Friday, September 5, 2008

The Moving of Sir Thomas

When I started this topic I had no idea that there would be so much material on Sir Thomas, but for now I think this will be the final chapter, but one can never tell.........
The Rev. Bisset, in the 1845 Statistical accounts, has this to say about the legend of Sir Thomas and Barra
This derives some vraisemblance from two rather rude images of a knight in armour and his dame, which occupied a niche in the old church of Bourtie. They lie now in the church-yard, neglected like the stranded remains of Polydorus. It is hardly necessary to remark, that no such knight as Sir Thomas de Longueville is known historically to have been amongst the followers of either party.
(I believe that the Polydorus referred to was the son of Praim (King of Troy), who was murdered by Polymestor, and his body left to rot. See Wikipedia entry on the subject for more details.

Bourtie Kirk yard

Ninety years later a young Doug Smith was part of a team who moved the “stranded remains”, from the kirk yard to their present position inside the kirk.

Below is Doug’s account of the move:

"The effigies were moved from the churchyard to inside Bourtie Kirk in 1956. Tom Webster was the contractor. He also completed the Meldrum Kirk restoration in 1954. Willie Henry, foreman mason, was in charge. Kenneth Macmillan was the minister of both Bourtie & Meldrum kirks.
The effigies lay side-by-side close by the right of the path, approximately mid way between the entrance gate and the kirk doors. (I am certain they lay facing the kirk and due east)
There was significant weathering of the effigies which was the reason for moving them inside. Controversy and much debate took place about the move.
This job was far removed from the usual run -of -the mill work we did and proved challenging and interesting, not forgetting heavy.
No mechanical lifting aids were available. We used pick-axe handles to move them ( 6 of us in pairs) through the narrow doors with a tight turn into a small room, upended them and fixed them to the wall. Now they were facing west."

Doug with the figures he moved half a century ago

Doug also confirmed that they had to carry-out some repairs to the figures as well as securing them to the wall.

Further insight into the move comes from the “Random Memories”, of the late Rev Kenneth MacMillan, who was also provost of Oldmeldrum from 1956 -1957 and was the driving force behind the restoration of Meldrum Parish Church.

Rev Kenneth Macmillan wearing his Provost chain of office

In 1950/1951 Mr. Mackenzie of Bourtie House made a strong attempt to have the effigies placed in the body of the church. Mr. Mackenzie, who was a member of the firm of A. Marshall Mackenzie, well known Aberdeen Architects, drew up the plan with the effigies lying side by side on a plinth. This would have dominated the interior of the little Kirk, and found little favour with the congregation. At the meeting of the congregation held to decide whether to agree to the plan or not there was much discussion, then one of the elders (Proctor) killed the idea by saying, “We have enough sleeping members in the kirk without having more!”
The effigies remained outside until 1956 when a small section of the vestibule was turned into a museum and with the help of Tom Webster, the Old Meldrum builder, Sir Thomas and his Lady were set standing side by side on one of the walls. The church bell, which had fallen down and cracked, nearly killing the beadle as it fell, found a place in the museum. Also a pedestal font, found by workmen clearing the ditches near the church and three long handled offeratory ladles, one dated 1690 were among the treasures.
In a short time there were many less “sleeping members” and many more awake to the fact that the Bourtie Kirk was still the Parish church and that Bourtie was still a parish. It would be hard to forget names like Stronach of Selbiehill, Green of Collyhill, Manson of Smithycroft, Cooper of Shadowside, Morris of Greenford, and Miss Thompson who ran the Sunday School. They were all Bourtie folk with a sense of belonging.

Once again I have Evelyn to thank for providing a copy of the notes shown above, which are in the possession of the MBHS. A longer version of the notes also appears in Marion Youngblood’s book “Boutie Kirk - 800 Years” , which is well worth a read for anyone with a deeper interest in history of the kirk.
For those interested in the modern day church, information can be found on the following site:

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