The foundation stone of this church was laid yesterday the Earl of Dalhousie in presence of a large concourse of spectators, the most of whom were ladies. The proceedings commenced at half-past twelve o’clock, and were carried through very successfully. The church, which is partly erected, the walls being about 12 or 13 feet above the ground, is situated in Tay Street, a short distance from the Post Office. The erection of a new building for the Free West congregation is the result of a movement originally set on foot with the view erecting one large edifice to be divided into three churches for the accommodation of the three leading Free Church congregations in Perth, namely—St. Leonard’s, the Middle, and the West, which presently meet in unsightly and obscurely situated buildings.
To give an impetus the movement the late Mr Turnbull of Huntingtower very liberally provided a site. Latterly the congregations of St. Leonard’s and the Middle Church withdrew from the movement, but the Free West congregation, with praiseworthy zeal and perseverance carried on, and now they have achieved a fitting reward for their labour in the shape of what will be found one of the most beautiful and attractive churches in Perth.
The building is after the Gothic style architecture and is 114 feet in length, 60 feet in breadth, and will afford accommodation for persons. The front of the building is in Tay Street, and is approached by a flight of steps. A tower, 212 feet in height is to erected at one comer, and is to be flanked by heavy buttresses, terminating at the base of the spire in crocketted turrets.
Internally the church will be all that could be. There are to three galleries, each supported by iron pillars. The seats are to commodious and comfortable, and all the latest improvements are to introduced. Mr John Honeyman, Glasgow, is the architect, and he deserves credit for his skill in designing the structure. The contractors are- M’Currach & Sons, masons; Chas. C. Whitiet, joiner; Peter Reid, slater; J. M’Leish, plumber; Peebles, plasterer; and James Bruce & Son, glaziers. Mr Thomas Bisset is the clerk of works. The building is expected to be completed in the course of twelve months. For the ceremony of laying the foundation stone no better arrangements could have been made, and this must be attributed the success with which it was attended.
The Earl of Dalhousie arrived at the building half-past twelve o’clock, and was conducted to a chair on the platform, erected for the accommodation of gentlemen interested. Among those present were Baillies Richardson, Hewat, Greig, and Fisher; Dean Guild Graham ; Treasurer Maury ; the Hon. John Rollo; Major Mercer of Huntingtower; H. C. B. Macduff ,Hillside; A. Turnbull of Bellwood Thomas Greig Glencarse ; Coates, Bridgend; ex-Provost Kemp; Drs F. Thomson and Buist; Rev. Dr Grierson, Errol ; Rev. Messrs Stewart, Scone; M’Leish, Methven; Brown, Collace ; Cowan, Perth, and other members of the Perth Presbytery. The Rev. Mr Laidlaw, the pastor of the congregation, conducted the proceedings.
The proceedings were commenced by the assemblage singing Psalm CII, 13—16, the choir of the congregation, under Mr Tulloch the precentor, leading the psalmody. Thereafter the Rev. Mr Laidlaw engaged in prayer, appropriate the occasion. He then read the following statement: —The office bearers of the Free West Church desire to record this day for themselves and for the people of their charge their thanksgiving to Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit the Comforter ; and in that blessed name of the three-one God would now inscribe their purpose in laying this memorial stone.
The congregation which, under the leadership of its pastor, the late Rev. Andrew Gray, constituted the Free West Church in May, 1843, before the close of that year erected the place of worship in Mill Street which they still occupy. Like most of those built in similar circumstances, the Free Churches in Perth were constructed with a view to immediate accommodation. And in this city they were reared in style more than commonly plain, because the laudable desire, which was happily realised, of building all the Free Churches of the Presbytery entirely from local contributions, and without burdening the Central Building Fund of the Church.
The necessity of some better style of church buildings, in a better position, and of a more permanent kind, soon, however, began to be felt. But it was reserved for the late Mr William Turnbull of Huntingtower to devise the means for taking this step advance. Having his own personal expense secured the ground we now occupy, he called meeting of the three largest Free Church congregations in to consider the propriety of erecting on this site a joint building, containing three churches under one roof. The meeting was held the City Hall in October, 1865, and was addressed by several leading ministers of the Church. One of the congregations not having favourably responded to this appeal, Mr Turnbull made a free offer of the site to the two congregations of the Free Middle and the Free West Church, on condition of their putting upon it a combined building.
