Parish Church (1216-1982)

Illustrated Essays

“The church is a beautiful building of modern Gothic, reared in 1803.”

Rev Hamilton Buchanan, Second Statistical Account of the Parish of Strathblane, 1841.
Strathblane Church, 1897 (Photograph courtesy of Angus Graham)

Early History

The parish of Strathblane is more than 800 years old. The “parochia de Strathblachane” is first mentioned in a document defining the boundaries of the parish of Campsie. Though undated, references to historical figures in this document show that Strathblane was already a parish in 1216.

A chapel dedicated to Kessog, the Dark Ages saint, may have existed previously near to St Kessog’s Roman Catholic Church in Blanefield, where there is a well named after him. Nevertheless, the first parish church was almost certainly on or close to the current one, built in 1803. (The village of Strathblane’s old name, Edenkill (or Edenkiln), means “a place sloping towards the church”.)

The lands around the church, traditionally known as the “Kirklands”, were probably gifted to the church for ecclesiastical purposes by one of the early Earls of Lennox. [Kirkland Avenue on the Kirkhouse Estate is a reminder]. But by 1316 the proceeds of both the church and the kirklands had been allocated to the Hospital of Polmadie, a foundation in the parish of Govan for monks and nuns from poor backgrounds. Under the feudal system, within a century this had morphed into little more than a sinecure for the rich and powerful. In 1453 the church and kirklands passed to the Collegiate Church of Dumbarton that had been founded by Isabella, Countess of Lennox.

Mary, Countess of Angus, sister to King James I of Scotland and wife of Sir William Edmonstone of Duntreath, and who died around 1458, was buried inside Strathblane Church. The place is marked by a plaque on a pew (See Monumental Inscriptions 392). The oldest date on any gravestone in the churchyard is 1482. (See Monumental Inscriptions 199). Note: The stone was recut in the 19th century and used for Robert McKean and his wife Grace Buchanan. Of the original inscription only the date was visible in Guthrie Smith’s time.)

Plaque marking the grave of Lady Mary Stewart, buried in the church c1458

As the Rev Philip McCardel put it in his Third Statistical Account of the Parish of Strathblane: “There is little doubt that during these times there would be a vicar of Strathblane in pastoral charge of the parish, though at times he was ill provided.” (In 1427 the vicar’s salary was set at 14 Scots merks a year, plus the proceeds of a small glebe but a century later in 1518, the vicar, one Humphry Cuningham, was reduced to taking the provost of the Dumbarton Collegiate Church to court after being denied any salary at all.)

Post Reformation

After the Reformation, matters did not improve quickly. The first Protestant service was held in Strathblane in 1560. However, a shortage of ministers throughout Scotland, left Strathblane with a Reader, John Cuik, but having to share a minister, Johnne Stoddert, with Fintry and Campsie. The Rev Stoddert’s annual salary was £66 13s 4d.

In his history of the parish, John Guthrie Smith gives a detailed account of what Sunday worship entailed at Strathblane in the 1570s, though he does not quote a source.

John Guthrie Smith’s description of Sunday worship in Strathblane c1575

By 1600 Strathblane had its own minister. Guthrie Smith details the comings and goings of all 13 of them up to and including the Rev Daniel Ferguson (1874-1886). [There have been nine since.]

The Rev John Cochran, recently graduated from Edinburgh, arrived in 1650.  A new manse was built and he purchased a sand glass in order to time his sermons. He also expected self-restraint from his parishioners as the next entry in the session records shows him spending twelve shillings “for hinging of the joggs at the Kirk doore”. The joggs, as Guthrie Smith explains, was an ancient Scottish instrument of punishment, consisting of an iron collar fixed to the wall by a chain. The neck of any wrong-doer (including absentees from church) was inserted and remained there for a period as a form of humiliation and warning to would-be transgressors. He did not stop there. Inside the church “ane new publick place of repentance” was installed and “ane harne gowne” [a sackcloth robe] purchased for the use of “adultereris”. In addition, fines were collected and used to pay for repairs, general church expenses and poor relief.

