David FORREST (1723-1776)

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Rev David FORREST, was born at Overgrange, West Calder, Midlothian and baptised on 17th November 1723[1], the youngest of four children to William FORREST.

David grew up while the newly formed Associate Presbytery Church[nb 1] was growing in support. He became a Minister but was involved in many disagreements throughout his life, being described as “unruly, crotchety, and impracticable”[2]. A large amount of information on David’s Ministerial life has been taken from books documenting the history of the United Presbyterian Church and from Memoirs he himself wrote, published by his congregation after his death.


1st Page from Memoirs of the Life and Contendings of the Late Reverend Mr. David Forrest – David Forrest (1778)

David describes in his memoirs how at an early age he was influenced to become a Minister himself: “On Sabbath the 26th March 1738, in the 15th year of my age, I went with others of the family to Barnsgill, near Linton, to hear the seceding ministers, where I heard the Rev. Mr Ralph Erskine [the brother of Rev. Ebenezer Erskine who formed the Associate Presbytery Church] and the Rev. Mr Thomas Mair: But I remember only their texts, and some of the psalms sung. However, the truth is, upon the very first sight I got of Mr Erskine coming to the tent, a strong desire was impressed on my mind to be a minister, like that man; which all the discouragements and oppositions I met with afterwards from within and without, could never remove: And of this impression I could neither give a rational nor religious account; how it was, I know not; that it was, I am certain.”

“In the 17th or 18th year of my age, I went to the grammar school, where I met with several interruptions; yet having acquired some tolerable acquaintance with the Latin tongue, and Greek New Testament, I went to Abernethy to the study of Philosophy about the year 1747; during the time I was there, a rupture happened in the Associate Synod, about the Burgess oath[nb 2]. Mr. McEwan, and I were put out of their meeting for prayer, because we had shown some dissatisfaction about making such differences a term of communion, and had they not too positively pushed that point, I had probably gone along with those called Antiburgers, being then, and still of opinion that witnesses for our covenanted principles, should join with, and strengthen one another’s hands, notwithstanding of differences in judgment, about matters of doubtful disputation, according to Rom. xiv. I. Phil iii. 16.”

“After the class was finished, I came home to my father’s house, not knowing what to do, hearing ministers on both sides of the question for some time, and the worthy Mr. Ralph Erskine being preaching a Sabbath at Linlithgow, I heard him, and waited until Monday, when he constitute the session, and as a moderator he subscribed to testimonial, and recommendation of me to his brother Mr. Ebenezer in Stirling, who then taught the students: and here the Lord made use of the same person a second time, in putting me to my work, when I had almost given it over. When I came to Stirling Mr. Erskine read my line, made me welcome, and said, You come last, like the Apostle Paul; wish you may be best. He appointed me a lecture, which I delivered, and a homily upon Mark xvi. 15. – “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”: which I never delivered. Little did that great man of God, or I know, at that time, he was giving me a text, to warrant me now, to relieve part of his congregation, when judicatories are making their pleasure the condition fine qua non of people having a right to Christ the gospel. Mr Erskine having dismissed the students (being no more to teach them) with a solemn prayer, and dedication of them in a manner to the work of the ministry, the like whereof I was never witness unto, nor probably ever will; I returned home with joy."[3]

Controversial Life

On 14th March 1752 David became a licensed Minister under the Presbytery of Edinburgh. He received a call to be ordained in the congregation of Midholm, and another in the congregation of Stow, the competition being decided in his absence by the Supreme Court in favour of Stow. David refused to act as he had not been party to the decision and after one year elapsed he was summoned to appear before the Supreme Court. After an ineffectual attempt to resolve the situation, the Supreme Court appointed a committee to converse with David. In the meantime a call from the congregation of Inverkeithing, which David favoured, was presented, but was dismissed by the Synod on the grounds that he had already been appointed to Stow.

In the following months, committees met with David trying to resolve his arguments, at times he agreed to submitting to ordination at Stow but then retracting his agreement. The synod became involved a number of times, but David argued that the Church Courts had no more right to thrust a congregation upon a minister than they had to thrust a minister on a congregation. He was rebuked, but did not give in and on the 29th January 1755 was finally ordained as Minister for Inverkeithing.

