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Rev Robert Douglas






Rev Robert Douglas married Helen Douglas, daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Douglas of Kirkness, d1724, and his mother Dame Jean Balfour, d1746.  His parentage is unknown, but 'The Reverend Robert, a resident of Gosport, was of the gospel at Portmoak in Kinross-shire when his only daughter Ann Jean was baptised on 15 March 1742'.


Called 25th Dec. 1734 ; ordained 1st May 1735

On 1st May 1735 Mr Robert Douglas was ordained at Portmoak as successor to the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine after a vacancy of four years. He was one of a leet furnished by Sir John Bruce, who claimed the patronage, and his call was stated by the Presbytery to have been subscribed by the principal heritors, by a majority of elders, and by more than 60 heads of families, and, above all, it was concurred in by the patron. But Mr Hugh White, of whom nothing more is known, was the popular candidate, though, as was alleged, unworthy manoeuvres prevailed to put him in a minority of two on the moderation day.


The session, like the parishioners generally, was much divided, and 3 of the members, Messrs John White, sen. and jun., of Pittendreich, and Mr John White, Wester Balgedie, vacated their office in December 1734. The opposition, however, was temperately managed, the appeal against the settlement being withdrawn, and the hope expressed that Mr Douglas might prove himself an able minister of the New Testament, and, as Mr Erskine expressed it, "a blessing to the Church of Christ and to my dear people in Portmoak particularly." But after a trial of nine months dissatisfaction with Mr Douglas was not overcome, and six elders with a large body of the people acceded to the Associate Presbytery in February 1736. After this petitions for at least week-day services were given in again and again, but it was not till Wednesday, 4th January 1738, that a Fast was observed at Portmoak, Messrs Moncrieff and Fisher officiating.

Supply was kept up for a time at rare intervals, but Milnathort being only three miles from the western part of the parish, where the Secession was strongest, the people were left to wait on the ministry of Mr Thomas Mair, who was now one of the Presbytery.


Robert and Helen had a daughter, Anna Jean, who married George Clephane of Carslogie.  Their son, Maj-Gen William Douglas Maclean Clephane, 21st of Carslogie, became Governor of Grenada, where he died in 1803. The General's daughter married Joshua Compton, 2nd Marquess of Northampton.


Robert was the probable contributor to A True Narrative of the Settlement of the Parish of Portmoak, May 1st 1735.


He died on 28th September 1742.



Set into the interior wall of Portmoak church, opposite the Portmoak Stone, are three smaller stones bearing the inscriptions S R D 1724, R M R D 1742 and D J B 1746. These commemorate the Douglases of Kirkness, an estate on the southern boundary of the parish; namely, Sir Robert Douglas of Kirkness, the Rev. Mr Robert Douglas, Minister of Portmoak Parish, and Dame Jean Balfour, the wife of Sir Robert.


The installation of Sir Robert’s nephew as minister of the Parish of Portmoak caused a great uproar in the 1730s and was part of the reason the breakaway Secession Church was established so strongly in Kinross-shire and so many people in the parish left the Church of Scotland.


For many years after the rebuilding of the church in 1832, the Kirkness stones lay hidden in the basement. Rediscovered by the Rev. Mr Pollock in 1926, the stones were set into the wall at the expense of the Marquis of Northampton, Sir James Douglas, a descendent of the Douglases of Kirkness. A service of dedication was planned and the Marquis was invited to attend. Unfortunately, the day before this event was due to take place, the luckless lord fell from his horse while hunting and broke his neck.


You can still see the ruins of Kirkness House on the brow of the hill beyond the Scotlandwell causeway, but the Douglases of Kirkness are long gone.



•  ROBERT DOUGLAS, called 25th Dec. 1734 ; ord. 1st May 1735 ; died 28th Sept. 1742. He marr. Helen, youngest daugh. of Sir Robert Douglas of Kirkness, and had issue — Ann Jean (marr. George Clephane of Carslogie).—[St Andrews Tests. ; Douglas's Baron., 319.]  Extracted from Fasti Ecclesi Scoticanae;  Synods Of Fife, And Of Angus And Mearns; 1925



Any contributions will be gratefully accepted



Sources for this article include:
• The Kinross-shire Civic Trust



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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024