Church History


The history of the Congregation was produced in 1975 - the Centenary of the Congregation - by the Late Mr George Arthur, who was the Roll Keeper. His extensive knowledge of local church history and his painstaking research were vital in the production of this outline of our Congregation.

A brief History:

To understand the events leading to the formation of the Present Congregation, we begin this sketch of local Church History by tracing the main outline of events which have led to the existence of the Congregation of St. Ninian's Craigmailen as we know it.


To trace their beginning, we have to go back to 1712, when an Act of Parliament reintroduced Patronage into the Church of Scotland. Patronage was the right, on payment of the Minister's stipend by wealthy patrons or heritors, to place a minister in a charge against the wishes of the congregation. Today as we know, the choice of a minister - subject to the approval of Presbytery to call a minister in a vacancy and to sustain the call when it is given - is in the hands of the members of the congregation. This is something which most members hold as important, and not surprisingly, there was widespread dissent at the reintroduction of patronage and many people left the Church of Scotland.

The First Session Church:

In 1733, the Associate or First Session Church was founded, due to the efforts of Moderator of the Synod of Stirling and Perth, the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine and three other ministers. Among those dissenting on patronage, was a group of people who had been meeting for worship at Craigmailen Farm, about four miles south of Linlithgow. They decided to join the new church and were instituted as a congregation on 15th November, 1738.



The Preaching Stone:

The Rev. James Thomson of Burntisland was Moderator and Ebenezer Erskine and his brother Ralph were present. A Kirk Session of ten ruling elders was ordained and an estimated thousand people were present. The Minute of this Meeting contains a request for a Sabbath Day's preaching by Mr John Hunter, Probationer. This was duly granted and is recorded on the "Preaching Stone" on Craigmailen Hill, which bears the inscription - "January 14th, 1738.


Here was preached the first sermon by ye most worthy Mr Hunter from ye 37th Chapter of Ezekiel and ye 26th Verse." (the date on the stone should be 1739 instead of 1738.) A relative of the said Mr Hunter is currently an elder in the Congregation.

The Burgess Oath:

For two years, the congregation was without a minister; then on 17th June, 1741, the Rev. Andrew Clarkson was ordained and in the following year, a church was built. The congregation prospered until 1747 when a breach occurred over the Burgess Oath, which required freemen to give "adherence to true religion presently professed within this realm."

The Burghers and the Anti-Burghers:

The members of the congregation were split into two parties, the Burghers and the Anti-Burghers - the Burghers interpreting "true religion" as meaning the Christian Faith, and the Anti-Burghers, interpreting it as the Established Church. The latter party was the larger and included the minister. On being refused the Sacraments by the minister, the Burghers moved out, worshipping in different places, settling in Torphichen and then in Linlithgow. In 1772, they built a church on a site between Avon Place and the High Street, and added a gallery to it in 1786.


This Church was replaced in 1834 by the building which came to be known as Craigmailen Church. The cost of construction was £1150. After the split, the Anti-Burghers continued to worship at Craigmailen Farm, but in 1806, they too moved to Linlithgow and built in 1807, the East Church, situated above the Railway Station. The breach between the Burghers and the Anti-Burghers was healed in 1820 at Bristo Church in Edinburgh, and they became one denomination again, but the congregations in Linlithgow maintained their separate identity.

The Disruption:

In 1847, by a further Act of Union, the two congregations became part of the United Presbyterian Church. In 1843, the Disruption occurred within the Church of Scotland, over the issue of State control of the Church, and 451 Ministers (more than one third) broke away to form the Free Church. Thus a Free Church congregation came to exist in Linlithgow. The Rev. John Fogo of Berwickshire, was elected Minister on 12th September, 1843, and a Church was opened on the first Sunday in September, 1844. The Church was situated at the junction of Falkirk Road and Bathgate Road and stood until 1971, when it was demolished.


Right from the start, the life of the Church was vigorous. A school was opened in 1846 with a Schoolmaster and an Infant Mistress, who was paid the salary of £25 per annum. The congregation benefited from the generosity of a Miss Catherine Burnside of Flask (now Springfield), who gifted the Communion Plate, disposed part of her property at Friarshill, to the Congregation, and left a legacy of £150.

Vision and Activity:

By the Education Act of 1872, schools were brought under the control of School Boards, and the members of the Congregation decided to build a new Church. Ground was feued from the late Thomas Chalmers of Longcroft and building commenced in 1873 - the Feu Charter being dated 14th March, 1874. The exact date of completion is uncertain, but a Communion Service was held in 1875.

