The North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay One Hundred Years 1871-1971
by Alex. W. Stevens, M.B.E.
Minister: The Rev. W. Russell Kennedy, B.A.

Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie United Presbyterian Church, 1874

Printed by Thomas Rae Ltd., Greenock Photographs by courtesy of Simpson Photographers, Greenock This short history is dedicated to the Rev. Robert Sutherland as a small token of gratitude for his many years of devoted ministry in the North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay.


The cost of printing and publishing this Centenary Book has been defrayed by the sons of the late Mrs. Margaret Maclaurin in her memory. The Minister and Office-bearers of the North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay place this Centenary Book in your hands with their compliments and good wishes. It comes to you free of charge, but should you feel that you would like to recognise its publication by making a donation towards the general funds of the North Church this would be gratefully received either through the plate or paid direct to Mr Hugh Fraser, Congregational Treasurer, Ingleside, Wemyss Bay. It is also hoped to send copies of the Centenary Book to as many ex-members as possible and it is requested that names and addresses of such ex-members be handed to Mr A. W. Stevens, Woodsley Cottage, Shore Road, Skelmorlie, or to any of the Office-bearers. Foreword by the Rev. W. Russell Kennedy, B.A. It is indeed a great privilege to write a brief foreword to this Centenary Book of the history of the North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay. The story told in the pages that follow is really a story of faith, initiative and perseverance. A hundred years ago a few men of vision saw the need for a place of worship in our village and in a remarkably short time a handsome and commodious building had been erected. Here were men fired with the Spirit of God meeting and overcoming many difficulties and hindrances yet pushing forward to build, furnish and equip a worthy sanctuary to the glory of His Name and for the nurture of His people. All that happened a hundred years ago. Times have changed - the Church of which we are a congregation has changed - Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay have changed since the doors of the North Church were first opened in far-off Victorian Scotland. But some things have not changed - The Gospel we preach nor its relevance to the abiding experiences of men. Unchanged also is the challenge to the Church to display in this confused age the vision, the faith and the initiative that so characterised our forbears of a hundred years ago. Looking back is of little value unless it inspires us to look forward with faith and fortitude. Ministers in Chronological Order John Boyd, M.A. David W. Forrest, D.D. G. M. Fairweather, M.A. John S. Macdonald, M.A. J. H. Chambers Macaulay, M.A. JohnBegg, B.D. Robert Sutherland Donald C. Caskie, O.B.E., M.A., D.D. W. Russell Kennedy, B.A. I Skelmorlie Union Church 1871-1899 1899-1903 1903-1908 1909-1915 1916-1933 1953-1958 1938-1960 1961-1968 1970-1972

On the evening of Wednesday, July 12, 1869, seven men met in Wemyss Bay to discuss the future of their church. Their names were T. 0. Hunter and J. W. Galloway of Wemyss Bay and Hugh Walker, Adam Dickson, William Gallie, John McKellar and John Mclntyre of Skelmorlie and their immediate concern was that their church should remain open all the year round instead of only during the the months of Summer as had been the practice. Skelmorlie Union Church, as it was called, had only within recent years begun as a preaching station under the superintendence of a joint committee of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. The building in which the seven men met was a timber structure that had been transported from Kilcreggan and, although the record is cryptic, erected somewhere in the vicinity of where Pearson's Garage now stands. It must, however, have been a fairly substantial building for an early minute indicates that it had seating capacity for 250 persons in some twenty pews. The probability is that it was the first Union Church in the country. Arising out of the meeting of the seven men, enquiry was made as to the number who would be likely to attend during


the winter months and it was ascertained that upwards of one hundred persons had signified their intention of attending public worship if the church were kept open. At a meeting of seatholders held in October, 1870, the general opinion was that the congregation were then in circumstances to unite under one or other of the ministers or preachers whom they had recently heard and the chairman (Mr. Hugh Walker) was directed to communicate this decision to the united committee of the two Presbyteries with the view of being advised by them as to the regular steps to be taken in order to achieve the settlement of a minister. The question of the difference in denomination seems to have presented little difficulty for it was readily agreed that the united congregation would come together in the denomination of the minister who was chosen. At the end of the day, the choice lay between the Rev. Benjamin Bell of the Free Church, Edinburgh, and the Rev. John Boyd, a probationer of the United Presbyterian Church, Largs. At a meeting held on Tuesday, January 10, 1871, sixtyone persons voted for Mr. Boyd and fifty for Mr. Bell. Later in the same month, a further meeting was held for the purpose of taking the necessary steps before the United Presbyterian Presbytery of Paisley and Greenock for proceeding with a call for a fixed pastor and the following Petition was presented 'Unto the Rev. the Moderator and Reverent Members of the Paisley and Greenock Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church : 'The Petition of the undersigned members of the United Presbyterian Church, living at Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie, Feeling the want of ordinances being dispensed among us, and having for some time along with our Free Church brethren worshipped in Union Church Wemyss Bay under the superintendence of a Joint Committee appointed by the Presbyteries of the Free and U.P. Churches, We are desirous settled among us and therefore request the Reverend Court to take the necessary steps to grant the Prayer of this Petition.' At that time the attendance of members in the summer approximated two hundred, with about half that number attending during the winter months. II Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie United Presbyterian Church

