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Yetholm Scotland

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Information on the village of Yetholm, near Kelso in Scotland.

Dissenting Chapels and Other Churches

In about 1840, John Baird, Minister of the Established Church, writes in his report:

'There are two dissenting chapels in the parish, both of which are in Town Yetholm. One belongs to the Old Light Burghers, the other to the United Associate Synod. Both have been built within the last fifty years. The ministers are paid from the seat rents and collections, the one being promised, I believe, 70, the other 108 annually. Of old and young in the parish, 888 may belong to the Established church; and the number of Dissenters may be about 412. One probable cause of the number of Dissenters may be the want of accommodation in the parish church.'

Yetholm St James' Church
The first building for this church was erected in 1786 with seating for 600. It was rebuilt in 1882 on the same site and remained in use until 1940, when the two parish churches united. Standing to the right of the road to Kirk Yetholm, it was sold in 1954, and is now used only for storage.

Yetholm Border View Church
In 1815, 200 members of the St James Church congregation split away and formed a new Burgher Church. Meeting first in a brewery building in the village, they were donated ground by the Wauchope family on which to build their new church. By 1818, a building for 470 was completed just across the street from St James' Church. In 1842 the two churches reunited, and in 1852 they joined up with the Free Church to become the Yetholm Border View United Presbyterian Church. A new church was built on the same site in 1881, and this building remained in use until 1914, when all the Secession Churches had reunited and were using the St James' building. This building became the Wauchope Community Hall.

Yetholm Secession Ministers

Yetholm St James' Church (formerly Associate Secession Church)
Robert Shirra1797 - 1815Further local disruption in Yetholm.
Robert Shirra1815 - 1840 
John Hastie1834 - 1842United with Secession Synod.
John Hastie1842 - 1852United with Free Church.
John Hastie1852 - 1863 
James Coventry1862 - 1869 
Alexander McMillan1869 - 1878 
Norman McPherson1878 - 1895New Church built on same site 1882.
Alexander C Hogg MA1895 - 1913 

Burgher Congregation (New Light) United Presbyterian.
Walter Hume1818 - 1861Became first minister of UP Church.
Ebeneezer E Whyte1861 - 1863 
Andrew Ritchie1864 - 1882 
Archibald Torrance BD1883 - 1897 
Allan Shields1897 - 1913 
In 1914, the Free Church (St James's) united with United Presbyterian (Border View).
James Hogg BD1914 - 1925 
Norman McLeish MA B Phil1926 - 1930 
Robert H MacAlister1931 - 1940 

In 1940, the Free Church united with the Established Church (Yetholm Old).

Dissension in the parish began in earnest with the death of Joseph Leck in 1785, he having been minister since 1731. Fifty four years of service to the one parish, makes one difficult to follow, and so:

'in due course a presentation was issued in favour of a successor, who proved unacceptable to the parish. The result was an extensive withdrawal of the people, who obtained a supply of ordinances from the Associate (Burgher) Synod; and in the same year a church was built in Town Yetholm, with sittings for 800.'

The system of the nomination of a Minister by lay patronage (advowson) only ceased in January 1875.

The building was typical of those built by Seceding congregations of the time: square. low-roofed and almost barn-like externally. It stood on the road to Kirk Yetholm in plain view of the church in Kirk Yetholm.

The first minister of the Secession Church was Robert Shirra, who had been called to Fenwick and Yetholm.

