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Our History


 

About Us

Our current minister is Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison, who was inducted as minister of our congregation in November 2011.  Read more about our minister here.


“God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24 (NIV)

We seek to build our congregational life around our vision of:

 

Worshipping God - showing our adoration to God by glorifying, honouring, praising, exalting, and pleasing Him

Proclaiming Christ - making Christ known by those who do not yet know Him, and better known by those who do not know Him well

Serving the Community - helping, serving and supporting others in our community with love, care and compassion, whether locally, nationally or internationally, including our missional partners around the world.

The parish of Orwell and Portmoak has been a united congregation since 2006.  Worship is conducted every Sunday at both ends of our parish, Portmoak Church in Scotlandwell at 10am and Orwell Church in Milnathort at 11.30am.  In addition to our Sunday morning worship, we offer an evening service on the first and third Sundays of the month in Orwell Church Hall at 6.30pm.


We aim to include and treat equally everyone who worships with us and are always delighted to see new faces who choose to come along and worship with us. We trust you will feel very welcome and will make yourselves known to those worshipping around you.   We aim to be inclusive of and encouraging towards families with children, and hope you feel particularly welcome and relaxed in our midst. There are creche areas available in the heart of both churches and Junior Church running for children aged 3 years and upwards during the school term.  We also run an all-age “Messy Church” on Saturday afternoons on a monthly basis.  See the children and youth page for more information on our provisions for children and the dates and themes of Messy Church.

Portmoak


The first recognisable sign of any civilisation in the area of the parish goes back to 3000 years ago with the remains of some standing stones on the road as you pass from Milnathort to Kinnesswood.   The first known instance of Christianity that we have any details about is in relationship to St Moak or, as she is unpleasantly called by the medieval church, St Moan.

It was originally thought that Moak was a man but since the monumental work by Walker on Celtic Place Names, it has been assumed that she was a woman and that she arrived in the early 400's with Bridget who came to Abernethy, from Ireland for a mission, to set up a church there.  It is interesting to note that she was probably the daughter of an Irish chieftain. We can imagine her walking over the hills possibly through Glenfarg and across to us at Portmoak.  This tradition has long endured and therefore we accept it as our founding understanding.   We know that in 1243 the Bishop of St Andrews re-dedicated a church to St Steven and St Moak.

As to the life and person of St Serf - this again is another matter.  Various hagiographers have deemed that St Serf was a mythical figure probably because of the medieval life of St Serf by Aelred of Riveulx inYorkshire.  This life has St Serf as a Egyptian who chartered the Red Sea to go to Jerusalem, went to Rome and became Pope then decided to leave it all to come and preach the gospel to the Scots.  This is a fantastic story.  Very much a 'Boys own' type version of the life of Serf and seems to have been part of a growing cult, which was based at Culross. However what we do know is that a Serf, meaning servant, came from abroad in the late Roman Empire period and trained under St Ninian at Whithorn in the 400's.  When he had completed his training, he followed Ninian's evangelistic route, which passed Glasgow, across the middle of Scotland.

Of course Ninian went further up as far as Aberdeen and across the north coast to Nairn. However, Serf decided to make his home in the vicinity of Culross and the area of the Ochils. His title of course is the Apostle of the Ochils.   We know he traveled extensively and is remembered in a number of churches across the area particularly at Dunning. We know that his Dysart was at Kirkcaldy and we have our own St Serf's island on Lochleven...

We know that there were Culdees (Celi De or the servants of God) on that Island from 843 when Brood gave the island to the monastery ofSt Andrews. We also know that David I in 1150 suppressed these old fashioned Celtic style of persons living together on the island.  There is a reference to the creation of hospital of Red Friars in 1244 at Scotlandwell, and of course the well's greater importance with the legend of Robert the Bruce and his healing from leprosy at said well.The church of St Stephen and St Moak remained on what is the gliding club until the time of 1659-1661 when it moved to the present site.  The present church was built in 1832.  The list of ministers is quite interesting and follows:

