Free Arroquhar Church (now The Ben Lomond, Tarbet) >
Free Arroquhar Church.
The great surge of Evangelical Fervour which poured forth in Scotland as a result of the Disruption in 1843 divided the Church of Scotland. In the Parish of Arroquhar there was soon practical evidence of the spirits which was abroad among the Scots. Money poured in for a General building Fund, and after an open-air Communion Service on the first Sunday of August 1843, it was decided to petition to the Free Church Presbytery for sanction to build a church and call a minister. Application was made to Sir James Colquhoun. Bart., of Luss, the proprietor of Arroquhar for a site; which was readily granted, close to the Burying Ground of the Parish at Balhennan (now Ballyhennan). This proximity to a burial ground by a Free Church is unusual;
A contract for building the Church was entered upon with Mr Alexander Stewart, builder at Dunoon, the church to be seated for 250 at £240 sterling, the members of the congregation to cart all materials. The work was commenced on 10th January, 1844 and finished on the 11th day of April 1844, and fully settled with the contractor.
Colin Mackenzie , who was then the minister of Sheidag, but had been “outed” by his Laird, accepted the call to the Free Church, Arroquhar and was inducted on the 18th April 1844. The session records of Arroquhar Free Church do not record when he left Arroquhar, but on the 8th December 1882 his death is noted and he is referred to as Senior Minister.
In 1869 the second Minister of the Free Church was ordained. He was a Mr Kippen, and he was minister here until his death on 26th October 1881. A set of stained-glass windows at the rear of the nave of the church, commemorate his ministry. On the 13th April 1882 John Robson Elder, was translated from Cromarty to Arroquhar Free Church, and he ministered here until his death in May 1897.
He was succeeded on 21st October 1897 by the Rev. A P Telfer during who’s time the Free Church union with the United Presbyterians took place and form the 4th November 1899 the local church became the United Free Church and a member of the Dumbarton United Free Presbytery. On the 5th of May 1904 it is recorded that the last issue of Communion Tokens by Arroquhar Free Church took place. Rev Telfer was succeeded by Mr Richard D E Stevenson, during this ministry the Basis and Plan of Union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland was submitted and approved. In Sept 1929 at a joint meeting with the Parish Church it was agreed that the new names of the Churches would be (Parish) Tighness and (United Free) Ballyhennan.
Mr Stevenson was the last Minister of the Ballyhennan Church. From 1947 both the United Free, and the Parish Church, was ministered by the one Minister.
The United Free Church was closed in 1966.
Two traditions of the origin of the Burying ground are;
When Gilchrist of Arroquhar’s son Duncan was ruling these lands, during this time the Battle of Largs was fought in 1263. Before that battle King Haco sent an expedition, under one or two of his lieutenants, to ravage Loch Lomondside, and the Glen of Tarbet. A great fight took place between Duncan’s clansmen and the Norse. To bury the slain in this action the little graveyard at Ballyhennan was begun. The grave yard also contains many ancient Macfarlane stones which should tell a story when examine properly – many with the shield of the chief’s family sculptured on them: and there are at least two old stones there adorned with what looks like ancient Celtic tracery.
The other tradition about the old graveyard – to the effect that it originated after an attack of plague in which many people died, and had to be buried at once.
During the building of the West Highland Railway some 5,000 navies were employed at times working in atrocious weather and conditions. Of these men 37 were buried just outside the graveyard in unmarked graves. There is a certain amount of speculation as to why they were not buried within the cemetery grounds but no one is absolutely clear as to the correct reason.
The original church building and the small graveyard now form part of The Ben Lomond - a fine restaurant complete with craft shop and our very own heritage centre located on the first floor. Why not visit The Ben Lomond next time you are in the area. The old graveyard is open to visitors beside the church building.
See also The Arrochar Cemetery - with all the names and pictures of the grave stones.