Rev. John MacRae, known as MacRath Mor (Big MacRae) in Gaelic, was the first minister of the Free Church congregation in Knockbain. He was a renowned preacher who became minister of Knockbain Parish Church in 1839. He was one of the leading figures in the Disruption Free Church, which he joined along with the majority of the congregation in 1843.



Rev. John MacRae (1843-1849)

Rev. Farquhar MacRae (1853-1879)

Rev.  James   MacLeod (1879-1889)

Rev. Finlay MacRae (1890-1917)

Rev. Walter MacQuarrie (1917-1959) 

Rev. Hugh M. Ferrier (1960-1963)

Rev. Roderick MacLeod (1966-1972)

Rev. George Dunnett (1972-1981)

Rev. Farquhar Renwick (1986-present)


Knockbain Church

At the Disruption of 1843 the majority of Knockbain Parish Church followed their minister, Rev. John MacRae, into the newly formed Free Church of Scotland, and it was renamed Knockbain Free Church.

In the late 1880s the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland divided the congregation in two, following a dispute over the building of a new church. One section, along with the minister,  Rev. James MacLeod, moved to a new church and manse in Munlochy and it was named Knockbain Munlochy Free Church. It joined the United Free Church in the Union of 1900 and subsequently united with the Church of Scotland in 1929.  It is now the local Church of Scotland in Munlochy

The main part of the congregation was renamed Knockbain West Free Church, and it built a new church near the old one at Bogallan in 1888.   West  was dropped from the name in 1908, and it was simply Knockbain Free Church. The congregation and new Church continue under that name to this day.


  Bogallan Church - now a private dwellinghouse


 Interior of the 1888 Church at Bogallan      

 Special Bogallan Window

The Bogallan Church of 1888 served the congregation well for over a hundred years. But by the late 20th century, demographic and lifestyle changes left its somewhat remote rural location less than ideal. It was decided to build a new church in the growing village of North Kessock, which opened in 1994. The old Bogallan Church building was subsequently sold and it is now a private dwellinghouse.

Cutting the first sod at the site where

 the North Kessock church was built.  

The new building which finally emerged was opened in 1994.


Gaelic Services

Gaelic Services were held in Knockbain Free Church at Bogallan up until the beginning of the Second World War. There is  also a record of a Gaelic service held in the open air in 1891, while the English service was held in the church.The last Gaelic communion service was held in March 1939.

The Presbyterian Church in Scotland

The Disruption of 1843 when the Free Church of Scotland was formed was fought on the principle of the spiritual independence of the Church over against the encroachment of the state in her affairs. Almost 500 Ministers gave up their stipends and manses to maintain that freedom. They steadfastly adhered, however, to the Establishment principle.  In the years prior to 1900 there were moves not only to modify her testimony on the Establishment principle, but also to alter her simple New Testament worship form and also her relation to the Westminster Confession of Faith, in the interests of uniting with the United Presbyterian Church, to form the United Free Church of Scotland.  A minority within the Free Church steadfastly resisted that trend and when the official Union took place in 1900 they did not join but firmly maintained that they were the true representatives of the 1843 Disruption Free Church. Ironically, the vast majority of the United Free Church joined the national Church of Scotland in 1929.

The story of how the "despised" minority fought for their claim to be acknowledged as the true Free Church of Scotland, how they took their case to the House of Lords and how the judgment in their favour caused such a sensation, is retold in Alexander Stewart and J Kennedy Cameron's book - The Free Church of Scotland - The Crisis of 1900, published by The Knox Press, Edinburgh.