An Outline of the History

of the Scottish Episcopal Church

in Banff

St Andrew's gallery The Reformation in Scotland is said to have begun in 1560 when the Scots Parliament repudiated the authority of the Pope.  Until 1690, the Scottish Church was uncertain as to whether it would have bishops or not.  Initially the dioceses were administered by “Superintendents”, in 1572 the Convention of Leith restored the title of “Bishop”, and in 1592 Andrew Melville introduced the Presbyterian system of Church government. In 1610 James VI & I reintroduced Bishops, and his son Charles I tried to enforce a Book of Common Prayer and in particular a universal order for celebrating Holy Communion, a service popularly known as “Laud’s Liturgy” or The Scottish Communion Office of 1637. This provoked the outburst of Jenny Geddes in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh and the signing of the National Covenant in 1638.  The Covenanters reimposed the Presbyterian system of Church government.  The Restoration of the Monarchy in 1661 saw the re-establishment of Bishops and the savage persecution of the Covenanters.  James VII & II was deposed in 1689, and the refusal of the Scottish Bishops to swear allegiance to William of Orange resulted in the expulsion of the Bishops and those clergy who supported the Bishops and the House of Stuart (The “Episcopalians”). The Episcopalian clergy were put out of their Churches and Manses and set up chapels or “Non Juring Meeting Houses” in opposition to the now Presbyterian National Church. The position in Banff as in much of the North East seems to have taken some time to resolve: The account of the Parish in The Third Statistical Account of Scotland (1960) indicates that the Parish Minister of Banff in 1689 was Patrick Innes who died in 1699 and was succeeded by William Hunter, latterly of Tyrie.  Whether Mr Innes was deprived of his Charge by order of the Privy Council is unclear, it seems likely that he was protected by the fact that at this time a considerable proportion of the townsfolk and in particular the heritors were of the Episcopalian party. The support of the heritors is evidenced by their choice of a successor.  Mr Hunter was definitely of the Episcopal faction and was suspended from the Parish Church by the Presbytery in 1712 for refusing to take the abjuration oath as provided in The Scottish Episcopalians Act 1711.  The anti- Episcopalian feeling generated in the aftermath of the failure of the first Jacobite rising of 1715 resulted in Mr Hunter being deprived of his charge.  It seems that in Banff the orders of the Privy Council outing the Episcopal clergy were not enforced until after the 1715 Jacobite Rising.  Certainly Mr Hunter was replaced by a minister acceptable to the Presbytery. ThenAndNow 074 now old kirkyard Those who remained loyal to the Bishop and the Episcopal cause separated from the Parish Church and, in 1722, built a chapel on the site now occupied by St Andrew’s Church.  The list of former clergy at Banff provided in the Scottish Episcopal Church Yearbook of 1967 indicates that the Revd Alexander Murray came to Banff in 1723 and demitted office in 1752.  He was the first s Episcopalian clergyman after Mr Hunter to work in Banff.  This is the Chapel burnt along with those at Portsoy and Arradoul near Buckie by the Duke of Cumberland’s army in 1746. The Silver Communion Chalice presented to the “Meeting House” by Lady Braco in 1735 survived as did a pewter Communion Set.  The Pewter set comprises a wine flagon, two chalices with two handles and a scalloped edge a ten inch paten and two alms dishes. These items and the “Braco” Chalice are lodged with the Bank for safe keeping. The Episcopal Church’s loyalty to the House of Stuart caused it great problems: the Church survived the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, but the 1745 rising resulted in harsh “penal laws” against Episcopalians who were seen, with good cause, as untrustworthy and potentially rebellious against the House of Hanover. After the 1745 rebellion, strict laws were passed to regulate the Episcopalian faction.  