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Collam Meeting House

By Donald A Mackay & Kirsty Macleod - Added 16/04/2014

Audio: Donald Alex Mackay and his sister Chirsty MacLeod tell the Harris Historical Society about the old meeting house at Collam and how it affected the community once the congregation split and joined other denominations.  Dur:2.52

Harris, in common with other rural communities in the Highlands and Islands, prior to having good road transport links to larger centres of population had small meeting houses in which people gathered for religious services.  The churches provided missionaries to serve the various communities and some covered a number of villages, e.g. there was a Church of Scotland missionary living in Grosebay who took services on consecutive weeks in Scadabay and Drinishader meeting houses.  Grosebay and Scadabay are now closed but a few locals still gather for a weekly prayer/fellowship meeting in Drinishader (2013).  

Donald Alex and Chirsty of Grosebay talk about a meeting house in neighbouring Collam that served the area at a time when the majority, if not all, of the population belonged to the established church, The Church of Scotland.  Everyone in the surrounding area attended the church but the congregation eventually split (1880s) with some staying in the Church of Scotland and others joining the Free Presbyterian Church.   

Collam meeting house was used for all religious services including marriages and baptisms and Donald Alex recalled that his uncle had got married there, the split coming just prior to their parent's marriage.  Chirsty's mother told her about that time and how it had spoiled the closeness between neighbours and how they changed from having a shared view of religion to each believing their own view was better or truer.  The old meeting house closed and the pews were taken to the new Church of Scotland meeting house in Grosebay.  Chirsty could remember the incumbent missionary at Collam, Mr Fraser, as an old man with a long grey beard.  He left to join the Free Presbyterian Church.  

At that time ministers could call a meeting at a particular house to question families on their faith and biblical knowledge.  Everyone was expected to attend or they would have to make known the reason for their absence.