Miscellaneous, Memorial Services and the End of the Victorian Era


This section covers unconnected matters some of which could arguably have warranted a section of their own.  One example of this is the Cathedral bells.

There were several long articles on the bells, bell-ringers and the belfry in the Victorian era Monthly Papers.  An article published in February 1880 informs the congregation that following the dedication of the bells in October 1879, the St. Mary’s Cathedral Amateur Bell-Ringers’ Society has now been formed.  The hope is “that members of the congregation and friends in the neighbourhood will be willing to assist in defraying the necessary expenses of providing furnishing for the belfry – ropes, lashings, mufflers, etc., etc. – for which about £40 will be required” [About £3,300 today.]   It was pointed out that the first full peal of ten bells was rung on New Year’s Day and they “hope that by next Christmas they may have made such progress in Campanology, that we may then hear a peal of Grandsire Triples ring forth from the spire of S. Mary’s.”

However in the May 1880 magazine it was reported that only 13 subscribers had come forward pledging from 1s to £2, well short of the £40 needed. The hope was “that if each family will give but 2s.6d., we shall have enough, though we hope some may give more to make up for those who possibly give nothing.”

It was also reported that alterations had been made to the tower which would deaden the sound of the bells in the ringing chamber, this would allow the ringers to ring by ear rather than by sight alone.

The Cathedral was not afraid to take a position on political issues which had a moral dimension.

In the February 1883 Monthly Paper the congregation was urged to sign a petition against the “Legalisation of Marriage with a Deceased Wife’s Sister”. It was pointed out that anyone over the age of 18, male or female, could sign this petition.   Maybe this petition had some effect as the enactment of the Deceased Wife’s Sister Marriage Act was delayed until 1907.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 was “An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels and other purposes”.  The Bill had been heavily supported by the congregation in 1883 and again in March 1884 when the Earl of Aberdeen and the Edinburgh MP Samuel Waddy presented the Cathedral’s petition of 1,524 signatures to Parliament.

This interesting article appeared in July 1896.

“Little Sisters of the Poor.

This Roman Catholic Society does, we feel quite sure, much good, but we are reluctantly obliged to warn those who have been in the habit of subscribing to its funds that they should exercise due caution with reference to the assurance sometimes given that perfect freedom of religious belief and practice is allowed in the Home for Incurables, Gilmore Place.  It is of course implied in this assurance that no attempt is made to bring over any Protestants who may enter it to the Roman Faith.”

In February 1881 a plea was made by the Rev. W. M. Meredith, one of the Cathedral Chaplains, for “any who would undertake as a labour of love, the education of working men, and sometimes of their wives.  He has found a few who are very desirous to become thoroughly good scholars, and surely there are many members of the congregation not only able but willing to take up this work.  It would have to be done regularly and heartily.”

 An article in the October 1894 magazine listed three items required by the Cathedral – a new Mission Hall at Dalry, an Alms-Dish for celebrating Holy Communion (apparently the Cathedral had been borrowing the Theological College’s Alms-Dish) and a magic-lantern.  The successful acquisition of an Alms-Dish was not recorded.  However, the Chapel of the Dalry Mission Hall was opened by the Bishop on 18th October 1898 with the rest of the building being opened by the end of the year. A magic-lantern was given to the Cathedral – it was mentioned in the February 1895 Monthly Paper when it was used for the Sunday School treat on the 3rd January where pictures of the Dean, views of the Cathedral, scenes from the Matabeleland war, fairy tales and comic pictures were shown. Although in March 1896, £5 was requested to purchase an oxygen cylinder, safety lamp and an oxygen gauge for the lantern.

A request was issued in October 1896 for “Church workers of all kinds”. Particularly needed were Sunday School teachers, District Visitors, somebody to manage the Dalry Band of Hope, helpers for the Boys’ Brigade and a temperance worker for Dalry.

This interesting idea was promulgated in the February 1881 magazine.

Family Fines

The Rev. W. M. Meredith acknowledges with many thanks the receipt of “Family Fines” to be devoted to some Mission purpose.  He ventures to suggest that such fines as these – i.e.for untidiness, getting up late, etc., might be collected and given as above.  It would materially assist the formation of good habits, and also be of some help to the Mission work of our District.”

I am not sure how successful this idea became as it was never mentioned again.

This rather sad article appeared in the October 1882 magazine.

Missionary News.

The children of the Catechising Class will hear with some sorry that Maria Kevit, the little girl for whose board and education a S. Marks Mission, Tombuland, South Africa, they have been subscribing for so long, died on the 17th of July, having gone to visit her parents at their home during the holiday time.  The sorrowing father and mother, in a letter to Archdeacon Waters dictated by them, tell of their grief at her loss, and in their broken language, – “Monday, 9 o’clock, when bell rings for school her last bell of her body into the grave rung.  We hope you shall have to send our return of thanks to friends who granted pay for her education and boarding in school.”

There is also a letter from the head schoolmistress of S. Mark’s Mission, from which we extract the following: – “I am very sorry to inform you that our little Maria Kevit is no more.  She died after a very painful illness of three weeks.  She died on the day we opened school.  Her last words were, ‘Tell them at S. Mark’s, that I shall never be able to attend school again.’  Her death has cast a gloom in our school, for Maria was a great favourite in the school.  She was a dear little girl, so gentle and obedient.”

Maria was confirmed at the last Confirmation held by the Bishop at S. Mark’s.  This short account of the good done to this dear child will no doubt encourage the children, who have been subscribers for her education, to interest themselves in some other poor little African child, and there are many from whom to choose.””

During Lent in 1883 it had been arranged for a series of sermons to be preached only to men with a separate series of sermons only for women “in the full hope that, with the blessing of God, something may be done to stay the fearful progress of immorality, and to lead men and women to take higher view of the “sanctification of the flesh” than is, alas! too often the case.  Fathers and mothers are specially invited.” However, due to the illness of the intended preacher, these sermons were never preached.

The Cathedral arranged a course of cookery lessons staring in May 1884.  There were twelve lessons given twice a week at a cost of 3d per lesson, or 2s for the whole course.  The article announcing them stated that “good cooking makes home more comfortable and tempts men to return to eat, instead of going to the public house to drink”.

On 5th September 1889 there was a disastrous fire at the Mauricewood Colliery at Penicuik in which 63 miners died.  The Bishop and Dean arranged for a special collection to be made in the Cathedral on the 6th October although it was made clear that this was a separate collection and should not reduce the amount given normally to Cathedral funds. The amount collected was not recorded.

In September 1899 it was reported that the Bishop of Likoma was in urgent need of “a thoroughly competent engineer, and also a shipwright, or ship’s carpenter.  The engineer should be able to do fitting, erecting, smithing, turning, all kinds of boiler work, riveting included.  A man with experience of work at sea would be very useful.”

Surprising as it may seem the Cathedral was one of the pioneers of the present coffee culture.   If matters had turned out differently the name of St Mary’s could now be rivalling that of Costa or Starbucks!   The following extracts from the St Mary’s Monthly Paper tell the tale of the Coffee Barrow.

November 1881

The Rev. W. M. Meredith proposes to make an attempt to start a Coffee Barrow, which will be easily wheeled about, and will be taken from place to place during the day.  The great advantage of this plan will be that men who cannot well go into a British Workman Public House, or even stop at a coffee stall (e.g. cabmen), will have food taken to them.

It will be desirable to have promises up to £15 before ordering the Barrow, as this would leave a good balance to cover the necessary first payments to the man in charge.  The Barrow itself costs from £8 to £9.  Promises have been received (the money is not needed yet) of £1 from one lady, and 10s. from another.  Mr Meredith will be thankful for further promises of help.

The movement has the full sanction of the Committee of Edinburgh Diocesan Temperance Society.

February 1882

The Rev. W. M. Meredith is glad to announce the arrival of the Coffee Barrow which will be soon set to work.  He begs to thank most heartily those whose donations have enabled this good work to be commenced.

March 1882

The Coffee Barrow has been set to work with varying success.  It is wheeled along Princes Street, George Street, etc, etc.  Any who take an interest in it are invited to inspect it, and hints will be gladly received by the Rev. W. M. Meredith.

It has been suggested that those who are giving large parties (though this will not be the case just at present during Lent) should ask the man to bring the barrow to their house for the comfort of the cabmen waiting to take away the guests.

May 1882

The Rev. W. M. Meredith will be exceedingly obliged if anyone will recommend him a thoroughly honest, sober, active man, to take charge of the Barrow, as the first man employed has given it up.

January 1883

Those who most kindly assisted in getting the Coffee barrow started, will be glad to hear that it is paying its way.  The man in charge has only required 5s. to start with.  He has been able to live upon the earnings and pay his lodging. He has been able to establish a trade with the Cabmen, and regularly, twice a day, he goes round the cab stands at the West End.

February 1884

Those who kindly assisted in the purchase of the Coffee Barrow will be glad to know that it prospers.  Mr Fairbairn, to whose care it was committed, reports that it has been the means of rescuing one man from a dishonest life, and helping him to an honest livelihood, and that it is doing good in many other ways.

That is the last time the Coffee Barrow is mentioned in the Monthly Paper, so Costa and Starbucks are safe!