In February 1659 there is a reminder of another sort of criminal activity that was seriously disrupting life in Strathblane, when a curious adjudication made by the Justices of the Peace at Stirling Quarter Sessions was ordered to be “published at the Kirk of Strablane”. The area was being ravaged frequently by raiders from the North. One tactic to tackle this was to pay members of the MacGregor clan to “oversee and preserve their houses, goods and geir frae oppression”. Some might call this “insurance”, others “blackmail”. The document pinned to Strathblane Kirk door reflects an ambiguous attitude to this practice. It both orders those with agreements with “Captain Macgregor” [an ancestor of the famous Rob Roy] to pay up what they owe and simultaneously bans any such payments in the future. (In fact, it would be another 100 years at least before the raiding and the security payments were finally stopped.)

Joggs (National Museum of Scotland)

Mr Cochran managed to keep Strathblane out of the unrest over the National Covenant about how the church was governed that convulsed much of Scotland in the 17th century. Though he probably had Episcopalian leanings, seemingly he was not inclined to clipe to his Archbishop on those of a Covenanter persuasion. He retired in 1690 by which time Presbyterianism had been restored, along with William and Mary. A new church was built in 1700 but was from the start considered inadequate.

Heathenish Superstition

One of Mr Cochran’s successors in Strathblane was less concerned about Covenanters than “Heathenish Superstition”, which elsewhere resulted in the prosecution of so-called witches. The Rev James Livingstone, a former chaplain of Dumbarton Castle, was inducted in 1702. In 1714 a newly-married couple called William Morrisone and Janet Logan were summoned before the kirk session to explain why a newly-dug grave had been filled in on their wedding day. Their reason was that it was considered unlucky to be married in a church where there was an empty grave. The matter was resolved when a man called Malcolm Kincaid was sharply rebuked. Presumably it was he who had wielded the spade.

Two years later in 1716, according to Guthrie Smith, the session felt it necessary to call in the Civil Guard to arrest a woman called Janet Martin for persistently refusing to produce a “testificate of her morality”. Session records report that the woman was arrested and brought to the manse “on her way to the Pit of Mugdock”. The Pit of Mugdock was a drowning pit used to execute women and girls found guilty of a crime, though a more likely punishment in such a case as this would be imprisonment in the dungeon of Mugdock Castle. In the event, Guthrie Smith reports:

“Janet humbled herself, the terrors of the pit or prison at Mugdock being too great for her, and she was finally pardoned, doubtless after a due use of the public place of repentance and the harne gowne.”

In 1723 the session was at it again. This time a woman called Catherine Cameron was reported to have cured a dying horse by passing a cat three times around its belly. Having made an “ingenious confession”, she got away with a severe rebuke. This fanatical treatment by the Strathblane kirk session of any practice with a sniff of superstition may have had more to do with attitudes to “Popery” than genuine fear of witchcraft.

Ministers’ Corner

A number of the Protestant ministers who served the parish are buried in the churchyard, mainly in the south-east, sometimes known as “ministers’ corner”. The most bizarre gravestone is that of the Rev James Gray (1748-1766), which featured a skull and other symbols of death. The inscription around the perimeter suggests he shares the grave with the mother of a previous minister, the Rev James Elphinston, minister from 1691 to 1700. (The centre of the stone had probably been left blank for the eventual burial of James Elphinston himself but, in the event, Elphinston died and was buried elsewhere and so the stone was simply recycled.) Guthrie Smith tells us that a second minister, the Rev Hamilton Buchanan, who died in 1841, is under the same stone. By the time the 2014 Churchyard survey was carried out, this stone was no longer legible. (Probably Monumental Inscriptions 159.)

Tomb of Rev James Gray, Minister from 1748-1766, as well as the mother of a previous minister, the Rev James Elphinston, minister from 1691-1700. Woodcut from John Guthrie Smith’s parish history.

Kirk v Kirkhouse Inn

In 1774 another issue was exercising the kirk session. By now the Rev Archibald Smith, son of the minister of Fintry, had been installed at Strathblane. In those days the Kirkhouse Inn was a tavern directly outside the church gate and, according to Guthrie Smith “often the scene of very scandalous and improper proceedings, doubly improper for being so near the sacred edifice.”

By 1774 a war of words had broken out between the landlord and the Rev Smith, recorded at length in presbytery and session records. During one appearance at the session, the landlord threatened to “kick up the kirk officer’s heels and trample him like dirt under his feet if he would but presume to go to his house and call his wife,” who was being summoned to give evidence regarding an alleged irregularity that had taken place at the inn. The case ended up before the presbytery, where he made his case against the minister, swearing that “the reasons of this prosecution against him were that he would not allow the minister’s hens to eat his corn” He lost the case and was put under a sentence of “lesser excommunication”.

