Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Noddy Kirk

The last post mentions Mr. Turnbull of the Noddy Kirk and I though I would step out of transcribing mode to get the story in here.  When I first ran across this Rev. James Turnbull, I thought he had to be "our" Rev. James - he ran afoul of the elders, refused to submit, and went and started his own church.  However a little more work and the confirmation from the previous letter show that in fact the Relief Church has two difficult Rev. James Turnbulls.  Before I delve into the sad story of the Noddy Kirk, perhaps I had better explain the Relief Church.

Thomas Gillespie, a Presbyterian minister, was not happy with the control exerted over the churches by the civil courts (among other things).  Along with

Thomas Boston of Jedburgh and Collier of Colinsburgh, he formed a distinct communion under the name of "The Presbytery of Relief" -- relief, that is to say, from the yoke of patronage and the tyranny of the church courts. The Relief Church eventually became one of the communions combining to form the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

So in short, the Relief Church broke away from the Presbyterian Church in 1761 and then in 1847 merged with other congregations to become the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland which, in turn, became the United Free Church of Scotland in 1900.

Enter the Rev. James Turnbull 27th June 1820.  He was appointed the first minister of the Calton Relief Church in Glasgow.  All goes well until 1826 when he enters into a long and protracted dispute with the local Presbytery over his visit to a dram shop.   An account of the dispute is so cleverly written in Small's HISTORY OF THE CONGREGATIONS OF THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH FROM 1733 TO 1900 that I will just provide the story in its entirety


THE place of worship in which this congregation began had a far-back history. It was built in 1756 for Mr Hugh Innes, one of two ministers who split the old Reformed Presbytery and set up another for themselves based on Eraser of Brae s scheme of Universal Redemption. It remained in the hands of this party till 1791, when the congregation collapsed, the last minister being Mr George Thomson, who had been at one time Burgher minister of Rathillet. The property was afterwards acquired by the main body of Reformed Presbyterians in Glasgow, under Mr John M Millan. On this congregation removing to their new church in Great Hamilton
Street the Relief Presbytery, on petition to that effect, appointed Mr M Farlane of Bridgeton to preach in the vacant chapel on the first Sabbath of February 1820. On 1st March commissioners appeared from a body of people " in and about Calton " to be taken under the Presbytery s inspection, and it was agreed to recognise them as Kirk Street Relief Church.

First Minister. JAMES TURNBULL, who had been nearly seven years in Colinsburgh. Inducted, 27th June 1820, the stipend to be ^120. Next year a new church, with 1394 sittings, was built at a cost of ^2200. Houses and shops, which brought a good return, were also erected on part of the ground, the outlay being ^2100. In the summer of 1826 disputes arose in the session over a proposal by Mr Turnbull to have the Lord s Supper administered quarterly and week-day services dispensed with, but on 5th September a graver matter was introduced into the Presbytery. Seven of the elders requested an investigation into reports affecting their minister's character. At three successive meetings witnesses were examined in long array, and Mr William Anderson, who along with other two members of Presbytery had conducted the precognition, pressed home the charge with much vehemence. Mr Turnbull admitted that on the night specified his head was so confused on Glasgow streets that he did not know east from west ; that in his bewilderment he asked two women to tell him his whereabouts ; and that he went with them into a shop and paid for a dram, but left without tasting it, and reached home after midnight. It makes us doubt whether the insobriety and improper demeanour imputed to him were altogether the invention of "a wicked, enthusiastic visionary." But members and adherents to the number of 750 petitioned the Presbytery in his favour. They were convinced, they said, of his entire innocence, and it was their settled determination to abide by their minister, come what might. The sentence was that for certain imprudences Mr Turnbull should be suspended from preaching on Sabbath first, and should be rebuked before the congregation. He bowed to the decision, expressed sorrow for his faults, and promised circumspection for the future.