After some effort and full consideration, the Free Middle congregation found, with deep regret, that they were not in a position to accept Mr Turnbull’s offer ; and thus, in October, 1868, the entire ground, in terms of his arrangement fell to the congregation to which he himself belonged. this site they resolved to erect the church now being built according plans drawn out by J. Honeyman, junior, Esq., Glasgow, and approved by Turnbull. It should not forgotten, moreover, that this enterprise in which the congregation is now engaged has been greatly facilitated by the public spirit of the Lord Provost and civic authorities of Perth in securing the erection of the river wall and the opening of Tay Street.
The office bearers desire “beginning church for the permanent use of a Disruption congregation to look back with gratitude the event of 1543. Many of themselves took part in the which led it; and after the lapse of 27 years its memories are still vividly present with them. The Christian zeal and great liberality of Mr Turnbull, who may called the founder of this building, were first evoked by the impulse of the Disruption movement, and its foundation stone i 3 being laid this day by the hands of Earl Dalhousie, who took a foremast part in that movement the highest places of the land.
By all these considerations they are bound to regard this church, and desire to have it regarded, memorial of that great event. It is, moreover, their intention and desire that this building should carry down to future generations not merely the memory of the crisis through which the Free Church came to occupy her disestablished position, but a testimony for those principles on which the Free Church founded— principles which were contended for within the Establishment during the ten years’ conflict—which had been held by important minorities outside the Establishment from earlier days, and which have all along been the declared principles of the true evangelical Church of Scotland from the time of the second Reformation.
These principles are the rights and liberties of the Christian people; the spiritual independence of the Church; and, above all, the sole and supreme Headship of Christ over the Church and over the nations.
Finally, they record their hope and prayer that our Lord and Saviour, the great Head of the Church, would be pleased in His Providence to bless this undertaking, secure His abiding Spirit purity doctrine and holiness of life in the flock which shall assemble in this church ; to render acceptable through His blessed intercession the worship of that shall be offered within these walls to make the place itself a Bethel and Penuel to His people for many generations; to own the word preached in as a means of bringing many souls to Himself; and to use this building for the promotion and extension of His kingdom, of which they pray that the glory be hastened.
Upon this memorial stone we would write our Ebenezer hitherto hath the helped us.” Upon it, and upon all the work, Write His name, “Jehovah Shammah—the Lord there.”
Mr Jolly, one of the elders of the church, here presented the Earl of with a magnificent silver trowel in the name of the office bearers of the Free West Church, acknowledgment of his kindness in officiating at the ceremony. The trowel was enclosed in beautiful square case, and bore near the point a finely-executed representation of the church.
The stone was then lowered into its place while the first two verses of the 100th Psalm were sung, and after his Lordship had given it the three mystic knocks with a he declared the stone properly laid. The remaining verses of the 100th were then sung.
The cavity of the stone contained the following articles;
- Facsimile Copy of the Protest, 15th May, 1843;
- Facsimile Copy the Deed Demission, 1843;
- The subordinate Standards and other authoritative documents of the Free Church;
- on the Principles and Constitution of the Free Church drawn up by the late Rev. Andrew Gray, minister of the Free West Church, Perth;
- Statistical Statement lately prepared the Rev. K. Buchanan of Glasgow;
- The Free Church Almanac;
- Statement of Congregational arrangements and work in the Free West Church 1887;
- Abstract of Congregational Accounts and Reports the Deacons’ Court, for the four years ending 15th March, 1867, 1838, 1869, 1870.
- Statement by the Minister and Officebearers of the Free West Church, with their signatures, relative to the New Church in lay Street, now being erected.
- Account of the Proceedings at a public meeting held in the City he 10th October 1865, relative to the late William Turnbull’s proposal erect three new Free Churches in Street.
- Lithographed Design and relative Circular for two new- Free Churches proposed to be erected in Tay Street.
- Lithographed Design and relative Circular for the Church now being erected in Tay Street, with the signatures of the Architect, Inspector, and Contractors.
- A list of some of the Subscriptions received for the Building Fund of the New Church.
- Sermons preached in the Free West Church, Mill Street, in remembrance of Mr Turnbull of Huntingtower, 18G9.
- The Local Newspapers and the Daily Review.
- List of the Magistrates and Town Council of Perth, 1870.
- The current coins of the realm —from half farthing to 5s inclusive.
His Lordship then said— “Ladies and gentlemen, permit me, in the first place, express to the minister and the office bearers of the Free West Church my cordial thanks for the very handsome present which they have now placed at my disposal. has been offered to me in terms more flattering than deserve, because instead of conferring a favour my presence to-day, I consider that I have received a most distinguished honour at the hands of this congregation.” (Applause)
“This ceremony, ladies and gentlemen, awakens in my mind many reminiscences. It recalls the years of my early connection with this city and county, in which days of happiness were passed which I fear are not to return. It reminds me of my connection with a people and neighbourhood from whose hands I ever received the warmest kindness, and the most distinguished marks of favour.”
