.)

In St Michael's aisle is an effigy of Abbot Finlay Macfead, with the inscription, 'Hic jacet Finlaius McFead abbas de Fern qui obuit anno mcccclxxxv.'

   

 

John Fearn.

Maister John Fearn built St Michael's aisle on the south side of the church, founded the dormitory, built a cloister, and purchased in Flanders for the Abbey a 'tabernacle' and 'lettron' of brass, the organ, chalices, vestements and various other ornaments.

   
1446

Thomas MacCulloch succeeded to the Abbacy in 1446.  He completed the dormitory.

   
 

Andrew Stewart - Bishop of Caithness.  (Died in 1517.)

   
  Patrick Hamilton.  (He was put to death 28th February, 1528.)
   
  Donald Dunoon.  (Died in 1541.)
   
  Robert Carnecross - Bishop of Ross.  (Died in 1545.)
   

 

David Paniter.

Queen Mary granted to her Secretary, Mr David Paniter the Bishopric of Ross and the Abbacy of Fearn.

   
1547

James Carnecross appears to have been appointed in 1547.  He resigned in favour of Nicholas Ross.

   
  Nicholas Ross - Provost of Tain.  (He died in 1569 and was buried at Fearn in the north of the choir.)  
   

 

Thomas Ross.

Three years before the death of Nicholas Ross, Mr Thomas Ross, parson of Alness, was appointed Abbot.  He 'theikit the detour' which had been burned and made various repairs about the Monastery.

   

1584

Walter Ross.

In 1584, King James VI. granted to Walter Ross for life the Abbacy of Ferne with the Provostry of Tain.  The same King in 1617 annexed the Abbacy to the Bishopric of Ross in favour of Bishop Patrick, which was confirmed by Charles I. in favour of Bishop John.

   
1617 Bishop Patrick.
   
  Bishop John.
   

   
1644 William Ross, A.M., translated from Nigg, 1644: suspended in 1649; continued 3rd April, 1660.
   
16__ Donald Maclennan.
   

1690

Mr Kenneth Mackenzie, Incumbent of Fearn, and formerly of Kincardine, was admitted prior to 25th April, 1690.  He was deposed by the Presbytery in 1691, and was succeeded in the charge by

 

 

1698

Mr Hugh Duff, Preacher of the Gospel, who was ordained and admitted Minister of Fearn, at Cromarty, on 29th December, 1698.  Mr. Duff died at Fearn on the 3rd July, 1739, and was succeeded by

 

 

1742

Mr Donald Ross, Minister of Lochbroom, who was admitted Minister of Fearn on the 24th March, 1742.  

 

 

1771

Mr John Urquhart, Proprietor of Monteagle, and Preacher of the Gospel, was ordained assistant and successor to Mr. Donald Ross on 12th June, 1771.  Mr. Ross died at Fearn on 2nd September, 1775, and Mr. Urquhart succeeded to the full charge.  Mr. Urquhart died at Fearn on the 27th September, 1800, and was succeeded by

 

 

1802

Mr William Simson, Minister of the Gaelic Chapel,Paisley, who was admitted Minister of Fearn on the 7th July, 1802.  Mr. Simson died at Fearn on 17th  August, 1808, and was succeeded by

 

 

1809

Mr Hugh Ross, M. A., Minister of the Gaelic Chapel, Cromarty, who was admitted Minister of Fearn on 13th April, 1809.  Mr. Ross died at Fearn on the 20th April, 1844, and was succeeded by

 

 

1845

Mr Donald Mackinnon, M. A., Preacher of the Gospel, who was ordained and admitted Minister of Fearn on the 7th August, 1845.  Mr. Mackinnon was translated to the Parish of Strath, Skye, on the 10th July, 1856, and was succeeded at Fearn by

 

 

1857

Mr Donald Fraser, Missionary Minister, Glengarry, who was admitted Minister of Fearn on 12th March, 1857.  Mr. Fraser died at Fearn on the 4th February, 1869, and was succeeded by

 

 

1869

Mr Hugh Fraser, Minister, Berriedale, Caithness, who was admitted Minister of Fearn on the 23rd September, 1869.  Mr. Fraser died at Fearn on the 22nd November, 1894, and was succeeded by

 

 

1895

Mr Charles Robertson, B. D., Minister of Assynt (Dornoch), who was admitted Minister of Fearn on the 5th November, 1895.

 

 

The Gaelic name of the parish is 'Manachuinn,' the parish of the monastery.  The Monastery at Beauly is in Gaelic termed 'Manachuinn Mhicshimmi,' Lovat's Monastery; and to distinguish the one from the other Fearn is called 'Manachuin Rois'.