At next meeting of Presbytery Mr Thomson of Hutchesontown reported that he preached in Calton Church as appointed, but " Mr Turnbull declined to make his appearance when called for." In one of the public papers it was reported that the church " was doubly crammed in all parts," and it was further stated by a friend of Mr Turnbull's that the streets and lanes leading towards the place of worship were crowded, and that the carrying out of the Presbytery s sentence would have been to hold up the minister to derision. He himself rebelled against the sentence altogether, and on 2nd January 1827 his brethren declared him no longer a Relief minister. This brought the case before the Synod by protest and appeal, the congregation unanimously resolving to adhere to Mr Turnbull till the matter was settled. At the Synod the committee which sat on the case reported that they found the appellant in a good frame of mind, that he lamented the sin he had committed, and that he cast himself upon the mercy of the Court. He was then called to the bar, rebuked by the Moderator, and suspended for four Sabbaths. Against the latter part of the sentence the commissioners from the congregation protested, and this brought matters back to where they were.

Mr Turnbull on returning to Glasgow did not lie aside for four Sabbaths, and on i3th July the Presbytery received his written resignation of connection with the Relief. By this time he had deserted the Calton pulpit, and was preaching in another place of worship. A week afterwards he put in in appearance, and declared himself to be still the minister of a Relief congregation, but when he was about to be admonished from the Chair he declined the Presbytery s authority. Accompanied by the great body of his people Mr Turnbull now occupied a chapel in Great Hamilton Street, called the Noddy Kirk. On 6th July 1830, along with his session and congregation, he petitioned the Presbytery for readmission, but at next meeting it was decided that he would have first to give satisfaction for his former declinature of their authority. All we know of Mr Turnbull further is that in July 1832 he ceased to be a member of the Widows Society through non-payment of the rates, but all attempts to discover when or where he died have been baffled. In the report of the Commissioners on Religious Instruction in Glasgow a few years after this there is no mention of either him or his congregation. Dr Aikman, however, was mistaken in stating that Mr Turnbull was deposed from the office of the ministry.

So in 1827, the Rev. James Turnbull and his followers set up their own church on Hamilton Street.  They issued their own communion tokens as listed in one of the definitive collecting guides which also supplies the story for the source of the church nickname
Mr Turnbull, after a dispute with the Church authorities, left Calton Church in 1827, and organised an independent congregation at the " Noddy Kirk " in Great Hamilton Street, Glasgow. The nickname was given to the Church because many of its members drove up in " noddies," the " noddy " being a variety of four-wheeled carriage fashionable at the time. This token, intended for use by the Great Hamilton Street congregation, should therefore strictly be regarded as having no connection with Calton Church.
Today a noddy carriage is usually thought of as a small, one-horse two-wheeled carriage, but in 1827 it became a symbol for an entire dissenting church!  I believe that my Robert Turnbull was a member of the Calton Relief Church although I am still not absolutely certain.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

September 29 1830

Rev. James Turnbull
No. 11 Montague Street

Glasgow 29 September 1830

Dear Uncle & Aunt
I avail myself of this opportunity to write to you and let you know that we are all well at present and I hope these few lines will find you in the same state of health.
We have been expecting a letter from you all this week but have got none we are afraid there are something wrong with you. I have made up my mind about what I am going to be and father is thinking to go to Mr. Euston and try and get me into a doctor's shop he wants your advice about it. write to father about it. Mr. Edwards was ordained on Thursday and we was all there. Mr. Linsey preached and Mr. Barr ordained & Mr. (Edwards) French gave the address and mother was very ill pleased at him for keeping him standing 1 hour & 11 minutes so long she though might have wearies and man & only to give the congregation about 10 minutes address which she thought he gave to no purpose. his text on sabbath afternoon was that passage which says I am among you with fear and trembling. Mr. Turnbull of the noddy was struck with the palsy the Sabbath after the you was in Glasgow and it is thought he will never preach more. there was one the name of Watson filled his pulpit on sabbath last we no not to what body he belongs.