Memorial Services and the End of the Victorian Era

Several memorial services were held in the Cathedral during the Victorian period including, of course, that of Queen Victoria herself.  Two of the most well-known non-royals to be remembered were General Gordon in March 1885 and William Gladstone in May 1898.

On 14th January 1892 the eldest son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, died of pneumonia during an influenza pandemic at the age of 28.  The Cathedral held a memorial service on 20th January which according to the report in the February magazine was well attended.  “The Memorial Service in our Cathedral, on the day of the Prince’s funeral, was a striking proof of the loyalty of Edinburgh citizens; and the dense crowd which filled every part of the building to excess, showed, by their dress and demeanour, that they could, and did indeed, mourn with the Royal mourners.”  Prince Albert had been engaged to Princess Mary of Teck for only 6 weeks before his death.  The following year Princess Mary married Prince George, the future King George V.

The most important memorial service of the era was that of Queen Victoria herself.  The date and time of the service was announced in the February 1901 Monthly Paper – Saturday, 2nd February, at 3 o’clock.  The same day as the funeral service of the Queen in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.  As a large crowd was expected over 2,000 tickets were issued, which could be obtained on request. The article warned that ticket holders would only get preferential admission up to 2.45 “at which hour the gates will be thrown open to all.”

The March 1901 magazine thanked all those involved for ensuring “the arrangements were sufficient, and were carried out without the slightest hitch occurring.”  As well as the 2,000 ticket holders it was estimated by a police inspector on duty, that over 1,000 non-ticket holders were also admitted. Unfortunately, considerably more had to be refused entry after all the standing room inside the Cathedral had been filled.

Thus ended the Victorian era in St. Mary’s, certainly one of the most interesting periods of the Cathedral’s life and witness.

The Edwardian era did not start well.  An elaborate Coronation Service, including choirs and clergy from around the diocese, was planned to take place on the 26th June 1902 in the Cathedral at the same time as the actual coronation service in Westminster Abbey.  Much of the music, readings and prayers would mirror those to be sung and said in the Abbey.  However, due to the King’s illness the Coronation was postponed until the 9th August but as the Cathedral choir and the choirs from the other churches were then on holiday, “it has been reluctantly decided to abandon the intention of having a special musical service.”

Finally, here are copies of two photographs of the nave taken some time before the organ console was repositioned in 1897.



Employment and Temperance

The Cathedral was concerned with finding work for those members of the congregation who were destined to go into domestic service.  At the beginning of 1881 an organisation called The Central Agency was set up “with the view of enabling those members of our Congregation who require assistance, to employ their fellow worshippers who require occupation.  Butlers to wait at dinner parties, or for regular employment, light porters, charwomen, servants, dressmakers, washerwomen, etc., may be heard of here.  Sometimes also governesses and office clerks.”

By the end of 1885 a Guild of Aid was established that was “intended to find situations for young Churchwomen in the homes of Churchpeople, where it is supposed they will be more able to avail themselves of Church privileges (as a matter of fact, we have found sometimes that Churchpeople are more thoughtless or indifferent as to their servants’ Church privileges than Presbyterians.  We hope the Guild of Aid will remedy this.)  Employers apply by letter only.

Training for girls going into service was also available through The Girls’ Clothing Club which met weekly on Tuesday evenings. “The object of this club is to enable young girls, on their attaining a proper age for going into service, to enter on their first situations with a suitable supply of clothing.  The club meets weekly, and girls are expected to attend regularly, and learn to make the clothing themselves.  Girls may become members of the club at 11 years of age.  The members pay a weekly subscription of one penny.”

The welfare of workmen was also catered for and there was a request in the December 1882 Monthly Paper for “Those members of the Congregation who feel an interest in the Navvies at work on the Suburban Line, are invited to assist in some of the many ways now adopted for the happiness and comfort and religious instruction of these men.”  The Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Junction Railway opened in 1884.

In 1885 The Workmen’s Welcome was opened in the Water of Leith Mission House and in February 1890 it was reported that “The attendance has been larger this year than last, and the general behaviour has been most satisfactory. There have often been present 50 in one evening.  The lowest attendance has been 20. The Welcome as its name implies is free to all; only a small charge is made for the game of bagatelle.  There is a large room for games, and a Reading Room supplied with books and papers.  It is open every weekday evening from 7 till 10, except on Saturday, when the men do not require it.  Popular works and illustrated papers are needed for the Reading Room and will be gratefully received if sent to the Chaplain at the Mission House.”


The Cathedral was very keen to support the Temperance movement with regular Temperance Guild and Band of Hope meetings.  These started as soon as the Cathedral opened and the very first Monthly Paper in January 1879 reported that a British Workman Public House had opened the previous month in the Water of Leith Mission.  Subscriptions to defray costs from those interested in the Temperance cause were called for as well as “books of a good, healthy, manly tone for the working classes, are requested to give them, as also any illustrated papers.  Such gifts can, if desired, be acknowledged in this paper.”

The concern with excess alcohol consumption was not only confined to the so-called working class as this extract from a letter to the editor printed in February 1884 demonstrates.

“Sometimes it has struck me people are very ready pressing the cause of temperance on the working men and women of the Grassmarket, and forget, perhaps, that the young gentlemen and ladies of our fashionable squares and crescents would be as well abstainers.  Even those who are not tempted themselves might give a great encouragement by becoming total abstainers themselves not merely to a “forlorn or dejected brother,” but to the young maid, young clerk, or young shopman in their employment. In that day when one hopes and prays it may be said of them, he or she “hath done what they could,” will a little self-denial or a little effort in this day of help not be acknowledged?  Is it not worth the while of every Christian man or woman of every rank to try and help to put down this widespread sin of bonnie Scotland?”

As part of the Cathedral’s work in this area, an annual New Year’s Eve Tea was held on the evening of the 31st December (or 30th if the 31st was a Sunday).  This report on the tea held on Hogmanay 1885 was typical. “The attendance was very good, and the music and readings were greatly enjoyed.  Our very best thanks are due to the ladies who arranged the room so well, and who provided so bountiful a supply of sandwiches, apples, and milk – a gentleman also gave a quantity of lemonade, which was thoroughly appreciated.  In consequence of these gifts we were able to provide a much more substantial and attractive tea than we ever did before.  The one thing apparently missed was an opportunity for a pipe!”

The December 1896 evening was not, however, such a great success. The attendance was down from the usual 120 to about 70 due, it was thought, “to changes made as an experiment last year, or to superior attractions elsewhere.”  The evening was further spoilt by “a disturbance, caused by a member of Her Majesty’s Forces having some noisy difference with his bother man in the street below, had no connection with our meeting, one way or another.  We mention it because the report is likely to bring discredit upon the meeting, and has indeed done so, if we can judge from the solitary subscription of ten shillings sent in for the whole of the expense incurred in this well-intentioned effort.”

Next – Bits & Pieces and the End of the Victorian Era

Charitable Endeavours

The Cathedral was always aware of those who were less well-off and through various societies did its best to help.  One of these, the Dorcas Society, provided second-hand clothing at affordable prices.  They took in clothing and other items which were no longer required, repaired them where necessary and sold them on to those who were deemed worthy to receive them.  Periodically, the Society held sales and, unsurprisingly in true Victorian style, these sales had strict rules as shown in September 1889.

“Edinburgh Cathedral Dorcas Society.


  1. No one can be admitted to the Dorcas Sales, unless provided with a Ticket filled up with Name and Address of Bearer, Signature of District Visitor or Biblewoman, and list of clothing required, written by her.
  2. Purchases must not exceed 8s.
  3. The door will be opened exactly at the hour named. All then present draw from a bag of tickets on which is a number.  According to these numbers each takes her turn of being served.  Late comers are afterwards served in the order in which they arrive.
  4. Everything must be paid for at the time of purchase; and the money will not be returned for articles brought back. NOTE – Purchasers should bring with them measurements of the articles they require.
  5. Free Orders for cases of destitution can be obtained only from the Chaplains and must be signed by them. NOTE – Applicants for Free Orders must be content with what suitable clothing happens to be in the cupboards when the order is presented, and old clothing will be given in preference to new.
  6. Entire Outfits either for home or emigration cannot be granted. For girls going to a first place, clothing to a value of 10s. may be given, of which the applicant will be required to pay a third.
  7. In cases when any particular is sold out, the Dorcas Society does not hold itself bound to provide each article for a special case (except perhaps flannels, in case of illness) and at no time will money be given as an equivalent.”

It was not only old clothes that were put to good use, there was also an appeal for old curtains in April 1884.

A Use for Old Curtains – Very many of our people live in one-roomed houses.  Our people can easily imagine the difficulty which is found by the parents in training up their children in modesty. They would be glad often to divide their one room by a curtain, only they cannot afford to but one, and we think that many of our richer people, sympathising with their desire for decency, will gladly send good stuff curtains which can be used for this purpose.  They can be sent to Mrs. Anderson, at the Cathedral Mission house, Water of Leith, or to 52 Palmerston Place, or to any of the Clergy or District Visitors.”

There was also the Cathedral Invalid Loan Society and their rules were also printed in the same magazine.

“Cathedral Invalid Loan Society.


