A History of Furnace Church

Furnace, or Inverleacain as it once was, was on the border of two districts and parishes, Glassary and Inveraray & Glenaray. Although there had been ancient chapels at Killevin (Crarae), Auchentiobairt, Killean, and Kilbride, in the 19th century the churches of both parishes were a long walk from our village. As a result, attendance on a Sunday would have been spasmodic at best.

This fact was recognised by the minister and elders of Inveraray’s Gaelic congregation (Glenaray) in the early 1800s. So Lochfyneside Mission was founded, and a missionary appointed. The various missionaries reported over the years that accommodation was deficient: there were more than 800 “souls” in the district and the Cumlodden Schoolhouse, which was used for services, could not accommodate 200! What would a minister give for a congregation approaching 200 today?

This was before the Disruption, so virtually all of these “souls” were in the care of the Established Church of Scotland. In 1840 Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth, the proprietor, agreed to gift a piece of land near Sandhole for the site of a church. It was built for the fine sum of £548, with Sir Archibald contributing £100, the Duke of Argyll £200, and the rest coming from the Church of Scotland funds. The building was opened on the 10th August 1841.

In May 1853 the principle benefactors named above petitioned for a separate parish to be created: as it would not be a separate administrative parish, it was termed a quoad sacra or ecclesiastical parish, with the name Cumlodden, in the Presbytery of Inveraray. It was to comprise of the lands from the boundary dykes of Auchindrain and Pennymore in the north to the march with Kilmichaelbeg in the south, taking in the inland farms of Feorlin, Stronalbannich, Garvachy, Gallanach, Craigenure, Brenchoille and Braleckan, with the boundary being the River Add.

Cumlodden was linked with Lochfyneside (Minard) Church in 1931. Minard had, of course, experienced the breakaway of the “free” church at the Disruption of 1843, and had built another church there: Furnace only had a “free church mission”. Then, at the turn of the 20th century, the Free Church of Scotland split again, creating a United Free Church who built Lochfyneside Church. In 1927 the UF Church settled its differences with the Establish Church of Scotland, and they reunited.

Another church in Furnace was the Baptist Church, now a dilapidated building between David McCheyne’s coal-ree and “Lilydale”. There was a strong Baptist movement in Lochgilphead and Knapdale, and many families had emigrated to Ontario in 1818 and 1831, led by the reverend Dugald Sinclair. On Sunday 28th December 1884 the reverend John Knox, Lochgilphead, opened the Furnace Baptist Church for worship. It was a very active branch, or “mission station” of Lochgilphead Baptist Church, and it remained in operation right up until the 1960s.

The “Bethel” is a name surviving to this day. Originally the magazine for the Powder Mills, when that enterprise was closed down in 1883 it lay unused for a few years. In 1886 a Faith Mission was founded, and the “Pilgrims” renamed the magazine the “Bethel Hall” and used it for evangelical services. It is not known how many local “Pilgrims” there were, but during the Glasgow Fair holiday the locals were reinforced by visitors from the city. At this time of year open air meetings, with hymn singing accompanied by a portable organ, were held on the village green (now the site of the fish farm). In more recent years the “Bethel” has doubled as Sinclairs’ workshop and, for a short period, the “Cough Inn”, a Sunday morning meeting place of a more secular nature for the “boys” of the village.

The population of Furnace was much more diverse than that of other similar-sized communities on Loch Fyne, mainly due to the different industries we have had here. Although there were Jewish people too, there were not enough to have their own church: all the establishments mentioned here were of the Christian faith.

So, when quarrymen and their families came from Aberdeenshire and Appin, both staunchly Episcopalian areas, they also sought the solace of a place to worship. Fortunately for them, in the 1880s Duchess Amelia had established an Episcopal Church in Inveraray, and Canon Little, the clergyman there, set up a mission at Furnace Quarry. In the years immediately before the First World War the congregation converted this wooden hut to a pretty little stone building, including a fine altar constructed with granite blocks from the quarry. The church, dedicated to St Brendan, was served by the clergymen from Inveraray. Between 1925 and 1928 the rector was a man whose family is still high profile in Argyll today. James Humphrey Copner Macfarlane-Barrow was born in Ringwood, Derbyshire in 1880, and had married Alice, a daughter of Sir Arthur Campbell-Orde of Kilmory, Lochgilphead. He later converted to Roman Catholicism, and died in 1943.

Macfarlane-Barrow was by no means the most notable Episcopalian to be associated with our parish, although Archibald Campbell Tait predated St Brendan’s Church. Archibald was born in Edinburgh on the 21st December 1811, to Crawford Tait, later of Harvieston and Cumlodden, and his wife Susan Campbell of Succoth. He was their ninth and youngest child, and in 1868 became Archbishop of Canterbury!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Archibald_Campbell_Tait_by_Bassano.jpg
Archibold Campbell Tait by Bassano

Archibald’s mother died in 1814, when he was three years old, and it was soon after this time that he, as he recorded in his memoirs, experienced his first deep religious impressions ‘as by a voice from heaven,’ which never left him. His Tait ancestors had originally been Episcopalians from Aberdeenshire, but in the eighteenth century the family had joined the Presbyterian Church.

His time in our parish would, however, have been short. From 1821 to 1826 he was at the Edinburgh High School, and it was during this time that his father’s agricultural experimentation got him into financial difficulties and he had to sell Cumlodden Estate.

While he was at Glasgow University (1827–30), where among his teachers was the famous Professor of Logic, Robert Buchanan (1785–1873), he resolved to enter the ministry of the Church of England. He competed in 1829 for a Snell exhibition to Balliol College at Oxford, and was successful, gaining one of the Balliol scholarships in November 1830.

His father died 2nd May 1832, and young Archibald remained in England, progressing up the ranks of the Anglican clergy. In 1842 he succeeded the famous Thomas Arnold as headmaster of Rugby School, and became dean of Carlisle Cathedral in 1849: in 1856 was made Bishop of London.

He became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1868, and died on the 3rd December 1882, in Addington, Surrey.

The Church of Scotland at Cumlodden, Furnace holds regular services.

See http://www.westlochfyneside.org.uk for more information.