The last echo of an old, old, psalm
Kate Forbes and the Free Kirk are the vestigial remnants of a Scotland which no longer really exists.
Arguably the most significant event in nineteenth century Scotland took place on the 18th May 1843 and has since been almost entirely forgotten. The history of a moment may not be the history that endures. On that day, the Reverend Dr David Welsh, professor of ecclesiastical history at the University of Edinburgh, and the outgoing moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, opened that year’s kirk gathering with the declaration that, “There has been an infringement on the constitution of the Church, an infringement so great that we cannot constitute its General Assembly”.
There followed a long list of grievances whose cumulative weight was sufficient to require a breaking with the established order. The Church’s prerogatives had been so sorely abused that Welsh, and those who supported him, considered themselves devoid of options save departure. Concluding his remarks, Welsh laid his protest down and walked out the door. Hundreds of ministers and kirk elders followed …