At that time there were 1200 in the parish, and it is reported that the meeting-house of Mr Shirra was usually filled and often crowded. Shirra is described in Tait as:

'well read in Geography, also in history and usages of ancient nations; but he excelled in knowledge of the Scriptures, the doctrines of which he could apply with great power to the human heart and conscience. In accordance with the custom of that period, much time was devoted to visitation and catechising, which entailed on Mr Shirra frequent travelling among the hills. While thus engaged he was in the habit of thinking out his sermons, and was often heard speaking aloud to himself. In common with all faithful ministers at that time, the young pastor was compelled to deal with numerous ecclesiastical offences, prominent among which were irregular marriages. Offenders of all classes were compelled to give satisfaction to the kirk-session, and then to compear before the congregation at an ordinary diet of worship on one or more Sabbaths, according to the more or less heinous character of the offence, when they were publicly rebuked and absolved. Like many ministers of his time, Mr Shirra was often called to aid in the settlement of disputes; and his session took cognizance of such offences as 'monopolising', 'contrabanding', 'slandering' and 'hame-sucken'. The members of session were intelligent men, and had all, previous to ordination, been examined regarding their knowledge of scripture and the 'doctrine, worship and discipline of the church'.

When the 'new light' began to dawn about 1795, Mr Shirra was apparently one of those who preferred the 'old ways'. As a result of further disagreement, fifteen members broke away and set up 'The Associate Synod' also called 'The Original Burgher Synod' to distinguish it from the main body. Friction continued in the parish, and in 1814, petitions were read to Presbytery from the minister and session which showed a continuing state of disharmony, so great in fact that 200 members left and 'applied to the Burgher Presbytery of Coldstream for supply of sermon.' This congregation, now called the 'United Prebyterian Church', met in a building in Town Yetholm owned by a local brewer, Robert Elliot. The new church appointed its first minister in 1818, Walter Hume, a farmer's son from Fairnington, near Roxburgh. A new church building was erected, and before long, so popular was Mr Hume, a gallery had to be added.

Mr Shirra continued to work with his now much smaller congregation until, in 1834, he applied for a colleague and successor. This was granted, and soon he was joined by John Hastie. When Shirra died on 16th November 1840, he was 81 years of age amd had been minister at Yetholm for 52 years.

John Hastie was a very popular minister, 'with an accessible disposition, and with a frank and kindly manner.'

In 1842 he joined the Synod of the Original Secession Church, and in 1852 the congregation was merged with the Free Church of Scotland. When he died unexpectedly in 1863, the Rev John Coventry who had joined John Hastie in 1862, took over. He remained until 1869, when he demitted office to go to Gibraltar.

Describing Walter Hume, Tait says:

'From the first day of his ministry Mr Hume was a most industrious and faithful worker. In the manse he was not a moment idle, but was occupied either in reading and study or in writing out his sermons in shorthand, a practice that was continued during all the years of his active life. Thus his discourses were always the result of thoughtful study, and were carefully prepared. In other departments of pastoral work he was equally conscientious. Every family connected with the congregation was visited once a year, diets of examinations were held in various localities, and to the sick and bereaved he was particularly attentive.'

He continued until his death in December 1861 at the age of 77, and in the 44th year of his ministry. His obituary describes him as follows:

'Of unfeigned piety, of sound understanding, of clear intellect, and of solid attainments, which were augmented through life by much and various reading, combined with a singularly modest, obliging, and social disposition, and with the capacity of imparting his ideas in a distinct and easily intelligible form he possessed many of the best qualifications for a good Christian pastor, and from the beginning to the end of his career sustained and adorned that character. Upright and conscientious, there was no part of his office which he performed perfunctorily. He was laborious in his preparations for the pulpit, ever exhibiting in his discourses the fruit of intelligent and mature consideration, and well digested, well arranged, and perspicuously expressed thought, delivered with humility, solemnity and earnestness.'

Towards the end of his life, with his health beginning to fail, he was given an assistant. That assistant, Ebenezer Erskine Whyte, was ordained as colleague and successor in August 1861, just four months before Walter Hume's death.

Whyte only lived for two more years, dying of 'a cold' in 1863, at the age of just 32.

Whyte was followed by Andrew Ritchie in 1864, and by Archibald Torrance. In 1888 the roll was 236.

Yetholm Evangelic Gospel Mission

This Mission was set up in 1931 by a group of locals led by Mr & Mrs Colville and Billy Smith. It was based in a small well-cared-for corrugated iron building just off the Square.

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