The Rev. John Boyd, M.A., was ordained at 12 noon on Tuesday, May 30, 1871, and it was decided to call the new congregation 'The Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie United Presbyterian Church'. Mr. Boyd was introduced to the congregation by the Rev. Mr. Steven of Largs, the sermon being preached by the Rev. Mr. Fleming of Paisley and the Rev. Mr. Dunlop addressing the congregation. Following the ordination, a fruit soiree was held in the church for members of the congregation and a dinner for the principals was arranged in Dunloe House, Wemyss Bay, the home of Mr. Ninian Stewart. In September, 1871, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was dispensed in the church for the first time when the Rev. John Boyd officiated and was assisted by the Rev. David Young of Torpichan. Some fifty-six persons sat down to the Table. On Wednesday, December 13, 1871 Mr. Charles P. Hunter of Greenock presented the congregation with a communion service, while his sister. Miss Hunter, donated communion napery. Mr. John Graham of Skelmorlie Castle gifted communion wine. The first Kirk Session was constituted on Sunday, February 4, 1872, the Rev. John Boyd having four elders about him. The Board of Management was appointed later that year. The membership of the congregation then numbered fifty-seven. On Saturday, March 16, 1872, a delegation from the Managers - David Dunn, John Love, Adam Dickson and Mark Morrison - were deputed to petition Mr. James Young of Kelly with a view to securing a site for a new church, constructed on a sufficient scale to hold about five hundred persons and at a cost of £2,500 or thereby. Originally, it had been hoped to erect the new building on the same site as the wooden church, the plot of ground offered by Mr. Young at the Kelly Bridge being declined owing to the nature of the ground making the cost of erection expensive. In the meantime a house, newly-built by a Mr. Watson in Montgomerie Terrace, had been purchased as a manse for the sum of £1,190. By the time October, 1872 had come round the site at the Kelly Bridge was being actively considered and the plans approved by Mr. Young. The Rev. R. Stewart of the Established Church was approached for permission to use that church during the winter months while the new church was in course of construction and this was readily granted. On Monday, August 11, 1873, the Kelly Bridge site was finally accepted and an offer from Mr. Innes, builder, confirmed to construct the stonework of the new church in white stone for the sum £1,155 as against £1,087 in red stone.


On Thursday, February 5, 1874, when all was in readiness to commence construction, Mr. Boyd at a joint mesting of the Kirk Session and Managers read the outline of the deed to be put into the foundation stone, as follows "Wemyss Bay United Presbyterian Church. Foundation Stone laid on (Friday) February 9, 1874, by Charles P. Hunter, Esquire. "This church was begun as a preaching station partly in connection with the Free Church and partly with the United Presbyterian Church and ordinances were supplied in a temporary wooden church brought from Kilcreggan and set up on a site near the Railway Station, granted by Mr. Young of Kelly. The wooden church was opened for public worship on the first Sabbath of June (6), 1869, the Rev. Dugald MacColl, minister of the Wynd Church, Glasgow, being the first to officiate. On the second Sabbath the Rev. Mr. Brown of St. James U.P. Church, Paisley, preached and thereafter the services were conducted on alternate Sabbaths by ministers or probationers of the Free and U.P. Churches respectively. Towards the end of the year 1870, the congregation began to feel the want of a settled pastorate and it was accordingly agreed that steps should be taken to constitute the congregation into a regular charge. It was also agreed that the congregation should connect itself with the denomination to which the minister belonged who might happen to be called. Ultimately the choice lay between Mr. B. Bell of the Free Church and Mr. John Boyd probationer of the United Presbyterian Church. It was found that a majority was for Mr. Boyd and accordingly on the yth of March, 1871, a call was addressed to him signed by 22 members in full communion and a paper of adherents signed by 42 persons. "The Call was presented to the United Presbyterian Presbytery of Paisley and Greenock on March 21st and was duly sustained. Mr. Boyd declared his acceptance of said Call and was ordained to the pastorate of the church on 30th May, 1871. On the first Sabbath of June he com- menced his ministry, Mr. Steven of Largs preaching in the morning and Mr. Laughton of Free St. Thomas, Greenock, in the evening. The congregation, in the course of time, began to feel the need of a larger and more comfortable place of worship and accordingly, a site having been obtained from Mr. Young of Kelly, building operations were commenced at the beginning of October, 1873, and the Memorial Stone is laid on the 9th of February, 1874, by the hands of Charles Philip Hunter, Esquire, with supplication for the Divine Blessing. "The following are the names of the office-bearers of this date : Session : Managers : Precentor : Rev. J. Boyd, Moderator, A. Dickson, T. Hamilton, J. Campbell and E. Coulthardt. A. Dickson, Preses, Wm. H. Hunter, Secretary, Wm. Dickson, Treasurer, Messrs. T. O. Hunter, Mark Morrison, R. A. Gardner, John Tyre, Geo. Goodwin. Wm. Smith Beadle : Jas. Ramsay.

