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This picture of St Andrew’s is more than a century old. It has not changed much

The last large-scale religious persecution in Scotland was in 1746. After that there were still penal laws on the statute book, and religious minorities often had reason to grumble, but never again were troops used to burn down churches. The heartland of the Episcopal Church was the north-east of Scotland, and the intention was to extirpate it. They said you could go from the Tay up and round to the Spey and beyond, and never be out of sight of the column of smoke from a burning Episcopal chapel. There was a fire risk in bigger towns, so the chapels in Stonehaven and Peterhead and Inverness were demolished, and the bill for the demolition was sent to the congregation.

Two of the chapels burnt down were St Andrew’s Chapel in Banff, and the chapel at Portsoy (New Durn). After about five years St Andrew’s was rebuilt on the same site, and the present St Andrew’s is a rebuild of the replacement. It may well be that a future archaeologist will find traces of burning in the foundations of the present church. St Andrew’s had to disobey its bishop in order to become legally qualified to rebuild. The new “Qualified” chapel by law had to have a clergyman ordained in England. For forty years they sent north-east loons down to England to be ordained. (One was ordained by an Irish bishop on holiday, but that’s another story). Then Charles III (‘Bonny Prince Charlie’) died and the Episcopal Church decided after all to pray for King George, and the “Qualified” priest at Banff happily became what he had always wanted to be, an ordinary Scottish Episcopalian. It took several years before the government recognized that this particular religious minority was no threat.

You might say that this religious persecution was political, not religious. The Episcopal Church was hunted down because, in conscience, they supported a rival line of kings. Historically, there have been cases were religious groups stacked guns in their cellars. But burning down churches, and saying by law that no minister may be in a room with more than five other people, are deeds of tyranny.

It is good to think that St Andrew’s Church is still there, in the same place on the High Street as when Cumberland’s dragoons burnt it down on November 10th 1746, and you can see, now on loan in the Museum of Banff, the chalice rescued from the ruins of the New Durn chapel.

The famous aviation brothers were known around the world but we had our own Wright Brothers in the North East, not famous for flying but for making Threshing Mills.

William Wright trained as a millwright at Alehouseburn and aged just 23 was already making all kinds of agricultural machinery in his own business. By 1870 he had designed a traction engine which was used to power threshing machines and toured the area.

By 1888, he was producing turnip-sowing machines, manure spreaders and threshing machines.

Timber for the many machines was bought from the Cullen House annual wood sale and the business continued to grow.

In 1889 William moved his business to the Boyne Mills, outside Portsoy. This had previously been a woollen and tweed mill owned by William Walker and Co who, from 1881, sold their goods from the old U.P. church in Carmelite Street, Banff.  William Wright continued to build agricultural machinery as well as carrying out general joinery. Some of the local projects included working on the new United Free Church at Cullen and at the Hay Memorial Hall in Cornhill.

William Wright died in 1902, but the business was carried on by his family. They continued to supply threshing mills all over the country, from Perthshire northwards. Farms where the threshing mills were installed included Mains of Skeith, and Fiskaidly locally. When the threshing mill was installed at Fiskaidly a large company of friends and neighbours were invited to inspect the new buildings and machinery. This was followed by supper and dancing with songs sung in the intervals.

In 1909, “an interested company met at the Home Farm of Sir George Abercromby of Forglen, to witness the installation of a threshing plant of the most improved type” (a Wright Brothers installation)

By the mid 1950s the demand for threshing mills had declined and the business disappeared over time.

Wright Brothers’ threshing mills can still be seen at agricultural shows.