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Digital Subscriptions > History Scotland > Jul - Aug 2019 > An earthquake in the kirk

An earthquake in the kirk

David McVey charts a ten-year conflict in the church of Scotland that resulted in a catastrophic split whose key proponents included the scientist Sir James Young Simpson and geologist Hugh Miller
David Octavius Hill’s painting of the Disruption, featuring figures including Sir James Young Simpson and James Beaumont Neilson

In 1843, the church of Scotland was still a powerful and influential voice in the nation. Yet in that very year it was crippled as a third of its ministers and elders left to form the free church of Scotland. This spectacular rift is known as the Great Disruption, but nowadays barely anyone outside Scotland (and few within) has even heard of it. The 175th anniversary of the event passed with little recognition. Most people, on hearing that it was some form of church dispute, immediately lose interest. Which is a shame, because the Disruption was an affair of honour for those who left the national kirk, a decision based to a great extent on social justice and deeply-held principle. And some of those who left were remarkable figures, now recognised as pioneers in photography, industry and science, their links to the free kirk generally unknown.

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About History Scotland

Five reasons not to miss July/August History Scotland * 19 archaeology projects to enjoy this summer * BRAND NEW research on the life of Margaret Tudor * Exclusive curator preview of the major new exhibition Wild and Majestic and National Museums Scotland * BONUS CONTENT Videos, interview * The unexpected Darien hero - Captain Robert Pincarton