Service to give thanks for 775 years of worship in Kirkcaldy

Aerial view of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk. Pic courtsey of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust.
Aerial view of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk. Pic courtsey of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust.

Kirkcaldy Old Kirk will be celebrating 775 years of Christian presence and worship in the heart of the town with a special Service of Thanksgiving this weekend – and everyone is invited to join in.

The trustees have extended an invitation to the community to join them at the anniversary service in the Old Kirk this Sunday.

The Old Kirk chancel (the part of a church near the altar, reserved for the clergy and choir) before 1968. Pic courtsey of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust.

The Old Kirk chancel (the part of a church near the altar, reserved for the clergy and choir) before 1968. Pic courtsey of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust.

And there will also be a re-dedication of the restored Burne-Jones window at the event which starts at 3pm.

The service will be conducted by Rev John Ferguson, the last minister of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk before the union. He also did the service marking the 750th anniversary 25 years ago.

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The newly restored Old Kirk window which has now been repaired and returned. Pic courtsey of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk.

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Julie Ford, Fife’s Depute Provost, will attend in recognition of the close links between Fife Council and the Kirk in past years. There will also be a performance of a playlet by the Auld Kirk Players written by Isabel Coventry.

In the Spring of 1244, Bishop David de Bernham, the Roman Catholic Bishop of the huge Diocese of St. Andrews, set out on his travels, arriving at Kirkcaldy on March 21 to perform the consecration of the parish church (on the site of the Old Kirk).

Rosemary Potter and George Proudfoot from Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust with the tower in background. Pic:  WALTER NEILSON

Rosemary Potter and George Proudfoot from Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust with the tower in background. Pic: WALTER NEILSON

The document in which de Bernham wrote down the churches he consecrated was his Pontifical, a book containing the order of services which could only be conducted by a Bishop.

And the mention relating to Kirkcaldy is the earliest written record of Kirkcaldy Parish Church.

Since 1244, Kirkcaldy’s Old Kirk has been the site of a place of continuous worship.

Over the past 775 years it has seen all phases of religion come and go, from the old Celtic worshippers through Roman Catholicism to the Reformation of 1560 and the preaching of covenanter George Gillespie.

The tower dates back to the 15th century and various places of worship have stood beside it over the years.

In 1807 local landowners or heritors banded together to build a new church on to the existing tower when the old one became too dilapidated.

Throughout the centuries it has seen disasters such as the collapse of the gallery in 1828 and a devastating fire in 1986 as well as celebrity through its links with George Gillespie who helped lead the covenanters after the Reformation to the famous economist and philosopher Adam Smith.

Loyal benefactors set out to improve the Old Kirk with the Burne-Jones/William Morris windows installed in the 1880s.

These earliest windows by English artist and designer Sir Edward Burne-Jones have been described by experts as “probably the best in situ” and were completed by William Morris, designer, poet, novelist and social activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts movement.

There are also works by Gascoigne of Nottingham which were donated by Kirkcaldy benefactor John Hunter; a pair depicting Biblical fire themes by John Clark which replaced those damaged by fire in 1986 and the latest by Crear McCartney installed in 1994 as part of the church’s 750th anniversary celebrations.

Repairs to several of the windows have been carried out by Mark Bambrough, an expert from Glasgow. One window was done last year, the second one over the last few months of this year.

There are also plans for a number of stained glass window workshops to celebrate the church’s famous collection of windows which lights up the interior of the auditorium.

Locals will have the chance to see the newly-restored Burne-Jones window, re-dedicated at the service this Sunday.

In March, the current custodians of the landmark, Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust planned a year of celebrations to mark the milestone from concerts and recitals to lectures, workshops and a major exhibition.

Included is the highly successful 775th anniversary organ recital series – a monthly organ recital by some of the top organ players. The next one is this Saturday at noon featuring Dr. John Willmett, organist and director of music at Bearsden Cross Church. There are also plans for a couple of reminiscence afternoons.

The celebrations will run until March next year, according to the old Gregorian calendar, as it was back in the times of the original church. Visit www.kirkcaldyoldkirktrust.org.uk.

The Burne-Jones Windows

The oldest windows are now the two stained-glass windows placed in the east wall of the church as a memorial to the late parish church member James Russell who died suddenly in November 1877. The windows were designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a famous stained-glass artist, and were executed at the works of William Morris, Merton Abbey, Surrey. The association of Sir Edward Burne-Jones with William Morris, D.G. Rossetti, Madox Brown and other pre-Raphaelites, produced the distinctive artistic emphasis evident in the decoration. The windows were dedicated by the Rev Professor Milligan, DD, of Aberdeen on 19 September 1886.