Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956

by Wm. Newton McCartney June 3, 1956

The Old Church 1856 - 1894

One Hundred Years
On Sunday, June 3, 1956, The Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay South Church celebrated its centenary and a backward glance over its history may be of interest. One hundred years ago, the district, which is now The Parish of Skelmorlie, comprised the estates of Eglinton, Wemyss Bay and Kelly. It had a population of 304, of which number it is said that 40 were summer visitors and a large proportion of the remainder children. In 1853 a request was put before The Greenock Presbytery for a new church to serve the district and there was a good deal of discussion regarding where a new church building should be placed. The minister of Inverkip wanted it as far away as possible from his church and, for a while, it looked as though the new church would be built at The Meigle. The minister of Largs, on the other hand, said that it should be built near enough the Kelly Burn to serve the residents of Wemyss Bay. This view prevailed at last and it was built on the present site, the ground of which was gifted to the trustees by The Earl of Eglinton, who retained the right to claim it for one shilling a year.


SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH - 1856 - 1956 ONE HUNDRED YEARS by Wm. Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956 Curiously enough, when the church was built, it was called The Kelly Bridge Chapel. It is under this name that it appears in the Presbytery records. As there was, at that time, no 'Parish of Skelmorlie', it took the status of a 'Chapel of Ease' in the parishes of Largs and Inverkip. In 1855 building operations commenced and the new chapel was opened in the following year. The original managers and trustees were - Rear-Admiral Montgomerie of Brigend, George Clark Arbuthnot of Beach House, James Scott of Kelly, Charles Wilsone Brown of Castle Wemyss and the Rev. John Kinross, minister of the Parish of Largs. The actual date of the opening of the new 'Chapel of Ease' seems uncertain, as, for some months before the first minister was appointed, a Mr. Patullo, who afterwards went to the church at Parton, in Kirkcudbrightshire, occupied the pulpit. The first minister actually appointed was the Rev. Walter Little Gilmour Boyd, M.A., who was elected on April 21, 1856 and ordained on September 25th of that year. At this ordination service the Rev. John Kinross of Largs, who fought so hard to have the church erected on its present site, presided and preached. There was also present the father of the young minister, the Rev. Dr. Boyd of Glasgow and, one may hope, the young minister's brother, the distinguised A. K. H. Boyd of St. Andrews. In this matter of fixing the actual date of the opening, one may find in a church record dated May 9, 1906, the following passage - "The Moderator (The Rev. John McGilchrist) drew the attention of members to the fact that the first constitution of the Skelmorlie church had been granted by the General Assembly on June 2, 1856 and that this, accordingly, was the Jubilee Year of the church. A proposal to the effect that the occasion should be suitably recognised by a special service was heartily approved. Mr. McGilchrist took the Jubilee Service himself. His text was 'The Burning Bush' (Exodus III, verse 2). At the evening service there was a choir of forty children. We may conclude then that, if the date of June 2, 1906 was good enough for the Jubilee, June 3, 1956 may be suitable enough for the centenary. The Kelly Bridge 'Chapel of Ease' was a very dainty little building. Pictures of it, internally and externally, are still available. It was described at the time as a 'model of eccesiatical architecture' and was erected at a cost of £1,300 - less than a modern 'prefab'. The young minister devoted himself wholeheartedly to the task of beautifying and enlarging the building. Before very long, in 1858, he had two little transepts added to the south end of the chapel. By means of these extensions the building was capable of seating 400. In the year 1860, the 'Chapel of Ease' attained the dignity of a 'parish church', the newly established stretching down the firth as far as St. Fillan's and included the estates of Eglinton, Kelly and Wemyss Bay. The parish is what is called a "quoad sacra" parish. Largs retains the "Teinds" as far as the limit of the Eglinton Estate and Inverkip retains the "Teinds" of Kelly and Wemyss Bay. On June 2, 1865, (see now and elsewhere Donald Kelly's 2006-written article regarding the history and the dating of Skelmorlie church's organs) the young minister did a very daring thing, he introduced an organ into the church services. It is roundly asserted that the Skelmorlie organ was the first organ ever played in a Church of Scotland service, it actually the pioneer organ of The Church of Scotland. The innovation met with strenuous opposition from many quarters. Anthems were sung, prose Psalms were chanted, to the amazement of the whole community. But, these innovations were confined to the afternoon service. At the morning service, the old traditions were adhered to until, gradually, a more tolerant attitude came into being. Of course there were some who maintained their opposition to the end. The Rev. Mr. Boyd's brother, the famous "A.K.H. Boyd" of a former generation writes, "Once I was in a railway carriage, a hundred miles from Skelmorlie, when a familiar name fell on my ear. I looked and two old women went on, in spiteful tones, about the doings in my brother's church - 'They call it Boyd's Theatre', one of them said". It was not until July 10, 1870 that the church appointed its elders. Prior to this the minister was assisted, in the administration of The Sacrament, either by his father, the Rev. Dr. Boyd of Glasgow, or by elders from a distance, outwith the parish. Two years later Mr. Boyd's ministry came to a sudden end. He died, aged 39, on January 4, 1872, after a ministry of just over fifteen years, 1856 – 1872. Dr. Storry wrote the epitaph inscribed on the memorial tablet, transferred from the wall of the original church to the back of the present building.


SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH - 1856 - 1956 ONE HUNDRED YEARS by Wm. Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956 By this time, the railway having come to Wemyss Bay in 1865, mansion houses were being built along the twenty-five foot terraced beach, which is such a notable natural feature of the firth and on the hill above and behind the old sea cliffs. Before very long, it was stated that, from Castle Wemyss to Skelmorlie Castle, there was more wealth here than in any other parish of like size in the whole of Scotland. With the quick growth of building and an ever-increasing number of summer visitors, it was felt, in the early 1890's, that something more spacious should take the place of the dainty little parish church beneath the cliff and the problem was placed before the architects Messrs. John Honeyman and Keppie. Though the reconstruction and adaptation of an existing building is always a problem, the difficulties were at length overcome and the new church building opened for worship on October 13, 1895, the preacher being the Rev. Professor Charteris, D.D., of Edinburgh. The architectural features of the reconstructed church have met with universal approval. In the reconstruction, the old 1856 church building became a useful and imposing hall eminently suited for Sunday School and other congregational activities. The whole building, outside and in, is of a beautiful warm-tinted red sandstone from the local quarries. The entrance to the church is at the base of the tower, the outer door being deeply recessed and richly moulded. The details of the interior are much richer and delicate than those of the exterior. The high rounded roof is of a darkly dressed timber. The style of architecture has been described as that which prevailed about the middle of the 13th century. There is a side aisle separated from the nave by five arches. Steps at the south end of the church lead up to the chancel, which contains an organ chamber with openings towards the chancel and the side aisle. The entire mason work was by a local builder, Mr. W. W. Oswald. The cost of the reconstruction was £5,813 19 shillings and 6 pence. Two years later, in 1897, the church was clear of debt. This was the outcome of a great effort inspired by the minister, the Rev. John Lamond. There is in existence a printed report, with the names and addresses of all the subscribers, which shows how the money was raised. It is a tremendously interesting document today, as it gives the names of the occupiers of nearly every house in Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay nearly sixty years ago, in the 1890's. It was during Mr. Lamond's ministry, which began in Skelmorlie on May 18, 1891, that the new church was built. Today (in 1956), it is insured for £37,000.

The Reconstructed Church 1895 – 1956


SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH - 1856 - 1956 ONE HUNDRED YEARS by Wm. Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956

The Chancel At the back of the chancel are three tall stained glass windows, the work of Glasgow artist William Guthrie. These show The Baptism of Christ in Jordan, Christ in Gethsemane and, in the centre window, The Ascension. These ornamental windows were the gift of Mrs Dunn of Annet (later Shuma) House, in memory of her husband David Dunn. Unfortunately, the inscription on the windows is hidden by the reredos.

The Reredos and Communion Table This magnificent reredos of carved wood, dated 1896, is the work of John Crawford, described by the church's architect Mr Honeyman as "our best Gothic wood-carver". The workmanship is beyond all praise and should be studied with loving care. Wood-carved statues of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John stand in niches and there are three wood-carved scenes - The Stable at Bethlehem, The Crucifixion and The Ressurection. That of The Ressurection would seem to be a very original conception for it depicts the fear and the horror of The Temple Guards (Matthew XXVIII, verse 4) as the huge rock rolls from the mouth of the sepulchre and The Risen Lord emerges from The Tomb. No written record is discoverable of the donors of this beautiful work but one has been told that the funds for it were collected by Mr. Robert Sinclair Scott (of Stroove), that it cost over £280 and, that much of the work was done in Scott's Shipyard in Greenock.


SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH - 1856 - 1956 ONE HUNDRED YEARS by Wm. Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956 In front of and designed to be in keeping with the reredos is the handsome communion table gifted, in memory of Captain Duncan Campbell and his wife Mary, by their children in 1896. Captain Campbell was one of the owners of the white-funnelled Wemyss Bay steamers which ran to Millport and Rothesay (a short history of Gillies and Campbell's Wemyss Bay steamers has been attached to the end of this text for the interest of readers). Miss Mary Campbell, his daughter, is not yet forgotten and there is a brass plate to her memory on the wall of the church which reads "To The Glory of God and In Memory of Mary Campbell, 1849 - 1935" and it continues "The Patens for use in Holy Communion were the gift of The Woman's Guild and friends to commemorate her work for this Church". Miss Campbell left a sum of money for the upkeep of the communion table, the money still continuing to accumulate year after year.

The West Side Chancel Windows St. Ninian - St. Kentigern - St. Columba The three beautiful little windows, on the west side of the chancel, opposite the organ and featuring the three Scottish Saints - St. Ninian, St. Kentigern and St. Columba - were the gift of the church's architect, John Honeyman, R.S.A., the gift in memory of his wife and two sons. The brass flower vases on the communion table were gifted, in 1920, by the then minister's wife, Mrs David Bruce Nicol and were made by one of the church's elders, Mr. James Ballantyne of Morland Cottage. The handsome lectern and The Bible that rests on it were the gift of Mr. Blyth of Balvonie, General Manager of The Union Bank of Scotland, in February 1904. The small lectern that stands on the communion table was the gift of Mr. James Graham of Bridgend, in memory of his son, J. Leslie Graham, in 1928. The individual communion cups and trays were first used in 1923 and were presented by Mr. Kemp (of The Glasgow Glazing Company) and by Mr and Mrs Gairdner. The beautiful carved pulpit bears an inscription, "In affectionate memory of Bruce Richardson, Woodburn, Wemyss Bay - Died 23rd November, 1897 - Erected by his loving Wife and devoted Daughters". There are, in the church, many memorials to the Inverclyde family of Castle Wemyss. The bell, which weighs over 12 hundredweights, was gifted by the first Baron Inverclyde and his wife in 1895. The devoted couple died within a few hours of one another, Lord Inverclyde on February 12, 1901 and his wife, just two days later, on February 14, 1901. The handsome window, near the Inverclyde pew, at the back of the church, commemorates the event and the splendid three-manual Binns' organ was gifted in the couple's memory by their daughters, Agnes Caroline Burns and Jane Cleland Burns, three years later, in 1904.


SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH - 1856 - 1956 ONE HUNDRED YEARS by Wm. Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956

The 3-Manual Binns' Organ The church's first, very notable organ having lasted for forty years, the new, water-pump powered organ, for the church had no electricity when the organ was ordered, was dedicated on January 1, 1905, Mr Walton of Glasgow Cathedral being the organist at the inauguration ceremony. The four carved chairs behind the communion table were also the gift of the Inverclyde's daughter Agnes Caroline Burns - She became the second wife of the Rev. John McGilchrist, minister of the church from 1899 until 1911. The glorious window, nearest the pulpit and the brass tray for the offertory were also gifted by her in memory of her friend Beatrice and of Mr McGilchrist's first wife. The other Inverclyde daughter, Jane Cleland Burns, has a bronze memorial tablet near the lectern, it recalling with gratitude her joyous spirit, her never-failing sympathy and her largehearted charity. As another tablet informs us, electric light was installed in the church "In memory of Hannah Ranken and her five sisters, who all died at Heywood between 1894 and 1904 and to commemorate their long and active interest in this Parish - By their grand-neices and their grand-nephews - A.D. 1913". There is also a tablet in memory of their brother, Andrew Ranken, who died on August 14, 1894. It was Mr. Ranken and his sisters who presented the four silver communion cups to the church.