"The following are the names of the Contractors for the building : Mason - Mr. John Innes; Joiners - Messrs. Crawford & Fulton; Slater - Mr. James Connelly; Plumber - Mr. Thomson, Largs and Plasterer - Mr. Wm. Shedden. "The following documents deposited in the Foundation Stone are : 1. 2. 3. The Statement herewith drawn up containing the names of the office-bearers etc. The 'United Presbyterian Magazine' and 'Missionary Record'of Feb., 1874. Copies of the 'Glasgow Herald', 'North British Daily Mail', 'Glasgow News', 'Scotsman', 'Greenock Advertiser', 'Largs Advertiser' and Coins of the Realm.

"The Lord bless thee out ofZion, Except the Lord bless the house, they labour in vain that built it". [The latter seems to be a rather free quotation of 'Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it'. Whether the error is on the part of the recorder or in the original document must ever remain in doubt.] The new church was built in the Gothic style, with a finely proportioned spire at the N.W. corner springing to a height of 115 feet from the level of the roadway and had a seating capacity for 570 worshippers. At the S.W. end of the building a carved pulpit was raised, backed by a triple reredos. The building was opened for public worship on Sunday, July 12, 1874. The Rev. Dr. Eadie preached morning and afternoon, the church being crowded to overflowing, especially at the morning service. He took for his text in the morning Acts 26 : 22-25, and in the afternoon, I Corinthians 13 : 11. In the evening the Rev. Mr. Laughton of Free St. Thomas Church, Greenock, preached, the Rev. John Boyd, minister of the church, conducting the devotional exercises. The collection amounted to the handsome sum of £260 6s 3d.


A minor crisis arose in July, 1874, when a petition signed by forty-one persons belonging to the congregation was presented to the Kirk Session requesting the use of a harmonium in the service of the church. It was agreed that the instrument would be introduced for four Sundays to allow an opportunity of judging its effects on the psalmody. There were objections, even to the extent of a petition against its use being presented to the Presbytery of Paisley and Greenock. In the Kirk Session minutes of Friday, March 10, 1876, it is noted that disjunction certificates had been handed in by Mr. David Laidlaw, Mrs. Laidlaw and the Misses Laidlaw. With the arrival of this family in their new home at Chaseley House there started a long period of service and outstanding generosity to the community. David Laidlaw was early to establish himself as a very pillar of the church. He was made an elder and manager in June, 1876, and until his death in 1891 he worked tirelessly for the good of the church.

