Landsborough and Trinity, 1889-1989

The following history has been taken from a centenary booklet published by Landsborough and Trinity Church in 1989. 

For a town which has no parish of its own, Saltcoats has had a remarkable ecclesiastical history For over two centuries it has been the home of the congregation of Ardrossan parish and, for a similar period, it has housed what was known as a “dissenting” congregation.

The first dissenting congregation is still a thriving part of the town’s religious life. Today it is known as Landsborough Trinity Parish Church but, when the congregation was first formed in 1783, it was the Relief Church. It was built to meet the needs of dissenters who lived in the parishes of West Kilbride, Ardrossan, Stevenston and Dalry who had previously worshipped in Irvine under the Rev. M. Robertson, a well known Scottish divine.

As many of the congregation from outlying parts found it difficult to attend church in Irvine, it was decided to build a church in a more convenient situation. Saltcoats was chosen and the church was built in Kyleshill, in the parish of Stevenston. Distance was still a problem and Shank’s Mare was the mode of travel of most of the worshippers so it became a feature of the congregation that those from outlying parts were given hospitality by the local mernbers so that they could attend all diets of worship.

The Relief and the United Presbyterian churches in Scotland joined forces in the middle of the century and the Relief Church in Saltcoats became known as the East U.P. Church. The church served the congregation for over a century but by the middle of the 19th century there was a large increase in the population of Saltcoats and a considerable amount of housebuilding took place. There was also a noticeable shift of population from Stevenston parish into Ardrossan parish. The main cause of the prosperity of the town was the building of Alfred Nobel’s explosives factory at Ardeer; another factor was the completion of the railway line from Glasgow which brought commuters and holidaymakers to the town.

These factors led the congregation to give thought to the future. The church building was too small for their needs, many attenders were moving to new homes and many of the houses in the vicinity of the church had been demolished to make way for the railway The songregation decided that the best action they could take would be to build a new church in another part of the town. The congregation had considered union and a tentative approach was made to the West U.P. congregation, now Erskine Church who had moved to a new church some 20 years previously but this was not successful.

Trinity Church under construction

A site was found in Dockhead Street, it consisted of two feus, one a house and garden and the other a tenement. The trustees acting for the congregation were John Thomson, shoemaker, president; James Campbell, writer, treasurer; Archibald Wallace, printer, collector and Robert Headrick, Theresa Cottage, clerk. The purchasing price of the site was £430 and the estimated cost of building the church was £1400. Towards these sums the congregation subscribed £400 and applications for grants were made to the Ferguson Bequest and the Home Mission Board of the U.P. Church.

When it is remembered that the mernbership of the congregation was 167, the great majority of them working class, the zeal and faith of the congregation is evident. The previous year their average liability had been £1 – 15 – 0 1/4d. per member. Their aim, they declared, was to do more aggressive work in the heart of the town and to take their part in supplying church services to the visitors.

The Presbytery sustained their efforts, declaring that “The pastoral fidelity of the minister, his matured experience, his deep interest in the prosperity of the denomination …constituated, in the estimation of the Court, a very strong ground for expecting that, with improved accommodation the congregation under his care will grow in strength and efficiency”.

The way was now clear for the church building to go ahead. Messrs Baldie & Tennant, Glasgow, were appointed architects and the site was cleared. On September 22, 1888 the memorial stone was laid. The old church at Kyleshill remained part of the congregation after they moved to their new church. For a time it was used for congregational needs; later it served a nurnber of recreational and educational purposes for the people of Saltcoats. During the Second World War it touched the nadir of its career when it was earmarked as a mortuary in the event of air raids. Fortunately it was never needed for this purpose and shortly after the end of hostilities it was demolished to make way for a housing development.


The James Campbell window

Inside Trinity Church there were a number of memorials to past ministers and mernbers. A stained glass window commemorated the ministry of the Rev J. Drummond Taylor and another window marked the long service given to the congregation by James Campbell, whose legal firm still practice in the town. The communion table and chairs were a memorial to the ministry of the Rev James Adams. The baptismal font was given to the congregation by the Scott family in memory of Marth Scott, a young Sunday School teacher. The hymn boards were given by the Bowman family in memory of their parents. Mr J.G. Bowman was a former clerk to the Managers and Session Clerk.

In the vestibule there was a brass plaque bearing the names of men of the congregation who served and died in the Flrst World War. On the communion table there was a brass lectern which commemorated those who died in the Second World War. Among the names is that of Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell, the town’s only holder of the Victoria Cross. F/O Campbell was the grandson of the above-mentioned James Campbell.

