Parishes and Ministers
In Roman Catholic times it is quite possible that there were many small parishes on Mull. Anywhere with a place-name beginning with ‘Kil’ or ‘Cill’ (church) was a parish. However, by the 16th century only seven parishes are recorded. This remained the case until the Reformation in 1560, when the Protestant Church was established. The parishes were then joined together to form the Parish of Mull.
At the revolution in 1688, when William and Mary came to the throne, the Parish of Kilninian and Kilmore was established. This parish included all the north part of Mull. The rest of the island to the south became the Parish of Ross.
Around 1720 Ross was divided into the three parishes known as Kilfinichen and Kilvickeon and the Parish of Torosay.
During the early part of the 18th century there were three parishes – Kilninian and Kilmore, covering the north of the island, Kilfinichen and Kilvickeon, including Ross of Mull and Iona, and the parish of Torosay. These parishes remain today.
At that time life as a minister was hard. They lived in small, heather thatched cottages with earthen floors. A minister’s work was physically demanding and unremitting with a very small remuneration, which was partly paid in oats or barley. Landowners or heritors, as they were known, were responsible for the stipend.
As well as taking church services, a minister had to attend meetings, visit his flock regularly and, in the early days, perform baptisms or marriages often in the home. Since towns and villages were scattered over a wide area and there were few tracks or bridges, this took up much of his time and energy.
Mediaeval chapels were used for worship and they were nearly always in a bad state of repair, dark, damp and dirty. Service attendance was compulsory and in many places there were two services on a Sunday. If there was a bell it was rung three times – once before the service, a second time as the congregation arrived and the final time when the minister entered. As few people could read, a precentor read the psalms and led the singing, with the congregation following.