Towards the end of 1877 the congregation decided that a gallery should be constructed and that an organ should be installed in it. There was always the body of opinion that resisted change and much argument arose in favour of the harmonium being continued instead of the organ, but in the end the majority were for the new instrument and a contract was placed with Messrs. Alexander Young & Sons of Manchester at a price of £350. By Friday, June 7, 1878, the improvements in the church by the erection of the gallery, the installation of the organ and the painting and decoration of the building had been completed, the church having been closed for nine weeks and worship being conducted in the school room. It is interesting in the light of modern times to look at some of the things that were accepted as not altogether unusual in those early days of our church. Among a multiplicity of rules governing the role of beadle, two are especially intriguing. The officer in question was required to call at the manse every Sunday morning before ten for the gown and to return with it in the evening. When in church it was required of him that he should dress tidily in black with a white tie and that slippers should be worn. In those days also the power of the Kirk Session was undisputed. At a Kirk Session meeting in 1880 (the regularity of which one might question, there being no Moderator present) it is reported that Mr. A had been informed by several witnesses that Mrs. B had been seen very much intoxicated on the evening of 28th November and it was resolved to suspend her from church ordinances pending full enquiry. At another meeting a certain Mr. C for a similar offence had his communion card withdrawn from him. Irregular attendance by a father could delay, until promise of improvement was given, the administration of the ordinance of baptism to his child. Regularly, at Kirk Session meetings, the Moderator had cause to 'severely admonish' delinquent members of his flock for lapses, spiritual and moral. In fact, one Session Clerk became so attached to the phrase that we find during his term of office new members being severely admonished on joining the church instead of being cordially welcomed! On Friday, May 5, 1882, Mr. Adam Dickson, one of the founders of the congregation, died at a ripe old age. He had been first ordained to the eldership in 1852.


On Tuesday, August 12, 1884, a discussion took place on the question of a new hall and it was resolved to endeavour to raise, in addition to the sum for extinguishing the debt on the manse, a further sum of £500. Mr. James Young of Kelly was again approached and agreed to make available the extra ground needed. Events moved quickly and, on Friday, April 24, 1885, the congregation unanimously agreed that a hall be built to accommodate not less than 150 people, together with a house for the beadle and other offices.

David Laidlaw On Wednesday, November 18, 1885, at a Managers' meeting held in Chaseley House, Mr. David Laidlaw undertook to pay the entire cost of the new hall and to present it to the congregation on the express condition that it was to be used for prayer meetings and other congregational purposes, to be let for such public purposes as lectures, concerts, public meetings and other objects conducive to the intellectual and social improvement of the inhabitants, and to be designated Skelmorlie Hall. It was decided that the hall should be held in trust for the congregation by the congregational trustees and that it should be regulated according to the rules and forms of procedure of the United Presbyterian Church. The new hall was opened in February, 1886, by Mr. Stewart Clark of Paisley. The contractors for the joinerwork were Messrs. Austin & Kinnaird of Greenock and Mr. William Oswald of Skelmorlie carried out the other works, all from the plans of Mr. A. Lindsay Miller, architect, West Regent Street, Glasgow. When the congregation held their annual meeting on Monday, January 20, 1890, the history of the church since its origin was reviewed and the congregation were congratulated on being entirely free of debt. By the end of that year, the Works Committee were being instructed to superintend the heating of the church for a number of weeks to discover the reason for the church being so cold. Obviously, there is nothing new under the sun! In July, 1891, the Laidlaw family presented a lectern and a handsomely bound Bible for the use of the church, but in that year also the congregation suffered a grievous loss by the death of David Laidlaw. In a tribute to his memory it was stated that, from the day of his ordination until the very Sabbath before he died, he had taken a deep personal interest in all the affairs of the church and few men had identified themselves so closely and lovingly with the Wemyss Bay congregation. His gifts to the church and his contributions to all its schemes had been on a most liberal scale. He was the helper of every good cause and the succourer of many. A stained glass window was placed in the church in 1892 by the Misses Laidlaw in memory of their father. In January, 1893, the question of the use of the hall was raised. Some heated exchanges took place and, at a joint meeting of the Kirk Session and Managers, from which Mr. Boyd absented himself because 'according to the practice of the United Presbyterian Church the minister has no recognised place at such a meeting' he placed before them his suggestion 'that before discussing with such warmth any proposal regarding the secular use of the hall, the first thing to do for all parties, whatever their opinion, is to ascertain exactly how the law and rules of the church affect the matter'. It was categorically stated that the term 'public hall' had not once been mentioned in the late Mr. Laidlaw's original offer. On the contrary, the hall had been presented by him to the congregation to be held in trust and to be regulated according to the rules and forms of procedure of the United Presbyterian Church. By early 1895 it was the unanimous opinion that the time had come for better accommodation for the congregation to be provided and it was agreed to ask an architect, Mr. Leiper, to prepare a plan of extension to construct a transept to the east and a chancel to the north of the existing church building. At a meeting of the congregation on Monday, July 15, 1895, it was stated that the accommodation in the summer months was inadequate for those desirous of worshipping in the present church. Numerous applications had been made for sittings, but there was none vacant. It


