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Southend Community Council, Argyll


The first minister of Kilcomcille and Kilblaan – as Southend was then known – of which we have any authentic knowledge was the Rev. Duncan Omey, whose family were proprietors of Keil Estate, known in 1611 as the Parson of Kilcomcille, Omey was presented to the parish by the Bishop of Argyll in 1629.

It was once thought that there were no settled ministers in Southend from 1641 until the arrival of the Rev. David Simson, from Killean and Kilkenzie, in 1672. However Angus MacVicar, the Southend writer and an elder in this congregation, discovered some notes which his wife's cousin, Andrew McKerral, had taken from old records held by the Duke of Argyll at Inverary Castle. These showed that the Rev. John Darroch had served the parish from 1641 until 1646.

Angus MacVicar then found out that John Darroch had been summarily deposed in 1646 for having had dealings with the MacDonalds, an offence considered so heinous, Angus wrote, 'that his name had been erased from all the church records'. (The following year an army commanded by General David Leslie and the Marquis of Argyll laid siege to a retreating force of 300 MacDonalds in their castle on Dunaverty Rock. When the MacDonalds surrendered six weeks later they were massacred, a slaughter which was said to have been instigated by Mr John Nevoy, a zealous covenanter who had been appointed chaplain to Leslie's army).

The next three ministers, all Campbells, were presented to the parish by the Duke of Argyll. The last of these, Rev. Donald Campbell, was presented in 1794, Donald Campbell was a bachelor and it is said that his behaviour and manner of life in the eyes of the people did not become a minister of the Gospel! Apparently he indulged too freely at dinners and other social functions and was a little neglectful about worship and his parish duties. For this reason the entire congregation decided to build another church, in the village, and call another minister of their own choosing.

The church they built, which became known as St. Columba's eventually joined the relief synod; the old church was replaced by a new building (now disused) in 1890. The original document declaring their right and intention to call their own minister can be found on the wall of the porch in this building (together with a printed transcription which is easier to read).

Donald Campbell, meanwhile, changed his ways, and went on to become minister of Kilninver and kilmelford and was considered in his day to be one of the saintliest men in the synod of Argyll. He became the father of Rev. John McLeod Campbell of Rhu, one of Scotland's greatest theologies and a controversial figure in the nineteenth century. (McLeod Campbell was, to the Church of Scotland's shame, deposed from the ministry in 1831 for preaching the doctrine of universal atonement and for insisting that assurance is of the essence of faith. He later wrote the classic work, the nature of the atonement, which was published in 1856).

In 1833 another Donald Campbell became minister of the parish and eventually he too found himself in trouble. Rev. Angus J. MacVicar described him as 'an amiable easy-going man, quite popular with the people but not so with the leading elders', including the school master, who alleged that he was too fond of the bottle and brought a case against him before presbytery. Donald Campbell was deposed in 1843 and, it is said, emigrated to Australia where he died in 1877.

Donald Campbell was the last minister to be presented to the parish under the Patronage Act and his successor, the Rev. Colin Fisher Campbell was the first to be chosen by the congregation, with the approval of presbytery. However, C F Campbell only ministered a year in Southend, moving to Kilbride parish in Arran in 1844. His successor, the Rev. Dugald Campbell, was a bachelor, a great lover of music and a very able parish minister who served Southend for 35 years from 1845 until he died in 1880.

The relief church was served by a succession of gifted ministers including Alexander Laing, Robert Small (who was the grandfather of the Very Rev. Leonard Small, Moderator of the General Assembly in 1966), Andrew McLaren Young (who still has descendants in Southend) and John Train.

However, the parish's longest serving minister, throughout its long history, has been the Rev. Angus John MacVicar who was admitted to Southend from Duror of Appin, in March 1910 and served here until he retired in 1957. Born in North Uist, Angus John was, like all his predecessors here, a Gaelic speaker, known by his sons as 'The Padre', he oversaw the union after 157 years of the two local congregations – St. Blaan's in this building and St. Columba's in the village – in 1946. He was clerk to the presbytery of Kintyre for 50 years, clerk to the Synod of Argyll for a period, a County Councillor (who campaigned for council housing in Argyll in the 1930's) and, in 1952, the prime mover behind the establishment of Auchinlee Eventide Home in Campbeltown. In retirement, Angus John MacVicar and his wife Marjorie lived in the manse of St. Columba's in the village; she died in 1963, the Padre in 1970.