The presbyteries of the Church of Scotland had to deal with a considerable volume of business. A contested change of minister in the parish of Kells is used as an illustration of the way in which such business could prevent presbyteries from fulfilling the tasks envisaged in guidance manuals. Even without such exceptional events, the presbytery had a good deal to do in ensuring the supply of properly qualified incumbents for the parishes under its control. The early eighteenth century was marked by a determined effort to have parishes visited by the presbytery. The partial success but eventual failure of such attempts is examined through a detailed examination of practice in a number of presbyteries across the country. A practice which was clearly impractical was translated into monitoring at a distance through the practice of ‘privy censures’ and the inspection of local records. This helped to consolidate a distinctive focus on the keeping of detailed records.
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