Francis Macaly (?) of Strathburn (?) came to Glasgow to see his daughter and some way or other he had fell into a quarry and was killed. This comes with Mr. Hewes (?) son who is very anxious to be presentor to your honorer. Mr. Harvey & Mr. Thypher (?) seems much dissapointed at not seeing you.
The Unitarian minister has put out a pamphlet against Mr. Sturers (?) for not attending a funeral he was asked to along with him and his reasons for it is that he could not say amen to a unitarian prayer.
And Mr. Harvey is going to preach a sermon on it why a trinitarian cannot say amen to a unitarian prayers. Mother was going to write to you today but she was busy but she wishes to be remembered to Mrs. Turnbull and you and grana and grandfather has there best respects for you both. I have no more to say at present but remain your affectionate Nephew Alex Turnbull
N.B. Be sure and write soon and let us know how Mr. Weddell

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

January 9th 1830

to the
Rev. James Turnbull
13 Roxburgh Street

Bridgeton 9th Jan'y 1830

My dear son and daughter

With all the feelings of a father I receive both your letters by Mr. Bell and Mr. White and learning by them the happiness and comfortable state you are in since you were joined in the marriage state and I hope also in the Lord. and may your happiness continue and increase all the days of your lives. mother Betty and Alex is all well at this time. I thank God that I can inform that I am some better since Betty wrote to you, my trouble is body-weakness along with a cough and some time a great trouble in breathing. but it gives me great happiness that you remember me in your prayers to our God for me o that my trouble may be sanctified to me and that the fruit of it may be to take away sin and that I may learn to keep Gods Laws and to know that in truth and faithfulness he hath afflicted me

it is a great blessing and comfort to us that Betty is returned to us in this time to watch over us when we stand so much in need of her help many ways at such a time as the present both your goodness and hers softens our sores (?) and comforts our hearts. may the Lord reward you all for your goodness to us.

I am sorry to inform you that Mr. Burnet(?) has been obliged to pay Miller in Bridgeton the sum of eighty pounds for not taking Mary Miller to his wife. the Ministers in this place are very sorry for him!!!

You will remember us to Mrs. and Mrs. Weddle and son and all that ask for us. expecting to hear from you soon I remain your
Loving Father
Robt. Turnbull

James Turnbull married Margaret Weddell, the youngest daughter of Edinburgh confectioner James Weddell on December 1 1829. Family lore has it that these Weddells are related to the famous explorer of the same name but I have yet to find a link. The Register of Marriages records the information as follows:
The Reverend James Turnbull, Minister of the Relief Congregation, Brighton Street, Residing in No. 13 Roxburgh Street, in this parish, and Miss Margaret Weddell, Residing in No. 10 South Hanover Street in the Parish of St. George's in Edinburgh, Daughter of Mr. James Weddell, Confectioner and Grocer in Edinburgh have been three times proclaimed in order to Marriage in the Parish Church of St. Cuthbert's and no objections have been offered. Married on the First Day of December thereafter by the Rev. William Limont Minister of the Relief Congregation, South College Street
A similar entry is found in the register at St. Cuthbert's. The Rev. James and the Rev. Limont were both ministers in the Relief Church, which had broken away from the Church of Scotland in 1761 and would later merge back to form the United Presbyterian Church in 1847. The Rev. Limont was married to Sarah Weddell, Margaret's older sister, and was much beloved by his congregation. His portrait hangs at the Turnbull family home on Hope Street.

This letter also provides a little information about the Weddell family as there is a mention of a son. I also get the impression that perhaps Robert had lived in Edinburgh because he does ask to be remembered to all who ask after him. At this point I know very little about Robert's life prior to this. I have the marriage record from Smailholm and Stitchel and I know that James was born in Stitchel but how, why and when they moved I have no clue. One hint that these Weddells might be related to the famous explorer James Weddell, is that he is reported to have lived at no 8 Hanover Street in Edinburgh at some point, virtually next door to Margaret at the time of her marriage.

Monday, October 6, 2008

February 19, 1828

Rev. James Turnbull No. 21
Salisbury Street

Brown Street February 19 1828

My Dear Son
I arrived at home in safety on that day I left you and though it was cold there was fine weather all the way home mother and Alexander was very glad to see me and to hear that you and sister was both well he was very proud on receiving the books and reads one of them every night with great pleasure.
you will by this time have begun your evening sermons before that solomn ordinance may the Lord give you every grace that is needfull for you and perfect his strength in your weakness and carry you honourably and comfortable throw the whole of the work on the great day of the feast so that you may have cause to say the Lord hath helped me.

I hope that you are more comfortable by this time and may the God of peace rule in your hearts and in your house.

