Cross Church of Scotland (Established) 1828-1905

After the Reformation of 1560 the parish of Ness was originally part of the parish of Barvas. It was not until 1828 that a ‘Parliamentary Church’ was built in Ness. This, along with several others built to a design by Thomas Telford, stood for over a century on Cross machair. The old manse is still occupied to this day although the Session Records indicate the Church was demolished in 1949.

The first Presbyterian minister in Ness was Rev Finlay Cook who was ‘presented’ by George IV on 21st April 1829 and admitted on 29th July 1829. He was subsequently ‘Translated’ to the East Church Inverness November 1833.

Rev John Macrae (Macrath Mor) was presented by William IV 12 July 1833 to Cross and ordained 1833. Mr Macrae was Translated to Knockbain 26th Sept 1839.

Rev John Finlayson was presented by Queen Victoria 11th Dec 1839 and ordained in 1840. He joined the Free Church in 1843 and became the minister of Bracadale Free Church the same year.


As will be noted above ministers of the old ‘Established’ Church of Scotland were ‘presented’ by a heritor or landlord such as the Monarch. As a result the people of the Congregation had no say in who their minister was. This was to lead to conflict within the Church of Scotland as many fought for the right to choose and call their own minister. This was to lead ultimately to what is known in Scottish history as ‘the Disruption’ in 1843, when a large number of ministers, elders and members came out of the Church of Scotland to form the ‘Church of Scotland Free’ or the Free Church. At the disruption the majority of the Established Church of Scotland in Ness came out into the Free Church of Scotland, although there still remained a minority of the Established Church, who continued to worship in their church (known locally as Eaglais MhicPhail) on Cross machair.

The following also served as Ministers in the old Cross Church of Scotland:

Rev James Gunn ordained 5th May 1853, translated to Uig 25th march 1857.

Rev Roderick Fraser presented by Queen Victoria 14th Aug 1857, ordained to Cross on 23rd Sept 1857, translated to Uig 3rd February 1859.

Rev James Bain presented by Queen Victoria 10th June 1859, ordained 27th Sept 1859, translated to Kilfinan 2nd Sept 1860.

Rev Donald Mackay presented by Queen Victoria on 18th February 1861, ordained 8th May 1861, translated to Knock 7th Aug 1878.

Rev Godfrey William Bosville McRae ordained to Cross on 24th Sept 1879. It is recorded that he was deposed on 17th November 1887, but that the sentence was recalled by the General Assembly 28th May 1888. He demitted on 10 March 1889 and died in Edinburgh 10 February 1914.

Rev John Mackay translated from Gaelic chapel Rothesay, admitted 16th Jan 1900 and translated to Plockton 4th April 1905.

Rev John Macphail (Mhicphail) born South Shawbost 25th Sept 1843 ordained to Benbecula 27th Nov 1889, translated to Uig 22 April 1890. Translated to Ness 5th October 1905. Mr Macphail was the last Minister of Cross Church of Scotland. He is buried in the old Ness cemetery at Swainbost.

Rev John MacPhail


eaglais mhicphail

Cross  ‘Parliamentary ‘ Church  . The church known locally as Eaglais MhicPhail was one of 32 churches built in the Highlands and Islands to a design by the celebrated architect Thomas Telford. All the Churches were built to the same plan , and were  constructed  with money granted by Parliament  (Hence the name ‘ Parliamentary’) in the 1820’s to construct additional churches in the rural highlands and islands. The churches  and accompanying manses were to cost no more than £1500 each  to build, and so were constructed in a relatively plain manner.  The Parliamentary church at Cross was one of two built in Lewis, the other was at Knock ( Point).