Kirk o' Muir

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The Kirk on the Muir in the Carron valley is 7.5 miles south-west of St Ninians Old Parish Church has an interesting history both as a site of a chapel probably connected with John de Grahams Castle and its cemetery which is dominated by a large iron cage known as a Mort Safe erected to prevent grave robbers removing the bodies of the wealthy buried there. Due to the remoteness of the area led to the tradition of the site being used for conventicles - these were secret or unlawful religious meetings held outdoors. For over 100 years an annual service is held at Kirk o’ Muir to commemorate the Covenanters this is held on the first Sunday of August at 12 noon.

The Covenanters were individuals of varied backgrounds supporting the National Covenant to prevent the imposition of an episcopal church on the people of Scotland by James VI, Charles I and Charles II against the will of the Scottish people. The Covenanters aim was to continue their form of worship, led by their own ministers who had been outed from the parishes they served. They served God not the King. There are no historical records supporting the presence of Covenanters in this area however recent excavation at the Kirk of Muir has revealed the remains of a small school which operated in the 19th Century and rubble which could have come from the late medieval chapel. Identification of two gravestones indicates the graveyard would have been in operation during the period of the Covenanters. Covenanters made an important contribution and sacrifice to establish the present-day Church of Scotland as well as enabling individuals living in the 21st Century to worship in freedom.

The chapel at Kirk o’ Muir existed from early in the 10th Century and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary around the 13th/14th Century. This chapel is said to have been one of the earliest churches in Scotland where the Sacrament of the Lord’s supper was dispensed by the reformers in Scotland. The chapel was eventually replaced in 1736 by a chapel at Buckieburn some 4 miles to the east. The chapel at Buckieburn had been pulled down in 1697 and the people of the muirlands contested whether their place of worship should be erected at Buckieburn or Kirk o’ Muir, during this time the Minister and assistant preached in the open air, eventually Buckieburn was chosen. Records from the 1850’s describe Buckieburn as a chapel of ease for the western district of the Parish of St Ninians, “reseated” in 1830 to 200 sittings, the Minister attending once a month and was “a small plain building in bad repair”.

In 1954 records show the building to be completely plain and barn like measuring 50ft from East to West by 28ft, there was a small “outshot” to the east containing the Session room, Vestry and lobby which provided entrance to the church. Four square windows on the southside and two on the north, the pulpit was on a raised platform to the west reached by a double set of steps backed by panelling with a pediment on top. There was no communion table, the seats were of pine and a stove in the middle of the north side provided the heating. The church also contained two murals painted in 1940 by William Crosbie RSA one depicting Adam and Eve in a walled garden and the other being a central figure of Christ. Buckieburn church is now no longer a place of worship having been converted to a dwelling house in 2004.

Maire Blackhall