was unanimously agreed to raise a sum of £2,500 for extension purposes. At this time there were 166 members in full communion. The majority of the Kirk Session and Managers in February, 1896, were averse to any alteration being made to the church spire and the lowest offers for the reconstruction work were accepted from Mr. William Steel of Greenock for the masonwork and from Messrs. Hutchison & Grant of Glasgow for the joinerwork. It was resolved that stone taken from Skelmorlie Quarry be used for the inside pillars and arches. During the alterations, the hall was used for normal church services and the church was re-opened on Sunday, May 30, 1897. The Misses Laidlaw presented the church with a new pulpit and communion table. With all these changes the church assumed its present appearance with the pulpit and vestry at the north end and the gallery transferring to the south end. In fact, the whole accommodation performed a complete about face. In April, 1899, the Rev. John Boyd passed to his rest after a ministry of some 28 years during which the Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay United Presbyterian Church had become well-established in the community. On Wednesday, August 16, 1899, the Rev. David W. Forrest, D.D., junior minister of Wellington Church, Glasgow, was inducted to the charge. The architect, Mr. Leiper, presented a brass bookrest for the pulpit and permission was granted to Mrs. Boyd to place memorial windows in the chancel of the church in memory of her late husband. At a meeting of the congregation on Sunday, December 17, 1899, it was unanimously agreed to approve the proposals of the joint committee on union between the Free and United Presbyterian Churches and, on Wednesday, October 31, 1900, the church became the Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie United Free Church. Ill Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie United Free Church

At the annual meeting of the congregation on Tuesday, January 22, 1901, the Preses, Mr. R. H. Craig, interrupted the business of the meeting to state that he had 'just received the very sad intelligence of the death of Queen Victoria'. Dr. Forrest was called to North Morningside Church, Edinburgh, on Wednesday, January 28, 1903, having earlier in his ministry at Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay declined a call to the Professorship of Apologetics in Knox College, Toronto. On Thursday, August 24, 1905, a call was addressed to the Rev. G. M. Fairweather, M.A., who was duly inducted in place of Dr. Forrest. Two interesting items fall to be noted in 1904. At the induction of new elders the Kirk Session called the church officer and instructed him to repair to the church door and intimate that the Kirk Session were met to give an opportunity for the statement of objections in terms of the Edict. Thereafter the church officer returned from the door and reported that no objector had appeared. Later, at a Kirk Session meeting on lyth October, Mr. Duncan Shaw raised the question of the desirability of abandoning the method of use and wont in communicating at the Lord's Table and of introducing the individual cup and also bread cut in small portions. Only about half a dozen members objected to the change and the individual cups were introduced in March, 1905, when 265 members were present at the communion service. Mr. Shaw gifted four silver salvers to be used for communion bread. On Sunday, August 30, 1908, Mr. Fairweather accepted a call from Wallace Green English Presbyterian Church, Berwick on Tweed, and the Kirk Session recorded their unabated affection and esteem for his faithful service during the five years of his ministry. With the introduction of the individual cups, certain items of communion plate were gifted to Strathy United Free Church, Melvich, in the County of Sutherland. The Rev. John S. Macdonald, M.A., minister at Nairn, was called to the church in December, 1908, and inducted on Thursday, March 18, 1909. On Wednesday, January 26, 1910, the Managers considered a letter from Dr. Philp, Wemyss Bay Hydropathic, asking if they would entertain the idea of lighting the church by electricity, but our forbears shrewdly directed their Clerk to reply to the worthy Doctor that, once he was in a position to provide a supply, they would be glad to consider the question of using it. In February of the same year we find the Kirk Session resolving to petition the Chairman and Directors of the Caledonian Railway Company against the resumption of the Sunday traffic to the coast introduced in 1909. In 1910 the question of the church hall again raised its head and differences of opinion are reported as to who had the power of letting it for public meetings. Once again the minute of Sunday, July 21, 1895, was produced and, after dis-