  1. The box will be lent for two months and must be returned on the exact day it is due.
  2. Two shillings will be charged for the use of the box for two months, which must be paid before the box is obtained.
  3. In cases of necessity the box may be kept for two weeks beyond the two months with an extra charge of 6d. for each week, or part of a week, will be made.
  4. A card will be given on application to the District Visitor or Biblewoman, which must be filled and sent to the Secretary at least a month before the box is required. A printed envelope will also be given, in which the money must be put, and left when the box is taken.
  5. All the clothes must be returned clean and in good order. NOTE – Anything accidentally damaged must be returned and if properly accounted for will be replaced.
  6. Anyone returning a box, the contents of which are damaged beyond the ordinary “wear and tear,” or keeping it beyond the prescribed time, will be debarred from the use of a box at a future time.
  7. If desired, the use of “Christening Clothes” can be obtained, price 1s. for each article (prepaid). They may be had the day before, and must be returned the day after the baptism.”

Although members of the congregation supported the “great many deserving poor in our congregation” it was made clear that this could not be done in a way that reduced the amount collected to cover the expenses of the Cathedral.  Those wishing to help were asked to put their contributions “in the division of the box which stands in the centre passage, marked, ‘For the Poor.’”

There were also periodic appeals for help for individuals or group of individuals.  Here are three examples from the March and October 1881 and June 1882 Monthly Papers:

“X. Y. Z. – One of our District Visitors wants an old dressing gown for one of the people in her district.  If any one can spare this article, will they kindly send it to Old Coates House, addressed to X. Y. Z.”

“Old clothes of any description – great coats, outer clothing, under-clothing, or old boots – are gratefully accepted, and may be sent to Miss Johnston, 17 Chester Street, for distribution amongst the poor and needy members of our congregation during the winter months.”

“Our readers will remember that a notice was inserted in this paper some time age about Mrs. Woodcock’s shop of greengrocery in William Street, requesting a little regular custom, as helping her to make an honest livelihood.

We have been requested to state that Mr. G. A. Craig, 33 Manor Place, has been making a collection on her behalf, and will be glad to receive subscriptions from any who may feel an interest in this case.”

Similarly those who were ill were also cared for and periodic appeals were made for useful articles; this list was printed in May 1883. “Leg Rests, Air Cushions, Hot Water Bottles, Air Beds, Eye Shades, Hand Bells, Footstools, Feeding Cups, Fire Guards, Easy Chairs, Hot Water Plates, Knee Caps, Tin Baths, Bed Rests, Crutches, Fans, Gauze, Night Lamps, Bed Pans, Lamps for heating food, bits of Carpet, Slippers.”

There was a Poor and Sick Fund, the main source of income being the collection from the New Year’s Day services.  It was reported in the October 1887 magazine that £10 or £12 was usually raised – about £1,400 today.  The October article appealed for more money for this fund.  “Many may imagine that ample funds are provided from the Walker Trust for this purpose, but it is not so.  The money from the fund is given chiefly to aged sick, and infirm people of respectable character in the congregation, in sums varying from £3 to £8 per annum.

When these sums are paid, there is but little left for charitable purposes; and when it is known that there are some thirty district visitors who constantly appeal to the clergy for help in deserving cases, it may be seen how miserably inadequate the funds are to meet the (almost) daily demand for help.  It is not a pleasing duty to beg and plead for help, but if any charitable work is to be carried on this winter, we must appeal; to the generosity of those whom God has prospered.”

From June 1891 the Cathedral partly funded the cost of a Cathedral Nurse who attended sick members of the congregation.  The Cathedral’s contribution of £25 per annum was collected by subscription from members of the congregation.  The nurse was supplied by the Victoria Nurses Institute in Castle Terrace, which later changed its name to the Jubilee Institute for Nurses.  However, in 1898 only £16 11s. had been collected, due according to the May 1899 Monthly Paper, to “deaths of subscribers, and the removal of others from Edinburgh”.

Although the Royal Hospital for Sick Children was opened long before the Cathedral in 1860, in July 1881 the clergy were urging the congregation to make use of it as “there has been a good deal of sickness amongst the children of our congregation”.  More advice on medical matters was printed In the March 1887 magazine.

“Facts to be Remembered.

When you call in a medical man, give him your entire confidence.  Tell him simply the truth, to aid him in his endeavours to effect a cure.

Obey his orders strictly, in diet, medicine, everything.

Induce children always to look on the doctor as their friend.  Never frighten them with threats that the doctor will give nasty medicine, etc.

Always, when it is practicable, send for the doctor early in the morning.  The nature of many complaints is best ascertained in the daylight.  As with fire, so it is with disease.  Call in your doctor, therefore, early; it saves him much trouble, and may save your life.

Everything in the sick-room should be kept scrupulously clean and whispering strictly forbidden.

All food should be freshly prepared, and no more taken to the room than can be eaten at once.  If any remain over, take it to a cool place away from the sick-room.

Avoid, except in cases of urgency, sending for a doctor on Sunday.  He works hard during the week, and often night and day; and his patients ought to endeavour to make the Sunday, as much as possible, a day of rest.”

Next: Employment and Temperance.

Congregational Questions

One of the original “purposes” of the Monthly Paper, as laid out in the very first edition in January 1879, was “A medium for the asking and answering questions on interesting or important subjects.”  The first question was asked in the March edition, it was about the authorship of the Epistles to Timothy, and the questions continued to be asked until 1885.

Trying to choose a few questions, and their answers, has not been easy.  Here are a few examples “What is the origin of Rogation days?”; “Is the Communion Office of the Scottish Episcopal Church older than that of the Established Church of England?”; “What is meant by Muscular Christianity?”; “How can it be just to award an infinite punishment for the finite acts of a finite creature?”

These were some of the simpler questions, there were plenty which were much more complex and most of the answers were usually long and a guaranteed cure for insomniacs! Maybe the theological students at New College should be asked to answer a few of them!  However, here are four of the more interesting questions with their answers.

March 1880 – Why is it supposed that our Lord Jesus Christ did not Himself baptize while He was on earth?

As to the fact, see S. John iv. 2. As to the reason for the fact, may we not believe that our Lord baptized none Himself lest these should have fancied they had received higher blessing than those baptized by His disciples, and in order to give sanction to the work of His disciples as His representatives, taking it as done by Himself.  Compare the language of S. Paul in 1 Cor. i. 14-15 and S. Matt. x. 40.”

April 1880 – What is the meaning of Celebrating in the “Eastward position?”  Is that considered “High Church?”

Some celebrate in the Eastward position, because they consider the Rubric orders it, and apart from all doctrinal significance; others because it is aesthetically preferable, and others again because it seems a better position for the minister when representing the people before God, which the simple fact of his being their mouthpiece in prayer involves; others because they consider this position the truest exposition of what is called the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist – the pleading by representation the one all-sufficient sacrifice once offered – the “showing forth” the Lord’s death.

It is considered “High Church” by many; but it is now becoming gradually recognised as a matter of indifference, as the inquirer may notice in the Cathedral that either position is used.

January 1882 – What is the objection to Evening Communion?

  • Authority

It is a practice opposed to the whole practice of the Church – East and West alike – and it is quite contrary to the plain intention of our own branch of the Church, e.g., the Rubric before the Office, the arrangement of lessons and Gospels (Good Friday, Innocents’ Day, etc.)

And although Article 34 asserts that the Church in different countries has authority to decree rites and ceremonies, and it is conceivable that our Church might have authority to decree evening communion, individual clergy certainly have no such right.

For the maintenance of authority and due discipline, therefore, evening communion is wrong.

  • Reason
  • As the Holy Communion was instituted in the evening, and apparently was celebrated in the evening during the earlier Apostolic times, we may be quite sure that, as we find the time removed to the early morning, directly we come to early history, even in the age of those who must have lived for some years contemporaneously with the Apostles, the change was made with Apostolic sanction, even if not by Apostolic order.
  • It would induce careless reception.
  • It would come when the mind and body were wearied, and excited feelings and emotions would be liable to take the place of real thought.
  • The only reason urged for it is “convenience” for servants and mothers. These cases are met by servants refusing to take situations where frequent opportunities for communicating are denied, and by the practice of resolute self-denial in rising early for the early celebration.  And in the case of mothers, it is easy to point out instances where under circumstances of apparently the greatest difficulties mothers in the hardest working classes contrive to communicate regularly at the early communion.

May 1882 – Why is Mr Green in Prison?

It appears to the Editor that Mr Green is in prison because he conscientiously believes (1) that the Public Worship Regulation Act is a violation of the Constitution, whereby as in Magna Carta it is distinctly asserted that the Church shall have perfect liberty to make her own laws as affecting doctrine and discipline. (2) That the interpretation lately given of the Church Law is expressed in the Ornaments Rubric is opposed to reason and evidence. (3) That he cannot accept the authority or the Interpretation consistently with his ordination vow, which was “to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ as this Church and Realm (i.e. Convocation and Parliament) hath received the same,” seeing that neither the authority or interpretation have received the Sanction of Convocation.

These conscientious convictions lead him to refuse obedience to Lord Penzance’s ruling and order, which is contempt of court, hence the imprisonment.

Mr Green was in fact the Revd Sidney Green who was rector of St. John’s, Miles Platting, Manchester.  He was one of five clergymen who were brought to trial and imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to conform to the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 which was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Tait, to limit what he perceived as the growing ritualism of Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement within the Church of England.[1] The Act provided a casus belli for the Anglo-Catholic English Church Union and the evangelical Church Association[2].