Ministers of the Parish Church
John Himmell  1564
John Rentoun 1565  Reader
Henry Forsyth 1573  Reader
William Balfour 1574 Reader
William Braidfute  1590   d 1594
John Wilkie   1593
Harry Wilkie  1633
George Ogilvie 1643
John Bruce 1666
William Mackie 1687
Ebenezer Erskine 1703-1731
Four year vacancy 
Robert Douglas 1735
John Mudie I 1743
John Mudie II  1754
Andrew Grant 1784
Hugh Laird 1802  DD 
He forms Portmoak Free Church 1843, dies 1849  
John Steele 1844
John Campbell Brown 1881
James Pollock 1908-1926
William Adam 1927-1952
Alexander Coutie 1952
William Duncan 1959
Archibald Campbell 1967
Herbert Neil  1974
Norman MacLeod 1978
Robert Stewart 1989
Una Stewart 1995
Robert Pickles 2003                              

Angus Morrison 2011


Ministers of The Associate Presbyterian Church

(Secession Church) (Balgedie now a Barn)
William Gibson 1820-29
William McKelvie 1829-1861   
Alexander Duncan 1863 -1908 
United with Portmoak Free Church 1908  
Parish of Portmoak and Flockhouse (School)   
Flockhouse transferred to  Glencraig and Lochore 1908

The Ministers of The Free Church Parish of Portmoak and Flockhouse
1848 230 members
Hugh Laird DD  1843-1849
James Swinton 1850-1877
James Paton 1877-79
John Bethune 1880-1886
S Thompson 1887 - 1893
C Mason 1893

The Ministers of the United Free Church Portmoak

Continued in the what is now the Village Hall until joined with Parish Church in 1929
1909-17 Grieg Alexander  UFC
1917 -20 James Anderson
John Sibbald 1920-3
James Smith 1923

The present church combines the remainder of the three congregations - the Old Kirk, The Secession Church which although began in 1733 yet did not receive a minister until 1900, and the Free Church which began in 1843 and continued until 1929 with the union of the three churches back into the New Church of Scotland.

Ebenezer Erskine
The ministry of Erskine from 1703 to 1731 was an interesting time not only in the spiritual journey of Ebenezer Erskine but also because they recorded numbers of over a thousand attending communion seasons at Portmoak. The Church of Scotland's spiritual independence from the state and the local land owner was at the heart of his protest.  During this period Ebenezer Erskine came to the point of view that he had to leave the Church of Scotland. When he moved to Stirling he did, and became one of the first ministers of what was known as the Secession Church, which eventually became known as the United Presbyterian Church, the congregation of which worshipped at Easter Balgedie.

Michael Bruce
He is possibly Kinnesswood's most famous son.  He lived between 1746 -1767 and died on the 5th July which is why we hold the Memorial Service on the first Sunday in July. This shooting star held very bright promise both as a poet and as a potential Christian minister. He was a member of the Session Church and a very notable predecessor to the Rev William McKelvie, who was the United Presbyterian minister at Balgedie.  He helped keep Bruce’s memory alive in the village, so much so that there were publications of his poems, a new fitting memorial in the grave yard and the preservation of his home which is now a museum and is in the hands of the trust that bears his name.

His poetry was stolen by a "friend", Mr Logan, who attempted to have it published in his name. The theft was however discovered, but after the writings were published under this other name. His hymns include "Behold, the Mountain of the Lord", "O God of Bethel", "Where high the heavenly Templestands", "Now Lord according to Thy word".

The Church Plate
One of the UPC Balgedie communion cups is with us in the church.  There is also a communion cup from the Free Church, which broke away from the Church of Scotland in 1843 over the issue of the right of the heritor - the right of the local landowner to appoint the minister.

Both of these matters are important in Scottish church history and Erskine has an international bearing on events in Holland and America.  An interesting remainder from this time are the stones with initials set in them on the West wall. These were the memorials of the family of the Rev Mr Robert Douglas  and his mother and father.  This minister was imposed on the congregation after Erskine, and caused a split.

Consequently they were removed from the building and only restored in 1926. 

The Portmoak Stone
If you look at the East wall of the church as you come in you will see a cross slab set in the wall. This was found by Dr David Munro in 1976 on the site of the old church and may be 10
th century or even earlier.  The stone was brought into the church in 1993.

Recent Times
The church was remodelled in the 1970's to give the present shape at the front and the organ was added in the 1990s.   The Church built the New Room at the back of the Church building in 2005.  This Room was provided at the cost of over £40,000.  £20,000 was raised in one gift day from the Community and Church.


