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Glenbuchat Heritage

31 Glenbucket Communion Token 1792
The Glenbuchat Image Library
31 Glenbucket Communion Token 1792

Dr Alan Carr of Dulax Glenbuchat has acquired a lead Glenbucket Kirk Communion Token of 1792

The token has stamped on it:
K for Kirk
GLEN with N the wrong way round
BUCKET seems to have an I* added and with the T rubbed away

* This may reflect an old spelling of;' Buichat'

The Minister at the time was JAMES DOUGLAS, born 1746, son of Robert D., Towie, educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen, 1758-62; licen. by the Presb. 31st Aug. 1768; ord. to Glenbuchat 26th Aug. 1772 ; pres. by Lieut.-Colonel Leith of Leithhall in June, trans, and adm. 1st Aug. 1787 ; died 29th Nov. 1823.

From ‘Scottish Communion Tokens – in praise of small things, by Frances Simmons’

It’s a Scottish communion token, one of more than 7000 different types spanning three centuries. This type of early identity check would have been given only to those who, after an examination by the elders of the kirk and the minister himself, were deemed worthy to take communion in remembrance of the Lord’s Supper, and were neither a spy nor a traitor. It could provide safety during the Killing Times of the late 17th century when church and state were embattled and tens of thousands of people were killed. It controlled the lives of people within their own small communities.

By its very simplicity and the power, this token tells part of a great story of battles between conscience and duty, church and state, Covenanters and Jacobites, and of the Scottish desire for independence from the English. In isolation, it’s a slight piece. But when so many tokens are gathered systematically, mapping the various twists and secessions in the church by town and hamlet, then you have a solid research base from which to make a chronicle.

Communion tokens, although originating in Calvin’s Geneva in the 16th century, are a particularly Scottish phenomenon, plotting the social and Protestant church history of Scotland over three hundred years and more. The Church of Scotland was reformed along Presbyterian lines in the 16th century. But with the restoration of King Charles II, state and church were no longer separated in Scotland and England; bishops were reinstated and given a place in government. Presbyterians believed that Christ was the head of the Kirk, not the king, and that spiritual power flows upwards from the kirk (church) elders, not down from the king via the bishops in the Episcopalian tradition. So signing any of the various Scottish National Covenants was seen as an act of treason. The square lead token from Logie in Fife shows the typical format of shortened version of the name of the kirk with the date of issue (in this case Minister Robert Bogie, 1767-1802)

Given the importance placed on examination of conscience and the stress on learning the scriptures prior to taking communion, it is hardly surprising that the two most popular sacred texts mentioned on tokens are This do in remembrance of Me – from the Gospel of St Luke, chapter 22, verse 19, referring directly to the Lord’s Supper, and But let a man examine himself St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This is usually abbreviated to 1.COR xi.24 – 28 – a warning to the would-be communicant to judge himself or be judged harshly by the community and ultimately by God.

The communion service might have been held only once or twice a year, especially in the early years of the Protestant Church in Scotland, whether Episcopalian or Presbyterian. It was a very important and solemn occasion for the community. Communion was taken under the form of bread and wine in memory of the Lord’s Supper at communal tables set up especially for the occasion, often numbered for sittings as witnessed by the tokens, such as the one for Craigie, Ayr of 1835, with the number 2 punched into it. Normally 10-20 people would gather at a table so numbers up to 4 or 5 are normal. However, a token in the Macmillan collection from Cromarty in Ross, 1883, has the number 49! This is feasible as there are written records of more than 2000 communicants at some services.

With so many different tokens needed for the various kirks and ministers, lead, or an alloy like pewter, was an inexpensive and practical material for tokens. Lead has a low melting point so tokens could be made by a local blacksmith. The early tokens were cast, but those of the 19th century tend to be struck from dies made by professional die-sinkers and engravers, chiefly Kirkwood in Edinburgh. Other materials have been used, such as brass and bronze or in rare cases silver. But lead seems more appropriate. As Cresswell says in his book on World Communion tokens now out of print, it’s “as if to point the lesson that God uses the humble of this world to fulfil His purposes”.