cussion, it was generally agreed that the use o( the hall for all meetings other than for congregational purposes should be regulated on definite principles. On Thursday, November 5, 1914, the office-bearers placed on record their high appreciation of the services which the Rev. John S. Macdonald had conducted during the time of National Crisis, of the lofty patriotism expressed so ably in his discourses, of his fervent appeals to honour, duty and country, and they earnestly trusted that the call so ably given would have a full response. In May, 1915, a call was addressed to Mr. Macdonald by the congregation of St. John's and King's Park, Dalkeith, and the Skelmorlie charge was once again vacant. Dr. Macdonald latterly became the minister of the First Presbyterian Church, Syracuse, New York. It was about this time that the Managers recorded that, owing to neglect, the manse garden was a wilderness and it was arranged that Mr. Thomas Ritchie would put the garden in proper order, a task which he and his son, Robert, were to attend to for many years thereafter. Mr. Andrew Howie was inducted to the office of eldership on Sunday, November 28, 1915, and there began an outstanding record of service to the church for, until his death in 1954, he served as Clerk to the Kirk Session for 59 years and as Clerk to the Managers for 37 years. The many volumes of minutes meticulously kept in his smooth, flowing hand are there as his memorial. On Monday, May 1, 1916, the congregation called as their new minister the Rev. J. H. Chambers Macaulay, M.A., who was then with St. George's Presbyterian Church, Blackburn. This genial Irishman made a profound impression on the district during the 17 years of his ministry. During Mr. Macaulay's time Mr. and Mrs. D. C. Macleod came to live in St. Margaret's and were added to the communion roll on nth June, 1920. Mr. Macleod soon estab- lished himself as a stalwart of the church, being appointed Preses in January, 1922, and thereafter for nearly twenty-five years serving the community diligently and well.

The Communion Silver - 1971 On Friday, December 8, 1922, Mr. Duncan Shaw of Redholm presented two solid silver communion cups for the use of the congregation. They bore the inscription 'Presented to the Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie United Free Church by Duncan Shaw, Redholm. Wemyss Bay 1922'. It is of interest to note that the old cups which they replaced were gifted to the Presbyterian Church in Jamaica. Long terms of service to the church were not uncommon and, in 1922, Mr. James Kyd died. He had served in the Sunday School, latterly as superintendent for 38 years since 1881. In 1925 Miss Tyre gave up teaching in the Sunday School after 48 years of devoted service. On Thursday, October 15, 1925, an important meeting of the Kirk Session considered a remit from the General Assembly sent down by Presbytery to Sessions and congregations concerning Union negotiations. It was unanimously agreed that the main causes of separation between the churches had been removed and that the time had come for entering upon negotiations with the Church of Scotland for the consideration of many matters requiring adjustment with a view to the framing of a basis of union which would in due course be submitted to the inferior courts. At a meeting of the congregation some days later, this finding was approved by twenty-three votes to two. Looking back over our records it is remarkable to note how many historical decisions were reached on such slim voting. Mr. Duncan Shaw of Redholm died on Saturday, June 19, 1926, and by his will left two notable bequests to the


congregation of the North Church, the interest on one of which was to be applied to supplement the funds raised to meet the expenses of the annual Summer excursion for the children of the Sunday School. Of Duncan Shaw it was said that, as a man and as a Christian, he commended himself to all men and lived among his brethren as a fine example of a great church-man. In September, 1928, a marble bust of David Laidlaw was offered to the congregation by his grandson. Colonel Laidlaw, with the wish that it should be placed in a suitable position in the hall gifted by his grandfather. This was done and there the bust and pedestal stood until 1946 when it was removed, principally at the instigation of the Woman's Guild who properly recognised the inherent danger it threatened to the more boisterous children of the late 1940s when they joined together in their Christmas parties. It may be that it would be right and proper that, in the centenary year of our congregation, a safer place might be found to display the bust of our church's great benefactor. On Friday, February 25, 1929, a special meeting of the congregation approved, by fourteen votes to one, the preamble, formula and basis of union with the Church of Scotland and, after discussions with the Established Church, it was decided that as from Wednesday, October 2, 1929, our church would be called the North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay. IV The North Church, Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay

An amusing sidelight on men and methods arose about this time. It came to the ears of the Kirk Session that the bellringer, after completion of his duties, was not attending church services, but leaving the church by the door from the vestry leading to the Main Road. The matter was deliberated by both Kirk Session and Managers and finally, some nine months later, the minister reported that he had spoken to the young man concerned regarding his nonattendance, had persuaded him to become a member of the church and it was hoped that he would now realise his duty in attending church services regularly. Many years later the same situation arose again with a succeeding bell-ringer. The solution was swift and effective. A padlock and key were provided by the Managers for the door leading from the vestry to the roadway ! The following reference to our church appeared in the 'British Weekly' of Thursday, January 23, 1930 : 'Skelmorlie has had a remarkable succession of gifted ministers in recent years. The late Professor D. W. Forrest, the Rev. G. M. Fairweather, of Broughton Place, Edinburgh, and Dr. J. S. Macdonald of Sefton Park, Liverpool, gave its pulpit a fame throughout the land. 'To follow such men, each so different from the other, but all of them so richly endowed, was no small ordeal, but Mr. Macaulay has stood it well. First among his own countrymen in Ireland and afterwards in the Presbyterian Church of England, he revealed himself a preacher of promise, but it has been in Skelmorlie that he has come into his full stature in the pulpit. 'He is a preacher of intellectual strength and wide culture. His sermons have often a graphic power and his delivery at times approaches the dramatic. He has the command of an epigrammatic style, rich in arresting and pregnant phrases. One feels occasionally that he is possessed of a strong underlying sense of humour, which, however, he does not indulge in the pulpit beyond allowing himself at times the relief of a certain pungency of expression. While he flames and flashes in occasional bursts of eloquence, there are quiet relieving interludes. Mr. Macaulay is no echo of any other preacher. His thinking and his preaching are both characterised by his independence and fearlessness. 'What is true of Mr. Macaulay's preaching is equally true of his published works. His two volumes "The Reality of Jesus" and "If I Miss the Sunrise" are the products of a fresh mind of unusual vigour.' In 1932 the community suffered a great loss by the death of Doctor J. C. Mearns Taylor, the local doctor, and at a Memorial Service held on Thursday, August 11, 1932, a tablet to his memory was erected in the North Church in gratitude for one who for 34 years had given devoted service to Skelmorlie, Wemyss Bay and Inverkip. The service was conducted by Mr. Macaulay, the lesson being read by the Rev. William Crawford of Inverkip and the Blessing pronounced by the Rev. A. Douglas Fraser of the South Church. The text on the tablet from Acts 15 : 38 was appropriate - 'Who went about, doing good, and healing.' The Rev. J. H. Chambers Macaulay, M.A., died on Tuesday, March 14, 1933, and the Presbytery's Committee on Readjust- ment of Agencies met with the Kirk Session when it was agreed that a good case had been made for not raising the question of readjustment at that time. On Thursday, December 7, 1933, the Presbytery of Greenock


admitted Mr. John Begg, B.D., formerly minister at Edinburgh, Queen Street, in the Presbytery of Edinburgh to be minister of Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay North Church. During Mr. Begg's ministry the Diamond Jubilee of the church building was held on Sunday, November 4, 1934, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Right Rev. P. D. Thompson, D.D., preaching at the evening service, the New Revised Church Hymnary was introduced in 1935 and, in 1937, Edinburgh University bestowed the degree of Doctor of Divinity on the Rev. G. M. Fairweather, M.A., a former minister of our church. A young man, John Vallance Dunlop, joined the membership of the church and was soon, by his friendly bearing and practical Christianity, to carve out for himself a special niche in the history of the North Church. At the beginning of 1938 Mr. Begg was called to be minister of Panmure Church, Monifieth, and, both churches in the district being vacant, the Presbytery of Greenock again raised the possibility of union. After much thought, however, the decision was to continue in their separate ways. On Thursday, December 8, 1938, the Rev. Robert Sutherland, minister of St. Andrew's Church, Kingussie, was admitted to the pastoral charge of Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay North Church. There followed a long and fruitful ministry punctuated by a World War that was to so change people and their ways of life that, when it came to its end in the mid 1940s, a new and challenging era had begun. In May, 1945, Mr. Thomas Ritchie resigned from the position of Sunday School Superintendent, a post he had adorned since his appointment in 1926. He was succeeded by Mr. John Dunlop who brought to the Sunday School his own special gifts of care and compassion for the young people. On Monday, July 15, 1946, Mr. D. C. Macleod passed away and the congregation lamented the loss of a good and faithful servant. His service to the church is recalled by the older members of the congregation and all speak highly of that enthusiastic and energetic Highlander who did so much for the North Church by his diligence in the work of the congregation and the generosity of his kindly nature. Finance began to loom more than ever largely in church affairs with the increased cost of living and the burden of maintaining costly buildings and, at a special meeting of the congregation on Tuesday, March 15, 1949, the Free Will Offering Scheme was introduced. In the same year the Social Union was inaugurated mainly through the efforts of Mrs. Cunnison of Rothmar, Wemyss Bay, and a Churches' Youth Group started in the local Community Centre and proceeded on a chequered career. Mr. Robert Carnduff retired from the position of Church Officer thus ending 44 years of family service in that capacity in the North Church. At the annual meeting of the congregation in February, 1952, Mr. John Dunlop reported that the Sunday School roll had topped the 100 mark. In September, 1954, Mr. Andrew Howie died, a quiet, faithful man and, within months, on Friday, April 8, 1955, Mr. John Dunlop had also passed to his rest. At a meeting of the Kirk Session at that time profound gratitude was expressed for his splendid work among the young and for the strong influence for good he had exercised by his loving ways and by the Godly example of his daily life and teaching. A simple memorial tablet to his memory was erected in the church by his many friends. On Sunday, November 5, 1956, full of years, Mr. Thomas Ritchie also passed over. He had been a member of the North Church since 1909 and had given willingly of his time and service in all its activities. No record of any church would be complete without some reference being made to the work of the women of the congregation and the story of the North Church is no exception. From the early days, when the Women's Union and the Girls' Union did useful work, until the Union with the Church of Scotland when, on Tuesday, November 25, 1930, the organisation adopted the designation of the Woman's Guild, the contribution by the women of the congregation has been both enthusiastic and effective. In 1957 a new organisation, the Young Wives' Association, came into being and has grown in strength. It is also worth recording that a Boy Scout Troop, the yist Ayrshire, came into being within the walls of the North Church towards the end of 1959. About a year later a Girl Guides Company also started. In March, 1960, the Rev. Robert Sutherland retired from the regular ministry in the North Church after 42 years of useful service to the Church of Scotland, over twenty-one of which had been spent in Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay. He was succeeded by the Rev. Donald C. Caskie, O.B.E., M.A., D.D., 'The Tartan Pimpernel', minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris. After the fall of France in 1940, Dr. Caskie earned widespread fame through his organisation of an underground escape route for Allied personnel from Occupied territory.


