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The Friends of Hugh Miller

Traditions today

Welcome to Traditions Today!

This section opens with a poem submitted by Glasgow poet Jen Gray. She was one of a writers' group who came to Cromarty, most of them for the first time. She had never heard of Hugh Miller, like so many, and has shown here a most impressive immediate grasp of the issues involved in The Disruption of 1843, and both the joy and the grief that cataclysmic event caused.  

The poem is a hymn to freedom of the human spirit and of conscience, inspired by a visit to our Museum. But our Museum unfortunately has not yet told the story of how the Free Church soon betrayed its own cause by seeking and taking donations from slaveholder churches in the American Deep South, and despite a huge anti-slavery campaign calling on the leading divines responsible to "send back the money," they never did. It's also unfortunate that Miller backed them in The Witness in opposing the refund, although he supported the abolition of slavery.

We are pleased to publish Jen's poem it on its own merits, also because the Disruption is becoming very faded history.. It is sad that the noble aspects of the Free Church winning freedom from the stranglehold of patronage, as exalted in Jen's poem, are now revealed to have been negated by soliciting money from slaveonwers.


Hugh Miller’s Lament

by Jen Gray


‘I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it who so list.’ John Knox


My church starts its General Assembly again today 

and we are not there.

My heart grieves

but my soul is free.


I begrudge them this exile,

But we had no choice. 


I would gladly sit again

in my father’s pew

in the Cromarty kirk,

see the sunlight 

stream in the windows

behind the pulpit.

See the minister

rise from prayer

to preach God’s Word to us.

Oh how gladly I would listen…


But that Word was usurped

by the laws of Patronage.

My Maker and Saviour’s Word

was trammeled in the nets of privilege and power,

His ministers chosen by the lords of the land

and sworn to protect the temporal rights

of their masters.

How far we had come

from the simple fishermen of Galilee,

called to leave all

and follow the Master.


What a glorious sight,

these four hundred and seventy four souls

who walked out of the General Assembly

this year past

and called us to follow them

into the Free Church!

Free to choose our own ministers

as the Lord our God guided us.

Aye, these men left all

to follow the Master:

their kirks, their manses, 

their whole livelihood.

But they were free

to preach God’s Word

according to His grace alone.


We support our free ministers now.

And we are happy


in our abandoned buildings.

Aye, even out in the open air.

In truth this Disruption

was needed

to bring us back to the Truth.

It is what I worked for.


But oh how I regret this split in my church.

Why could they not all see

and rejoice in the call to freedom?


Or is this the division

the Master said he had come to bring?