Among the “crimes” with which the Revd Green’s was charged were the mixing of wine and water, having light candles, kneeling during the prayer of consecration, elevating the paten and chalice, using the sign of the cross towards the congregation, ceremoniously raising the chalice and displaying a large brass cross.  He was in prison from 1880 to 1882.

The Act, which did not apply to Scotland, was eventually repealed on 1 March 1965 by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.

Iain Morrison

Hon. Archivist

[1] D L Murray (2005)[1927] Disraeli Kessinger

[2] N Yates (1999) Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain 1830-1910

The Congregation

This section could equally be entitled “Clergy Insight into Congregational Behaviour” or “The Clergy View of Congregational Shortcomings”.  This was manifested by a series of not very delicate “hints to the congregation”, the first appeared in December 1880.  This dealt with those members of the congregation who sit on the first few chairs at the end of the row.  “The consequence is that when others come up there are numbers of vacant chairs, but they cannot be reached except by stepping over those who are already in the row.  This difficulty will be at once obviated if communicants will take the innermost vacant chair of the row they enter.”

The problem of vacant seats, and the even more abhorrent crime of leaving the service before it has finished, were ongoing themes throughout the Victorian period.  By the end of 1890 these and other congregational shortcomings must have become a major irritant for the clergy. The following article appeared in the January 1891 magazine and the use of upper-case letters emphasizes the importance of these matters.



At each Festival of the Church goes round, there are many who come forward to communicate who seem to have received few, if any, instructions concerning those things which conduce to a true spirit of Reverence and Godly Fear.  We do not wish to appear desirous of blaming anyone, but with the hope that they may be helpful to some souls, we venture to suggest a few simple and plain rules for all communicants to meditate upon and to consider.

  1. Come to an early Celebration if you can. For early in the day the mind is fresher, and the body less wearied.
  2. Always in Prayer “kneel upon your knees” unless crippled by infirmity or illness, or weak with old age. Do not pretend to kneel, for you cannot deceive God, though you may deceive your neighbour in church.
  3. Stand up for the Gospel, for it is none other than the message of Jesus Christ Himself, and sent direct to you.
  4. Do your best to say the “Amens” at the close of the Prayers, according to St. Paul’s express directions. Say the Confession plainly, for unless you confess your sins you will not profit by the absolution.  Join in the Sanctus and Gloria in Excelsis, for though they are Angels’ Hymns, yet the angels cannot supply your voice, and unless you praise God you are robbing Him of glory and worship.
  5. When coming to the altar, if a man or boy, do not put your hands in your pockets and saunter up to God’s Board! God is as near you at Communion as on the Day of Judgement.  You will have no pockets then to cover your hands, and no one will saunter then.
  6. When you receive the Holy Communion, always take off your gloves, for it saves the clergyman from publicly asking you to remove them. Place the right hand upon the left, and so receive the Sacrament into your hands, then lift your hands to your mouth and partake.  Take the chalice firmly into both your hands, not in one, and not with two fingers only, or you are liable to cause an accident.  Unfortunately many do not do these simple things, and often drop the Sacrament out of their hands with careless irreverence.  When you have taken communion, go back to your seats, not indeed to sit, but to kneel for prayer, for thanksgiving, for worship. Above all, oh! do not dishonour God by leaving the Church before the blessing; it is a direct and deliberate insult to do so – unless you are ill or faint.
  7. Value the Blessing. Many treat the blessing with disrespect, putting on gloves, and searching for umbrella, etc.
  8. When the clergy have left the altar, then the service is over, and not until then!”

In 1881 it was decided to instigate a special celebration of Holy Communion on the second Sunday of each month at 7:00 am for servants, butlers, housemaids and nurses.  This extra service was announced in the June Monthly Paper with the plea “We would most earnestly ask the heads of households to see that such arrangements are made that their servants may always be able to communicate regularly, for many are found who are really quite unable to come, because of the evident thoughtlessness of masters and mistresses, who would, we are sure, if they thought, alter the arrangements of the house, for servants value the privilege of communicating as highly as any. Many Church people also by use of cabs prevent cabmen from communicating.”

This lasted for almost 10 years but by January 1891 it was clear that the numbers attending this service had greatly reduced.  “Since its commencement, most of the servants who used to come have left the neighbourhood or the city, and others do not take their places as they should.  The Clergy would fain hope it is not laziness which keeps people away; but it does seem like it when they see people who once used to come at 7 a.m. leisurely joining the large crowd of mid-day communicants, and then sharing in the disgraceful practice of leaving the Church after their communion, and before the Service is over.”

The use of seat rents was seen by the Cathedral as a valuable source of income although this practice was frowned upon by the Church as a whole and was the subject of many articles in and letters to the Scottish Guardian newspaper.  The rented seats do seem to have confused some members of the congregation and it was felt necessary to provide this explanation in July 1881.


“Seats in the Cathedral.

Many members of our congregation (specially the working classes, servants, etc.) do not seem to know (1) that both in the morning and afternoon all the seats on the north side in the Cathedral (with the exception of three rows roped off in front of the pulpit and one at the side, which are specially reserved for deaf people and the families of the Cathedral Clergy) are perfectly free and open, and that they may therefore go into any of these they like without asking anybody to show them where to sit; (2) that directly the organ begins (even before the Clergy and choir enter) all the, then, unoccupied seats in the reserved part are at once set free, so that they may take possession of any empty chair on the north side and in the South Transept, with the knowledge that they have as much right to it as anyone else.  In the evening no seats are reserved at all, so that people may take what chairs they please.”

The habit of worshipers congregating outside the Cathedral after the service was also frowned upon as this comment in the August 1886 magazine makes clear. “If people quietly discourse on their way home, about the special collect, or lesson, or hymn, or even the sermon, it might be helpful, but mere friendly conversation must be carefully guarded.”

From this article in the August 1891 magazine, it appears that congregational behaviour at the Sunday afternoon services in July that year fell far below the standard expected by the clergy.



The service begins at 3.30 p.m., but the congregation is not fully assembled as a rule until about 3.40, when the psalms are commenced.  [In proof of this, let anyone watch the late comers bustle in after the Lord’s Prayer!]  The service proceeds to the 3rd Collect only, and then follows a long and often elaborate anthem.  During this anthem about half the congregation stand, and half sit down.  The moment it is finished there is a busy stir in all parts of the church, and a general stampede towards the door ensues.

Two sidesmen stand with plates to receive “the offerings of the faithful”, and about half of those retiring are blind as they pass by the plates, for they give nothing at all.  Some others drop in a coin, and pass out of the church to enjoy a gossip on the pavement outside the church.  Sometimes a group of fashionably attired people remain outside for ten or fifteen minutes engaged in an animated conversation, and then walk leisurely for tea!

Meanwhile – inside the church – the preacher is using the ancient “bidding-prayer” and urging upon the few who remain the duty of praying for “all sorts and conditions of men”, and then follows a sermon for the benefit of anyone who feels inclined to listen.  After the sermon, and during the singing of a hymn, the laity offer their alms to Almighty God.  The value of these offerings may be gathered from the statistics of two Sundays of last month, viz., July 19th and 26th.

On July 19th the whole number of coins, including the offerings at the doors, amounted to 109 totalling £1 12s 3d.  On July 26th the whole number of coins from 200 people reached the number of 126 totalling £2 6s 5½d.

If the offerings are to be regarded as a sign of the thankfulness of a congregation for the privileges of a beautiful choral service, then we fear their thankfulness is, to say the least, somewhat small.”

Being a member of the Cathedral congregation was not all about attending services and supporting good causes.  There were congregational social events, the first being a Congregation Tea which was mentioned in the January 1881 Monthly Paper.

“It will be seen from the Calendar that we propose to hold this meeting in the Albert Hall on Jan. 20th, 7 p.m.  If it is to be a success, it must be warmly taken up by all classes.  It will be a pleasant way of the Congregation meeting all their Clergy, and will enable them to hear some interesting details about the finances and work of the Cathedral Church.

Tickets will be sold at Mr Robertson’s, 7 Shandwick Place.”

However this did not obviously go to plan as February magazine informs us.

“This meeting of the congregation was put off on account of the absence of the Dean and the Hon. Mrs. Montgomery.  As it was found that only six tickets had been sold, it was hoped that no inconvenience would be caused – especially as the District Visitors were informed of the postponement that they might communicate the fact to those whom they visited.

It is proposed to hold the meeting on the 10th, in the [there is a blank space here].  Tea will be ready at 7 o’clock.  Speeches and music will begin at 8.  Tickets, price 6d., can be had from Mr. Robertson, 7 Shandwick Place, or from any of the District Visitors.   It is particularly hoped that those who intended to come to the Tea will take their tickets early in order that the Committee may know for how many they must provide.”

This became an annual event although the name did change to “The Annual Social Meeting” and the ticket price doubled to 1s. in 1888.  This increase was explained in the February 1888 Monthly Paper.

