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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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war of words which ensued between the divine and his patron at the close of the service did not reach the public ear, but henceforth all real friendship was at an end between them. Sir George next day proceeded to Tranent and had two front seats in the gallery of the Parish Church there specially fitted up, one for the use of his household and the other for the use of the tenantry at St. Clement's Wells, and he continued to sit under the ministration of the Rev. John Henderson until the change at the Disruption.
Mr. Cunningham left the Establishment in 1843. He left a large and wealthy congregation behind him, and although a very respectable following went out with him, it was anything but plain sailing for a great number of years.
Among those in office who accompanied their minister out of the church were Messrs Robert Hislop, brewer and distiller, elder, William Alexander, salt manufacturer, elder, and Alexander Gumming, Preston, joiner, elder. Messrs M'Pherson, Meek, and Drysdale were afterwards appointed, the former two elders and the latter a deacon, in the new congregation. Mr Robert Storie was appointed precentor.
The first meeting-place of the Free Church congregation was in the " Malt Barns, " directly at the foot of Harlo Hill, on the north side of the road, and kindly put at their service by Mr Hislop. The barns had been used by the new congregation barely a year, when again Mr Hislop stepped in with a grant of that piece of land whereon the present church stands. In good time the four walls were raised and an asphalt roof set over the building.
For close upon twenty years the " felt roofed building " remained, but signs of decay were showing. When a shower came on, the rain-drops had no sympathy for the worshippers. But a crisis was at hand since the rain had found a way in, as sure as it happened to be a sunshiny day the tar began to melt on top and found its way in too, when the dresses of ladies and gentlemen alike got spoiled; and at last the " tarred roof" was doomed.
The church was repaired in 1866, and again in 1878, when something approaching £1500 was spent upon it. In 1891 it was enlarged by the erection of a gallery, etc., at a cost of about £450. Mr Cunningham remained minister of the church until his decease on August 7, 1878. He left two daughters and three sons. (See " Distinguished Physicians, " etc. ) Of those who joined the Free Church in 1843 only five now remain, two Miss M'Phersons, two Miss Kerrs, and Miss Storie.
The following extract is from the records of the Free Church Presbytery of Haddington and Dunbar:
WILLIAM BRUCE CUNNINGHAM.
" The Presbytery while recording their deep and heartfelt sorrow because of the death of one who was dear to them, and was possessed of so many estimable qualities, at the same time desire to express their gratitude to God, that he has been so long spared to them, and to the congregation to which he ministered.
" Few are so long spared to their people and their church, and few have ministered so long in one place, and continued in ordinary vigour and strength, almost to the very end. Mr Cunningham was born in 1806, and was ordained at Prestonpans in 1833. He entered on his ministry just at the commencement of the " ten years' conflict, " and he was one of several young men of devoted piety and earnest zeal, who about that time came into the Presbytery of Haddington, and by whose means a new interest was kindled in evangelical religion in a district which for long had been almost entirely under the rule of Moderatism and where the sound of the Gospel was never heard from the pulpits save of four or five of its ministers. Mr Cunningham at once entered with energy and zeal on his great work, and the church of Prestonpans was filled as it had not been before.
"He early took a prominent share in the business of the church courts. He took a decided part in the great controversy of the day, and when the Disruption came he had no hesitation in casting in his lot with those who by the grace of God were enabled to give up their earthly all for the glory of the Redeemer's name and kingdom,
" Shortly after the Disruption, his congregation, along with that of Cockenzie, was disjoined from the Presbytery of Haddington and united to that of Dalkeith. The Presbyteries of Haddington and Dunbar being at the same time united into one. Some years afterwards, in 1864, the congregation of Prestonpans was again united to Haddington Presbytery, and he resumed his place, receiving a very cordial welcome. Of the band of young men, already referred to, who came into the Presbytery about the same time as Mr. Cunningham, he alone remained in it to the close of his life.
" He was a sound and accomplished theologian, and well versed in matters of ecclesiastical polity, with a correct
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