Orwell

Interesting relics of ages long gone by have been discovered in widely different localities in the Strath of which Kinross-shire consists.  These clearly indicate that from the most remote times, the district was a well-populated one, unlike many of the more important counties of Scotland which were trackless wastes abandoned as a fit haunt for the wild ox, the wolf and the bear.  It may certainly be concluded that even in those far-off days, civilisation as it then existed in Scotland was not altogether wanting in Kinross-shire.


The ancient, and important ecclesiastical structure of the Priory on St. Serf's on Loch Leven forms the subject of one of the earliest historical references to the County of Kinross.  It was founded by Brude V in the last part of the 8th century - he was the last of the kings of the Picts. St. Serf's was created for the benefit of the Culdees (monks) who were already established on the island.  This was a very important ecclesiastical establishment ranking next in importance in Scotland to Iona, founded by Columba in 562AD.


St. Serf's Priory continued to flourish for 400 years when it was merged into the Priory of St. Andrews.  Within its walls Andrew Wynton wrote his valuable 'Cronykil of Scotland' and the settlement was well endowed and fostered and exercised a beneficial influence over the whole of the surrounding district. There is no doubt that its influence was responsible for the early erection of the three Churches - Kinross, Orwell, and Portmoak, situated as they were on the very margin of Loch Leven.  They probably originated as mere primitive places of worship, where the monks of St. Serf's could minister to the spiritual wants of the people of the district.


The Old Kirk of Orwell was situated near the lochside just west of Orwell Farm.  In the time of Robert I it was the lochside Church - a Chapel of Ease which the King gave to the Dunfermline monastery.  The earliest Parish Register commenced here in 1688 and the most common diseases were 'fevers' (typhoid was very rife) and consumption.  The last Old Kirk of Orwell was built about 1530 and was largely made of wood, with a stone base.  It was small, just sufficient to serve the small community of crofters, weavers, fishermen and wild fowlers. Loch Leven at this time carried a great abundance of wild life.  The last ordained minister of Orwell Old Kirk was Rev. Thomas Mair who was ordained in 1725 but later seceded from the Establishment on 18th February 1737,


Orwell Parish Kirk on Ba'hill

In the year 1729 the new building was erected on Ba'hill on a site acquired from Tillywhally.  The population gradually moved nearer the stage coach routes and more especially when a new line of road was opened in 1831.  It is interesting to note that while the lochside Church was in use, poaching parties got whole sackfuls of fish in a single night and a few reindeer were occasionally seen.  The Heritors who paid for the new building consisted of Dr. Walker Arnott of Arlary, John Horn of Thomanean, Rev. G Coventry of Shanwell, Robert Neilson of Hilton, the Misses McTurk of Craigow, the heirs of Rev. Dr. Belfrage of Colison, Rev. Mr. Brown of Finderlie, Chas. Stein of Hattonburn, and Mr. Purves of Warroch. The original building on Ba'hill was a long rectangular structure without the north wing.  The low roof was thatched and no higher than the front of the present galleries.  There was an earthen floor, no seats or galleries, and the pulpit was situated below where the clock is now situated.  There were half a dozen small windows, no music and on a Sunday the service lasted from 12 noon to 2pm.  Parishioners came early to get a good stance near the pulpit.


The population in 1753 consisted of 1891 souls, and the churches had the following memberships:-  Established Church - 504;  Anti-Burghers - 520;  Burgher - 642;  Relief - 83.  Some of the occupations were:- servants - 254;  fuars - 18;  masons - 10;  wrights - 20; shoemakers - 27;  tailors - 13;  weavers - 129;  butchers - 1;  ministers - 4; schoolmaster - 1;  private teachers - 2; alehouses - 10;  brewers - 2;  flour mills - 1;  meal mills - 6.


The old kirk manse was built in 1788 in a temporary manner and repaired in 1825, but even at that time was considered very incommodious.  The present manse was built in 1853 by the Free Church and its first occupant was the Rev Walter Chalmers Smith, later a Moderator of the United Free Church.  He wrote poetry under the pseudonym 'Orwell'. His most famous hymn is 'Immortal, invisible, God only wise’, which was written here and published in 1860 a year after he moved.