First Statistical Account, 1796

In 1791 the Rev Gavin Gibb, former minister of Fintry, came to Strathblane and is remembered for three important reasons. First, he was a talented farmer and, among other practices, introduced the idea of using manure to improve local soil quality. Second, he was one of the generation of ministers called upon to write a detailed account of every aspect of life in his parish. Given his farming background, he was able to produce an excellent account of the changes happening in the 1790s in a parish that was still overwhelmingly rural and agricultural. Gavin Gibb’s contribution to the First Statistical Account makes a fascinating read.

First Statistical Account of the Parish of Strathblane by Rev Gavin Gibb, 1796

Lastly, it was Gibb who finally procured a new church for his parish. As he wrote in his 1796 report: “The church is a mean building, erected at the beginning of the present century, and having never been lathed or plaistered, the bare walls and roof without ceiling, present a very sorry appearance for a place of worship.” The stipend at this time was £130 sterling, plus 85 bolls of oatmeal. (This was met by the “heritors”, local landowners who retained responsibility for the upkeep of the church and graveyard until 1929. They were also responsible for poor relief and education until the late-19th century.)

The New Church, 1803

In 1802 the heritors unanimously resolved to build a new church and Glasgow architect John Brash drew up the plans. It was built of stone from the nearby Kirklands Quarry and the contract price was £1,130, plus £256 for a gallery to accommodate the Edmonstone family, though both cost somewhat more. The building was ready for occupation by 1 January 1804. Around the same time the churchyard was extended and a mausoleum created for the Edmonstones. It was agreed in 1805 “no burials to be in future inside of the church”.

The new church was not ideal. The ceiling was flat, the seats were uncomfortable and some of the ornaments were considered in poor taste, particularly the gilded pineapple on the canopy over the pulpit! Nevertheless, it was a big improvement over the previous building.

Gavin Gibb’s successor, the Rev Dr William Hamilton, fell out with the heritors over both his salary and the building of a new manse, which was sorely needed. John Cochran’s manse of 1651 had been replaced in 1732 but 90 years later this building too was in a deplorable state, with small damp rooms and low ceilings. The row ended up in court, where it was ordained that a new manse should be built immediately. The elegant new manse [now known as the Old Manse!] was constructed on the opposite side of the Blane to its predecessors and was ready for occupation in 1828. (Strathblane Heritage was able to celebrate its 30th anniversary in the Old Manse’s beautiful walled garden in May 2023, thanks to the generous hospitality of owner, Alastair Wallace.)

Rev Dr William Hamilton, Minister of Strathblane, 1809-1835, who was responsible for the building of the manse and who died four days after preaching his last sermon. The subject was “He that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs, ch 11, v 30)
The Manse, completed in 1828 (now a private house)

Incidentally, a memoir of the Rev Hamilton’s life, records that during his tenure a new ladies’ fashion accessory – the umbrella! – made its first appearance in the parish. He writes:

“The fortunate possessor was Miss Robison of Leddriegreen, and the first day of its public exhibition was a rainy Sabbath. Being apprised of its presence in church, all the youngsters turned out to view the phenomenon, and as the old lady advanced through the descending flood under covert of her moving tent, they eyed her with such admiration as some of us have felt the first time we saw a man go down in a diving bell.”

Early cartoon of the umbrella, which was then a novelty ladies’ fashion accessory. 1820 Cartoon by Cruikshank (Image@ArtTattler)

Rev Hamilton died in office in 1835, four days after preaching his final sermon. The vast sandstone monument erected in his memory by friends and parishioners dominates the eastern side of the churchyard. Its lengthy inscription praises his wisdom and love of science as well as “the warmth of his affections” and Christian life.

Monument dedicated to the Rev Dr William Hamilton, minister of Strathblane from 1809 until 1835

Second Statistical Account, 1841

His successor, the Rev Hamilton Buchanan, had six older brothers, four of whom were Church of Scotland ministers. Though his tenure was cut short by his early death in 1841, one of his last acts was to prepare the Second Statistical Account of the parish. In it he records that the new church seats 450 people and is furnished with a steam-powered boiler. He reports that the services are well attended and the average number of communicants is 250.