“This change has not been made without much thought and deliberation, but it was unanimously made by the Committee, who thought it might conduce to make the meeting more enjoyable for the senior members of the congregation, for the last year the children were very numerous and very noisy.  There were, moreover, a great many people present who did not belong to the Cathedral congregation; and this change of programme will, it is hoped, serve to make the meeting more enjoyable that it was for many last year.  The tea too, will now be on a much better scale than on former occasions. When we say that the musical arrangements are in the hands of our organist, Mr. Collinson, we know that those who come will not go home disappointed.”

As well as the annual congregational get together, there were many congregational groups such as Bible Classes, Cathedral Guild, Churchmen’s Social Class, Churchwomen’s Association, Church Embroidery Guild, Classes for Men, Classes for Women, Communicants’ Meeting, Cookery Classes, Diocesan Church Reading Union, Episcopal Work Society, Guild of Aid, Guild of St. Columba, Guild of St. Margaret for Women & Girls, Meeting of Young Men for the Practice of Secular Music, Missionary Meetings, Mothers’ Meetings,  Prayer Book Classes, Servants’ Bible Class, Sewing Classes, Society of S. Andrew and S. Luke, Swimming Classes,  Young Men’s Friendly Society, Young Men’s Guild and Young Women’s Bible Classes to name but a few.

One of the best supported organisation was the Churchwomen’s Association whose main purpose was to provide assistance for overseas missions.  As an example of this is an article from the January 1888 Monthly Paper.

“We are glad to be able to report a slight increase in the number of members of the C.W.A. in the Cathedral Congregation. There are now 436 on the roll, and their subscriptions as members amount to £47, 12s. 6d.  Their donations to £15, 7s. 6d.  There are no doubts many more would join if they understood how encouraging it is to those who are working as missionaries in foreign lands to have the help thus given them in money – the sympathy which cannot but follow when any one heartily joins our Missionary Association, and, above all, the prayers which all members are asked to offer for God’s blessing on our mission stations.  From the ten work parties which are held monthly in the congregation £73 worth of work has been, during the past year, sent to Kaffraria and already grateful letters have been received, showing how much the boxes are valued.  If any one will join they are asked kindly to send their names to Hon. Mrs. Montgomery, 17 Atholl Crescent, with their 2s. 6d. or 1s. subscription and she will send them a card membership.  She would gladly invite everyone personally but is unable to do so from want of time and opportunity.”

[£73 in 1888 is now approximately equivalent to £6,600.]


Next: Congregational Questions


Iain Morrison

Hon. Archivist

The Organ

Strangely, Sir George Gilbert Scott did not make allowance for an organ in his original plans. However, it was eventually decided to place the organ in the north transept.  Originally the choir stalls were intended to be situated in the chancel to the east of the central tower but fortunately Mr. Henry Willis, the organ builder, suggested that they be moved to their present position under the central tower thereby bringing the choir closer to the organ.  This change allowed the high altar to be moved away from the east wall to give a passageway behind – the present-day clergy vestry.

The organ console was originally situated within the organ case yet, as you could imagine, this arrangement had several disadvantages the main one being that the organist did not have a clear view of either the altar or the choir.  Power for the organ was provided by a coal fired gas-engine which by 1896 was no longer fit for purpose which resulted in the organ being handicapped by an insufficient supply of wind.  Fortunately, that year the Precentor, Rev. Alfred Griffiths, offered to present the Cathedral with an electric console for the organ. This was funded by a legacy he had received some time in the past.  The cost of the new console was estimated to be about £800 and would be provided by Mr. Robert Hope-Jones of the Electric Organ Company, Birkenhead.  This was first mentioned in the August 1896 Monthly Paper.

“The console itself is an instrument resembling a large harmonium, and will have in it four manuals to control the four parts of the organ, viz., the choir, the great, the swell, and the solo, and also a pedal board to control the pedal organ.  This console will be movable, and consequently can be placed at any spot selected by the organist for the better hearing of the choir or organ.

To connect this console with the various parts of the organ a single flexible cable, an inch and a fourth in diameter, will be employed, and will be carried underground to the inside organ case.  Notwithstanding the great size of the organ, a very small current of electricity will be employed: a few dry cells only will be necessary.  The console will be mounted on castors and enclosed in a handsome walnut case to correspond with the beautiful choir stalls of the Cathedral.”

The new console, with the inscription under the stop-keys “To the glory of God, and in memory of G. M. S. a lover of Church Music”, was installed next to the choir stalls thereby affording the organist a much improved view of the high altar and the choir master.  It had been hoped that it would first be used for the Harvest Festival service on 17th October 1897 but was actually first used at Evensong on Saturday 6th November 1897 at the start of that year’s Cathedral Dedication Festival.

That year’s December magazine includes an article written by Mr Collinson, the Organist and Choir Master, which explains in detail how the new console had resulted in a great improvement in the playing of the organ.  As well as the new console, a new gas engine, described in February 1899 as a “Bunsen burner,” had been installed which quadrupled the supply of wind to the organ, thereby ensuring that the organ was no longer underpowered.

Just over a year after his first article, Mr. Collinson writes further about the Cathedral organ. This is a long article which gives a full description of the organ stops and its internal workings, mentioning amongst other matters the 500 magnets and 1,000 miniature pneumatic bellows. The new console included extra electrical contacts which would allow for additional organs to be installed and placed over the west inner porch and in the sanctuary.  Mr. Collinson proposed that the time had now arrived to do just that with the addition of a separate console in the side-chapel (now the Lady Chapel) which would be connected to the sanctuary organ.  He envisaged that as well as these additional organs being able to be played independently, they could all be under the control of the main organ console. The estimated cost of these improvements was given as £1,840.  He hoped that they would be in place for the 25th anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral in 1904, but unsurprisingly they were never implemented!

The Hope-Jones console was replaced when the organ was rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1931.

This picture of an organ console was displayed alongside the article in the August 1896 Monthly Paper.

The figure mentioned above of £800 and £1,840 are equivalent to £74,300 and £167,000 today. Robert Hope-Jones led a very interesting and colourful life both in the UK and the USA and if you wish to learn more I suggest you look him up on Wikipedia. – you will not be disappointed!

Next: The Congregation


On average, 12 children were baptised each month during the Victorian period with 1887 leading the way with 154 christenings. Unsurprisingly, the most popular names were William, James and John for the boys and Mary, Margaret and Elizabeth for the girls.  Although there were some unusual names such as Mafeking, Redvers, Ermentrude and Marmion. Happily, the number of confirmation candidates was also buoyant averaging 99 per year over this period. Indeed, in some years there were so many candidates that two confirmation services each year were required.

Sadly, however, in some years 24 children under the age of 6 died.  We know this from when in 1887 the age at death, as well as the names of the departed, were printed in the Monthly Paper. In the period 1887 to 1900, 224 children under the age of 6 died, adding up to over 33% of all deaths.

Despite this sobering figure children featured in many positive ways in the Monthly Paper from participation in sewing classes, to the Sunday School, education and, of course, the choristers.

Every Saturday afternoon from November to May, sewing classes met in the Water of Leith Mission in the Dean Village and the Dalry Mission. The average number enrolled for these classes totalled 160, with 120 regularly attending each month. The class started at 2:30 with the signing of a hymn followed by an hour of instruction finishing with another hymn.  As well as producing clothes for themselves the children also sent their work to Africa as part of the Cathedral’s overseas mission commitment. On the last Saturday in May all the children met together in the Water of Leith Schoolroom and after having tea together they received their prizes and the clothing they had made themselves.

In addition, from December 1884 a Girls’ Clothing Club was established.

“This Clothing Club has been begun, in order to enable young girls, on their attaining a proper age for going to service, to enter on their first situation, with a suitable supply of clothing.

A weekly meeting is held, to which the girls are expected to come, to learn to cut out, and make the clothing themselves.

They have also to pay 1d. a week, and in return, after, the first year’s membership, have a right to a certain amount of clothing, (more or less according to the time they have been members), with a small bonus added.

The clothing will be of thoroughly good material.

Clothes not to be given until the girl has got a situation.

The meetings are held in the Cathedral Mission House, Water-of-Leith.

Girls wishing to join had better go to one of the meetings, and see the teacher.”

The Sunday School classes for the Cathedral children were held in the Water of Leith Mission. In April 1879 there were 111 children, by July 1894 the number had increased to 400 and by 1900 the combined Water of Leith & Dalry Sunday Schools numbered 831.  There were two sets of classes each Sunday at 10.00 am and 3.00 pm and from February 1881 the lessons taught in Sunday School were listed in the Monthly Paper “for the sake not only of the teachers and the children, but also of the parents, who will know what their children have been learning, so that they can question them at home upon what they have heard at school.”

From 1884 younger children could attend a Day Nursery in the Water of Leith’s Mission House while their mothers attended the morning Sunday service. For this facility a charge of a half-penny per child was levied although bread and milk were provided. This initiative was reported as being a success with 24 children attending by the second week. Presumably for security reasons, the door was locked at 10.45 am and opened again at 12.45.

There was, usually in June, the annual Sunday School Outing.  The outing in June 1881 was typical and this report in the July 1881 Monthly Paper gives an idea of what happened on these occasions.

“Sunday School Treat.

On Tuesday, June 21st, our Sunday school children were taken to Dalkeith for a summer treat, the Duke of Buccleuch having kindly given permission to the school to play in his park.

