Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ministers in Berriedale and a Fiddling Parson - Article XI - Rambling Recollections of Berriedale, Badbea, & Neighbourhood – Part A

Article XI written by Alexander Gunn aka A Native of Badbea was printed in the Northern Ensign on 29 January 1880 – Part A 
“In every place there are individuals who occupy a prominent position in the community where they live. There were such in Berriedale. The first I would refer to is the ministers, but unfortunately I cannot go back to a very remote period in my remarks regarding them. The list is far as I am concerned, begins with a Mr Hugh, or "Huestan," who lived in Langwell, and was considered to have been a very godly man; but he had one fault, which marred his other qualities in the eyes of the most serious of the place. The fault was that he indulged in practising occasionally on the violin or fiddle. One of his elders calling on him one day, found the violin and the Bible lying side by side on the table before the minister, and expressed his surprise at such an incongruous sight. The minister replied that the fiddle would not hurt the Bible, or the Bible the fiddle. But by and by this cause of offence was removed, as the minister one Sabbath on returning from church, seized the fiddle, broke it on his knee, and threw the fragments into the fire. He was asked the cause of this proceeding, when he replied that the Evil One intruded on him in the pulpit, by bringing some popular air to his remembrance, and that he was determined he would leave him no excuse for a similar temptation in the future.” 

Niel_Gow_-_Violinist_and_composer illo4
1787 portrait of violinist Niel Gow by Sir Henry Raeburn. The Fifth String by John Phillip Tousa. Note the devil in the rear

“Mr Hugh was succeeded by a Mr Sutherland, one of whom it might be said that he was not known for "muckle ill or muckle good." He was succeeded by a man of a different stamp, namely, Mr Archibald Cook. It would be a piece of presumption on my part to attempt to say a single word regarding the character of a man so widely known and so universally respected and esteemed as Mr Cook. He needs no encomium from my humble pen. He was a man of deep, fervent piety. He was one that lived near his Master, and of a tender conscience, and his ministry was much blessed and much sought after. He was a determined enemy to all manner of loose living, and the sin of unchastity was one which his very soul hated. It was during his ministry that the writer came on this mortal scene, and he was the one who performed the ceremony of christening me. He was much missed and mourned when he left Berriedale and went to Bruan, where he was equally blessed and respected.”

My Comments:
  • The violin has been associated with the devil in Western culture for millennia. In ancient Greek culture musical instruments were often associated with deities. One famous Italian violinist Panganini, of the nineteenth century, was said to have sold his soul to the devil and had many devilish tales associated with him.
  • In Scotland, from the seventeenth century, violin music was associated with dancing and the devil and thus disapproved of by religious leaders. One of ‘The Men’ at Badbea, the much loved and followed John Badbea Sutherland, had a great fear of evil and wrote many letters exhorting his followers to live plain and humble lives. He wrote in Feb 28 1840 “Oh to have a true desire implanted in the reins of the heart to get sin crucified, to get the right eye plucked out and the right hand cut off. The evil heart is full of evil weeds” and “it is good to get our idols spoiled.”
  • At Scottish weddings where it was usual to make merry while the violin was played, sometimes a church leader or ‘Session’ elder would be in attendance to make sure there were no excesses of gaiety. 
Zam-381 Rev George Davidson Latheron 1840s
  •  According to the Berriedale church website, the minister before Archibald Cook was the Rev George Davidson one of the men pictured here.
  • More information about Archibald Cook, including one of his sermons, can be found in Ministers and Men in the Far North by the Rev Alexander Auld, Olrig, 1869 at graven-images.org.uk. 
29 1 1880 NE (Article XI) part A1 copy

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