CHRISTMAS TIME IN AUCHTERTOOL
As midnight approaches on Christmas Eve, it is an experience to sit in atmospheric candlelight in Auchtertool Kirk with the east wind howling outside in the black night and the single church bell peeling out across the hill. There is a real feeling of connection with the history of the church and the people of past Auchtertool. What were other Christmases like we can only guess.
The ANCIENT CHURCH– Is the Auchtertool Kirk site nearly as old as Christianity in Scotland? Some folk think that some part of the east gable dates from Celtic times.
Christmas 1178– We know that there was a church because Pope Alexander 3rd makes “the present of Auchtertule” to the prior of Inchcolm.
Christmas 1315 The first Christmas after Robert the Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn. Living at Halyards Palace is William St Clair, the Bishop of Dunkeld with his 60 fighting men. St Clair was known as the “Fectin Bishop” having slain over 500 English at the Battle of Fordell.
Christmas 1628 Between 1617 and 1627 the church was being repaired and enlarged by William Forbes. See his shield reproduced in the Stevenson aisle. WF (William Forbes) and his wife ME (Margaret Edward). The same shield is sculpted outside high up on the east gable. So by 1628 there was a refurbished church.
Christmas 1716 A poor Christmas Time. The manse and the village had been invaded during the year by 500 Jacobite troops who plundered the village and left to go north.
Christmas 1879 A sad Christmas time. The Reverend Walter Welsh had died on the 17th December 1879 after 41 years as minister of Auchtertool. Look at the tablet to his memory on the north wall, erected by his parishioners and friends that states “he lived in honour amongst men and died lamented.” His manse had always been open to his parishioners and he had celebrated 40 Christmases there.
Christmas 1892 – The first warm Christmas? The Reverend William Stevenson was the architect and supervised the whole project of extending the church on the north side (Stevenson’s Aisle) where Walter Welsh’s tablet was placed and the Forbes shield relocated. He also removed galleries, cleaned the interior, reconstructed the seats and HEATED the church by hot water pipes!
Christmas 1893 A musical Christmas. Stevenson commissioned a pipe organ to be built by Casson and Miller in Perth. It was a state of the art instrument at that time.
Christmas 1894 A sad Christmas. The Reverend Stevenson’s daughter had died in the October and his son was due to die in March 1895. In the candlelight look at the stained glass window in the south wall depicting Jesus and the little children. The child in Jesus’ arms is said to be a likeness of the Stevenson girl. Both children’s graves are outside under the window, beautifully tended still.
Christmases 1914-1918 and 1940-1945 must have been tense tearful times for some families. All the names of the men from the parish who died in the First World War are on our stained glass memorial window. This is Auchtertool’s only war memorial and was completed in 1921. The names of those who died in the Second World War are directly below the window their names carved on the pages of a stone book. There is a also a book which contains the details of all the soldiers their families and regiments for you to look at. This has been painstakingly researched by Stewart Glasson our session clerk. Maybe descendants of these men are present this Christmas Eve.
Christmas 2004. –After much fundraising by the whole village and with Lottery help, Stevenson’s pipe organ was completely refurbished and sounds like new. Many distinguished organists have played it since.
Christmas 2010 –There was no watch night service as the village was snowed in.
Christmas 2018 –Auchtertool Kirk is full of atmosphere. You have to experience sitting in the quiet flickering light which illuminates the beautiful windows and listen to the wind keening outside round the north east corner to feel connected to the past…and maybe…just maybe… you will imagine on the same spot early Celtic monks, a Fectin Bishop and his men, Jacobite …
All in December 2018 – each events has a wee surprise, a ‘bring’ or ‘take’ element:
Sunday 2nd 9:30am ‘Star-t with the decorations’.
Sunday 9th 9:30am ‘Next invite your friends’ – Café church.
Sunday 16th 9:30am ‘Now tell the story’ – Readings and carols for Christmas.
Thursday 20th 6.30pm ‘Sing with the neighbours’ – All welcome. Watch out for us or join us as we journey round the village. We start from the Old Schoolhouse about 6.30pm and end up back there for a hot drink and defrost etc All welcome.
Fri. 21st 11am Auchtertool School service in Auchtertool Kirk
Sunday 23rd 9:30am ‘Somewhere in your memory’ – Nativity play – spontaneous and relaxed on-the-hoof .
Christmas Eve 24th 11pm for 11.30pm ‘Getting there?’ – candle-lit Watchnight service, everyone welcome for hot mince pies from 11pm. It will be dark and windy so wrap up warmly and bring a torch.
Christmas Day 25th 10.30am jointly in Linktown church ‘Time to celebrate’ (no service in Auchtertool Kirk on Christmas Day).
Sunday 30th 11am We gather in St.BryceKirk Kirkcaldy together with four other congregations to make one big cheerful crowd, to worship God on the last Sunday of 2018 (no service in Auchtertool Kirk on that day).
Sunday 6th January 9:30 first Sunday service in 2019! (in Auchtertool Kirk weekly again).