(Extract from 'Religious Life in Ross' - Noble 1909.)

 

The convent was established and confirmed by Pope Urban IV.

(Extract from 'Religious Life in Ross' - Noble 1909.)

 

In 1372 the rebuilding of the Abbey was finished.

 

The Abbey Church consisted of a choir with two chapels and a nave, on the north of which the conventual buildings appear to have stood.  The choir measured 99ft by 25½ ; was used as the parish coir from 1628, when the parish of Fearn was erected, till 1742 when the roof fell.

(Extract from 'Religious Life in Ross' - Noble 1909.)

 

'On the 2nd day of September, 1742, Mr Donald Ross, minister of Fearn represented to the Presbytery that a great many of the slates upon the church at Fearn were falling off, and craved that the Presbytery would appoint a diet for visitation of the church “in order to the reparation thereof.”  The Presbytery acceded to Mr Ross’s request, and appointed a diet to hold at Fearn on the 6th day of October for the visitation of the  Parish Church.  Four days after the visitation, on the 10th October, the church roof fell in, and on the 3rd November we have this entry:- “The report of the tradesmen appointed to be given in this day was not called for, in regard the roof of Fearn Church fell upon the Lord’s day, the 10th October last, during the time of divine worship, by which about 40 persons were killed and several injured, and among the injured was Mr Donald Ross, minister of the parish.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton1915.)

 

During divine service on a Sabbath day in October, following the induction of Mr Donald Ross the church was struck by lightning, and the roof fell in.  The preacher on that day was the Rev. James Robertson of Lochbroom, who, observing what had occurred, went and placed his shoulder under the lintel of one of the doors which was giving way, and in this way helped to prevent its fall til the greater number of the people escaped.  But notwithstanding what had been accomplished by this feat of strength, 36 of the congregation perished in the ruins.  Mr Ross sustained severe injuries, from which he did not fully recover, and in all probability would have perished but for Mr Robertson, who prevented the sounding board coming down upon him.  He died 2nd September, 1775, in his 83rd year.

(Extract from 'Religious Life in Ross' - Noble 1909.)

 

'Early in the following year – January 26th, 1743 – the heritors of the parish and the Presbytery of Tain met at Fearn to consider what action should be taken to provide the parishoners with a place of worship.  The old Abbey was now roofless, and the question suggested itself, What is to be done?  Were the walls of the old church sufficiently strong to carry a new roof, or must a new church be built?  After considerable discussion, the heritors appointed two masons to make a slap in the north wall and another in the south wall in order to see the condition of the mason work.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton 1915.)

 

At a meeting of Presbytery held on the 2nd April, 1766, the proposal made to the Presbytery, some time ago, by Captain Ross of Balnagown and some other heritors of Logie-Easter, to have that parish annexed to the two neighbouring parishes of Fearn and Kilmuir-Easter, was considered.  The Presbytery highly disapproved of the proposal, and gave it as their opinion that the Scheme of Annexation is improper, and one which they could not agree to, as the sinking of the Parish of Logie would be attended with consequences hurtful to religion in their bounds, and that, as things stand at present, there appears to be great reason for asking an addition to the number of ministers already established, rather than for such a scheme as serves to lessen the number.

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton 1915.)

 

'In October, 1771, Captain John Ross of Balnagown and Mr John Urquhart of Mounteagle, minister of Fearn, produced an agreement entered into by them and the other heritors of the Parish of Fearn, at a meeting which was held at Logie-Easter on the 12th day of October, for rebuilding the old Abbey Church of Fearn, and the Presbytery having read the paper of agreement, ordered it to be recorded, whereof the tenor follows:-

At Logie-Easter, the 12th day of October, 1771 years, the heritors of the Parish of Fearn having this day met at this place to take under consideration the ruinous condition of the Church of the parish, and to concert measures either for repairing the old Abbey Church or rebuilding the new Church, at which meeting there were present Captain John Ross of Balnagown, Charles Robertson, one of the tutors of the Laird of Cadboll, and others.  Thereafter, there was laid before the heritors a report made out at their desire by James Reid, surveyor, now residing at Cromarty, of the condition of the present new Church, and of the walls, &c., of the old Abbey Church of the Parish of Fearn; and also the expense of rebuilding the new Church or repairing the old Abbey Church, by which report the sum of £212 12s 11d stg. is estimated to be the expense of repairing the old Abbey Church; and from £180 to £200 stg. to be the expense of rebuilding the new Church.  Thereafter Captain Ross of Balnagown proposed to the heritors present, and to the doers of the absent heritors, that if the heritors would pay him the sum of £200 stg. money he would engage to repair the Abbey Church, and to have it sufficiently finished by the 1st day of November, 1773 years; he getting the slates and other materials of both new and old churches.  The heritors and doers present, having considered Captain Ross’s proposal, they unanimously approve of the same.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton 1915.)

