The following extract was written sometime in the first half of the 20th century. It has been passed through the generations of the family to a current member of the church. Perhaps someone may be able to help fill the gaps between 1912 and the present day – please contact John Noble if you can help in this respect.
The Baptist faith was an unknown quantity in Fraserburgh till nearly the middle of the 19th century. Without meaning anything disrespectful and purely recording facts, it has to be pointed out that the fisher people of the district have all along had a decided penchant for embracing every new form of religion that came around. It would almost seem that the more extreme the views from the standards of Old Zion, which at this time was a hated if not despised church, profounded by offshoot after offshoot, each one claiming greater spiritual perfection than the other, the greater attraction they had for the fisher people.
Some new body with strong claims for all that was good; as it opened its doors in Fraserburgh received its quota of supporters. Another new body with still greater claims if finer dogma and Christian perfection followed. So many seceded from the older bodies and joined the latest arrival and so the movement went on ad infinitum. The simple life and emotional temperament of the people had no doubt much to do with the religious revolution which was so marked in the district the first three quarters of the 19th century.
The first disciple representing the Baptist faith who proclaimed the cause in Fraserburgh was Mr G. C. Reid, who visited Fraserburgh in 1840. He represented what at that time was known as the “Campbellites”, and his great doctrine was immersion. This first visit must have been encouraging, for he returned to Fraserburgh in the spring of the following year. His mission took practical shape, for several people applied for admission to the church, and this being granted were immersed in the water of Philorth, where many baptisms have since taken place. The first meeting place of the little band was in the house of one of their number. Thereafter in a room in Cross Street, and next in the old Episcopal House in Mid Street. Afterwards a school room in the same street was secured. For years these Baptists had no minister or preacher, the services being conducted by the leading lights among themselves, many of whom had a wonderful power of extempore praying and preaching.
The great revival ‘ower the water’ about this time greatly helped the latest addition to the local churches. Many people left other bodies and joined the Baptists. Such was the increase that the congregation had to remove to the town hall, where they worshipped for many years. Among the outstanding leaders who helped to found the Baptist church here was Mr George Bruce, Moray House who at the age of 96 was still a regular worshipper.
The congregation had now reached a stage that demanded the services of a regular minister, and in 1872, Rev James Stewart was appointed to the charge. With a minister of their own, the congregation now moved for a church and in 1877 the church in Victoria Street was opened for service. The building which is seated for 300 persons, cost £1800. It was a most comfortable up-to-date church, with a baptistry immediately in front of the pulpit. Mr Stewart was an earnest, evangelical minister who discharged his duties with zeal. Mr Stewart retired in 1879.
Rev A. Monro followed Mr Stewart, but after two years successful ministry he, on account of ill-health, had to seek a milder climate. The church was vacant for a year, and then the Rev Walter Richards was ordained to the charge. This was in 1883. Mr Richards who was educated in Spurgeons Pastors’ College, London was an energetic and devout minister with decided evangelical leaning. For the greater part of Mr Richards pastorate the congregation made marked headway, and much was the regret of the congregation when in 1895 he accepted a call to the Rattray Street Church, Dundee. Mr Richards had occupied the pulpit in Victoria Street for the lengthened period of 12 years.
The next minister was the Rev. Earnest Hughes, an eloquent Welshman whose preaching was of a high order. He was also a scholarly man and altogether above the average preacher. He would have made a name for himself had he remained here, but having been long abroad, the climate was too trying and after a four years’ ministry, he betook himself a sunnier climate.
He was succeeded in 1899 by Rev. David D. Smith, who was one of the most popular ministers that ever occupied the pulpit. In his preaching he showed a native eloquence that was wonderful. He was a great visitor and had a genial and kindly manner that greatly endeared him to his people. His acceptance to a call to Elgin in 1903 caused deep disappointment in the congregation.
He was succeeded by Rev. Mitchell Hughes who was ordained minister in 1904. A native of Pittenweem, Fife, he was educated in Glasgow University and Dunoon Baptist College, from the latter of which he came straight to Fraserburgh. Mt Hughes’ excellent services gave much satisfaction to the congregation and the watchword during his incumbency was “Steady Progress Ahead”. A good pulpit man, Mr Hughes was gifted with a kindly manner and a well stored mind, which made him a welcome guest, not only among his own people but among all circles in the town. He was a devoted worker in every good cause, and he gave his services ungrudgingly all over the district. Mr Hughes, having been appointed to a charge in Broughty Ferry, resigned his pastorate in 1911.
Some little time afterwards Rev. Wilfred T. Farrar was inducted to the church. Mr. Farrar was a native of Elland Edge, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire and came from strongly marked Baptist stock. He was educated at Manchester Baptist College and Manchester University. Mr Farrar was quite a young man on the sunny side of thirty, but he was an impressive and forcible preacher, who caught and kept his hearers’ ears and feelings. He had any amount of enthusiasm and ‘go’ in his constitution, and this, combined with a genial and attractive manner, augured well for his future career. He was a great favourite with his congregation. He was a good sportsman, having during his college days, excelled both at cricket and football.