A special train was put on at the Haymarket Station for them, which ran straight through to Dalkeith; about 365 children and 48 adults made up the party.  On their arrival, they found lunch ready, after which they played cricket (the Dalry and Water of Leith boys playing a match), had bowls, swings, croquet, ran races, and seemed thoroughly to enjoy themselves.  Then they had tea, prizes for racing, etc., were given away, and then they marched off to the station in capital order, and reached the Haymarket Station in safety and happiness.

Great thanks are due to those who organised and carried out the arrangements, which were most admirable. The improvement in the tone and behaviour of the children was most marked, so that there is abundant cause for thankfulness and every reason to believe that our Sunday schools are doing real practical good.”

There were also winter treats; this is from the February 1884 Monthly Paper.

“Sunday School Treats.

During the last month the various Sunday Schools (we have four – Water of Leith, Dalry, Gorgie, Tynecastle) had their treats, which were greatly enjoyed.  Our newest school, at Tynecastle, had its treat in our new Mission Hall, and the Gorgie children joined them.  The children were greatly delighted by some really beautiful magic lantern pictures illustrating the Prince of Wales’ visit to India, and Sir John Frankin’s expedition in the Arctic regions.  Everything seems to promise well in our new mission field in Tynecastle, and we wish our people would warmly interest themselves in it.

Mrs Tuke appeals strongly for an additional Teacher at Gorgie.  It is some way out from the town (1½ miles), but surely it would be a labour of love to many. Perhaps the Mission will stir up hearts to undertake this, no doubt fatiguing but really useful Church work.”

A shortage of Sunday School teachers appears to have been a common problem shared by other churches and an appeal for help from St Columba’s was printed in the October 1883 magazine.

“My congregation is now, with a very few exceptions, composed entirely of the working class, and we must look elsewhere for the assistance of competent teachers.  We have both boys and girls without any one to instruct them.  It is the afternoons that we more especially need assistance.  Will no one who reads this appeal come over and help us?  Yours faithfully, Charles E. Bowden, Incumbent of S. Columba’s. – September 17, 1883. “

The general school education of the Cathedral’s children was a matter of concern to the clergy, the main worries centred round the children being exposed to the Presbyterian Catechism and to a prejudicial view of the Episcopal Church’s history. There were frequent appeals to parents not to send their children to Board schools but to use Church schools instead.  It was pointed out that “The Dean School is not a Church school.  We mention this because a parent confidingly sent a child there, thinking it was the Dean’s School!”

The Episcopal Church did have a representative on the Edinburgh School Board, and he was successful in persuading the Board of “the need for the observance of Christmas Day.  In future the schools under the Edinburgh Board will be closed on that great Festival.   It is, however, greatly to be hoped, that if ever Christmas Day becomes a public holy-day in Scotland it will never be sullied by the conduct which characterises the observance of the so-called National feast of New Year’s Day.”

The choir sang three services on Sundays – 11.00 am Morning Prayer followed by Communion and Evening Prayer at 3.30 pm and 7.00 pm. On Monday to Saturday there was Evening Prayer at 5.00 pm. From May 1880 the choir also attended Morning Prayer at 11.00 am.  Interestingly, the term ‘Evensong’ was not used and ‘Matins’ only occasionally.  There was also a Children’s Service on the 3rd Sunday of each month which from November 1893 was supported by a choir consisting of probationers.

As well as services within the Cathedral the choir boys also visited the Sick Children’s Hospital each January to sing carols as this report printed in February 1897 illustrates.

“The rapt attention of the little invalids, some of whom kept time to the carols by tapping on their dinner boards, while other tuneful ones essayed a supplementary lilt of their own; the bursting into song of a pet canary at the loudest parts or choruses, the fraternising of the Choir boys with the occupants of the cots between times, were all incidents full of tender interest, and the visit was felt to be one of mutual profit and pleasure.”

As with the Sunday School, it was not all work for the choristers and there was an annual outing usually to Aberdour via the ferry from Leith harbour. This report in the September 1884 Monthly Paper is typical.

Forty-two boys and 5 adults assembled at the east end of the Cathedral, at half-past six of the morning of August 7th, and after driving to Leith harbour, embarked in the Lord Morton, and had a delightful sail to Aberdour.

There breakfast was awaiting them in the hotel, supplied by the excellent Mr. Grieg, and superintended by himself and his attentive maidens.  The friends of the choristers will be glad to hear that this year they had perfect weather, although they were reminded of the thunder of two former occasions, by the constant boom of the guns of the Sultan, which was that day bombarding the innocent island of Inchkeith.

The boys seemed to enjoy themselves very much with football, tug-of-war, and other games, and bathing for many of them.  Luncheon was brought on to the ground, and a famous tea was done justice to on returning to the hotel at six o’clock.”

However, the weather was not always kind and in 1889 “the sea passage was by no means so agreeable as it had been in the early morning; the consequence being that several of the band were made aware of an unpleasant illness, which inexperienced travellers on the deep are often liable to suffer from.  “But all is well that ends well”, and though upon arrival home many were almost soaked by the heavy downpour of rain, yet the next day there were no bad results of the journey and wetting.”

The work that went on behind the scenes to keep the choristers presentable for services was undertaken by a team of ladies led by Miss Clementina Gamgee and this extract from the August 1887 Monthly Paper illustrates the work involved.  “Perhaps many in the congregation who see, week by week, the choristers appear in clean surplices and tidy cassocks, have never thought much of the great labour involved in keeping these vestments so carefully in repair.  When it is known that nearly a hundred cassocks and surplices have to be re-made, mended, patched, and constantly examined from time to time it will be seen that there is no light responsibility up on those who undertake the work.  And who is there, that knows anything of boys and their ways, that will not sigh at the thoughts of cassocks rent by carelessness, buttons plucked out by the very roots, and holes torn in the neck to hang them up by?”

There were also recreational activities and visits to the Corporation Baths in Caledonian Crescent, which opened in 1885. These trips where the boys were taught how to swim by the Precentor, Rev. Alfred Griffiths. On Saturday 21st November 1896 two of the senior choir boys, William Toddie and David McGibbon cycled from the Cathedral to Berwick-on-Tweed accompanied by the Precentor.  The boys came back by train arriving home at 9.00 pm. Interestingly it is reported that “McGibbon was mounted on the bamboo machine, and Toddie on a Haymarket, specially built for the boys by Mr. Downie.” William Toddie was killed in action on 4th June 1917 at the Second Battle of Arras.

Former choristers kept in touch after they left the choir and by June 1900 there was a Cycling Club which met every Wednesday and a Cricket Club which practised in the summer on weeknights and Saturday afternoons in Inverleith Park.

Towards the end of the Victorian period in 1900, there is reference to a Boys’ Club based at the Dalry Mission.  The May 1900 magazine has an article which is written in an unusual way.

“A visitor writes that ‘he recently attended the Mission Hall at Dalry to see the progress made by the boys under Sergeant Fraser of the 3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders, an experienced instructor, who was secured through the interest of one of the Sunday School teachers.  Sergeant Fraser has worked wonders, and the raw material is now in a most workmanlike condition.  The boys enjoy the physical exercises and drill, and appreciate their instructor – a great point.  The lads assemble every Friday at 9 p.m., for one hour.  The club was started and is carried on, by the Misses Ramsay and Miss Milne-Miller, to whose interest, and almost unknown labours, much credit is due.  Boys and young men between the ages of 15 and 21 respectively, and who are either members of the Dalry Bible class or Sunday School, are admitted,.  If members of the Cathedral congregation would kindly give themselves the opportunity some Friday evening before the middle of May (when the physical tuition will cease until next autumn) of inspecting the boys at their exercises, encouragement would be given to the founders of the Club, the teacher, and the boys themselves.  So far there have been no visitors with the exception of the writer!’”


The Cathedral finances have always been a matter of concern for the Cathedral Board and clergy.  As well as the collections taken at the various services, a system of regular contributions or subscriptions was in place – the Victorian equivalent to a standing order or direct debit mandate.  In most cases a collector would visit parishioners to persuade them to subscribe to, and to collect for, one or more of several good causes, although there could be a separate collector for each good cause.  The amounts collected were faithfully recorded in the collectors’ books and once a year the results of the various subscriptions were published in the Monthly Paper giving full details of how much each member of the congregation contributed in the previous year to each of the good causes, only a few seemed to have contributed anonymously.

The most important subscription was to the Clergy Fund and in 1890 there were 23 collectors who visited 381 subscribers and collected a total of £573 16s 1d which is roughly equivalent to £78,000 today.  This was a reduction on the previous year which no doubt led to the following appeal in the February 1891 Monthly Paper.  “The Cathedral congregation is not a wealthy one, but it is numerous.  There are perhaps few who can give largely, but there are many who could give a little.  The diminution in the total sum collected, points to a want of interest on the part of those who can give more than the smallest sums.  We ought not to depend to such an extent as we now do, upon a few large subscriptions.”

Sadly this appeal was not that successful as only £542 13s 10d was collected in 1891.  The level of subscription to this fund never really recovered throughout the rest of the Victorian period although by 1901 it had improved to £555 9s 1d.

The use of subscription books was not confined to the Cathedral; an article published in January 1887 tells us that in Edinburgh there were between 80 and 90 of these books.  The article also gave the following advice. “As it is impossible to give to all, we would claim for the members of our own congregation their first care for the books sent out by authority from their own Church.  The collecting books sent round from the Cathedral are for the following objects: – Clergy Fund, Home Missions, Education Fund, Foreign Missions, Cathedral Parochial Missions.”

