History

 KILLEARN KIRK HISTORY 1200's - 2009

First mention of a church in Killearn is in the mid-13th century when the Earl of Lennox bestowed certain lands called Kynerine on Stephen of Blantyre together with the patronage of the church which stood on them. Later the lands were granted to Patrick de Graeme by the succeeding Earl of Lennox. The parish was originally a free rectory, and until around 1430 the rector was resident in the parish. In that year the Bishop of Glasgow erected six new prebends in the Cathedral and the teinds and Kirk lands of Killearn endowed one of them. (From this old connection with the Cathedral this Church derives its right to use the designation of "Kirk" — a title given to only a few of our churches). On the rector's departure a perpetual vicar pensioner was appointed to Killearn with a stipend of 15 merks, a manse and a small glebe.

The vicars of Killearn, of whom little is recorded, were according to Guthrie Smith, mostly poor and ignorant. With the Reformation came the first protestant minister of Killearn, John Callendar, who also had charge of Balfron.

Mr. Callendar served from 1572 until 1573 and the next incumbent, John Porterfield had the oversight of five parishes. His place was taken by a reader, John Napier of Ballikinrain, the head of the oldest family in the parish.

The next parson of Killearn was William Graham, the younger son of the second Earl of Montrose. Graham died around 1587, to be succeeded by James Gillespie, minister of Kilmaronock, who was presented by John Graham, son of the previous parson, to whom the patronage had descended. Gillespie was minister in Killearn from 1599 to 1640; Harrie Sempill from 1640 to 1657.

In 1658 James Craig was admitted minister, and when Episcopacy was re-established in 1660 he at once conformed. After the Revolution Craig was accused before the Privy Council of various offences, such as not praying for William and Mary. He was acquitted, but soon afterwards was deposed from the ministry for profanation of the Lord's Day and virulence against Presbyterian sufferers. Mr. Craig, in short, was a victim of ecclesiastical politics. He retired to his estate of Dalnair at Drymen and when he died he was buried in Killearn old churchyard.

The Rev. Thomas Forrester, who had deserted Episcopacy for Presbyterianism, succeeded Mr. Craig as minister in 1690, leaving in 1692 for St. Andrews. His successor, the Rev. George Park, was an enthusiast and an innovator, for one of his first acts was to purchase a book in which to minute the meetings of the Kirk Session and at the same time record some of the shortcomings of the congregation. Moral laxity is not a 20th century phenomenon as the good Mr. Park's records show. 

On May 2, 1727, the Session "considering that it is expedient and necessary that there be communion cups provided for the use of the parish and being unanimously agreed that the same be got as soon as possible, they desired the minister to cause make them". An entry in the accounts shows that the minister carried out their instructions. The two silver cups cost £129. 12s. (Scots) and continue in use to this day.

After the death of Mr Park the Rev. James Baine — "a very young minister" — was ordained in 1732. During his ministry, which ran until 1756, the church was rebuilt and its ruin may now be seen in the old graveyard.  The Rev. James Morrison was minister from 1757 to 1767, and he was followed by the Rev, James Graham (1768-1821), a man of wide interests. He is said to have been the first man in the parish to use a wheeled cart and the erection of the monument to George Buchanan was due in part to his influence. The progressive development of agriculture in Strathendrick owed much to his guidance.

James Graham was succeeded by his nephew, Dr. John Graham, for 17 years minister of Fintry. During his incumbency of Killearn a new church  was built in 1826 and still exists as the Village Hall. Dr. Graham was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He died in 1865, so that uncle and nephew between them served the Parish for 97 years, from 1768 until 1865, a remarkable record.

Dr. Graham's successor was the Rev. Dr. James Waters King, a native of Fintry, who held the living from 1865 to 1870.

It was during the Rev. Colin McNaughton's incumbency (1871-1883) that a Vestry and Session House was built by the heritors (1874) and eight years later the church of 1826 was abandoned as a place of worship and the present church opened in 1882.

The new church was the gift of Mr. (later Sir Archibald) Orr Ewing, M.P. Mr. Orr Ewing had built a church at Jamestown (where his works were situated) out of money saved on insurance — he insured his buildings himself — and to Mr. McNaughton's suggestion that he repeat the good work at Killearn, he replied that, if he did not have a fire for three years, Killearn would have a new kirk.

In the meantime Mr. Orr Ewing's younger daughter, Ella, died and he suggested to the heritors that, if they would agree to the new church being a memorial one, he would expend a larger sum than he had first intended. The site was part of the Glebe, enlarged by a transfer of land from Killearn Estate. The Heritors and Presbytery agreed to this, but not so some of the villagers, who regarded the land from Killearn Estate as part of their "common land". The church, however, was built on it's present site at a cost of £7,000. The annoyance was eventually forgotten but for some obscure reason a small stone stands in perpetuity, some 20 yards from the south-west wall of the church, and about the same distance from the pavement. This marks where the "common land" began.

The church is in the Early English style with a spire 100 ft. in height. It was designed by John Bryce who was a partner in the Edinburgh firm of his uncle, David Bryce. He had also designed Ballikinrain, the residence of Sir Archibald Orr Ewing. The font was given by the original donor as a memorial to his daughter, Ella, whose likeness may be seen in the centre of the rose window. Over the years the building has been enriched by gifts from parishioners. In 1926 a lectern, choir stalls, pulpit and communion table were given by Brigadier-General Sir Norman Orr Ewing, St., in memory of the late Captain E. P. Orr Ewing, Scots Guards, killed in the First World War.

The Rev. Colin McNaughton moved to Tain just after the opening of the new church and was succeeded by the Rev. James Dick (1883-1897). Mr. Dick was the first minister to be elected to the living which, until then, had been in the patronage of the Montrose family.

In 1898 the Rev. Alexander Gordon Mitchell became minister, and in 1906 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from St. Andrews University, on the occasion of the quater-centenary celebrations of the birth of George Buchanan. Dr. Mitchell served until 1931, when he retired in the interest of union between the Parish Church and the United Free Church.

After the Union of 1929 which actually took place in Killearn in 1931 the worship of the two congregations took place in the present church building and the former United Free Church building became the Church Hall and so it remained until the new halls were built in 2002.

The first minister of the parish after the union was the Rev. H. MacLennan McLeod, who served for 31 years to be succeeded by the Rev. J. B. Skelly in 1962. During his ministry he was most anxious to have a Session House. This was added to the church in 1967. In 1969 two stained glass windows by Sadie McLellan were presented by the Killearn Trusts. Cushions to match the colours of the windows were embroidered in gros point, chiefly by the elders' wives. Mr. Skelly retired on health grounds in June 1971 and the Rev. Stuart W. McWilliam was inducted in January, 1972. Mr McWilliam was recognised as an outstanding preacher not only in the churches in which he was minister but world wide and was invited to preach as far afield as Australia and America.

The Rev Robert Symington succeeded Mr McWilliam in 1982 and during his tenure numbers rose to possibly an all time highof 821 against a general countrywide decline. He retired in 1992 and was succeeded in 1993 by Rev Philip Malloch who came to us from Montrose. Philip was the first resident of the newly built manse in The Oaks. During Philip's tenure and with his enthusiastic support new halls were built, a new organ was installed and new sound and vision facilities were installed in both the church and the new halls. He retired on 30 June 2009.

 

We look forward to the future.

 

 


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