Buccleuch Parish Church

Buccleuch Parish Church, may appropriately find a place in this series of articles. Known originally as St. Cuthbert's Chapel of Ease, it is the oldest ecclesiastical edifice in the south side of Edinburgh, its inception reaching back to the middle of the eighteenth century. 

By 1753 the population of St. Cuthbert's parish had increased to such an extent that the old kirk beneath the shadow of the Castle Rock was no longer able to accommodate the parishioners, besides being in need of urgent rebuilding. To ease matters, it was decided to erect by subscription a chapel of ease in an outlying district of the parish. In March 1755, the subscriptions amounted to £460, and shortly after, a piece of ground at the Windmill, or west end of the Crosscauseway, was feued. The building cost between £600 and £700, and seated 1,200 worshippers. Seat rents were fixed yearly by the kirk session and those who had subscribed five guineas or upwards towards the erection of the chapel. Furthermore, the subscribers and twenty-one managers joined with the ministers and kirk session of St. Cuthbert's in arranging pulpit supply. 

The chapel was opened for public worship in January 1756. At first, the ministers of St. Cuthbert's conducted the services on alternate Sundays, but this was found too great a burden, and ultimately the Rev. James Roy, minister of the chapel in the Barony parish of Glasgow, was appointed to the charge. 

Arnot in his "History of Edinburgh" (1779) describes the original chapel as a "plain, genteel building." An engraving of it appears in Storer's "Views in Edinburgh" (1820). The principal entrance was through a porch projecting into the street and forming part of a high wall enclosing the chapel. The porch had a pediment with brackets, and was not unpleasing to the eye. Behind the entrance was a tower of three sections surmounted by a belfry with ornamental spire and vane. In the belfry was hung a bell which had formerly done duty in the old kirk of St. Cuthbert's. It weighed nineteen stone, cost £366 Scots, and bore the founder's name and the inscription, "For the West Kirk, 1700." This bell was really a substitute for the Netherbow Port one, which the kirk session were unsuccessful in procuring. The original chapel had a steeply-pitched roof, while the windows were extremely plain and filled with small panes of glass. 

It is interesting to recall that the managers of the Methodist Chapel, a building in the Low Calton with which John Wesley was closely associated, were granted the use of St. Cuthbert's Chapel of Ease on Sunday evenings while their own place of worship was undergoing repair. The permission was a reciprocal act, for we read that the kirk session of St. Cuthbert's, "in regard to the obligation which they formerly lay under, as having the use of the Methodist Chapel for assembling the congregation of the West Kirk during the time of building their new church (1772-75), unanimously agreed to grant this request of the Methodists." So for a brief period the followers of John Wesley held services at the chapel of ease in Buccleuch Street. 

In June, 1763, the ground surrounding the chapel was opened for interments. Arnot, the historian, alludes to it having been consecrated. "The neighbourhood of this Chapel" (he states) "has since its erection been used as a cemetery. But so strong is the prejudice in favour of holy ground that, previous to its being used ... a bishop of the Scottish Episcopal communion was prevailed upon ... to consecrate the ground." Arnot's statement, however, fails to reflect the true conditions of affairs. Admittedly there was a "private" consecration by one, Falconer, a nonjuring bishop, “very learned and worthy man," according to James Boswell .. But the matter had no countenance from the kirk session as a whole. It was, however, connived at by five elders and one deacon, who were reprimanded by the Presbytery. 

The graveyard, which occupies the site of the windmill that pumped up water from the Borough Loch (Meadows) for the Society of Brewers, contains the mortal remains of several eminent people:- Dr. Thomas Blacklock, the "discoverer" of Burns; Dr. Alexander Adam, the most famous of the rectors of the High School of Edinburgh; Alison Cockburn, authoress of one of the versions of "The Flowers of the Forest"; and the notorious Deacon Brodie, among others. The churchyard was in constant use till 1820, when it was closed to all but those who had purchased ground. At the same time there was opened a new place of sepulture in East Preston Street. 

In 1866 the chapel (latterly known as Buccleuch Parish Church) was reconstructed, and certain repellent features removed. A new and imposing front was reared at a cost of more than £2,000, while further embellishment was added in the form of a large stained-glass window erected by the Marquess of Bute to the memory of his ancestress, Flora Mure Campbell, who is buried in the churchyard. 

This lady was the eldest daughter of John Macleod of Raasay. In 1777 she married James Mure Campbell, who at a later date became fifth Earl of Loudoun. "You will rejoice to hear," Boswell writes to Dr. Samuel Johnson on 9th June of that year, "that Miss Macleod of Raasay is married to Colonel Mure Campbell, an excellent man with a pretty good estate of his own, and the prospect of having the Earl of Loudoun's fortune and honours. Is this not a noble lot for our fair Hebridean? How happy am I that she is to be in Ayrshire. We shall have the Laird of Raasay, and old Malcolm, and I know not how many gallant Macleods and bagpipes, etc., etc., at at Auchinleck (Boswell's ancestral home). Perhaps you may meet them all there." 

The earldom, however, did not come the way of Mure Campbell till 1782, by which time his lady had been dead two years. While in Edinburgh, Burns was introduced to Macleod of Raasay and composed verses to Isabella Macleod, in which he alludes to her feelings on the death of her sister, Mrs. Mure Campbell, the lady who is commemorated in the stained-glass window in Buccleuch Parish Church.