Records of Crail Kirk Session

Scope and Content

Minutes, 1648-1684 and 1790-1937; Baptisms, 1811-1815, 1819-1837 and 1856-1915; Marriages, 1818-1831 and 1856-1915; Accounts, 1782-1833 and 1840-1920; Church door collection, 1841-1888; Day book, Manse of Crail, 1827-8.

Administrative / Biographical History

The old church of Crail, which was built in 1243, was dedicated to St Malrubh with a later dedication to St Mary, and belonged, prior to the reformation of 1560, to the Cistercian Nunnery of Haddington (East Lothian). In 1517 the church was granted a collegiate foundation and between the years of 1600 and 1646 Crail held a second charge. In 1954, following the 1929 Union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church, the parish church of Crail (known after 1929 as Crail St Mary's) was joined with the former United Free church congregation of Crail St David's. After the union the session continued under the name of Crail and the former St David's church was converted for use as a church hall. In 1976 the Kirk Session of Crail, which sits within the Presbytery of St Andrews, was linked with Kingsbarns.

Each congregation of the Church of Scotland has a Kirk Session, which comprises the minister(s) and the ruling elders, all members of the Session (including the minister) being elders. The elders' duty is care for the spiritual needs of the congregation; each of them has a district of the parish assigned to him/her. The Kirk Session determines the number of elders. The minister is moderator of the Session, and there is a clerk who has custody of all the Session's records. There may also be a treasurer, and an officer or beadle. The Session must have maintained a communion roll, containing the names and addresses of the communicant church members within the parish.

The Kirk Session's duties are to maintain good order amongst its congregation (including administering discipline and superintending the moral and religious condition of the parish), and to implement the Acts of the General Assembly. The Kirk Session is at the base of the pyramid of church courts, and it is subject to the review of the Presbytery in which it is situated, and to the superior courts of the Church. Each Kirk Session elects one of its number to represent it at the Presbytery (and formerly at the Synod).

Into the 19th century, there used to be weekly collections made for the support of the poor, but as the state began to assume responsibility for their support (by means of taxation) so funds collected from communicants might be directed to special schemes (eg support of missionaries), more recently through a weekly freewill offering scheme. Seat or pew rents were also quite common (money paid for a fixed seat in a church), but declined rapidly from the 1950s. Many congregations now have a congregational board, which monitors income and expenditure. Former Free Church congregations often had Deacons' Courts, which had responsibility for the whole property of the congregation, and had to apply spiritual principles in the conduct of their affairs.

Sources: Hew Scott and others (ed.), Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, vols. 5 and 8-11 (Edinburgh, 1915-2000).

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted. Special conditions apply to photographs.

Acquisition Information

Held under charge and superintendence of the Keeper of Records for Scotland.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project, based on description created by Lesley Doig and modified by Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project.

Other Finding Aids

Typescript catalogue available in St Andrews University Library Department of Special Collections and in National Archives of Scotland search rooms.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Related Material

GB 227 CH3/1563 Records of Crail North United Free ChurchGB 227 CH2/819 Records of Kingsbarns Kirk Session