Pastoral Work:

About this time, a flute band was started to try to keep apprentices out of public houses. In Linlithgow, there were 37 licences for 3,700 people. Miss Scott, a deaconess, was highly commended for her work during a typhoid epidemic at Linlithgow Bridge, and a Dorcas Society, or Woman's Work Meeting was started. This was to be the start of the Work Party and later of the Woman's Guild.

Devotional Life:

The devotional life of the congregation ran high, with Prayer Meetings held in the Hall, two and three times a week, and the Sunday Services, lasting a whole day, with members from outlying districts staying throughout the day and being served with tea in the Hall.


In 1900, the United Presbyterian and Free Churches united to become the United Free Church of Scotland; thus there came to be three U.F. Churches in Linlithgow - the East, at the top of Station Brae; the West or Trinity (Craigmailen) and the High (this Church). On the 1st of March, 1917, the East and West Churches united and became Craigmailen United Free Church. When the United Free Church rejoined the Church of Scotland in 1929, the two congregations became St. Ninian's Parish Church (formerly High United Free) and Craigmailen Parish Church respectively.


They remained thus until 2nd June, 1954. During these years, the congregation at St. Ninian's was ministered to by the Revs. John L. Morgan, Robert Prenter, Lindsay L. Davidson, and W. Dunbar Allan, and Craigmailen was served by the Revs. Archibald Campbell and Llandels Bishop. In September, 1952, Mr Bishop was called to Bridge of Weir and the following year Mr Allan was transferred to Kirkbean. On 15th February, 1955, the Rev. G. Elliot Anderson was inducted to the present united congregation of St. Ninian's Craigmailen. The Rev William J. McMillan arrived in 1969 and served for ten years until preaching his farewell service on 19th August 1979 when he left for New Erskine.. The Rev. Samuel C. Harris was inducted on 27th March 1980 until he transferred to Stranraer Old, saying farewell on 24th December 1989. On 4th September 1990,  the Rev. Iain C. Morrison was inducted, but after taking ill in December 2001, he demitted office on 30th november 2003. The Rev W Richard Houston was inducted on 23rd September 2004.


The Building:

The building in which we worship is a lovely building seating around 400. Some comment is useful relating to the buildings main features. When the Church was completed in the mid-1870's, it was somewhat different in structure from today. There was no Transept, the Chancel Arch was built up with the pulpit in the centre and a hall behind. The foundation stone of the Church is centred on the Chancel Arch and is in the passage leading to the Choir Room. The total cost of the Church was £3,710.19.lOd., and this was paid off in the Session 1876-1877. The Bell was cast and placed in the steeple in 1877, it is the same pattern as the Town Bell, but larger. The Church itself is a listed building and the gate posts are category B listed.


Congregational praise has some features of interest in the years following construction. Hymns were permitted in public worship as from 19th April, 1876, the congregation standing to sing from May, 1878. In May, 1882, a new hymn book was introduced (history repeats itself), and in February, 1894, the congregation accepted the gift of a harmonium. The Precentor, a Mr James Newton resigned two months later. The present organ was installed in 1901 as a hand manual at a cost of £450, and the partition in the Chancel was taken away. The handle for pumping the organ can still be seen at the back and some of our present members have taken their turn pumping it. The pulpit was moved to its present position in 1957.

The Pulpit:

The pulpit originally had six carved panels, with Scripture references. Four of these remain, and are: 1. Exodus 32, 15-16 Moses coming down the mountain with the Tablets on which are written the Ten Commandments. 2. John 9 v.11 Jesus healing the blind man by the Pool of Siloam. 3. John 18, v.37 Jesus before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. 4. Malachi 3, 1-3 The coming of the Lord's Messenger like a refiner's fire. These are reputed to have been carved by a French craftsman.

The Chalmers Memorial Window:


The different windows in St. Ninian's Craigmailen each tell a story. The three light memorial window in the East Gable (the back of the Church) is a memorial to Thomas Chalmers of Longcroft House, who died in 1883.


It is an illustration of Jesus' words in Matthew 25, 36-40 - "When I was hungry, you gave me food; when thirsty, you gave me drink, when I was a stranger, you took me to your home; when naked, you clothed me; when I was ill, you came to my help; when in prison, you visited me - I tell you this - Anything you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did for me. This window was removed and rebuilt and re-installed in 1996.


The brass memorial plaques under the window are in memory of Mrs Chalmers (nee Jean Menzies) of Longcroft House and her two sons, Sir Charles Chalmers and Thomas Chalmers. The five windows in the main body of the Church were inserted by Robert Mickel in memory of his wife and their son, Bertie.

Side Windows

The three windows on the North Wall of the Church speak of Jesus' association with Martha and Mary, the two sisters who lived at Bethany. Those on the South Wall are of Jesus with a little child, bearing the words, "and the streets shall be full of children playing" (Zechariah 8, v.5) and of a woman called Phoebe, who held office in the church at Cenchreae, and whom Paul commends in his letter to the Romans (Romans 1, v.16).


