A Short History of
St. Margaret's Parish Church Dalry, Ayrshire.
THE DIM BEGINNINGS - just possibly when a Roman Soldier who was also a "miles Christi" (a soldier of Christ) 'marched up the Vennel' but much more probably in the late 6th century with the missionary activity of ST. WYNNIN - a well in the parish bore his name which is also commemorated in Caerswinning Hill. Another Celtic saint who may have been active was ST. MONACH a name enshrined in 'the Munnoch'; the farm and area on the West Kilbride Road.
THE MIDDLE AGES - Parishes, defined districts each with a church building and a parson responsible for 'the cure of souls', generally came into being in the 11th and 12th centuries. Dairy, "the valley of the king" is first mentioned in 1226 as a "chapel of Ardrossan". If the parish was not formed at that date it surely was established by 1279 when a certain "Henry, Rector of the Church of Dalry" appears in the Register of the Diocese of Glasgow. If Dalry was late as a parish there was some compensation in that it had apparently two places of worship - one on the east of the River Garnock ( at Kilcush? or maybe identifiable with the definite chapel sited within the Blair policies ); the other on the west situated "near to ground called 'the Old Glebe"' ( identifiable with a chapel situated in what was the Lynn House policies? ) The latter appears to have been the main or parish church: though it would have been a small simple building probably with an earthen floor, thatched roof and a few windows, albeit with a crude division into 'choir' and 'nave' where only 'the weak could go to the wall' for a seat. This church building was almost certainly dedicated to ST. MARGARET OF ANTIOCH, a virgin martyr of the 3rd or 4th century who lived in the Syrian city of that name where as the Book of Acts records "the disciples were for the first time called Christians" ( greatly venerated in the middle ages Margaret was one of the saints who 'appeared' to Joan of Arc; her attribute was a dragon; her feast day was July 20th and she was regarded as the patroness of women in childbirth ). In the Deanery of Cunninghame and nominally under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Glasgow, by 1471 the abbey of Kilwinning had appropriated the parsonage teinds ( tithes of grain ) and probably as 'rector' and 'patron' did the appointing of a vicar ( i.e. or deputy ) to do the actual parish work - this was a common practice that gave wealth and power to the abbeys at the expense of the parishes and people e.g. Kilwinning Abbey "had" 21 parishes; Paisley Abbey 28. The pattern took another form when in the 1530's the vicarage teinds ( tithes of fish, fowl etc. ) went to support St. Mary's Collegiate Church at the Tron in Glasgow then being founded; at this point the work in Dalry was assigned to a vicar pensionary: a priest who got a small allowance and who undoubtedly, as evidenced elsewhere, had to exact financial support from his poor parishioners.
THE REFORMATION - of the mid 16th century was due to many factors: corruption in the Church; immorality of many clerics ( George Hepburn, 'rector' of Dalry, was one of the many illegitimate children of the Bishop of Moray ); the acquisitiveness of many nobles and lairds ( The Earl of Eglinton and the Blair of Blair "got" church land in the confusion of the times ) etc., together with a rediscovery of God's Word in Scripture and His love in Christ; His Spirit touching men's hearts, etc. The Reformation in Dalry seems, as was generally the case throughout Scotland, to have been harmoniously effected with the glebe being shared between a man of the old order and a man of the new.
WATCHWORDS OF THE REFORMATION:
Justification by faith: we are accepted by God not by what we do but by our trust in what Christ has done.
Deo soli gloria: to God alone belongs the glory: worship to be given to Him only, all service in His name.
Sola Scriptura: it is not by the word of any man we go but by the Word of God in Scripture.
The priesthood of all believers: collectively we represent Christ to the world.
TOWARDS THE PRESENT - it was a somewhat uncertain scene in Dalry until a new parish church was built on the present site c1604 not only because of the transition of the Reformation ( the parish was often served by 'readers' men originally of the old order or who had insufficient educational qualification for the higher standards for the new ministry of Word and Sacrament ) but because Dalry was non-existent as a village until a "kirktoun" grew up around the new parish church. The Kirk essentially "made" the village and the later little town as the present Victorian gothic cruciform building with its clock tower and soaring spire of 159' still does!
St. Margaret's ( the old mediaeval dedication names was readopted after the 1929 union between the auld Kirk of Scotland and the United Free Church ) is proud of its two oldest communion cups; Edinburgh made silver chalices still very much in use, inscribed "For the Kirk of Dalry" dating from c1618; and proud too of its old , bell, cast in Amsterdam by a famous bell maker: Francis Hemony - a bell that still rings out each old year and each new couple united in Christian marriage. Armorial stones in the Vestibule: that of Ker of Kersland and his wife Annabella Campbell of Loudon, that of John Blair of Blair and his wife Grizelda Sempil dated 1604 are relics of the kirk of that times as is also the oak armorial pew decoration ( the shield of Blair impaled with that of Boyd of Pitcon ) now adorning a transept wall.
In the saga of the 17th century with the Stuart governments attempting to impose episcopacy on more democratic Presbyterian church order Dalry had a decided covenanting laird in Robert Ker of Kersland to whom there is a brass memorial in the vestibule. While Ker died in exile two other Dalry men died under the hatches off Orkney while being transported after the Baffle of Bothwell Brig (1679); Peden "the prophet" probably preached at 'Peden's Point' in the Lynn Glen. The limestone cave system "Cleeves Cove" was possibly a Covenanter hideout; certainly John King, a tutor and chaplain at Blair, was to be captured and executed at Edinburgh. The Laird of Blair probably showed his true colours and his mettle in siding with "the Glorious Revolution" of 1689, ( in which Ker's son Daniel played a not insignificant part ) and dying a prisoner in Mull as a result. With the full re-establishment of the Presbyterian order things became much more settled of which the extant Kirk Session minutes dating from 1693 bear witness albeit they also testify to local crime, immorality, superstitious practice, poverty etc.
