Leochel - Cushnie Church History
The church was dedicated to St Marnan (Marnock) and reputedly founded by him in the 7th Century although little is known of the life of the saint. The following tradition is interesting and wrorth recording. A local landowner admired a tree growing within the precincts of the church and ordered his men to dig it up. However its weight increased as they appraoched the boundary of the church lands and they were unable to carry it further. St Marnoch lifted the tree easily and replaced it in its original position where it flourished for hundreds of years and was much venerated.
St Marnoch's Church,
Leochel, in 2009
The church lands were gifted by the Earl of Mar between 1165 and 1170 to the church of St Mary, Monymusk, and the services were provided by the Priory at Monymusk. Although we know little of the early years of the church its existence at the time of Flodden (1513) is attested by the sale of part of the estate of Fowlis by Lumsden of Cushnie for 200 marks "to be paid upon the hie altar within the paroch kirk of loquhel upon 40 days warning".
Between the Reformation and the beginning of the 17th Century the church was supplied by Readers, the first Minister, the Rev. Adam Barclay being appointed in 1616. In 1659 John Robertson of Clunie presented two silver communion cups inscribed "Dedicat for the church of Leochel 1659" Within the church ruins is an aisle built by Sir William Forbes 1st Bart of Craigivar. The aisle is known as the "Howff" and in it John Forbes Commissary, son of the Bishop of Caithness was buried in 1688 "at night with torches".
Although there are no surviving session minutes for Leochel prior to 1708 the records of meetings of the Exercise of Alford in the 17th Century provide some interesting details regarding the conduct of the church over which it excercised its control. For example, ministers were periodically examined regarding the state of their churches and much weight was given to the quality of the preaching, texts being recorded and the minister's performance approved or censured. A parishoner convicted of "scandalous casrriage by frequently abusing and striking his wife was seriously admonished to walk more Christianly and more conjugally towards her. If he contravened he shall fall into church censure". In 1667 the minister of Leochel was "admonished to beware of keeping trysts in change houses wherby the enemies of the ministry may be ready to take advantage of bringing him under an evil report". The emphasis on scriptural text and the ministers' performance continue in session minutes after 1708. Thomas Reid was minister at Leochel for a full half century and his determination to deal full with scriptures is peevidenced by the fasct that from November 1717 until August 1718 he preached solely on Psalm 119. One cannot hep feeling that the congregation must occasionally have longed for a change! There must have been a feeling of relief on August 24th 1718 when he moved onto Psalm 120 and and disposed of it in one sermon. During August and September a censured church memeber was "catechised upon the pillar for eight Lords days in all whereupon he begged absolution and after continued repentance he was finally absolved in October£.
Communion was dispensed for the last time in the old church in 1797.
According to the Rev. Francis Adam, the last minister of St. Brides Church, and the author of the report in the Old Statistical Account published in 1793, the church had been built in 1637 and was roofed with heather. The manse was built in 1724. The roll of ministers (and readers) for St Brides goes back, however, to 1567 and it seems likely that a church existed early in the 16th century.
The earliest session minutes preserved in the Scottish Record Office data from 1731 and record the ordination in April 1731 of the Rev. Alexander Orem. The Rev. Francis Adam who compiled the OSA reprt referred to above, was minister from 1746 until his death in 1795. The Session was much concerned with income and disbursements. Relief given was not invariably to parishoners only, numerous donations being made to common beggars. A man in Alfor parish whose house was burnt received 12 shilling, and 9 shillings was given to a "poor girl to buy shoes". As was usual at the time, fines were regularly exacted for fornication, but records suggest that judgements made by sessions were often benevolent and just in the light of the accepted practice of the day.
The Lumsdens were the prominent landowners in the 17th and 18th centuries and the Old Kirk od Cushnie was their interest and last resting place. There are a number of Lumsden stones in the old church.
St Brides Church, Cushnie
taken around 1906
St Brides Church, Cushnie
taken in 2008
Leochel - Cushnie Church
The Unification of Leochel and Cushnie
The first steps to effect the union were made in 1618 but not until the death of the Rev. Francis Adam on 27th March 1795 was the matter pursued. By this time both church buildings were in a bad state of repair. While Leochel was agreeable to the union, Cushnie opposed it and took the matter to Presbytery. Cushnie's objections were supported by the Presbytery but in spite of the argument that because of the sever climate, winter floods and heavy snowfalls sometimes necessitating the smaller congregations to meet in the manse, the Court of Teinds decreed on 28th June1795 that the unification should proceed.