Our Church History - Missionaries

Article Index

The First Missionary 1839-43

The first Minister, the Rev.David Mitchell was paid £50 per year and complained “I did not receive a farthing without a grudge.” He was an ordained minister, but the charge was a mission chapel under the control of the Wick Old Parish Church.

Hopes were high. A brand new Church for the expanding new town. Reports speak of large attendances and as many as 500 children at special meetings. However, the entire Scottish Church was to be rocked from top to bottom the following year. In 1843 the General Assembly passed the Veto Act which, in connection with the appointment of ministers, gave ‘ a majority of the male heads of families’ in a parish the right to reject the patron’s nominee. This led to the ‘Disruption’ when most members of the Established Church in the Highlands left to form the Free Church. So great was the strength of feeling in the three northern counties of Ross, Sutherland and Caithness that throughout the area less than 2,000 worshippers remained in the Church of Scotland. Almost the entire congregation of the new Church in Pulteneytown was, as an old record puts it ‘swept away’ by the Disruption. (They formed Pulteneytown Free Church which was later to become Wick Central Church.)

It was in many ways a disastrous start for the church which started with such high expectations. Rev.David Mitchell left and took up a charge in the St Luke's Free Church in Glasgow. The congregation struggled on.

Later Missionaries

From 1843 – 1852 there is no record of a Minister – visiting missionaries took the services. Ministers (or missionaries) were appointed by a central body and were resident for a couple of years or so before moving on. We know the names of some of these minsters, but there will probably have been others whose names are now forgotten.

1852 Rev Archibald Milligan, who took up a charge in Montreal in 1853.

1855 Rev James Gemmel . He was appointed, presumably as a student, in 1854 and ordained in 1855. After 5 years he was called to Watten.

1861 Wiliam Smith who is stated as being 'afterwards minister of Unst' and so may have been a student during his time in Pulteneytown.

1863 Alexander Machardy

1865 Alexander Chalmers Souttar

1867 Rev David Rait Jack who left in 1872 to go to Holm

1872 Rev Robert Walker who left in 1874 to go to St Margaret's, South Ronadsay

1874 Rev William Laing Reid - another minister who transferred to Watten in 1875

1877 Rev Duff Macdonald