“Though connected politically—l may say a partisan in politics— with this great county and city, I proud to say that having achieved, I continue to retain, the kind heart and the warm hand of every man in it, be he of what political party he might.” (Applause)
“And still with those who like myself are spared to go down into old age I exchange the warm intercourse of friendship with the most sincere gratification and pleasure.” (Applause)
“Ladies and gentlemen, this occasion reminds of other memories, and carries me back to the friendship had with one whom I shall never forget, whose friendship was honour to any man, and with whom I was proud be associated in the courts of the Free Church.”
“Need I say that I allude to the first minister of the Free West congregation, Andrew Gray. (Applause) I knew him, ladies and gentlemen, very well; and under a somewhat rough exterior might be found the warmest heart and the steadiest hand in friendship that ever was endowed with human life.” (Applause)
“Andrew Gray was one of the great men who contributed to set the Free Church at the period of the Disruption. No man so keen in intellect, so firm in maintaining his opinions, and at the same time so cautious and so guarded, ever entered those Church courts, and by his wisdom be achieved that foundation which has proved itself so firm as to last unimpaired to this our day.” (Applause)
“I shall not forget that he was one of those who conferred upon me, what I think the highest honour in my career as a Member of Parliament—namely, the privilege of bringing before the House of Commons the claim of rights of the ministers and elders and members of the Church of Scotland who afterwards : constituted the Free Church.” (Applause)
“I deeply regret that that claim of rights failed to be recognised. But at the same time saw in it the finger of the wisdom of Providence, because that immediately took place for which the great Chalmers had been struggling all his life, the noblest and most splendid instance of Church extension that ever occurred upon the face of this globe.” (Applause)
“That Church has now, Mr Laidlaw has stated, been in existence for seven and twenty years. I thank God that we have seen it already growing, faithful to the principles which it advocated. And also thank God for another feature of the Free Church, that whereas at one time we were opposed by those whom we left, and there was diversity of opinion more extended than ought to exist between churches and communities that diversity of opinion has to very large extent vanished away, and we see the Establishment, the Free Church, and the other bodies of Christians in this country worshiping together, and working together in a harmony which I rejoice to see, and a harmony which I trust will lead eventually to better things still.” (Applause)
“Ladies and gentlemen, there is another reminiscence connected with this church, that is, he whom Mr Laidlaw has very properly called its founder. To my late friend, Mr Turnbull, you are indebted for this magnificent site, and I do trust that all those who remember that excellent and good man will never cease also to recollect the benefits – which he has conferred upon this congregation, and tell their children’s children to whom they will be indebted for this magnificent fane, in which they will have an opportunity of worshipping the God their fathers according to the dictates of their conscience, none daring to make them afraid.”
“He has conferred also benefit upon the citizens of Perth at large in ornamenting their city with a building like this, which will one the greatest ornaments it will possess within its walls.” (Applause)
“Laidlaw has said that the time has now come when a revolution has taken place in the opinions of the people with regard to the erection of churches. At the time of the Disruption it was thought that any barn was sufficient to hold a Free Church congregation, but with Dr Guthrie am one who believes that ” there is no holiness in ugliness, and no sin in beauty.” (Laughter and applause.) I see no reason why a man should not worship his God with much piety and fervour in a place ornamented to some extent, and worthy of the name of a Christian fine, in one of those old erections.to which in our economy were originally obliged to submit. (Applause.)
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, one word more and I have done. I trust that within the walls this church that pure doctrine will ever be preached which has marked the footsteps of our Church, and I trust that we shall not only be taught within these walls to love the Lord our God with all our strength, with all our minds, and with all our hearts, but I trust that yen will also taught love your neighbours yourselves.” (Applause)
“Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for the honour you have done me this day. I shall retain the memorial of this day’s work with the greatest pleasure, and shall hand it down among the heir-looms of my house.” (Great applause)
Dr Grierson, Errol, came forward and said—”Lord Dalhousie, ladies, and gentleman — as the oldest member of the Presbytery, and perhaps the oldest minister in the neighbourhood, have been honoured with the opportunity of making few remarks on this occasion. do not think, ladies aud gentlemen, that this ceremony has come a day too soon. The Free Churches the city of Perth have hitherto been obscurely situated, and so humble in their aspect that no stranger aiming to the city could know where Free Church was to be found.” (Laughter)
“I have sometimes been tempted to think of remarkable circumstance connected with the position of the Free West Church.”