In order to obtain limited toleration, the clergy ministering in Episcopalian congregations were required to have been ordained by the Church of England (and not by the suspect Scottish Bishops), to use the Services of the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and not the Scottish Liturgy of 1637, and to swear an oath of allegiance to the Kings of the Hanoverian succession. These conditions were unacceptable to the majority of North eastern Episcopalians who were Jacobite to the core and firmly loyal to the House of Stuart, The Scottish Liturgy and the Scottish Bishops.  In Banff, the Episcopalian party was split: the majority were prepared, along with the incumbent Mr Cordiner to obtemper the demands of the state, the minority, holding fast to their Jacobite principles separated.  The Non-Jurors were ministered to by clergy in Scottish Orders and spent a nomadic existence meeting in private houses until the persecution subsided.  It was an offence for non-Juring clergy to officiate to more than four persons at any one time, with six months imprisonment for the first offence and transportation for life for a second offence.  The laity  were subjected to fine, imprisonment and loss of civil rights. As the enforcement of the “penal laws” became slacker, so the non Juring Episcopalians became bolder and began to meet openly.  Thirty years after the rising in 1778 the non Jurors built a meeting house on Braeheads opposite where Chalmers Hospital now stands.  The non-Juring Meeting house was erected at roughly the same time as at Arradoul by Buckie (1783).  As and when “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, the “Young Pretender” or Charles III, died, the threat of another rising receded, and in 1792 Bishop Skinner managed to get the “penal laws” repealed.  The repeal of the penal laws in 1792 paved the way for the reunion of the congregations.  The united congregation met in the “Qualified Chapel” and the Meeting house was sold in 1796.  The united congregation continued to show its divided origins by the use of the Scottish Communion Office at early celebrations and the use of the English Office at late celebrations until the 1950s. To return to the “Qualified” or majority congregation: their chapel lay in ruins until 1752.  In the meantime the “Qualified” congregation of Episcopalians met in a private house on the opposite side of the street.  In 1752 a modest Chapel was rebuilt on the High Street site. The old divisions between the Qualified and non-Juring factions soon erupted.  At the reunion the two clergymen, the Revd Charles Cordiner of the Qualified Chapel and the Revd John Skinner (whose father Bp Skinner engineered the repeal of the penal laws) of the non-Juring congregation shared the charge.  In 1794 Mr Cordiner died and the majority of the congregation voted for Mr Skinner to continue as sole incumbent.  This was challenged by a certain Captain Cuming who was implacably opposed to the non-Jurors.  His objection was on this occasion overruled as he had ceased to worship in the congregation after the union of the charges.  In 1798 Captain Cuming raised a Bill of Suspension in the Court of Session to prevent the Managers and Congregation offering the charge to the Revd James Milne of Portsoy.  The ensuing litigation was bitter and financially ruinous to the congregation.  The bitterness occasioned by this dispute caused congregational numbers to drop and the building became neglected and fell into a dangerous state of disrepair.