The first minister called by the congregation was the Rev David Ewen who received his call on 28th Decernber, 1783. It was signed by 106 individuals. This first incumbent set a pattern which was followed by many of his successors in having a long and settled ministry. He died in his 80th year and the 49th year of his ministry.

Two years before Mr Ewen’s death the congregation lightened his load by appointing as his colleague and successor the Rev James Giffen. He continued in office until 1863, when he retired because of ill health. During his pastorship the Relief and the United Secession churches were united. Not much is known of Mr Giffen but he is commemorated in the town by the street named after him – Giffen Road.

The Rev George Philp accepted a call from the congregation in 1864. During his ministry the congregation flourished greatly A manse was built adjacent to the church, which was now within the grounds of Parkend House. The annual report for 1871 shows that the manse cost £1085 – 11 – 6 1/2d. to build and the report states that it was completely paid for within a very short time of completion. Most of the money came from congregational subscriptions and from a Grand Bazaar held in a large marquee on the green between Saltcoats and Ardrossan. The number on the roll at that time was 181.

Mr Philp played a prominent part in the planning of the move to the new church in Dockhead Street. Just as the new building was nearly finished the minister died suddenly and the congregation faced the joint problems of moving to a new church without the leadership of a much loved minister.

One of the ministers who took part in the funeral service for Mr Philp was the Rev J. Drummond Taylor, minister of the U.P. congregation in Kilwinning. As Taylor’s biographer wrote “the heart of the pastorless people went out to the preacher with a wonderful unanimity”. On August 2, 1889 the new church was opened for public worship; four days later the Rev Drummond Taylor was inducted as minister.

The new minister and the new building gave the congregation an impetus which led to a strong period of growth. Membership increased, a hall was built, a pipe organ was installed and congregational liberality was sufficient to make aid from the Church Augmentation fund unnecessary and the church became self-supporting. In summer, with the addition of visitors, the church was so full that there was talk of building an extension. In 1900 Mr Taylor celebrated his semijubilee as a minister and Mr James Campbell, on behalf of a happy and grateful congregation, presented him with a silver salver and a purse of 150 sovereigns. Another merger of Scottish churches took place between the United Presbyterian and the Free Church and the East U.P. became Trinity U.F. Church.

Drummond Taylor was a minister who drove himself unmercifully in his work for the congregation and eventually he paid the price. In 1901, while visiting a sick parishioner, he took a heart attack and died immediately Mr Taylor and his ministry were commemorated in the church by a stained glass window.
It took the congregation some time to find a successor to such an illustrious minister but eventually the Rev James Adams from Greenock accepted a call. Once again a man of outstanding qualities had been chosen and Mr Adams soon made an impression not only on the church but on the town. Early in his ministry he took a keen interest in education and he also earned the reputation as a doughty debater in Presbytery He guided his congregation through the dark days of the First World War and saw the merger of the U.E Church and the established church in Scotland when Trinity became Trinity Parish Church.

He served on Saltcoats Town Council and was a magistrate of the burgh. He also represented the Presbytery on Ayrshire Education Committee. After a ministry extending over 30 years Mr Adams asked for a colleague and successor, allowing him to retain his connection with the congregation as senior minister. What the congregation had seen as a simple step turned into a long, and at times acrimonious struggle with the Presbytery of Ardrossan, who wished the congregation to unite with one of the other five Church of Scotland congregations in the town. Although, as has been mentioned earlier, the congregation had once voluntarily considered union in this instance they were strongly opposed to the move and eventually had their way and a call was presented to the Rev John R. Ramsay who was inducted in 1933.

Mr Adams continued to serve the congregation and the community and despite his advanced age, he was a source of inspiration to many in the dark days of the Second World War. He died in 1945 from injuries he received when struck by a vehicle during the blackout. In his memory a communion table and chairs were unveiled in the church by his daughter, Miss Margaret Adams, OBE.

Mr Ramsay was a young man and Trinity was his first charge, he had previously worked in industry He was keenly evangelistic and made a deep impression on lhe younger mernbers of the congregation. He accepted a call to a Glasgow charge just before the outbreak of war and was succeeded by the Rev J.P. Reid.

Mr Reid met the Presbytery’s conditions of being an older minister and came to Trinity after vast experience in different fields. Shortly after his induction the congregation was asked to release him for service with the Church of Scotland’s Canteens. He did much good work in Saltcoats in a comparatively short ministry and left to take over a charge in the North of England.