See that you show every kindness to sister and be a comfort to her you know her sorrows. O feel for her and make her as happy as you can. She has done much for you and is still willing to do everything to serve you.
You may let us hear from you by Lochhead when he comes west this leaves us all well, Mother and Alex joins me in sending our best wishes for your welfare

I remain your loving Father Robt Turnbull

This second letter comes 7 months after the first and his sister is still living with him in Edinburgh. One curiosity is that on the first page, the word mother is crossed out and replaced with sister when referring to Alexander and then Betty. Since we know little about these two, it is probably safe to say that Betty, as James's sister, has allowed Alexander to be raised by her parents. As I stated previously, I know she was married Oct 31, 1813 to a William Smith, but I haven't found a birth registry for Alexander. From these letters, I would assume him to be between 10 and 15 at this time. Alex is living with his grandparents in Glasgow and the letter alludes to Betty's troubles, whatever they may be. Robert lives on Brown Street in Bridgeton which can still be found in modern-day Glasgow.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

July 17th 1827

Rev. James Turnbull
No. 21 Salisbury Street

My dear son and daughter

I am happy to inform you that we are all healthy and comfortable and as the fair is all over and are now begun to work. Your mother and Alex, God willing, hopes to see you both on Thursday. They are going in the track boat so I hope that one of you will be there to receive them for they will be at a loss to find you as none of them has been there as yet and when you meet them you will make them as comfortable as you can. What shall I tell you that Jane Clarkson is dead. She died on the third day of July and Robt Bogle is to

be burried this day. There are a number of your friends wishes to be remembered to you but your mother will inform you of them all.

I remain your loving father

Robt Turnbull

July 17

This is the first letter in the book. Son and Daughter refer to James Turnbull and his sister Betty, who was apparently staying with him in Edinburgh where he had recently moved to become a minister after attending Glasgow University. He served as minister at Brighton Street Relief Church in Edinburgh. Their father Robert, was a baker in Bridgeton, a suburb of Glasgow, at this time although the family was from Stitchell and earlier Sprouston. Robert and Agnes Fairbairn were married in Sprouston and Smailholm, the town where the Fairbairns lived. The Glasgow Fair, held every July, was a major event and as such must have been a busy time for a baker, hence the need to mention it in the letter. Alex is Betty's son and in the future writes several letters to the Rev. James, sometimes signing himself Alex Turnbull and other times as Alex Turnbull Smith. Betty married a William Smith but to date I have been unable to find a birth record for Alex. I assume he was born out of wedlock and perhaps later adopted by William Smith. At the time of these letters, he appears to be living with Robert and Agnes Turnbull and Betty appears to be unmarried or widowed. She is apparently in Edinburgh helping the Rev. Turnbull with household duties as he settles in to life in a new town. The track boat mentioned was a form of boat or barge used on canals pulled by a horse along a tow path so they most likely travelled on what is known as the Union Canal today.

At this time, the Rev. James is living on Salisbury Street, which I am assuming is the same as Salisbury Road in modern Edinburgh. It is interesting to see on the map just how close that is to Blackett Place which will become of much more importance to the Rev. James in the future.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

James Turnbull Biography

This comes from the notes of Kitty Turnbull, my father's cousin

Rev. James Turnbull (son of Robert Turnbull and Agnes Fairbairn) was born at Stitchell, Roxburghshire 15th April 1798. Come of a very old Scotch family tracing his descent back to about 1300. (When the name Turn-bull was first bestowed upon a French gentleman by King Robert Bruce of Scotland as a reward for a brave deed done by him) He was also a 1st cousin of Sir. A. Fairbairn of Scotland. He attended Glasgow College and the University at which latter place he obtained his M.A. degree.

Rev. James Turnbull married Margaret Weddell, 2nd daughter of James Weddell a High Constable of Edinburgh, 1/12/1829. About 1845 he removed south to Sydenham, then to brook House, East Grinstead where he died 21st June 1858, having sustained a severe rupture by falling, while hill climbing in Cumberland. He was buried at Crawley Downs, Sussex. The stone for his vault being fetched from Scotland. Several bequests were left by him to churches in Scotland where he had a wide circle of friends.

Attended board school Black & Callendar 21, Forth Street

Presented with Silver Snuff Box Dec. 1827 by Relief Church, Brighton St., Edinburgh

Presented with Gold Watch 10th November 1835 by Relief Church, Arthur St., Edinburgh