In 1900, the Transept was added and inserted in the Transept Wall is the Andrew Mickel Memorial Window and five supporting windows, each with a text from the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel. This is a very fine window with some areas being triple glazed to give a distinctive textured look to the scene. This window was also rebuilt in 1994.

War Memorial:

On the North Wall, near to the pulpit, there is a memorial tablet to the Rev. W. Millar Nicholson who was minister of the Congregation when the Church was built. Below, is a tablet in memory of his wife. On the Transept Wall, facing the main body of the congregation, stands the War Memorial in memory of the men of the congregation who gave their lives for our freedom in the Great war - 1914 to 1918.

Chancel Furniture:

In the Chancel of the Church, there are two Communion Tables, and two Baptismal Fonts. The Communion Table in use comes from St. Ninian's Church and the Baptismal Font from Craigmailen, and is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Archibald Campbell.


The Hymn Book Table at the main door of the Church was dedicated to the memory of the late Robert Bennie in 1969, and most of the furnishings in the Pulpit area have been given privately or anonymously.

Building Refurbishment:

In the last six years the Church has been totally refurbished, internally and externally. A New heating system has been installed. The building has been rewired and new lighting fitted. A new public Address system and loop amplifier for the hard of hearing has also been installed. The building has been painted outside and totally re-decorated inside and re carpeted. The seat cushions, given as an anonymous gift, were recovered as were all the chairs in the Chancel. The organ has been overhauled and a humidifier fitted. The Church was re-dedicated by the Very Reverend James Simpson, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on 10th September 1995.

The Longcroft Memorial Hall:

This Hall was built in 1869 by Thomas Chalmers, to fulfil his wife's desire for an Infant School. From 1894 to 1900, it was occupied as Linlithgow Academy, until the opening of the Academy at Low Port in 1900. The building was then used as a Studio and is still referred to as such by the older people of the town. It was taken over by the War Department Authorities during the 1914-18 War and occupied by various regiments.

Longcroft Memorial Hall 2:

The Longcroft Hall:

On 6th October, 1921, it was handed over to the Trustees of the Church for the use of the Congregation, Mrs Leslie, the elderly caretaker, being given a liferent. In 1925, the ventilation and lighting were improved and the domestic accommodation extended. The War Department Authorities took over the Hall again during the 1939-45 War. A new Kitchen and Cloakroom were added in 1960/61, with structural alterations to form the Committee Room, and in 1972, the Hall was repainted partly by voluntary labour and a new floor laid.  n June 1977, it was agreed that an extension to the Longcroft memorial Hall should be built at a projected cost of £23,800  The Hall was closed in mid 1978 for three months while work took place and was reopened in January 1979. The extended building was dedicated on 11th March 1979.  It has been refurbished in the last few years, inside and out with a new kitchen being fitted in January 1997.

The Organisations:

The land between the Church and the Hall was purchased to allow for any future developments for whatever might be most suited to the needs of the Congregation. The Congregation is larger than it has ever been, the current Roll standing at 720 souls. There are very active Women's and Youth Organisations, Sunday School, Bible Class and Youth Fellowship, a small choir, prayer group and a Parent and Toddler Group. A summer holiday club - The Holy Terrors - is also run by the minister and members of the congregation.

The Parish:

Linlithgow is growing - population around 15000 - and there are two large housing developments in the Parish, A new 45 place Sheltered Housing Complex and a New 120 bed Nursing Home. Efforts have been made to increase our liberality and to reach the people in our parish outside the Church.

Thanksgiving to God:

We have much to be grateful for under God. For the first time in its history the Congregation had a Probationer Assistant - Rev. Dave Whiteman - and more organisations with a Brownie Pack and two Rainbow Packs were started in the halls in 1993. The last thing we can afford to do is to feel complacent or to congratulate ourselves. There is still much to do in the Church and in the community, and in the week by week worship and mission of the Church.

The Future:

Every member of St. Ninian's Craigmailen is assured that there is a place for them. To look back into the past is always a humbling experience. It makes us feel small and reminds us that we have inherited so much which is due to the work of others. It also solemnly lays upon us the fact that the people who come after us will look back to the contribution which we are making to the Kingdom of Christ. We relish the future with the possibilities with new technology, married to proven ways of doing things in Worship and Pastoral Care.

High Standards:

It would be something of a tragedy if the verdict of time upon us was that we had given less than our best. Today is the day of challenge and opportunity when the Church in Scotland seems to be losing ground, when the standards of Christ are being disregarded. Let us give the best of ourselves to the One who has given Himself for us. "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians Ch15 v58).




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