The Rev John Stewart was inducted to the vacant charge in 1946 and proved an ideal choice to lead the congregation out of the depths of the recent war. He was a young man, who had previously been minister to a Glasgow congregation. He had been a sportsman in his youth and was a keen mountaineer and he soon brought new life and heart into the congregation. His ministry was a comparatively shorl one – he accepted a call to Aberdeen Woodside South in 1953.

Once again the question of union and readjustment was raised, although on this occasion the Presbytery was blameless, the instruction to raise it came from the General Assembly. Once again the congregation was given permission to call a minister and after almost a year’s vacancy the Rev D.G. Weir was inducted in 1954. Mr Weir had seen service with the Royal Navy during the war and had been minister at Rosehearty. He was a native of Dalry whose townspeople had helped to form the original congregation.

Rev Weir was with the congregation until 1992 and during his ministry saw many changes. The old manse at Parkend was sold and Mr and Mrs Weir and their family entered a newer, more convenient home in Melbourne Road. But the major event of his ministry was the union of Trinity and Landsborough congregation.

The question of Union was not a new subject for the congregation of Trinity. 100 years ago there was a move by the East U.P. congregation to merge with the West U.P. (now Erskine) but the latter congregation turned down the approach and as a result the congregation built Trinity church.
The national union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church took place in 1928 and when the Rev James Adams applied for a colleague and successor in 1931 the Presbytery of Ardrossan decided the time was ripe for union in Saltcoats. The congregation did not, and after long and often acrimonious negotiations the congregation was allowed to call a minister.

In several subsequent vacancies the Presbytery sought to bring about a union but the congregation always resisted and in the end maintained their independence. Landsborough congregation had faced similar problems in a number of comparatively short-term ministries. They were also faced with an adverse report by the local authority on the fabric of the church.

When Landsborough church again became vacant in 1968 the suggestion was made that there should be a union with the Trinity congregation. This time serious opposition seemed to be absent and, after the usual preliminaries, discussion was amicable and large majorities of both congregations agreed to the union.

On Sunday morning, 6th October, 1968 at a public service of worship in Trinity Church, conducted by the Rev William Burnside, acting with the authority of the Presbytery of Ardrossan, the congregations of Landsborough and Trinity were united as one, in the Church now to be known as Landsborough & Trinity Church, under the ministry of the Rev D.G. Weir, minister of Trinity Church; the Trinity manse to be the manse for the united church, the Landsborough church and manse to be sold.

On Friday evening, 18th October, 1968, the Kirk Sessions of Landsborough Church and Trinity Church met in the Session House of the former Trinity Church at which the moderator, the Rev Gordon Weir constituted the elders of both Churches as the Kirk Session of Saltcoats Landsborough and Trinity Church.

Prior to union the financial and business affairs of Landsborough Church were under the jurisdiction of a Deacons Court with the minister as Chairman. In Trinity being a former U.P. church, this function was carried out by a Board of Managers, under the Chairmanship of a Preses. Under the Deeds of Union, the Model Constitution had to be adopted. This required that the temporal affairs of the church had to be administered by a Congregational Board, under the Chairmanship of the minister.

In the early years of union, a redevelopment plan, produced on behalf of Saltcoats Town Council, showed the Council’s intention to develop the area behind the church hall, as a car park. This development if allowed to proceed would have completely removed the church hall. An appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland on behalf of the congregation resulted in a decision in favour of the church.

In January 1975, a new chapter was written in the history of the church when two ladies were ordained as eldcrs. By 1989 there were six lady elders. This was a forward looking step and one which has been completely justified.

In 1976, mainly at the instigation of the minister and session clerk of Landsborough and Trinity church, the Saltcoats Christian Action Council was formed. This council consisted of the ministers/leaders and lay representatives of the various Christian orgainisations in the town, working together for the good of the community in areas of common interest, free from sectarian conflict.

In 1979, Mr Weir completed 25 years as a minister in Saltcoats. To celebrate this happy and important event, a social evening was held in the church hall at which presentations were made to both Mr and Mrs Weir.

In 1986, Cunninghame District Council embarked on the up-grading and pedestrianisation of Dockhead Street. Part of their plan was to remove the wall and gate enclosing church property, break up the concrete forecourt and replace with paving blocks, similar to Dockhead Street. This would make the church and forecourt a completely ‘open’ area. After long deliberation and thought, the office bearers agreed to the council plan, having received several concessions. The appearance of the forecourt was much enhanced by these alterations and the church became the centre-piece of the main shopping area in the town.

