Innerwick | Belief

At the beginning of the period, the majority, if asked, would say they belonged to the Church of Scotland. This would be demonstrated by attendance at at least one communion service per year, and a limited number of parishioners would attend worship on a more regular basis. As the years passed the number making this statement diminished and now large numbers would probably be hesitant about claiming a church connection although almost all would expect a Christian burial.

Since 1994, Innerwick has been part of the Church of Scotland parish of Dunglass, a reflection of the social and economic changes since 1945. These changes created a serious problem in our time, but had already begun in this area before the war. The Church of Scotland was faced with the aftermath of the secessions of the 19th century, and the reunions of the 20th, which meant there were too many churches to minister to the needs of a declining and increasingly less church-minded people. At first, individual ministers could not be afforded; now they do not exist. This did not necessarily mean the church-minded were willing to unite and worship together. Over the years various linkages were tried, with combinations between Innerwick and (variously) Cockburnspath, Spott and Belhaven.

In 1935, Innerwick St Andrew’s / Old (with its church and manse) agreed to unite with Innerwick North. In 1935, Innerwick North church and manse reverted to the superior as agreed when the land was made available. The actual union was deferred until 28 November 1937, when Cockburnspath St John’s and Cockburnspath St Helen’s united. The congregation was then known as Cockburnspath St John’s & Innerwick North, each with their own minister (T.W.G. Sutherland at Innerwick). At this time Cockburnspath St Helen’s church and manse were retained; St John’s manse was sold (1938), and St John’s church was converted into a church hall (1939).

In 1947, Oldhamstocks church was linked with Cockburnspath St John’s & Innerwick North; Oldhamstocks shared the Cockburnspath minister, while Innerwick retained its own.

From 2 March 1959 to May 1975, Innerwick was united with Spott. Known as Innerwick & Spott, the union came under E.W. Kant, the Innerwick minister; in 1977, a new manse was built in Innerwick at Thurston. In 1962, Innerwick Old church was renovated with electric heating and new pews and in 1966 two stained glass windows were installed.

In 1976, Spott linked with Belhaven and Innerwick was again linked with Oldhamstocks and Cockburnspath. On 13 February 1994 there was a complex delinking and union of Innerwick, Oldhamstocks and Cockburnspath; this created a united charge of Dunglass, which was vacant at the time. Mrs Anne Lithgow was inducted to the united charge later that year, and she lived initially in the manse at Thurston until 1997 when a new manse was built at Cockburnspath.

The Rev T.W.G. Sutherland (1905-39) bequeathed a sum of money to Innerwick church and even now, 60 years later, the Sutherland Bequest Fund maintains the fabric of the church. He and his wife are very often mentioned, even nowadays, with great affection and esteem.

1843-68 James Smellie
1869-92 James Buchanan
1892-1905 Robert Gray
1905-39 T.W.G. Sutherland
1937 Cockburnspath St John’s & Innerwick North united
1939-49 Alexander Abercromby Morrison
1947 Oldhamstocks linked with Cockburnspath St John’s & Innerwick North
1949-57 Robert Wallace Kirkby
1958-63 Everard W. Kant
1959-1975 Innerwick united with Spott
1965-75 Duncan M. Turner
1976 Innerwick again linked with Oldhamstocks and Cockburnspath
1977-80 Bruce Robertson
1982-91 Paraic Reamonn
February 1994 delinking and union of Innerwick, Oldhamstocks and Cockburnspath, creating the united charge of Dunglass,
1994-date Anne R. Lithgow

While nominally a Church of Scotland parish, throughout the period Innerwick has been home to members of other churches. There were a few Episcopalians who worshipped in Dunbar though some also supported the local kirk on some Sundays. The Hunters (Thurston Estate) are commemorated in St Anne’s (Dunbar) but normally attended services at Innerwick and Oldhamstocks. At the present time there is one known Episcopalian in the parish.

There are a few Roman Catholics and their number was increased in the past for two reasons: in the days when the farms were labour-intensive on a seasonal basis there were itinerant squads of Irish male migrant workers, and during the construction period of Torness there was a huge short-term labour force, many of whom were Irish. As a result, the Catholic Church in Dunbar had a short period of prosperity. Some of these workers were accommodated in the Thurston construction village and some others elsewhere in the parish.

Here and throughout the text, Stephen Bunyan summarises parish life:

At the beginning of the period, it was customary for most children in rural parishes to be christened (baptised) as a matter of course usually in what was considered the father’s kirk; this led to tension in mixed marriages with Roman Catholics whose priests insisted on Catholic baptisms.

The Act of Assembly of 1963 (re affirmed in 1998) said baptism should be for children of church members. The practice in Innerwick is to retain former members (who may reside elsewhere) on the roll if they so desire, and baptism in such cases would be allowed.

At the beginning of our period a high number of engagements occurred between local couples with meetings occurring at work on the farms and in service and at the kirns and harvest homes. Latterly more would find partners outwith the locality. It was not unusual for pregnancy to lead to marriage. Now couples live together outwith marriage and not necessarily as parents. There is no longer the stigma that was attached to single mothers and their children at the beginning of the period.

Marriages may occur in the registry office but many are still performed by the minister in church or in other locations as arranged with the couple – venues include Thurston Manor, the ruined Dunglass Collegiate Church and, in one case, the beach at Skateraw.

