Visitors to the Centre, at the weekend were asking about the Heritage Centre building. The present "former Church of St. Peter's" was constructed in 1779, after the previous church fell into disrepair. A further wing was added in the late Victorian period - and an alcove was also added to house the organ. However, it gave the opportunity to add a little theatre to the account by mentioning the two stones which sit at the entrance of the Heritage Centre.
These were brought to the centre after the construction of the Peterculter Golf Club. They had stood on the spot of a tragedy which took place in the summer of 1779 when two farm servants were apparently gathering stone to help in the construction of the church building.
Session Minute Book
On 16th October 1673, "the fabrick of the kirk fell to the ground," but being temporarily repaired the church did service till 1779, when a new church, capable of accommodating 550 people, was erected. The date of 1779 is upon the building, and a slab built into the north wall of the churchyard, initialled M.J.K., and dated 1715, commemorates the incumbency of the Rev. John Kennedy, who was the minister from 1704 to 1723.
“Deeside”by Alex Inkson McConnochie
The present church, which has just been repaired, was erected in 1779, its immediate predecessor having been built after 16th October 1673, on which date the former church felt o the ground. On 10th July, 1779, two men were killed by lightning on the farm of Alton, opposite Maryculter House, while engaged loading stones for the building of the church. Two stones (now heedlessy thrown aside) – one marked “A.D. 1779”, the other “R.B.”- were set up to mark the fatal spot.
The following account of the incident was reported in the "Caledonian Mercury" of 19th July 1779.
Extract of a letter from Aberdeen, July 12.
“Saturday last was perhaps the hottest day ever remembered here. A little after 10 in the forenoon, a Mercurial thermometer, with a Farinheit’s scale, stood (within doors, hung on the back of a room, fronting north-east) at 77 degrees; and being hung up on the outside of a window of the same room, in the shade, rose to 89 degrees, at which time there was no wind; but a brisk breeze arising a little after, the thermometer fell to 85 degrees. Another thermometer within the room, on the back-wall, also fell from 77 to 75 ½, and both remained so till after 12 o’clock, whon (sic) they fell to 75, in consequence of a thunder cloud, which produced much rain.
“The same day, about four in the afternoon, Andrew Donald and Robert Burnet, servants to a farmer in Kennarty, in the parish of Peterculter, driving two carts, were struck dead by the lightning, together with two of the horses. A son of the farmer’s, who was riding on one of the carts, was knocked off and stunned by the shock, but is recovered.
The story had another twist - as documented in the Session minutes of 24th October 1779:
This day after sermon, Session met and constituted. Elspet Masson & George Donald, both residing in Kennerty, having been warned to attend this diet of Session, were called in & compeared. Elspet Masson still persisted in her former confession, declaring George Donald in Kennerty was the father of her child, and that while her blood was warm, she would give it to him & to no other man. Then George Donald was asked if he was the father of the said Elspet Masson's child, to which he replied, that he was not & that he had never been guilty of uncleanness with her. He impudently added that he did not care tho' all the roives & lasses in the parish gave him little ones, he had nothing to do with them, & used such insolent & indecent language, as made it necessary to give him a rebuke. Then Elspet Masson was asked if she could mention any circumstances that might afford some presumption against George Donald. She replied, that on the Friday before George Donald was struck down, and Kennerry's two servants were killed with Thunder & Lightning (which was the ninth day of July last) she (the said Elspet Masson), rose before the rest of the family to brew, and that the said George Donald likewise rose to help her to carry in water. That as they were returning with a freight of the water, George Donald laid down the barrow with the tub & water, took hold of her by the arms, & carried her forcibly into the kiln-barn, where he was guilty of uncleanness with her. The declarent further testifies that Margaret Colly mother to the said George Donald, had promised that if she (Elspet Masson) would name any other man as the father of her child, & not her son, she should have her countenance as long as she lived. The Session considering the foresaid George Donald as an obstinate offender, resolved to delay his prosecution for some time till they should see if any impression could be made on his heart, of if any means could be used to bring him to a confession of his guilt.
As they say- "It never rain's but it pours."