The success of the union of Landsborough and Trinity congregations was due in no small measure to the tactful Ieadership of the minister and the fact that two such strongly independent congregations have come together is a tribute to Rev Weir who guided and led the united congregation wisely and successfully. Sadly, Rev Weir died in 2002.

The David Scott window

The John Galloway window

The Brown family window

Landsborough church also had a number of memorials. It was only right and fitting that these were preserved. Although it was a very costly procedure, the stained glass windows were very expertly dismantled piece by piece and re-installed in the United Church.

One window commemorated the ministry of the Rev David Scott DD. Another window commemorated John Galloway of Kilmeny, Ardrossan, who by a coincidence, laid the memorial stone in the present building. A third window commemorated John and Margaret Brown, their sons John, James and William and their daughter Margaret.

At the back of the gallery three slained glass windows were dedicated to the men from Landsborough who gave their lives in the First World War.

In the church vestibule there was a wooden plaque bearing the names of the men of Landsborough who fought and died in the Second World War.

On 28th January 1887 lhc following instructions were issued to architects wishing to tender for the design and construction of the church: “The proposed new church is to contain about 450 sittings, 350 in the area and 100 in the gallery or thereby. The building stones to be brought either from Ballochmyle (near Mauchline) or Seven Acres (Monkreddan). The total cost is not to exceed £1,400. This sum is to include the Mason, Joiner, Plaster, Plumber, Slater, Painter and Gasfitter’s work, also front railings and gateway boundary walls and Architect’s fee, all complete. The best attention must be given to acoustics and the most approved methods of heating and ventilation”.

The original Rules and Constitution of the church were adopted at a special meeting of the congregation held for the purpose on 2nd November, 1870. One of the rules, if still in force today would prove quite a challenge to the Congregational Board. It reads as follows:- “The Managers shall have no power to contract debt on the security of the property without the special authority of the congregation given either at the annual meeting or at a special meeting called for the purpose. They shall not make any repair or alteration in one year exceeding the value of £5, without such authority”.

In addition to the generosity of the congregational members in their giving to the cost of building the new church, a subscription list was opened for “Friends of the Congregation”. Over 200 names appeared on this list and the total sum donated was £812 – 2 – 5 l/2d. The individual subscriptions varied in value from under £1 to £100, and came from all over Scotland and England and as far away as Canada and Fiji!

The Drummond Taylor memorial window

The memorial window to the Rev Drummond Taylor was a unique and rare type known as a Morris Window. It became the subject of great interest and comment by those knowledgeable in the finer qualities of stained glass windows. A gentleman from Cheltenham once paid a visit to the Church, specially to inspect the Drummond Taylor window. He was acting on behalf of a colleague in America who was preparing a history of stained glass windows and who had evidently heard of the Morris window in Landsborough & Trinity Church.

In 1980, the Historic Buildings branch of the Scottish Development Department selected the church for inclusion in the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, compiled by the Secretary of State.

What The Ardrossan And Saltcoats Herald of the day described as ‘a very interesting ceremony’, took place on the 22nd September, 1888 when a memorial stone was laid in the partially completed church. On a small platform, erected above the main door, church and local dignitaries gathered for the ceremony, which was watched by a large crowd.

The minister, the Rev. G. Philp, called on Mr John Galloway (of Messrs. P. Henderson Ltd., Shippers, Glasgow) who resided at Kilmeny, Ardrossan, a near neighbour and a well known representative of the Free Church!

Before the stone was laid a jar was placed in the centre containing copies of the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald with articles outlining the church’s history, along with church documents, copies of current daily newspapers and other items of local interest.

Mr Galloway was presented with a silver trowel to perform the ceremony and, as the stone was laid, a local photographer recorded the ceremony.

Rev. Weir’s retirement in 1992 put the church in another vacancy situation. Following a parish reappraisal by the Presbytery and the General Assembly, and despite numerous objections from both churches, the church was instructed to unite with Erskine Church to form what is now New Trinity Parish Church.

God of all grace, we praise Thy holy Name for all who have faithfully worshipped and served Thee in lhis placc through the years that are past. May the recollection of their lives and their work kindle in our hearts a sense of gratitude and a strong resolve to preserve and pass on to others what we ourselves have so richly enjoyed; for the honour of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © Ardrossan & Saltcoats Kirkgate Parish Church of Scotland. Registered Scottish Charity SC023003.