The Remarkable Rev Robert Kirk

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Today's kirk at BalquhidderIt is not often that fairies kidnap a minister, or that thereafter he has been said to be in perpetual charge of his parish since he may return from fairyland at any moment, but this fate has befallen Robert Kirk (1644–1692). He was the seventh son of James Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle   In November 1664 he became the minister of Balquhidder, and in June 1685 he was appointed to his father's old charge. In both parishes he studied his parishioners’ beliefs, particularly about second sight, supposedly possessed by seventh sons, and about fairies.

Kirk's parishes were entirely Gaelic speaking, and the minister was the scholarly author of the first complete metrical psalter in Gaelic in 1684. But Kirk was not ‘a one-trick pony’; thereafter he became involved in two projects financed by the scientist Robert Boyle. The first was a Bible in Irish type, but the Irish characters were unfamiliar, and Kirk proposed that it should be transliterated into roman characters and carried out the task himself. This was during the time of considerable uncertainty in the Scottish church, which succeeded the political events of 1688. Kirk, who was something of a ‘Vicar of Bray’, had been permitted to continue in the ministry despite his unrepentant episcopalianism. The intrepid minister then went to London for eight months to supervise the printing of what came to be known as Kirk's Bible, of 1690. In addition to the Bible, a vocabulary of 464 difficult words foreshadowed future Gaelic dictionaries.