 

'At a later meeting, we find the following entry:-

The Presbytery, in regard that Captain Ross of Balnagown has in the several parishes in these bounds, wherein he is concerned as an heritor, shown himself remarkably forward to do everything proper for the reparation or building of churches or manses, and has not refused the trouble of being an undertaker on different occasions for carrying on these works more expeditiously and substantially, appointed the Moderator to return him their thanks, and the Moderator did accordingly thank him in the Presbytery’s name.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton 1915.)

 

It appears to have been disused till 1772, when it was repaired, and again used as the Parish Church.

(Extract from 'Religious Life in Ross' - Noble 1909.)

 

'The Presbytery of Tain met at Fearn on the 12th October, 1775, this day being appointed for the visitation of the Church lately repaired.  The Fearn Abbey Church was restored at the sum of £386 14s 9 3/4d.  Captain Ross, the undertaker, paid the cost of restoring the part of the fabric commonly called the “Ross Aisle,” which amounted to £38 15s.  He also at his own expense put a sunk fence with stone around the church-yard.  After the Captain’s accounts and vouchers were examined, it was proposed that the building should be immediately inspected by the tradesmen, who were called to attend for that purpose.  This was done, to the satisfaction of all.   The Fearn Abbey Church, which remained roofless for 30 years, was, through the generosity and activity of Captain John Ross of Balnagown, repaired and ready for re-occupation on the 12th October, 1775.  Six weeks before the restoration of the Church, Mr Donald Ross, who was injured by the falling of the Abbey roof in 1743, died.  He might be said to be the sole minister of what was called the New Church of Fearn.  It was built during his incumbency in 1746, and disappeared, so that not one stone was left upon another in 1775.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - McNaughton.)

 

'On the 21st August, 1849, Mr Mackinnon presented a petition praying that the Presbytery would be pleased to take the necessary steps for procuring for him a grass Glebe.  He at the same time presented documents sufficient to show that all the lands in the Parish of Fearn are Church lands, and therefore liable to his present demand.  The Presbytery having taken the petition and relative documents into their consideration, ordered them to lie on the table till next meeting of Presbytery. The next meeting was held on the 3rd day of October, and we find that the following heritors were present, namely:- David Monro, Esq. Of Allan, for himself, and also for Cadboll and for Mr Berkley of Mounteagle; also Mr W. H. Murray, Esq. of Geanies, for himself.  Adverting to the object of the meeting – namely, to design a grass glebe to the minister of this parish – the heritors acquiesced in his demand as indisputable; and being asked what land or lands, or pieces of ground, they consider most convenient and suitable for a grass glebe, the heritors requested the Presbytery to adjourn further procedure in this business till the 9th instant, in order that they may confer with one another regarding the land that may be found suitable.  This was agreed to, and the Presbytery met again on the day fixed upon, and the heritors appointed Messrs Andrew Ross, tacksman, Glastullich; George Douglas, tacksman, Ardmore, with the Presbytery’s concurrence, to design a grass glebe for the minister of Fearn.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton 1915.)

 

'On the 4th day of December, 1894, we read that the Committee appointed to draw up a suitable tribute to the memory of Mr Hugh Fraser reported as follows:-

The Presbytery record their deep sense of loss sustained by this Court and the Church of Scotland in the death of the late Mr Hugh Fraser.  Mr Fraser served his master faithfully for 25 years in the Parish of Fearn, preaching the Gospel of Christ with simplicity and power.  He was a devoted pastor, and endeared himself to his parishoners of all classes by his amiable disposition and general sympathy, and by the meek Christian spirit which he manifested.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton 1915.)

 

'On the 8th February, 1869, the Presbytery met at Fearn, after the funeral of their late brother, Mr Donald Fraser, who departed this life on the 4th instant.  The Presbytery requested their Moderator to express to the widow and child of the deceased their warmest sympathy and condolence with them under the sudden and afflicting bereavement which they have sustained, and to declare at the same time their own sentiments of regret at losing the fellowship of one so kind of heart, so wise in counsel, and of such scholarly attainments as their late brother.'

(Extract from 'Church Life in Ross and Sutherland 1688-1914' - MacNaughton 1915.)

 

Within it there is a stone effigy of a warrior shown as Ferquhard, Earl of Ross.

(Extract from 'Religious Life in Ross' - Noble 1909.)