|FIRST BRITISH SERIAL RIGHTS
Hendrie – Witches, Composers
is an article written by James Hendrie that appeared in Scottish
Home & Country
(the magazine of
the 'Scottish Women's Rural Institutes') published in August 2009.
James lives in Mid
Calder and is an Elder in the Kirk of Calder.
of Calder is a beautiful church located in the peaceful village of Mid
Calder, near Edinburgh, traditional in manner with its T-shaped structure,
church tower, complete with its charming cockerel weather vane and well
maintained grounds. However many worshippers and visitors have no idea of
its remarkable and fascinating history.
Calder Kirk as it would have looked at
the time of the witch trials dark and foreboding
to those who dabbled in the Black Arts
Kirk of Calder today, so much more than the picturesque
church seen here, definitely a church with an amazing amount
of history contained within its walls and grounds
as the Kirk of Calder in modern times, but Calder Kirk in the past, its
picturesque church and grounds once echoed to the sounds of musket fire, witch
trials and the thundering preaching of the fiery Presbyterian minister John
Knox. Frederick Chopin, the composer, also has associations with the church as
well as James ‘Paraffin’ Young and the explorer David Livingston.
Kennedie; Calder Kirk’s firebrand minister appointed to the post in the
1640’s was a passionate persecutor of witches. He vigorously and
ruthlessly tracked down those who practised the Black Arts, and any
that were caught were hauled before Kennedie and the Kirk Session for
trials that took place in the church itself. Those who were found guilty
were condemned to burning at the stake and met a horrific end on the
Cunnigar Hill, which today still remains on the edge of the village.
Cunnigar Hill, which is said to have been the
place where witches were burnt at the stake
during the witch trials of the 17th century
Celtic cross which is part of the wall of the vestry in the
current Kirk of Calder is believed to have come from the
original church built on this site in 1160.
has taken place on the site of the present church for over 800 years in
various building forms, and there is still today a Celtic cross which is
believed to have dated from 1160 located in the walls of the vestry of
closer inspection of the outside walls of this parish church will also
reveal musket shot bullet holes from another period of both Scottish and
the church’s history. These unusual landmarks come from the 17th century
when Scotland was in dispute with the King over his imposition of the Book
of Common Prayer; the Scots were fiercely proud Presbyterians and led by
their noblemen lined up against the Crown with the signing of the National
a number of years there was a terrible conflict between the King and the
Covenanters, as they became known. Ministers were forced to hold open-air
services or Conventicles and many took place in the hills surrounding Mid
Calder, which became a hotbed of revolt against the King. The royal troops
led by the infamous General Tam Dalyell or “Bluidy Tam”, meted out
some horrific punishments and indeed routed the Covenanters at the Battle
of Rullion Green nearby.
ball holes are visible even today on the church walls,
seen on the column end and underneath the church window
in this picture. These show that in troubled times even the
church became embroiled in the conflict.
Kirk found itself being used as the venue for a military tribunal during
these troubled times. Two of the Kings Life Guards were murdered in the
nearby parish of Livingston it is thought because of their abuse of a
well-known local Covenanter. Despite the inquiry sitting for three days
and requiring many of the church’s parishioners to appear before it, it
was not able to determine who was guilty in part due to the strong
covenanter feelings of the area.
hundred years before this the church had also been the centre of the
religious change that was taking place in Scotland as its walls resonated
to the preaching of the great Presbyterian orator John Knox. This again
was a time of religious intolerance in Scotland, with the Crown
attempting to reinforce the status of Catholicism in the land against the
Protestant religion favoured by the people
these times the plans for the church were changed from that of a grand
collegiate style Catholic Church with naves and cloisters, to the
traditional church that it is today. The outside wall still has the
stonework that would have supported the cloister arches visible to those
who know what to look for.
who was supported in his cause by the then Lord Torphichen, found himself
many times preaching at Mid Calder both in the church grounds under a
famous Plane tree that rose magnificently above all other landmarks, and
also in the church as well. As well as this, he performed the first
reformed Celebration of the Lords Supper in the nearby Calder House, home
of the Sandilands family, who as the Lords of Torphichen have been
connected with the church throughout its history.
Calder Kirk at this time was renamed the Kirk of Calder and its minister
the Reverend John Spottiswood assisted Knox in the drawing up of the Scots
Confession of Faith in 1560. This famous document which contained within
it the basic doctrines of the newly reformed church was the official
confession of the Scottish Reformed Church until it was superseded by the
Westminster Confession of Faith eighty years later.
A portrait of John Knox who famously preached at the Calder
Kirk in 1556, which hangs in the vestry of the current church
a constant reminder of the church’s historic past
of Calder has welcomed other famous people to worship within its walls or
to become associated with it. Frederick Chopin spent a summer in residence
with Lord Torphichen in 1882 having been befriended by his Lordship’s
sister in law, Jane Wilhelmina Stirling, and she is remembered in the
crypt of the present church with a plaque. Chopin who was in failing
health became her tutor and she supported him in the twilight of his
church has two sets of magnificent stain glass windows which confirm the
relationship of the church and the Scottish entrepreneur James
‘Paraffin’ Young. He worshipped in the church and on some occasions
was joined by his great friend the missionary David Livingston. His son
paid for the installation of one of the windows as a memory to his
parents, the other is in memory of his sister and Young’s daughter Mrs
of Calder is a church with character and beauty. It is also a church whose
buildings, walls and grounds have throughout their long years of existence
witnessed so much of the history of the Scottish Nation, and indeed in
many cases played at several different times a significant part in it.
church is open to visitors on Sundays from May to September from 2pm –
4pm, experienced guides are on hand to talk to people about all aspects of
this historic church and it is certainly well worth a visit.
The Author, James Hendrie .
James is a writer and lives in Mid Calder, he is an
Elder in the Kirk of Calder. More information on his previous work is
available on his website http://www.jameshendrie.com
You can contact him - Tel: 01506 – 883907 (Home)
07801 – 388797 (Mobile), or
of the parish of Mid Calder By John Sommers (Printed for author for private
The History and Antiquities of the
Parish of Mid Calder By Hardy Bertram McCall (Richard Cameron, 1894.)
Old Mid & East Calder By
William F Hendrie (Stenlake Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1 84033 299 9)
The Parish Kirk of Calder From original by Ian G.
Lindsay ( Kirk of Calder)
Calder Witches An article
by John M Povey, MA, BD (Kirk of Calder)
|The Kirk Photo Album has
many interior and exterior photos. There is also a separate pages on the Kirk's Stained
Glass windows, the History of the Church and The