“We are told concerning an inspired apostle that he lived in or near the house of one Simon, a tanner, and surely the Free West Church has ar great while too long in the neighbourhood of a tanyard. (Laughter and applause)
“The reason of this has been already represented to you, both in the address read to you by Mr Laidlaw and in the remarks by his Lordship, the Earl of Dalhousie. We that belong to the country congregations can never forget our obligations to the Free Church congregations in the city of Perth. They received no assistance from the general building fund when building their own churches.”
“They were content build fabric each for their own churches here, just as plain and unornamented we have in the country, and believe the Presbytery of Perth is distinguished from all Churches in this respect, that the churches in the bounds were built at the expense of the locality itself. And now that a church is about to be erected of such structure and such elegance as that you are contemplating, I rejoice to think that it is in connection with the continued interest and attachment which the community manifest in the principles of the Free Church.” (Applause)
“On inquiry I found there was difficulty in getting a right foundation for this church. believe it goes down deep to be below the bed of the river, so that now its security is complete.”
“The foundation is one of the best, and is a representation the deep foundation of the Free Church in the hearts of the people, not only in general, but specially in the community of Perth. I will now allude to the day which we are met. This is the anniversary of the Disruption—the 18th May, 1843—that remarkable day on which took place that which has characterised the century in which we live.” (Applause)
“You know the conflict that preceded that Disruption, and you know the grounds on which it took place. The nobleman, who has presided at the laying of this foundation stone was at that time a member of the House of Commons and not of the House of Lords. In the House of Lords when the question connected with our claim was before them, if I remember aright, one of their Lordships remarked to the late Marquis of Breadalbane that when he went back Scotland he would be able to say that he was the only member that viewed the matter he had done. (A laugh)
“I think his Lordship believed this was a taunt, but it was an honour that he should be singular maintaining the views the Church of Christ which are characteristic of the Free Church Scotland. The noble Lord, who has presided on this occasion made motion in the month of March before on this subject, and now, being member of the House of Lords, we have him and another Lord to represent us there instead of the single individual that represented us formerly (laughter), so that in the House of Lords itself our number is at least doubled. (Laughter)
That is not a large number after all, but it is sufficiently large to let their Lordships know that we are no longer the contemptible handful expected, when it was said that some twenty thirty ministers would come out of the Establishment. (Laughter).
“All this is important remembered ; and undoubtedly we cannot but rejoice in the thought that the first fabric worthy of the Free Church of Scotland erected in Perth is a church connected with that congregation over which the Rev. Andrew Gray presided to the day of his death.” (Applause)
“He did more than any other one in this neighbourhood had an opportunity of doing for the purpose of organising the different congregations around us, and contributed largely through his influence to the funds that were necessary for the erection of our various places worship. His memory will not be forgotten by us ; and neither his life nor his death can be obliterated from the memory of those who knew and loved him.” (Applause)
“A greater testimony to his worth cannot be borne than has been borne this day the multitude we see around us. I rejoice in the thought that what has been done by the Free West Church will be an example to the others by and bye to erect, if not a magnificent, at least structure more ornamental than they now occupy.” (Applause)
“With these sentiments I have the greatest pleasure in being here, and enjoying the scene now before me. I now close by expressing the wish and prayer, which I am sure will be joined in by all, that this structure may be completed without injury or accident either to the contractors, or any of the workmen under them.” (Applause)
Bailie Richardson said that, in the absence of the Lord Provost, he had great pleasure, in the name of his brother Magistrates, in congratulating the minister and office bearers of the church on the success of the movement for the erection of a new structure.
The assemblage then sang the three last verses Psalm cxxii. Rev. Mr Stewart pronounced the benediction. On the call of the Earl of Dalhousie, three cheers were given for the Queen, and a similar honour being accorded to his Lordship, on the motion of Bailie Richardson, the proceedings terminated.
A luncheon was held afterwards in the Salutation Hotel at which about 1-50 gentlemen were present. The Rev. J. Laidlaw presided, supported by the Earl of Dalhousie, Bailie Richardson, the other Magistrates, Rev. Dr Grierson, Mr Greig of Glencarse, Mr Brown Morrison of Finderlie, &c. The croupiers were Mr Macdonald, wine merchant, and Mr M’Currach, builder.
Thursday 19th May 1870, The Dundee Courier and Argus