Baptist Church Bowmore: A letter from the year 1869

Copy from the original letter found in 1992During renovation works in 1992 on the Baptist Church in Bowmore a copy of a letter was found in a bottle under the pulpit. Closer examination learned the letter dated back to more than 120 years ago. A stunning discovery. The original letters are kept safe in the Islay Museum. I received a copy from Rae Woodrow who was kind enough to "translate" the letter into a readable Word document. Please find below the original text, it may contain some errors because the original letter wasn't of the best quality after so many years.

Bowmore, Islay
23rd Sept. 1869.

This is intended to preserve the remembrance of the repairing of this place of worship, which is (henceforth to be called The Bowmore Tabernacle). Previously to these repairs, the place was most unsightly to behold, and most uncomfortable as a place of worship, by reason of cold and damp. The house was built about the year 1849 while the Rev, Angus Mc Naughton was minister of the church. Mr Mc Naughton was minister of the church, Mr McNaughton having emigrated to Canada, he was succeeded as missionary in Islay by the Rev James Miller who was minister of this church for upwards of twenty years, until the end of 1868, when being nearly 87 years of age, he retired on a small allowance granted by the Baptist Home Missionary Society for Scotland, which Society has supported the causes in Islay from its commencement.

Towards the end of February 1869, the present missionary, Mr Alexander McDougall who was formerly pastor of the Baptist Church in Rothesay, and had been educated at Mr Spurgeon's College London, was engaged by the acting committee of the Baptist Home Missionary Society for Scotland, to labour in connection with the above Society in Islay and Colonsay, preaching in Gaelic and English. Immediately on entering upon this field of labours, Mr McDougall determined to make an effort towards repairing the place of worship and the ministers' dwelling house above it, neither of which had ever been of ?? Although the house had been built 20 years.

Accordingly on going to London in March 1869, to attend the annual conference of Mr Spurgeons' students he set about collecting money towards the contemplated repairs. His first subscriber was Edward Bansted Esq. Carnhill London. Who gave £5 Sterling. Contributions were received from three friends also in London as well as in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley, Greenock, Rothsay & Islay. The largest contribution was from Thomas Coats Esq. Paisley, who gave £20 Sterling.

The whole of the repairs, including the place of worship and dwelling house will cost rather more than £100, and it is expected that the whole will be paid within a year after the finishing of the work. The whole of the joiner work was executed by Mr Donald MacFarlane, Glasgow, brother to Minister Alex MacFarlane, Minister Baptist Church, South Port Street, Glasgow. The plaster was done by John McCalmen.

The repairs now made on the place of worship include the sinking of the floor nearly a foot lower than it was before, the laying of a new floor with new sleepers, with space, underneath for air, the ground below the floor being drained, the floor have been lined with was?? Two feet above the floor and plaster work aboves. The ceiling has been lined and plastered the windows renewed, six paraffin oil lamps on wall ??, and a new platform, stair ballustons in front, has substituted for an old and clumsy pulpit. Three apartments have been made in the dwelling house and various other items have been fitted up. Roof drain water rones. Conductors, the...

It is hoped that Bowmore (TABERNACLE) Baptist Chapel will re-opened for pulpit worship in a few weeks when a service will (D.V.) be held. The Alex MacFarlane Glasgow probably other friends far distance are expected to be present, and to take part in the opening services. There are above 60 Baptized members in congregation with this church at present of whom 40 reside in Bowmore and the remainder in Country. The foregoing has written not, it is hoped a Spirit of vain ostentar.. but simply with the de.. of preserving facts which.... be interesting to some .... generations, who may see .. house or some part of it demolished by time or for .... when that shall take place I.. doubtless the hands that have executed these repairs, the hand that now writes these lines, the tongue that is to speak in this place, and all (now living on the earth) who shall meet for worship in this place on the day of the re-opening, shall be mouldering in the dust. But it is hoped that as the results of the preaching of the gospel in this place many shall be brought to the Knowledge of Jesus, upon whom as on a sure foundation, his church is to be built up a spiritual house, which shall last for ever, when all the houses made with hands shall have passed away.

N.B. New seats have also been put in the place of worship. It was omitted to mention them in their proper place

Alex McDougall


The general public in and around Bowmore contributed liberally towards the repairing of the (Tabernacle) Chapel. Mr Donald ?McVarcure one of the members of the church devoted several days to the work of calling on various individuals for subscriptions in company with the missionary. They said Mr Donald ? McVarcure also wrought with his own hands for a whole day in digging up the earth and gravel which were cleaned out from under the floor. And also paid a man for three days doing the same work besides contributing a liberal sum of money. Mr Donald Mc Fadyen another member also sent one of his men for a day in addition to his subscriptions.

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