At the beginning of the period most funeral services were held in the home of the deceased and went then from there to the churchyard and were attended almost exclusively by men. They were often walking funerals. A new cemetery was made at Thurston after the estate was sold. The first burial there was in 1953 and was of Major David Bowe (Skateraw). Some funerals are now held in crematoria in Edinburgh.

Allied to the church are the Sunday school and the Woman’s Guild. Innerwick had a lot of children in Sunday school at the beginning of the century – three or four pews filled every week. The present number is much smaller.

The Woman’s Guild was established in 1880, and was a Victorian experiment that has provided hundreds of thousands of women with the opportunity for service. Innerwick Woman’s Guild had a long history. In 1928 they gifted the pulpit in the church and in 1938 the minister’s chair. The war years were obviously busy and in 1948 the guild gave returning servicemen a meal and reception in the Craig-en-gelt Hotel, Dunbar. After the union of our three churches in 1994, Innerwick joined with Cockburnspath and Oldhamstocks and it became the Dunglass Woman’s Guild: ‘Whose I am and Whom I Serve’.

The guild’s style is a great positive force in the church in general and in its support for particular projects. There is a highly developed ‘delegate’ system designed to keep local branches in touch with central guild.

There is a different Guild theme each year and this can be interpreted in many different ways. This year [2000] it is ‘Strength through God’s Promises’. The theme for the first year of our union was ‘Together for God’ which was used for our annual Members’ Service in March.

While making up the syllabus each year, the partnership team try to include evenings which cover not only the theme but also something appropriate to Social Responsibility, National Mission and World Mission.

We are now linked with Liberton Guild, which has a very impressive choir and very generously undertakes a fundraiser for us each year.

The A.G.M. of the Church of Scotland Guild was held in Glasgow this year when over 2000 women attended. The Moderator said’ If the Church of Scotland were to be judged by one single community within it, I would unhesitatingly choose the Guild and have no fear of the result’. The A.G.M., he said, ‘captures the spirit of so much that is positive, joyful and committed and angry in the cause of God in an unjust world’.

The Guild has always raised fantastic sums of money for its projects, sometimes ahead of its time, projects – playgroups, after school clubs etc. This year the sum is £566,000 in its three-year Partner Project Scheme. The Guild is different from other women’s groups in that worship plays a very short but integral part of every meeting. This again is open to interpretation as it can include poetry, drama – whatever is appropriate to the evening.

Innerwick Exhibition

The Canongate Boys’ Club was established by the Rev Dr Ronald W.V. Selby-Wright (1908-95), forging links with the parish from c1945-72. The Rev Selby-Wright was known as ‘the radio padre’ during the war and was a key member of the Scottish Boys’ Clubs Association. He established a camp at Skateraw as a result of the generosity of Major David Bowe, to give city boys a country experience. This venture is commemorated by two memorials, the first a war memorial to ex club members lost in the 1939-45 war:


To the Glory of God & in Memory of
David Adams RAF aged 21
William Brown L&B Y aged 23
Jack Cropper RAOC aged 22
Jimmie Dalgleish MM RHA aged 23
Jim Stewart RAF aged 19
Jim Stobbie RN aged 19

who loved to camp here & gave their lives that others too might love it,

‘When the morning was come Jesus stood on the shore’

This memorial to the boys of St Giles (later Canongate) Boys’ Club, Edinburgh
was re-erected here in 1980 and dedicated by
the Very Rev Dr Ronald Selby-Wright
the founder warden 1927-1978

the second to Selby-Wright himself, reading:

Erected to the memory of
the Very Rev Dr R.W.S. Wright CVO TD DD
by the members of the Canongate Boys’ Club who spent their formative
years at camp with him on these shores.

‘Goodnight Sir, see you in the morning’

[R.W.V. Selby-Wright 12 June 1908 – 24 Oct 1995]

Selby-Wright became a student assistant at St Giles in 1927; almost at once he started the St Giles’ Cathedral Boys’ Club. He became minister of the Canongate Kirk in 1937 and established the club there.

In his autobiography Another Home he reports that in the early days of the club it included a scout troop and that their first club-scout camp (c1927) was ‘at a place called Spott’ (Selby-Wright, R.W. (1980) Another Home p29) where they were flooded out. They camped thereafter in various places but after a disastrous fortnight at Reed Point near Cockburnspath he decided to look for a site for a hutted camp.

…so we came to Skateraw where we built our camp, laid the pathways, planted our trees, laid on water and where we remained for 40 years and which has become a legend to so many old boys, where stood, and now re stands – for we had to leave the camp in 1977, when the electricity board bought up the shore for Torness power station – a memorial…[in the form of] a large wooden cross around which each boy put the number of stones of his years of age. (Selby-Wright, p30)

Of the immediate post-war period he wrote

At the end of the war I had to get to know again the young people of the parish. The 14 year olds when I left were now young men of 20; most had served and even given their lives in the war, and present 14 year olds had been eight when the war started. As an effort to do this I took over an old empty farmhouse from the Bowe family called Aikengall in the Lammermuir Hills near Oldhamstocks, within fairly good walking distance of Skateraw and fitted it up with 50 air-raid shelter beds and there we had some memorable camps about which I have written in Our Club (Selby-Wright, 1969, p158).