The early 17th century building was replaced in 1771 by a plain quadrilateral structure (typical of the heritors' kirks' of the period) "devoid nearly of every external adornment as the humblest dwelling-house". It did however, retain the old belfry of the earlier building and with extensive internal repairs of 1821 presented a "much superior appearance within". A vastly increased population and the poor state of the building - of which a photograph exists - was cause for concerned heritors ( landowners liable in law for kirk and manse ) to act. Doubtless the able minister of the day: Robert Stevenson played a part. The Kirk we know and that is such a distinctive and distinguishing feature of Dalry was built with stone from Auchenskeith quarry at a basic cost of £4500 between 1871 and 1873 the foundation stone having been laid with Masonic orders - the old burial vaults with the earthly remains of the Blairs of Blair, Boyds of Pitcon, Kers of Kersland etc. having been previously sealed. Stained-glass windows were generously gifted by the Blair Family and others; a new larger bell ( the one that summons to worship: 'Voco, venite in domini templum' ) was donated by James McCosh of Merksworth; a son and grandson of Dalry Manse, Gavin Fullarton of Kerelaw gave the clock which was first lit in 1882. In 1889 the first pipe organ was installed: the same year as the Hall, the gift of the minister, was built.
The mediaeval dedication name of St. Margaret was, as mentioned, re-adopted in 1931 and a St. Margaret stained-glass window was dedicated a year or so ago in memory of the Kirkland Family. It was during the ministry of Robert Kirkland that with dry rot eradicated and an extensive renovation completed the Kirk endured in 1951 terrible fire - some blackened roof timbers and a charred burning bush with its appropriate motto: "Nec tamen consumebatur" at the rear of the nave witness the event as does a commemorative window. However, with vision, hard work, and insurance, the Kirk was repaired and by all accounts improved not least as the lathe and plaster was removed to reveal the warm stone; the Session was also fortunate in procuring fine hand-crafted Beith furnishings. In 1985 a fine silver baptismal basin was dedicated for the font.
Mention is also made of the fine old manse of c1604 which in a dilapidated condition stood close to the Kirk in Manse Close at the back of The King's Arms. Finally but sadly demolished for safety reasons about 17 years ago it had long ceased to belong to the Kirk - the manse having been built on the present site in 1766 with that manse replaced by the handsome Victorian House, constructed for about £1500 largely from Swindridgemuir quarry stone in 1893 with more modernisation effected in 1963-5.
|HENRY rector||1567-1573||GEORGE BOYD reader|
|ante 1430||'sir' JOHN TAIT vicar||1574-1591||ANDREW BLAIR reader|
|1430||'mr' STEPHEN KER vicar||1591||ROBERT MAXWELL M.A.|
|1430||JOHN DE CRAWFORD vicar||1591-1603||archibald blackburn m.a.|
|ante 1482||'sir' GAVIN HENRY||1604-1635||JOHN CUNNINGHAM M.A. of Baidland|
|1482||'sir' JOHN WILLIAMSON||1635-1682||JOHN BELL M.A.|
|1482||'sir' THOMAS CRAWFORD||1682-1688||ANDREW SLIRIE M.A.|
|1485||'sir' ADAM ARNOT||1689-1691||HUGH KILPATRICK|
|1485||'sir' JOHN BARCLAY||1693-1713||JOHN KING|
|ante 1508||'sir' JOHN SKEOCH||1713-1761||JOHN FULLARTON (primus) M.A.|
|1510||'sir' THOMAS BROWN priest||1762-1802||JOHN FULLARTON (secondus)|
|1512||'sir' GILBERT HALDANE vicar||1802-1820||JOHN THOMSON|
|1517||'mr' CHRISTOPHER BOYD vicar||1821-1843||THOMAS JOHNSTONE|
|( possibly 1530 - 32 )||1843-1890||ROBERT STEVENSON D.D.|
|1534||THOMAS BOYD parish clerk||1891-1915||JAMES L. FYFE|
|1542||'sir' JOHN CRAWFORD vicar||1916-1933||ANDREW B.THOMSON M.A., B.D.|
|1549-1564||'mr' JOHN HEPBURN vicar||1934-1947||ARCHIBALD MINTO M.A., S.T.M.|
|1560||JOHN RANKIN curate||1947-1973||ROBERT KIRKLAND M.B.E.|
|c1560||THE REFORMATION||1973-2002||A. DOUGLAS LAMB M.A.|
|1566||ARCHIBALD CRAWFORD M.A. vicar||2002-2007||JAMES A. S. BOAG B.D.|
|pensionary. As minister of Stevenson|
|had oversight of Dalry 1574-79|
|'mr' denotes a 'magister': a graduate|
|'sir' is a courtesy title: a non-graduate|
As vital to the worship, work and witness of the Church have been and are countless others: Elders and Session Clerks; Precentors and Organists; Bell-Ringers and Beadles; Sunday School Teachers and Youth Leaders; Guild Office Bearers and Flower Arrangers; Choir Members and Cleaners, with all who have served and serve in other ways: all who are part of the communion of saints - the faithful of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
DEO SOLI GLORIA
A. Douglas Lamb 1998
DEO SOLI GLORIA
A. Douglas Lamb 1998