On Friday, February 3, 1964, at a special meeting of the congregation convened to consider the adoption, as recommended by the Kirk Session, of the 1931 Quoad Sacra Constitution amended to protect the congregation's interests in its properties, it was agreed to advise the Presbytery of Greenock that the North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay had declined by a large majority to adopt the revised constitution. Dr. Caskie resigned his charge in September, 1968, and after a lengthy vacancy the congregation called the Rev. W. Russell Kennedy, B.A., minister of St. Andrew's and Glencairn Church, Kilmarnock, to be their minister.

Rev. W. Russell Kennedy On Sunday, May 30, 1971 - one hundred years to the day - the members of Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay North Church celebrated the centenary of their church's beginnings. At the centenary service, the Rev. W. Russell Kennedy welcomed as guest preacher the Rev. Murdo Ewan Macdonald, D.D., of Trinity College, Glasgow. Professor Macdonald took as his reading II Chronicles 6 : 12-21 and delivered an inspiring address on the challenge to the church and her people in the modern world and the need to be ready to change old methods to meet constantly changing situations. A large congregation was in attendance, many old members having travelled long distances to join in the celebration. It was interesting to note that the scripture passages were read from a Bible presented in 1871 to the Rev. John Boyd on his taking over the charge.

Leaving church in 1971 - On the white line are Mr and Mrs David Walker, he a plumber To look back over a hundred years in a church's history is an experience humbling as it is inspiring. To stand in retrospect beside men like David Laidlaw with his zeal for his church, D. C. Macleod with his burning enthusiasm, Andrew Howie with his simple, kindly concern for his fellows, and John Dunlop with his great capacity for caring, is richly uplifting. To sit quietly in the vestry of the North Kirk in company with those many great and good men who have ministered in this northern corner of Ayrshire is to be conscious of a profound feeling of gratitude to a God who has been close at hand all the way.


Grace, said our minister the other Sunday, is Heaven's breath; Faith the unfurling of a sail ! Down the years, however falteringly the sail of faith has been unfurled in the North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay, the Grace of Heaven like a calming, cooling breeze surely has been ours in abundance. On the evening of Wednesday, July 12, 1869, seven men met in Wemyss Bay to discuss the future of their church. Their deliberations have been richly rewarded !

The 'North Church' in 1971 Following the union of Skelmorlie's churches in 1972, the 'North Church' was demolished and its hall sold off and converted into a private residence - The house was on the market in 1989 for £145,000, more than 100 times what the original church had cost to build in 1874 !

The 'North Church' Hall, For Sale - Glasgow Herald, Tuesday, March 7, 1989


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