Church Beadles of the Western Isles

Today I came upon a phrase previously unknown to me – ‘Church Beadle’.

Apparently, in the past it was the Beadle’s role to take the Minister’s Robes from Manse to Church, assist with the seating of the Parishioners, ensure Order was maintained during the Service, and then return the Robes to the Manse.

There are over 100 Church Beadles recorded in the Scottish censuses of 1841-1901, including 7 women, but only 2 in the whole of the Western Isles:

John Mackay, 28, Church Beadle, Scarista, Harris. b. Harris

John would therefore have been a visitor to or, perhaps, (as seems more likely to me) a resident of the Manse at Scarista which is known today as Scarista House:

He was also one of Finlay J Macdonald’s Great grandfather’s, being the father of Margaret (Peggy) Mackay who was the mother of Finlay’s father, John Macdonald.

Angus Macdonald, 67, Free Church Beadle, South Dell, Barvas, b. Cross, Ross-shire

One of only 3 Free Church Beadles recorded in the censuses (the others being in 1851 & 1891 and on the mainland) Angus was serving the Manse and Church both built in 1850, 7 years after the ‘establishment’ of the Free Church.

An interesting account of Barvas from 1845:


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