Christ Stilling The Tempest


SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH - 1856 - 1956 ONE HUNDRED YEARS by Wm. Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956 The lovely 'Storm Window' - Christ Stilling The Tempest - is in memory of Peter Simpson and his wife, it gifted by their children. This window is the work of Douglas Strachan who not only designed, but executed the whole work himself. Strachan was the artist responsible for the stained glass window which was Great Britain's gift to The Palaceof Peace at The Hague. Strachan also designed and executed the complete series of windows in The Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh, The Goldsmith's window in St. Paul's Cathedral and the Whittington window in The Guildhall, London - Skelmorlie should be very proud of this fine example of Strachan's work.

He Is Risen Another extremely notable window is the one depicting "The Angel at The Tomb" - He Is Risen - in memory of Mr and Mrs Robert Blyth of Balvonie and their daughter, it gifted in 1917. This window, made by Morris & Co. of London, is from a design by that great Victorian artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones, who died in 1898. With all his other highly imaginative work, he found time to design quite a number of striking stained glass windows. These may be discovered in all sorts of unexpected places up and down Britain. Perhaps the most notable are in Christ Church, Oxford. If it were known that a Burne-Jones window were in Skelmorlie's South Church, lovers of Burne-Jones' work would come from far and near to see it. There is also a stained glass window dedicated to Mary MacLaren of Duncliff, Skelmorlie, who died on January 23, 1900 and, there is a memorial to William Smith and his wife who lived in the house known as Strathclyde. The large memorial tablet, at the back of the church, was transferred from the original church building. It is in memory of John Graham of Skelmorlie Castle, who, in his ninetieth year, died on October 4, 1886. This was the John Graham who modernised Skelmorlie Castle and was the proud possessor of one of the most valuable private collections of paintings in the country.

The Pulpit and New Dependium The latest gift to the church was dedicated so recently as on the Easter morning of the Centenary year (1956). The gift takes the form of a Pulpit Dependium, to hang down in front of the pulpit book-board and of four Bible-markers.


SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH - 1856 - 1956 ONE HUNDRED YEARS by Wm. Newton McCartney - June 3, 1956 These new gifts, from Miss E. Miller, a long-term resident in Heywood Hotel, are all the work of Miss Helen Mona Hubbard of Edinburgh, who specialises in Celtic designs. Examples of her work too may be seen in St. Giles' and St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh. Such is a brief record of the lovely church which, with its earlier building, celebrate 'One Hundred Years' of useful service on June 3, 1956. The church has seen the generations rise and pass away. It has been a fitting centre of Christian influence during all the changes in social habits that our beloved country has experienced during that hundred years. Life in the year 1956 differs greatly from life in 1856 and two Great Wars in our own time have altered many things but, so long as the fundamentals remain, as they are bound to do, from one generation to another, so long will there be a crying need for places dedicated, as is our Skelmorlie Church, to the honour and glory of God and of His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

SKELMORLIE and WEMYSS BAY SOUTH CHURCH Office Bearers - June 3, 1956
Minister The Rev. George Peat Innes, B.D., LL.B. Elders Dr Colin W. H. Gourlay Mr Robert Y. Hunter Mr Ian Kemp Dr Andrew S. Kitchin Mr Mearns T. McCaskie Mr J. Porter Waddell Rev. A. E. Penrose Mr Malcolm Ramsay Mr Harold E. Rand Mr Alexander M. Scott Mr James Scott

Session Clerk Mr Harold E. Rand, "Orlinda", Winton Drive, Skelmorlie Congregational Board THE KIRK SESSION (Minister and Elders) with the following representatives elected by the congregation Sir John C. Denholm, C.B.E. Mr Wm. N. McCartney Mr George C. Galbreath Mr Robt. W. McKinlay Mr John M. Galbreath Mr Alex. D. Rose Mr Walter Halliday Mr A. Fleming Wylie Clerk to The Congregational Board Mr R. W. McKinlay, Meadow Place, Skelmorlie Honary Treasurer Mr Wm. Newton McCartney, J.P., "Ochiltree", The Lane, Skelmorlie Collector of Seat Rents Mr Walter Halliday, Morland Cottage, Skelmorlie Organist Mr Joseph Weir, 31 Blythswood Crescent, Largs Church Officer Mr John Bell, Forbes Place, Wemyss Bay


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