The form and style of the token developed gradually, but retained its plainness and functionality. Many of the early tokens simply have the rough initial of the church or minister with perhaps the letter K for kirk (church) on them, the reverse blank. Others are unattributed with simply a letter K. The inclusion of sacred texts, either in full or just chapter and verse came later, with the addition of certain symbols. Some are quite distinctive like the token from Northmaven, Shetland, 1809 William Watson Minister, 1809-30; the fish was not only the early Christian church symbol Ichthus but also the economic mainstay of the local community. The community on this most remote Scottish island of Fair Isle at that time numbered almost 400 – now it’s about 70. About 134 islanders emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1861 and the population never recovered.

The Melrose token is a rebus with a hammer or mell and a rose. Other symbols illustrate the fundamentals of the service, like the token from Aberdeen Old Machar of 1820 with two wine cups and a plate of bread within the square table border. Or this 1817 token from Glenisla, Angus, simply shows the communion cup, and again a reference to St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

Only Episcopal tokens have the cross and I H S monogram like those from Turriff Aberdeen, and Forfar, Angus 1754, while the Presbyterian tokens very often feature the burning bush with the device nec tamen consumebatur – ‘and yet the bush was not consumed’, referring to the account of Abraham’s sacrifice. This was the emblem of Presbyterianism and of the Free Church of Scotland in the 19th century.

With the Disruption of 1843 and the creation of the Free Church of Scotland there was a massive re-issue of tokens. Developments in minting technology meant that stock tokens could be inexpensively made. They were slightly more decorative than before. Some referred to a single area, others were for general use. The oval and the oblong with cut corners dominated but all sorts of shapes were used from triangles to hearts.

By the middle of 20th century the metal communion token had died out in favour of the communion card. But by this time the practice of issuing communion tokens had been exported to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and wherever Scots had emigrated, taking their religion with them.

From ‘Communion Tokens of The British Isles By David Powell’

Scottish Church History

Scottish ecclesiastical history is littered with feuding factions which were forever splitting and merging as theological whim led them. Suffice it that apart from the established Church of Scotland, also k/a "the Kirk", the following were amongst the other main players, and were frequently the users of tokens:

1733-date: Church of the {first} Secession, also k/a the Associated Congregation of Original Seceders; now of minimal size after major splits in 1747, 1806 and 1852.
1761-1847 Relief Church, also k/a Church of the second secession.
1820-1847 United Secession Church, consisting of the middle two of four factions into which the Church of the {first} Secession had subdivided/
1847-1900 United Presbyterian Church, formed by a merger of the Relief and United Secession Churches.
1843-1900 Free Church; broke from the Kirk in 1843 under Dr. Thomas Chalmers' leadership, absorbed two other factions in 1852 and 1876 and suffered a split in 1892 when the Free Presbyterians broke away.
1900-date United Free church; formed by a merger of the United Presbyterian Church and the remnant of the Free Church in 1900, and partially absorbed back into the Kirk in 1929. The other faction remains independent.

Table And Serial Numbers

Larger churches often served communion at two or more tables, and used the tokens to administrate who used which; i.e. to ensure an equal division between the servers, to speed things up and prevent crowding, in addition to purely defining eligibility. It is possible in some cases to find most of a church's surviving tokens as a hoard, in which case a token for each table can be procured. Few people collect in this manner, in the same way that few pay overmuch attention to the die numbers on Victorian shillings; most simply content themselves with one specimen of whatever die number comes to hand, with the result the maximum table number remains unknown and unrecorded for the majority of churches. The number of tables is often four or six, occasionally eight or ten; double figure numbers are rare {ex. Auchterarder, B.0582}. The earliest table numbers, are usually counterstruck on the back of uniface pieces, and can be found by about the 1780s {B.2214, B.4496}; by the second quarter of the 19th century they are often an integral part of the design, although counterstriking is often still employed in preference. In the sample represented by my own collection, 14% have table numbers.

By about 1700-1720, here the local craftsman had the ability, a limited design starts to appear, usually in the form of beading; however, simple initials remain the norm for much of the early part of the 18th cent. If the second latter of a pair is K, this often stands for Kirk, although it could alternatively be the initial of the minister's surname; thus, for any initial {e.g. C} there could be a lot of pieces with similar initials {e.g. CK} which, although they appear to be related superficially, have in fact nothing more in common than that their parish names begin with the same letter.

Picture added on 26 February 2017 at 15:36
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