Charles Cordiner was a well-known artist, and this is one of his engravings.
Charles Cordiner was a well-known artist, and this is one of his engravings.

In 1831, Bishop William Skinner launched an appeal for funds to resolve the property problems at Banff.  The old building was deemed unfit for economic repair and the present building was erected in 1833.  The architect was Archibald Simpson, and the resultant Gothic structure is a handsome building with a west front of dressed freestone flanked by two carved and ornamented minarets very similar to St Andrew’s Cathedral in Aberdeen, also designed by Simpson.  A Rectory (sold in 1971) in the Elizabethan style was added.  The cost of the Church was £1133 and the Rectory £884.

St Andrew's and its former Rectory, more than 100 years ago.
St Andrew’s and its former Rectory, more than 100 years ago.

The building was originally lighted by a massive chandelier presented by the Earl Fife, the stained glass widow depicting the Transfiguration was installed in 1865, given by Mrs Andrew Morison of Inverkeithny, in memory of her late husband, as is the window depicting St Andrew with his cross.  The stained glass window depicting St Matthias with a large axe – the means of his martyrdom – was installed in memory of the Revd G. Walker.  The window depicting St Paul with a book and a sword (by which he was beheaded) was given in memory of James 5th Earl Fife, and in 1895 the window beside the pulpit depicting St Luke was given in memory of the Revd J Davidson, Incumbent of St Andrews from 1862 to 1893.  An organ to replace the model of 1759 was purchased in 1871 at a cost of £211. In 1893, the litigious nature of some of the families connected with the congregation was again illustrated by a dispute over the appointment of the Revd A. Boyd as incumbent which was finally resolved by the Episcopal Synod in favour of Mr Boyd and the Managers – a full account of this episode can be found in the Scottish Guardian of 1895.  The litigation left the congregation divided and the funds depleted.  In consequence of the litigation, an updated Constitution was adopted. In 1910, the Congregation resolved to extend the Church by the addition of a new Chancel with a Sacristy and Choir Vestry / Hall completed in 1914 to a design by a local architect, Mr Meldrum.  The East window and the marble Reredos were reinstalled behind the Altar.  In 1919 the organ was removed to the Chancel in memory of those who fell in the Great War. On 7th July 1951, the Church was badly damaged by a fire caused by a freak thunder and hail storm, being repaired and re-consecrated on 22nd March 1952.  A Lady Chapel with an impressive statuette of Our Lady of Walsingham above the altar was created in the space under the Gallery for weekday services.  Electric heating was installed in 1963.  In the late 1980s the Gallery was refurbished to form a meeting area. St Andrew’s maintained a church school from 1864 until 1921 and from 1873 until 1975 administered a bursary (Brown: £15) at Banff Academy for Episcopalian children, which bursary now forms part of the local authority’s educational endowment. In 1876 St Andrew’s opened a mission in Macduff, dedicated to St Margaret of Scotland; this mission closed in 1927 and a free bus was provided to bring the people to St Andrew’s.  A second mission dedicated to St James was established in 1946 by the Revd G.M. Chaplin in Market Street. St James closed in 1957 when St Andrew’s, which was then heavily in debt, was linked with St John’s, Portsoy under the Revd (later Canon) Douglas Grant; the need to provide services at both Banff and Portsoy precluded the provision of services at Macduff. By 1970, the congregation was struggling financially, notwithstanding the link with St John’s, and with the resignation of the Revd F. R. St John as Rector, the link with Portsoy was severed, and a new linkage with St Congan, Turriff and St Luke, Cuminestown was formed under the Rectorship of Canon Edwin Hollands.  The Rectory was sold as surplus to requirements and to pay off the congregational debt.

Some of the congregation can remember fund-raising theatricals.
Some of the congregation can remember fund-raising theatricals.

Canon Hollands was succeeded in 1975 by the Revd (later Canon) Gerald Mungavin, who left Banff in 1981 to become Rector at Banchory and Kincardine O’Neil.  He was succeeded by the Revd (later Canon) Robert Haines who retired in 1997 and lived on in Banff, conducting some of the services, until his death in 2013. Since 1998 St Andrew’s shares its priest the Revd Canon Jeremy Paisey with All Saints, Buckie and St John’s in Portsoy. The congregation worships every Sunday, on the first and third Sundays of the month at 11.00am (Mattins), the second and fourth Sundays at 9.30am (Sung Eucharist). When there is a fifth Sunday in the month the service is at 11.00am.

Jeremy Paisey
Priest in Charge of St Andrew’s, Banff

[with some small updates by Alistair Mason in 2014]



  • Statistical Account of Scotland 1791 – 99 Volume 16 pp149 – 151
  •  Statistical Account of Banffshire (1842) p 185 & 192
  • Statistical Account of Banffshire (1961) pp 146 – 159
  • Annals of Banff  W. Cramond
  • Episcopal Scotland in the 19th Century M Lochhead
  • The Oxford Movement in Scotland W. Perry
  •  A Short History of the Episcopal Church in Scotland F Goldie 1975
  • A History of the Scottish Episcopal Church G White 1999
  •  A History of the Scottish Episcopal Church in the 20th Century L.E. Luscombe 1999