10 years into his post he got into further trouble. He turned his warfare against a Mr Robert Campbell then libelled his neighbour, Mr Smith of Dunfermline for failure to assist at communion. On the 3rd September 1772 he was suspended for contumacy and general unruliness[4][5].


David married in Inverkeithing on 19th February 1757, Christian CRAICH[6], daughter of John CRAICH, bailie and Margaret SWINTOUN.

He died, a widower, on 25th January 1776[7][8] leaving issue:

i. John FORREST, born 1758 in Inverkeithing[9] who died young[10].
ii. Elizabeth FORREST, born on 18th January 1760 in Inverkeithing and baptised on 28th January 1760[11].
iii. John FORREST, born on 3rd November 1761 in Inverkeithing and baptised on the 12th November 1761[12].
iv. David FORREST, born on 13th November 1762 in Inverkeithing, baptised on 17th November 1762[13] but died young and was buried on 14th May 1765[14][15].
v. Alexander FORREST, born on 17th July 1768 in Inverkeithing and baptised on 27th July 1768[16].
vi. David FORREST, born on 4th February 1771 in Inverkeithing and baptised on 27th February 1771[17].

Family records have a transcription of his gravestone[18] (location unknown):

Under this Stone
Rests the Dust of the
Revd. David Forrest
The Noblest work of God
The Burgher Seceders
Near the close of the
XVIII cent
With her Husband
is the Dust of his
Christian Craigh
an amiable Woman


  1. In 1732, the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly passed an Act despite the disapproval of the large majority of individual Presbyteries. A previous Act of 1730 had taken away even the right of complaint, and so the protests of the dissentients were refused. As a result, Rev. Ebenezer Erskine led other ministers to form the first Secession (meaning withdrawal) from the Church of Scotland under the designation of the Associate Presbytery Church. The main source of disagreement with the Church of Scotland was that of Patronage. The Patronage Act passed by the state enabled the Lairds (or landowners) the right to appoint the Minister of his Parish. This went against the tenets of the Presbyterian system which had established the right of elders representing the congregation to make this appointment from the time of the Reformation.
  2. In 1747 the Associate Presbytery Church split. This was because of a religious clause in the oath "I profess and allow with my heart the true religion presently professed within this realm and authorized by the laws thereof" required of all burgesses in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Perth. This division gave rise to the Burghers (in favour of the oath) and Anti-Burghers (against).


  1. Old Parochial Register, Births, West Calder, OPR Ref. 701/0010 0116
  2. History of the Congregations of the United Presbyterian Church 1733-1900: Volume II – Rev Robert Small, D.D. (1904) pp428-430
  3. Memoirs of the Life and Contendings of the Late Reverend Mr. David Forrest – David Forrest (1778) pp1-3
  4. History of the Congregations of the United Presbyterian Church 1733-1900: Volume I – Rev Robert Small, D.D. (1904) pp362-364
  5. History of the Secession Church – Rev John M'Kerrow (1841) pp515-519
  6. Old Parochial Register, Marriages, Inverkeithing, OPR Ref. 432/0020 0307
  7. Memoirs of the Life and Contendings of the Late Reverend Mr. David Forrest – David Forrest (1778)
  8. Last Will and Testament of Rev David Forrest (1777) Ref. CC20/4/24 St Andrews Commissary Court
  9. Old Parochial Register, Births, Inverkeithing, OPR Ref. 432/0010 0361
  10. Given that another John is born of the same parents in 1761, it is assumed this John died before that date.
  11. Old Parochial Register, Births, Inverkeithing, OPR Ref. 432/0010 0369
  12. Old Parochial Register, Births, Inverkeithing, OPR Ref. 432/0010 0381
  13. Old Parochial Register, Births, Inverkeithing, OPR Ref. 432/0010 0387
  14. Given that another David is born of the same parents in 1771, it is assumed this David died before that date.
  15. Memoirs of the Life and Contendings of the Late Reverend Mr. David Forrest – David Forrest (1778) pp32-33 referring to a letter explaining his reasons for refusing the appointment at Stow, sent to a church synod held 14 May 1765, but apparently not discussed there: "my testimony and child were both buried the same day”.
  16. Old Parochial Register, Births, Inverkeithing, OPR Ref. 432/0010 0422
  17. Old Parochial Register, Births, Inverkeithing, OPR Ref. 432/0010 0449
  18. Gravestone inscription, copied to notepaper found in effects of Margaret Thomson Stephenson