THE CONNECTION OF THE FRASERS OF PHILORTH, LORDS SALTOUN WITH THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The connection of the family with the Episcopal Church is now difficult to trace, principally because all the church records prior to that time were lost when the first St. Peter’s Church in Mid Street was burnt by Lord Ancrum and his troops in 1746, along with many other Episcopal Churches in Scotland; and this in spite of the facts that the people of Fraserburgh had not taken any active part in the 1745 rebellion, and that he himself was closely related to Lord Saltoun.
I do not know at what date the family embraced the reformed church. The 10th Lord Saltoun signed the Covenant in 1638, and his appearance in his portrait, wearing a plain neckband and a scullcap suggests that he was of the presbyterian faith. But the family had traditionally always been loyal supporters of the crowned King, and I presume the execution of King Charles 1st in 1649 was more than he could swallow, and in 1651 he fought for King Charles II at the battle of Worcester, and nearly lost his life in doing so. He also gave him money when requested to do so when King Charles was very impoverished before the Restoration. The Episcopal Church, which had been the established Church in Scotland, was disestablished in 1689, and a long battle ensued between the Presbyterians and the Piskies as to who was to have the Parish Church. When the Presbyterians won, the Episcopalians built the first St. Peter’s. After it was burnt, legislation was passed forbidding more than 5 people to assemble in any room for the purpose of worship unless they were all one family. The Rector’s House, latterly called Middleburgh Farmhouse, was adapted and consisted of a central room with a lot of small rooms opening off it. The parson conducted a kind of non-stop service from the main room, and a relay of worshipers occupied the surrounding rooms. In 1750, Lady Saltoun had a sitting in room 1. Lord Saltoun’s name does not appear. Presumably he attended the Kirk, whether from conviction or because he deemed it wise to support the established Church. Whatever his leanings, he was the superior of the burgh, and theother heritors had to obtain permission from him for any improvements they wished to make to their houses, Churches etc.. As my father said “it was not the way to Lord Saltoun’s heart to harry the Lady in Middleburgh”. I think a succession of Lords Saltoun were very tolerant as far as religion was concerned, and tried to make sure the clergy they appointed were too. In 1788 The Rev. Mr. Jolly, later Bishop Jolly, was appointed Rector, and was determined to rebuild St. Peter’s Church, which by 1796 he was able to do. He was someone who cared nothing for his clothes and appearance, which was very old fashioned to say the least, and his fellow Bishops used to laugh at him. When King George IV visited Edinburgh, the Bishops were summoned to meet him, everyone was worried lest he appear in his usual terrible old wigand shock the King, so Lord Saltoun presented him with a very smart new wig, which was much admired. The church continued in the Mid St. building until 1891, when the foundation stone of the present church was laid by Lord Saltoun (my grandfather), who was a regular attender as long as he was resident at Philorth. He did not believe in long sermons and used to open his watch and lay it on the ledge in front of him at the beginning of the sermon. When 10 minutes were up, he picked up his watch and closed it with a loud snap and put it back in his pocket. If the Preacher did not take the hint, he would put his foot out into the aisle and thump regularly and loudly with it until the Preacher stopped. How often I have been tempted to do just that! The patronage of the living was shared by Lord Saltoun and the Bishop, as it still is.