A Semi -Regular Photo Blog about Life in Northern New South Wales, Australia.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Free Kirk: Maclean

A severe and austere version of Presbyterianism is preached at the Free Kirk in Maclean. It is claimed to be the oldest church in the Clarence Valley still in use in it's original building.
The Kirk features prominently in Shirley Walker's novel Ghost at the Wedding: a true story. The following extracts are very evocative of the buildings and it's Calvinist worshippers.

"There are still one or two Free Kirks standing, alone and almost deserted, in the northern valleys. One, built in 1864, sits on a rise above the meeting of two arms of the Clarence, the tide still drawing worshippers to its doors. The building has been washed clean as a bone by the storms of more than a century, scoured by the winds of heaven. Dappled reflections from the river play upon its bare walls, its only decoration a carved timber bargeboard and the filigree of hornets' and swallows' nests beneath the eaves."

"These people were all Free Kirkers, who had broken away from the Presbyterian Church of Scotland because of what they consid­ered the lax and worldly ways of Edinburgh. They were the new Pharisees, the true inheritors of Calvin and John Knox. Anything that might have brought beauty to the eye or joy to the heart was for­bidden. Music was especially distrusted, even the singing of hymns and the playing of the organ, for that could lead to levity and sin. Only the Psalms of David, led by the Precentor, usually known as the Chanter, were allowed."
To read more extracts of this true story click here. 
To read about the very interesting author click here.

This is my contribution to Dragonstar's Weekend in Black and White. Click here for the meme.


  1. Very interesting. The shadows work beautifully here.

  2. Great shot in B&W. Good composition!

  3. Beautiful picture you show.
    Wishing you a good weekend.
    Hanne Bente / hbt.finus.dk

  4. I found this very interesting and looked up a bit more behind the Free Kirk. I see that in 2010 they voted to allow hymns and musical accompaniment. I wondered what the singing of the hymns sounds like but I guess given their austere ways it was a bit much to hope for a youtube clip.

  5. so crisp and beautiful. the shadow is great.

  6. Thanks for the link to the longer passage in the book. Very interesting.

  7. Excellent lines against the sky. I'm surprised that the decorated bargeboards were allowed, but they add great shadows!


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