He notes that the average number of poor parishioners receiving aid from the church is 11, adding acerbically “The dissipated and improvident have no reluctance to ask parochial relief. The industrious, sober and pious regard parochial aliment as a disgrace.”

Up to this point it had been accepted that the patron of the parish – in this case the Duke of Montrose – would present a new minister each time a vacancy arose. That is what happened again in 1841, when the Rev James Pearson took up the role. But two years later 450 evangelical ministers broke away from the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church. They argued that the church and not the government should control clerical appointments and benefits. The ripples of the Great Disruption reached Strathblane when three members of the kirk session resigned, though no Free Church was built in the parish until 1867.

Further substantial improvements were made to the parish church and its environs during his tenure. Prior to James Pearson’s appointment, the churchyard was very badly kept. There was no proper path from the church gate to the church, and the congregation made their way in through weeds and grass and over tombstones. There was also a large unsightly iron cage, the burying place of the Smiths of Craigend near the church door. At the gate was a guardhouse where watchers were stationed to guard the bodies of the newly buried from bodysnatchers when their nefarious trade existed. Dr Pearson supervised the laying of the tombstones on all one level, the removal of the Craigend cage and the guardhouse, and the construction of a gravel path from the gate to the church door. The churchyard was also further extended.

1870 Improvements

The church itself was substantially altered by the Edmonstone family in 1870. The improvements comprised increasing the pitch of the roof; rearranging the belfry and recasting the cracked bell; altering the east window and the pulpit; opening up the two side galleries to the right and left of the old Duntreath loft, with better seating in all three; and new plasterwork and painting. The other heritors re-seated the area of the church with less uncomfortable pews, the aisles being reduced from one in the middle and one close to either wall to the present two, thus both improving the appearance of the church and increasing seating capacity. The gilded pineapple was replaced by a cross. The baptismal font now in use in the church is said to be set in an old font, or perhaps piscina, belonging to the church in pre-Reformation days.

The pitch of the roof of the church was raised in 1870. The choirstalls have been removed since this photograph was taken

At this time it was common for pews to be allocated to the various heritors. Guthrie Smith tells us that when the present church was built in 1803 the seats were allocated by an Archibald Grahame and this was still in force in 1886. A record exists of the Strathblane church sittings of 1883. The majority of the pews were allocated to Duntreath, with others for Ballewan, Easterton of Mugdock, Middleton of Mugdock, Westerton of Mugdock, Craigend, Dumbrock, Craigbarnet and Carbeth. Leddriegreen had a number of pews where until recently the choir used to sit, and the Duke of Montrose had a number of pews where the organ is now located. The Edmonstones of Duntreath had their own gallery. At the front of the three aisles were free pews. Even then, people did not like sitting at the front of the church and would only sit there if they had no allocated seat.

Rev Pearson died in in 1873. He is the only former minister who had a stained glass window in the church dedicated to his memory. It depicts Jesus as a shepherd, with the words “I am the Good Shephard” (John, ch10, v11).

In Frederick Alsop’s charming painting of Strathblane kirk and manse in Guthrie Smith’s parish history, the man in the foreground, exercising his dogs, is probably intended to be the Rev Daniel Ferguson, who was Strathblane’s minister from 1874 until 1886, when he died aged just 41. He had also been a keen curler, enthusiastically joining the bonspiels held at Carbeth and on Loch Ardinning in an era when the winters appear to have been colder.

Strathblane Kirk and Manse painted by Frederick Alsop in 1881 from John Guthrie Smith’s history of the parish

Changing Garb

Though he rarely strays into social history, Guthrie Smith provides a fascinating account of the changing garb of Strathblane worshippers, comparing the 1880s with half a century before:

“Then it had a rural look; many of the men wore blue coats and grey plaids and a sprinkling of old women appeared in white mutches [close-fitting linen caps] and red cloaks. The bonnets and gowns too were not in the latest fashion as now, nor the hats and coats of the reigning make and cut. The women came to church with their Bibles wrapped in a white handkerchief, and a sprig of mint or “appleringie” [lemon-scented shrubby wormwood] in their hands and clattered over the unmatted floor into their seats; and the men lounged with their hats on and shut the doors of their pews with a crash.”