The five funds mentioned above averaged annually £555 for the Clergy Fund, £155 for Home Missions, £58 for the Education Fund, £180 for Foreign Missions and £197 for the Cathedral Parochial Missions.  In addition the Aged & Infirm Clergy Fund, which started in 1891, brought in £48 a year.

Within three years of opening, the Cathedral was in serious debt and an article printed in the June 1882 Monthly Paper reminded readers of a sermon preached by the Dean on 14th May in which he set out the stark realities of the financial situation.  The figures printed in the magazine show that the Cathedral was £700 in debt [roughly £89,600 today] and that the weekly offerings, averaging £26, were well below the required amount of £40.  It was made clear that if matters did not improve, there was a possibility that the choir would have to be reduced and daily services cease.

The offertory on the 14th May was almost £40 but it fell the following Sunday to £32.

Matters did improve and the November 1883 Monthly Paper reported that the debt had reduced to less than £200 and it was felt that this would soon be reduced altogether as this extract shows. “It is thought that by a liberal offertory on one Sunday, this small debt can be entirely cleared off.  When we see how easily £30 is given on a Sunday (so few half-crowns and florins, etc.), we need not think it difficult to raise £150 or £200.  The object is good, and if we only do what we can, we know we shall succeed, and then we shall be free from debt altogether.”

However, the good news did not last long, there was a further warning article in February 1887 and then by February 1890 the debt had grown to £320 [about £43,700 in today’s terms] which was blamed on a “falling off in the weekly offertories – or in other words to the congregation contributing less liberally than before to the ordinary appeal for defraying the expenses for maintaining the Cathedral and its services.  This surely ought not to be – nor need not be.  It cannot be said that the congregation is overtaxed.  When two or three years ago the Cathedral funds were in a worse state than they now are, an appeal to the congregation cleared off the debt, and for a time raised the income to the necessary point. But it has fallen back again.  What we ask for is not a spasmodic effort, but that each should consider how great must be the expenses of attending such a Church and such services, and should give steadily and systematically, according to their means, as an offering to God.”

There was a £51 deficit for the financial year ending 30th November 1901, which was covered by an anonymous donor. However, the February 1902 magazine made clear that the weekly offerings “should never fall below £35 if the services of the Cathedral are to be maintained free of debt.” The average weekly offerings for January were £25.

Cathedral Services

Cathedral Services

In the Victorian era there were more services each Sunday than there are today.  There was a service of Communion at 8.00 am, Morning Prayer at 11.00 am followed by Communion and Evening Prayer at 3.30 pm and 7.00 pm.  There was also an additional Communion service at 7.00 am on the second Sunday of each month.  Sermons were preached at the 11.00 am, 3.30 pm and 7.00 pm services.  During the week, including Saturdays, there were services of Communion at 8.00 am, Morning Prayer at 11.00 am and Evening Prayer at 5.00 pm.  Details of the hymns, settings and anthems to be sung during the month were published in the magazine.

Members of the congregation were expected to bring their own hymn books. This is made clear in the very first magazine in January 1879 under the heading of “Congregational Singing”.

“The Hymn Book used is the new addition of Ancient and Modern.  The pointing for the Canticles and Psalms is Elvey’s.  We hope that those who can afford to buy it (price 2s. 6d., to be obtained from Messrs. Grant and Son, Princes Street, or Messrs. Hamilton and Müller, George Street) will do so, in order that by singing the correct pointing they may help to make the service really hearty, whilst incorrect pointing is too liable to create confusion, and make the words unintelligible.”

However, as not everybody could afford to buy a hymn book and psalter, a “generous friend” funded the cost of having the words of the hymns and psalms due to be sung at the evening services printed and distributed for a period of three months starting in October 1895.  An appeal was made for other members of the congregation to contribute towards the cost of providing hymn sheets for the following year up to Easter – the cost of doing this was given as about 12s for each Sunday.  However this seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as a further appeal was made in the December Monthly Paper.

There are several articles covering special services such as Christmas and Easter usually focusing on what the clergy considered to be poor congregational turnout.  The number of communicants attending the Christmas services was a particular concern. The 1887 Christmas celebrations with 858 communicants set a standard that the following years had trouble matching and it was also reported that Matins and Evening Prayer that day had been so well attended that many people were forced to stand throughout the service!  It also mentioned that the Bishop was the Celebrant at the morning Communion service “and wore his cope at this service, thereby making a link with many English Cathedrals where the cope is always worn by the Bishop of the diocese when he celebrates the Holy Eucharist in his own Cathedral.”  One possible reason for the good turnout that year could have been that Christmas Day fell on a Sunday.

In 1888 there were 602 communicants. This increased to 644 in 1889.  In an effort to improve numbers further, the December 1890 Monthly Paper made it clear that “There is no reason why there should be 400 fewer Communicants on Christmas Day than on Easter Day, which is generally the case with us at the Cathedral; last year there were not 700 Communicants on Christmas Day itself.”  The fact that members of the congregation would usually have to work on Christmas Day seemed, in the eyes of the clergy, not to be an excuse for not attending the Cathedral.  Services of Communion at 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. were expressly arranged to enable those working on Christmas Day to make their Communion in the early morning.  “The 5 a.m. Celebration is provided for the benefit of the laity who have to work, and not for the amusement or employment of the Clergy, who would have a long day even without this service.  Instead of the usual 20 or 30 who come, there might easily be 200 at the very least, if the laity responded to their duty.  Will not some of our working friends respond to this invitation, and make use of the opportunity this year, and show they appreciate the chance given of this early Communion.”

This exhortation did not have the desired effect as this extract from January 1891 shows.

“At the 5 a.m. Celebration there was 34 communicants, being exactly the same number as last year.  At 7 a.m. there were 130 communicants; but it was at 8 a.m. that there was a fairly large increase.  During the day there were 654 communicants, and with those who have made their Communion during the Octave, and the sick, the number is brought up to 700 or 710.  There is still room for an improvement, for if 1100 can come at Easter-tide, there ought to be 1100 also at Christmas-tide.  There are 300 or 400 who have clearly broken the plainest of the rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer, which orders, “That every Parishioner shall communicate three times in the year, of which, Easter to be one.”  Clearly, Christmas comes next!

In January 1892 it was reported that “some 105 large firms appended their names to a list of those who were ready to close their place of business; and, no doubt, next year the list will again be larger and more characteristic of Edinburgh citizenship.”  The point was made, however, that this extra holiday could result in “an increase in the consumption of strong drink and unrestrained morals”.

This reservation seemed to be based on what was happening south of the border. “An English Good Friday turned into a day of revelry is even worse than a Scottish New Year’s Day, with its train of drunkenness and immorality.”    It was not until 1958 that Christmas Day became a public holiday in Scotland.

In April 1885 the clergy were concerned about a deficit of £116 [about £15,800 today] in the Cathedral’s finances, and expressed the hope that the Easter Offertory would be especially good.  This plea was successful as a total of 1,146 communicants attended the various Easter Communion services.  However, the question was asked in the May edition as to where these people had been the rest of the year!

An interesting article printed in April 1898 sets down how the congregation should conduct themselves when receiving communion.

“Services, etc., for Easter Day.

The following hints are given in the hope of securing greater orderliness in the chancel: –

  1. Communicants must approach the alter rails by the centre passage; not by the side gates.
  2. They should advance in lines, on either side of the passage, keeping their place in the line until they reach the lower steps of the sanctuary.
  3. They should come forward as soon as the celebrant begins to hand the vessels to the assistant clergy; but members of the choir who communicate at the choral celebrations should be allowed to return to the stalls before the other communicants advance beyond the centre of the choir stalls.
  4. In retiring from the altar rails all (except members of the choir) must pass out from the sanctuary by the side gates, and return to their places.
  5. No one should rise from kneeling at the altar rail until the clergyman has finished administering the cup to the person next on the right.

It is not unnecessary for a reminder to be given that persons who enter the Church too late to hear the Gospel for the day, ought not to come forward to receive the Holy Communion on that occasion. Nor should any who have communicated leave the Church until the Benediction has been pronounced.  When exceptional circumstances, such as care of the sick, etc., necessitate an earlier departure, then at least the remaining prayers should be read over privately before leaving the Church.”

A poor turnout at Whitsun 1888 provoked this strongly worded article in the June 1888 Monthly Paper.  The use of upper-case letters in the heading emphasises the seriousness of this matter.


At the three celebrations on Whitsun Day there were only 360 communicants.  This was a slight increase upon last year; but in spite of this attendance was very far below what it should have been.  The rubric at the end of the Communion Service expressly orders – ‘And note, that every parishioner shall communicate AT THE LEAST three times in the year, of which Easter is to be one.’

Although there is a silence regarding the two other days for Communion (expected and required of all Churchpeople) the Anglican Church has a clear unwritten rule that the two other feasts are Christmas Day and Whitsun Day.  It is only in the Roman Church that one Communion (to be made during the octave of Easter) suffices for Church membership; and we are sorry to say that there are many who evidently are satisfied if they fulfill this requirement of a foreign church, for there are numbers in our congregation who communicate but once a year, and that on Easter Day.”