The Old Schoolhouse consisted of 2 apartments and was built in 1769.  It had a roll of 80 scholars. 


The Kirk was reconstructed in 1780 when the roof was raised, the galleries installed, and the north wing erected by the Forfars of Netherhall and Seggie Bank.  It was known as the Forfar Wing. The windows were enlarged, a floor laid and seating installed after the pulpit was erected in its present position.  This was a small pulpit with no trimmings of any kind.  Before the seating was installed, trestle tables were put up for the two Sacraments each year - admission was by token only.  In these early days of Ba'hill Kirk, the seats belonged to the Heritors and they were let at 2/6d downstairs.  In the galleries seats were 2/- per sitting but the poor had seats in the lofts grates.


In 1837 the door collections amounted to £29.19.3d, voluntary collections £54.7.5d;  mortcloths and rent of land £63.14.6d.  Most of the collection was given to the poor - except for the following:-  Session Clerk - £3.3.0d; Precentor - £3;  and the Beadle - £1. Almost everybody could read and write; there was a library founded in 1797 and the readers paid 1/- per month or 8/- per year.  There was also a Session library commenced on 1st January 1832 and it contained between 300 and 500 volumes. Most of the congregation made use of it, with books handed out each week by the Elders.  The poor got the books for free.


What was life like here in Milnathort in the village below the Parish Kirk?  In approximately 1800, farm servants in the bothy received £12, 65.bolls of oatmeal, 6 firlots of potatoes and 1 pint of milk daily. During the summer, a 'stout' workman could earn 2/- a day - in winter 1/6d. Women earned from 9d to 1/3d per day. Threshing mills were driven by horse or water - none by steam.  There were many weaving sheds in the village - some of them quite large, especially at Inchmerry (now called Church Street) on the site of the present UF Church.  The most famous one in New Road was called 'Paradise'. Many of these weavers were very poor, and most of them were great bird lovers, carrying their canaries to work with them in little cages.  Special shelves were provided in the sheds and the warbling and whistling could be heard outside as people passed by.  What a marked contrast to these roaring transistors of nowadays!  At the morning break there was a gathering of the weavers at the Cross to hear the daily news.  Someone was appointed to act as leader for a week and more often than not the topic was politics - Conservatism or Liberalism.


In 1831 there were 455 inhabited houses in the Parish of Orwell, and many people were well read and religious. Mention has already been made of Rev. Thomas Mair, the first Parish Minister of the present Parish Church, and the last one ordained in the Old Kirk of Orwell in 1725.  He seceded from the Established Church in 1737 and the majority of the parishioners went with him.  For about three years they continued to worship in the Parish Church along with the adherents of the Establishment, but were ejected in 1742.  They then took possession of a meeting house which they had erected in what is now Viewfar Road.  It was widely known as the Muckle Kirk and eventually became Orwell Free Kirk.  The name was given not only because of its great size - the original building could accommodate 2000 persons - but also because at its rear there were large folding doors which, when opened up, caused a great body of people seated on the brae face behind the Kirk (Viewfar) to hear and take part in the divine ordinances.  Rev. Ralph Erskine states "Sabbath 6 August 1738. It was present at the Sacrament - upwards o’ 5000 did communicate from over a wide radius."  Thomas Mair was deposed for heresy in April 1757 and he died on 14th February 1768 in his 68thyear, and the 41st of his ministry.


Features within the Church

The stained-glass windows were erected by the Rev. Walter Little of Orwell. The windows, one to the left and one to the right of the pulpit, are inscribed:

"To the glory of God and in memory of his wife who died 11th June 1874."

"To the glory of God and in memory of his sister-in-law who died at Tillyrie 24th Feb 1873."


The Communion Table was gifted, along with the chair and vases, by the Women’s Guild of Orwell Parish Church, dated 29th September 1935, and has been carved  "This do in remembrance of me".  The church’s clock was made by J & N McNab of Perth and is inscribed with "This Clock erected At the Request of the Late James Pernie Who Bequeathed funds for that Purpose.  20th Nov. 1839."


The Font, again gifted to the church, is inscribed as follows: "To the Glory of God and in memory of Mrs. Rose Belfrage Black this baptismal font was gifted by her two sons - December 1950."

Orwell and Portmoak Parish Church
Worshipping God, Proclaiming Christ, Serving the Community