John Brechin (see last post) has found mention of the Fisherford Robbs in the records of St. George’s Episcopal Chapel, Folla-Rule (aka Meiklefolla). There are no references to Robbs in the marriage or burial records, or in the earlier baptism records. However, among later baptisms John has found the following:
John, an adult, Fisherford, bap. in Chapel 24 June 1847 after worship.
Mary, dg. of George, Fisherford, and wife Elizabeth MacKenzie, bap. 4 April 1850.
William, s. of George ” ” ” bap. 15 July 1847
The John Robb mentioned here could be George’s son, born about 1834, or possibly his brother, born 1799. Mary and William were both infants, being baptised in the years of their births.
John’s delayed baptism might simply reflect an oversight when he was younger, or it could signify a more deliberate conversion (in him? or in the family?) to the Episcopal faith.
The records for St. George’s, as for many other Episcopal churches in Scotland, were very helpfully transcribed by the late A. Strath Maxwell, who includes this interesting information about the chapel at Folla-Rule:
The next priest at Folla-Rule [after 1763] was Arthur Petrie, who served for 24 years, the last 14 of which he was Bishop of Moray. He made Folla-Rule a centre of study for the priesthood and the seminary of the Episcopal Church.
Petrie would have been the priest (and by then a bishop) when clergyman-to-be William Robb (1763 – 1830) consulted him in 1784 (see earlier post on William’s possible conversion). His role in preparing candidates for the priesthood might explain why William went to see him specifically (and not the priest at his local Episcopal church in Tillymorgan).
I’m beginning to wonder if Petrie’s words about William, which I quoted in my earlier post on this matter, might be interpreted as referring to his desire to become a priest, rather than a wish to convert to the Episcopal church. Here again is what Petrie wrote:
Mr. William Robb, Schoolmaster at Culsalmond is desirous of further instruction in the principles of our Church. He has attended worship in Bishop Skinner’s chapel throughout the winter. As he is dependent on the emoluments of his school prudence requires that he should conceal his views for a while especially from his parish Minister until he is fully resolved as to the part he is to act.
Could ‘further instruction in the principles of our Church’ simply refer to study for the priesthood? Might the need to keep things quiet from William’s local minister just mean not wanting to lose his job prematurely, before he was certain about his vocation? I’m not sure. Although ‘minister’ can apply to both Presbyterian and Episcopal clerics, it is used more often for the former than the latter. And I think the school at Culsamond was Church of Scotland, whereas there was an Episcopal school (now Fisherford school, apparently) attached to the Tillymorgan church.
At the same time, my cursory reading of the religious history of the times would suggest that individuals and families did switch between the two denominations quite regularly: apparently at Folla-Rule families whose children attended the parish school sometimes moved from Presbyterianism to Episcopalianism. And one mustn’t forget the political atmosphere of the times, in the wake of the failed 1745 uprising, and the community pressures to conform. Many Episcopal churches were destroyed and their congregations expelled during those years. Did William conform to the (new) Established Church in order to get a job as a schoolmaster? We can’t be sure on the basis of the information we currently have, but I’m still inclined to believe that the Robb family’s Episcopal faith was deep-rooted, and not something they adopted late in the day. As always, more research is needed…