The Cathedral celebrated Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in June 1887 and the event was covered in the July magazine.  The service itself, which was a Diocesan celebration, was well received with the Cathedral choir being supplemented by choirs from other churches in the Diocese as well as an orchestra. However, what should have been a joyous occasion seemed to have had some underlying niggles as shown in the following extract!

“The offertory reached £33, and an analysis of the coins is published on anther page, from which it may be seen that 1500 people contributed; as there were certainly some 1800 people present, a great many gave nothing whatever to the offertory.  We fear that there has been some annoyance caused to members of the Cathedral congregation concerning the tickets for reserved chairs; but we may remind such as are aggrieved, that it was a service for the Diocese, and not for one congregation alone; and had tickets been given to all Cathedral worshippers, there would have been a “bitter cry” from the Diocese!”

Next: Finances

Iain Morrison Hon. Archivist.

A Victorian Cathedral – The Song School

The Song School

The definitive authority on Phoebe Anna Traquair, the artist who decorated the walls of the Song School with some of the finest murals in Scotland, is Dr. Elizabeth Cumming whose book on the artist was published in 2012.  I am, however, looking at the Song School from a different perspective, that of the various articles about the Song School that were published in the Monthly Paper up to 1901. Interestingly the Monthly Paper uses Song School, Choir School and Music School interchangeably.

Initially the only choir led services were those held on a Sunday but from January 1880 daily choral evensong were added. It soon became clear, however, that this arrangement simply would not work without a school being set up for the choristers.  Consequently in May 1880 the choir school opened in Old Coates House with Mr. Albert Howard appointed as schoolmaster.  Up to this time the number of regular boys had not exceed twenty but the hardship of requiring the boys to attend matins, two evensongs every Sunday as well as daily evensong during the week made it desirable to increase the number of choristers to forty.  The idea was that for the Sunday services all boys should attend matins at 11:00 am, twenty the afternoon service at 3:30 pm and the other twenty the evening service at 7:00 pm.   The difficulty, however, was that the school room in Old Coates House could only accommodate twenty, so the increase in the number of boys had to be limited to ten.

To add to the problems the Cathedral Library, where the choristers practiced, was extremely badly ventilated, excessively hot and, due to the sighting of the heating boilers directly underneath, prone to gas fumes.  It was, therefore, essential, both to increase the number of boys and for their continuing good health, to find a larger and healthy building for the choir school.

These problems were raised at the Congregational Meeting held in the Freemasons’ Hall on 22 December 1881 but as reported in the April 1882 Monthly Paper, lack of money prevented the project going forward. Two members of the congregation had donated £1,200 but a further £800 was required.  By January 1883 there were 36 boys in the choir but only accommodation in Old Coates House for 30, the other 6 boys being educated in local schools. There may have been some resistance within the congregation to the idea of a new choir school building as this extract from the January 1883 Monthly hints.

“To some it may appear that a school is unnecessary.  But it is quite indispensable.  The daily service prevents them from attending ordinary schools; and in order to have a good Choir, the boys require special supervision.  A Choir boy should have a naturally good voice.  This voice must be carefully trained.  The boy must be well fed and clothed, and he must be in good health and spirits.  With all this, time must be found for his education, and at service than other boys of his age.  He therefore requires special provision for the arrangement of his teaching and healthy recreation.  Hence a good school-room and good play-ground are of great importance.”

However, by June 1884 only a further two contributions had been received taking the money available to £1,400 although the overall cost had reduced to £1,800.  In view of the shortfall an appeal was printed in that July’s Monthly Paper.

Music School.

We are requested to publish the following Statement which is now being circulated amongst the members of the Congregation: –

“Ever since the opening of the Cathedral, the want has been felt of a suitable room in which to hold the Choir practices.  The only room at present available for this purpose is the Library of the Cathedral, which has to serve also as Vestry for both clergy and Choir.  This room is not only too small, but is also ill ventilated, and from its structural details is quite unsuitable for a music room, while the large number of cassocks and surplices hung round the room render it still more unfit for good vocal work.  It is felt that the time has now come when a strenuous effort should be made to have a properly constructed and equipped “Music School” erected within the Cathedral precincts, to give the requisite facilities for the due development of the Musical Services of the Church.  Plans of such a building have been obtained from Mr John Oldrid Scott, Architect to the Cathedral.  The site proposed is at the north end of Coates House, and the style of architecture is intended to harmonise with that of the Cathedral, and at the same time not to dwarf the old house.  The estimated cost is about £1800, towards which sum £1400 has already been promised by a few members of the congregation and other friends.  It is most desirable that the building should be commenced at once in order that it may be finished before winter sets in.  The want is so pressing that it would be most unfortunate should it be necessary to postpone the commencement of the building operations for another year.”

In July 1885 it was announced that “the Music School, which has been in course of erection for the last few months, is now approaching completion.” There was still a shortfall of £150 and those in the congregation who had not so far contributed were urged to do so.  The formal opening of the Song School was announced in the January 1886 magazine and the outstanding money must have been raised as reference is made to the purchase of an organ “which will be used for practice, so that the Cathedral will soon be more quiet for those who have been desirous to come in for private devotion.”  The organ (which was built by Messrs Willis and was water powered) was formally inaugurated by a recital on Christmas Eve 1887.  The building was insured in 1886 for the sum of £1,900 – roughly £262,000 today.

The first mention of the murals appeared in the November 1888 Monthly Paper.

“The Song School Frescoes.

These most beautiful pictures are now rapidly growing under the skilful hand of the lady who is so willingly spending time upon this great work.  Already the Eastern wall is glowing with colour, the central group being well-nigh completed, the subject being “three Angels at the Sepulchre, and the visit of the three Marys.” The work is exceedingly beautiful, and faces being perfect in purity of expression and character; and it is surprising, how, even now, in their unfinished state, the pictures arrest the attention and claim the interest of everyone that enters the Song School.”

It was reported in the February 1890 magazine that the east wall was now finished and work was to start on the north wall.  By January 1892 the wooden panelling beneath paintings had been finished but the cost had not been met, a balance of £7, 15s. 9d still outstanding.  The July 1892 Monthly Paper reports that the murals were finished and “the room is open to visitors daily from 10.30 to 12.30 and 2.30 to 3.30.  There is no charge for admission, but visitors are requested to inscribe their names in the “Visitors’’ book”, and to drop a contribution into the Box, towards defraying the expense of the panelling, gilding of the roof, varnishing of the walls, etc.; there being still a considerable deficit remaining to be met.”  Almost three years later in May 1895 there was still a debt of £20 and “it was necessary to obtain an advance from the bank, and on this a high rate of interest is payable.”

The last mention of the Song School in the Victorian period was an article printed in August 1900.

“Song School.

During last month the interior walls of this building have been carefully cleaned and varnished, with the result that Mrs. Traquair’s beautiful fresco paintings, which had the appearance of having faded, but were only coated over by smoke and dirt from the now abolished gas [lighting] and stoves, stand out in all their original freshness.  The Board of Management have been obliged, with great reluctance, to forego the painting of the roof, which Mrs. Traquair wished to be undertaken with the object of bringing it into harmony with the walls, and improving the light.  The estimate for painting the roof amounted to £30.  It is most desirable that it should be done, as it has the effect at present of a heavy dark pall hanging over delicately ornamental walls.  But it must remain as it is unless some generous friend should volunteer to bear the cost of painting and decorating it.”

It was reported at the December 1900 Cathedral Board Meeting that the ceiling had been painted at a cost of £43 which was partly covered by an anonymous gift of £30.


Deviating from my aim to only use information from the Monthly Paper, I have found some interesting choir related items from this period in the archive.

I mentioned above that Mr Albert Howard was appointed as the first schoolmaster of the Choir School in 1880, however, he resigned this position in 1886.  In his resignation letter he states “The principal cause of my resignation is that I consider that the person who has charge, as I have, of the boys both inside and outside the Cathedral ought to have an ‘absolute veto’ against any boy being kept in the Choir,  whom he considers to be an unfit companion for the others, or who commits any grave breach of discipline; and this the Cathedral authorities do not see fit to grant, although no reason has been given for the refusal.”

In September 1888, the new Schoolmaster, Mr. Keith, was given such authority in a letter from the Precentor, Rev Alfred Griffiths which states:

“Mr Keith has the power of temporary suspension of Choir boys for offences which come under his notice until my further order.  He should, however, give notice in such cases to the Precentor and Organist.”

Even more intriguing is a letter from Mr. Keith dated May 30th, 1887.  We don’t know to whom it was sent.

“Rev Sir,

Allow me to suggest the following: –

  1. That the Gentlemen (Regular and Voluntary) of the Choir do not talk after coming out of the vestry.
  2. That they do not speak in the stalls.
  3. That the Voluntary Gentlemen do not break through the boys when in line in order to get to their places in the vestibule.

The task of maintaining a highly efficient discipline will be greatly increased if the above are allowed to continue.  The most powerful of all the means of discipline is example not from one or two adult members of the Choir but from all.”

However, ending on a positive note I have found a catalogue, dated 1888, listing all the books in the Chorister’s Library. All 310 books are listed, divided into subject area such as biography, botany, fiction, history, science, zoology and even a collect of annuals.