A History of Auchtermuchty Parish Church

 

Auchtermuchty Church was first consecrated on 31 March 1245. There is mention of it in the Pontifical of Bishop de Barnham of St Andrews which is held in the Louvre in Paris.

 

In 1350, Duncan, the last MacDuff and Earl of Fife, gifted it to the Abbey of Lindores, out of gratitude for his escape at the battle of Durham and from subsequent captivity.

At the Reformation the parish was placed under the charge of Alexander Fairny, reader, who held that office from 1567 till 1574. The first Protestant minister was Henry Leitche, who was translated from Crail in 1592. His successor, James Bennet, who was married to a daughter of George Moncrieff of Reddie, was admitted to the charge in 1615, and survived till 1640. During his incumbency he was accused of being “ane frequent hunter with dogs, ane player at cards, and a runner of horses upon courses”, and for his sporting proclivities he was “gravlie rebuikit, and expressly inhibite to frequent any of the former games in tyme coming”.

 

The present church was built “finely situated on a rising in the town” in 1780, during the time of James Lister, who died in 1833 at the age of eighty-three, and in the fifty-fourth year of his ministry. It is assumed but not proven that it stands on the site of the earlier building. In 1838 it was extended by adding the north aisle, thus increasing its capacity from 500 to 900 people. Extensive alterations and improvements were carried out to the church in 1913, including the installation of the pipe organ and the passion flower and grape vine stained glass windows, the latter being gifted by the Women’s Guild.

 

The Church, however, is not just the buildings. More important by far are the people - the members of the congregation who come together to worship, to learn from each other, to share in fellowship with one another, and to continue Christ’s work in the local community and beyond.

 

The Bells of Auchtermuchty Parish Church

During the restoration of the Belfry, the bells were removed and while work continued. This allowed an ideal opportunity to examine the inscriptions.  Rubbings were made in the hope that some “expert” might be able to decipher these at a later date.

As you might expect, some history (or folklore depending on your inclination) regarding the bells has been passed down .........

 

King David of Scotland gifted four bells to Lindores Abbey, one of which was supposed to be made of silver and called the “Lady Bell”. This bell found its way to Auchtermuchty after the Reformation. The authenticity of this was checked in Victorian times and it is, indeed, a Mediaeval bell, with a relief of Gabriel appearing to Mary on one side and, on the other, Mary cradling the body of Jesus after Calvary.

The Reformation Bell also has an interesting story.........

In 1618, Newburgh and Auchtermuchty both decided that each should have a new church bell. The place to go for the best bells was the Netherlands, which had trading links with the coastal villages in Fife. Orders were therefore dispatched to the appropriate bell makers to make the bells. When word came that the bells were ready an official from each town went to Holland to supervise operations. The inscription reads:- 1618 JACOBO BENETO MINISTRO

 

When the bells were being swung out of the hold onto land at Newburgh pier, one of them fell and was cracked. The official from Newburgh was most perturbed and started to fuss about which community should have the remaining bell. The official from Auchtermuchty was quite calm. He announced that, before setting out on the voyage across the sea he had marked the Auchtermuchty Bell with chalk, and sure enough, the undamaged bell had a chalk mark. This bell was claimed for Auchtermuchty, unloaded and dispatched along the road with all speed.

When the official from Newburgh later examined the remaining bell, he found that it  too had a chalk mark, but by then it was too late!

 

Windows in ‘Muchty Church

 

The main stained-glass windows in the south wall of the church that flank the pulpit and organ pipes gleam in rich, deep purples and greens. They show intertwined grapevines and passionflower plants, with crowns at the top. The one to the right of the pulpit depicts the Passion of Christ and other, with its grapes and droplets of blood below the crown, is symbolic of His death.

 

Originally, these windows were of plain glass, and it was first mooted in 1909 that they be filled in “to save the congregation from excessive glare.” In 1913, extensive alterations and improvements were carried out to the church, including the installation of the pipe organ, under the supervision of the architect, Mr D McGregor Chalmers, of Glasgow. It was decided that this would be an opportune time to change the windows and the Woman’s Guild generously offered to pay for them. Whilst the works were in progress, taking two to three months, services were held in the Victoria Hall and the church reopened on the 1st of June.

 

The smaller outer windows are a more recent addition, being installed in 1960. They were designed by William Wilson (1905 - 1972) and are entitled ‘I ascend unto My Father’ and ‘Follow me’.

 

William Wilson designed windows for churches throughout Fife between 1949 and 1968.

The nearest of these are two lights showing ‘The Sower’ and ‘St Andrew’ in Monimail

Parish Church. Other examples of his work can be found in Dunfermline, at the Abbey

and in the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church; in the parish churches of Ladybank, Leuchars

and Pittenweem; and in St Andrews at St Salvator’s College Chapel and Holy Trinity Church,

South Street.

 

Gravestones of Note around Auchtermuchty Church

 

1.  There is the one of the man who lived in 3 centuries:

           Henry Brown

           Born 1799

           Died 27th February 1901

 

2.  Then there is the man who died in the Tay rail disaster:

          Joseph L Anderson

          Lost in the Tay Bridge Disaster 1879

          Body found near Wick 4 months after

          Interred here 28th April 1880

 

3.  Some would say the most noteworthy is the “Green Man”

          This stone has an ugly head with fronds of greenery for hair.

          This is a pagan symbol recognised throughout Europe and the

         ‘Muchty one is a particularly good example.

Auchtermuchty was a very industrial town with foundry, mills etc.

and many stones carry engravings of tools of the trades.

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Gabriel and Mary

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Mary and Jesus

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Reformation Bell

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Passion of Christ

His death

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I ascend unto My Father

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Follow me

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