He adds: “Everyone went to church in those days and the “crack in the kirkyard” was a weekly treat not to be missed.” He also reports that women and girls often would carry their shoes and stockings with them, stopping at the Kirk Burn to put them on before entering the church. “Few young women but lairds’ daughters, and not all of them, wore shoes and stockings except in church and at market or fair.”

We know how people dressed for the Sunday service by 1880 because there is a photograph in the Strathblane Heritage archive of the tastefully-turned-out church choir from around this time.

Strathblane Parish Church Choir c1880

Electing the Minister

In an appendix to his parish history written during 1886, John Guthrie Smith reveals that a new parish minister has been chosen, following the premature death of Daniel Ferguson. Guthrie Smith himself was the convenor of the vacancy committee for this, the first election of a minister in Strathblane since the abolition of patronage in the Church of Scotland. Five candidates were considered and a young Glasgow University graduate, the Rev William Begbie Moyes was elected “by a large majority”. Guthrie Smith expresses the hope that “he will add another to the long line of excellent and distinguished ministers of Strathblane”. Indeed. The Rev Moyes remained Strathblane’s minister until 1934, a tenure of more than 47 years, the longest in the history of Strathblane parish.

The Rev William Begbie Moyes
Strathblane’s longest serving minister (1886-1934)

He presided over some dramatic changes that took place in the religious life of the parish during this period, including the building of the Roman Catholic church in 1893, and the unification of the parish church with what was latterly the United Free church in 1934. He witnessed the development of the school (and was active on the school board), the comings and goings of the parish council, and the closure of the printworks. He also experienced the effect that the First World War had on many families in the parish including his own, with the loss of his elder son.

In September 1909 Rev Moyes had the honour of preaching to King Edward VII during his official visit to the parish. The church was packed and an estimated 5,000 people assembled in the vicinity of the church. The minister preached a short sermon on “The Peace of God which passeth all understanding”.

Crowd watching King Edward VII emerge from Strathblane Parish Church, 1909

The New Organ, 1910

 March 1910 the new church organ was dedicated. It was installed by Messrs Ingram and Co., Edinburgh, in the south-east corner of the church and enclosed in a case of fumed oak, designed in harmony with the structure and furnishings of the church.

The installation of the organ had been a mammoth task. The cost had been met by subscription. Judging by the numbers of letters that passed between the church and Messrs Ingram the task had proved more complicated than first thought. The church had been closed for six weeks prior to the dedication to allow installation, and services were held instead at the United Free church. Given the bitterness that had existed following the Disruption of 1843 it would appear that there was now a much greater spirit of unity between the two churches, fostered no doubt by the respective ministers of both churches.

The great day came. Thomas Berry presided at the instrument at both services, and the Rev J.H. Dickie from New Kilpatrick Parish Church preached at the morning service. At the evening service the Rev Moyes and United Free Church minister Rev Theodor Johnson preached. Both services were well attended.

However, the new organ had some unexpected problems. It was operated by water, and the supply used also served Edenkill. If the organ was played, the water supply to Edenkill could be stopped as the church had the first call on the supply – although this rarely happened. If the water was running low and could not be used to power the organ, it was a case of a member of the congregation pumping the bellows by hand! Matters were resolved when the organ was powered by electricity.

First World War, 1914-1918

It is commonly said that the First World War changed the face of rural Scotland forever. As many of the parish volunteered for service, the parish church began to keep a list of where they were so that Christmas boxes could be sent to them. This list, in an ordinary notebook, still survives and is a fascinating record of where people from the parish served and fell in the name of their country.

Members of the congregation contributed money regularly throughout the war years to ensure those serving their country were not forgotten. Boxes containing money, food and other comforts were sent to serving men at Christmas. The notebook also contains lists of those killed or discharged due to injury.

Inevitably, church life was affected. In April 1917 the Rev Moyes announced that he had volunteered to serve with the YMCA in France. The following year, six months before the end of the war, his son Wilfrid Blake Moyes, aged 30, a decorated sergeant in the Queen’s Royals (the Royal West Surrey Regiment) was killed during the Somme Crossing.

Wilfrid Blake Moyes

In February 1919, the Rev Moyes led a memorial service in Strathblane for those who had fallen in the War. The congregation stood as a list of the dead, including Wilfrid, was read out along with their regiment, battle honours and date of death. In his address the Rev Moyes said:

“In some way they are taking part in shaping the new future and the better time which we hope for as part of the fruits of their devotion. And in our hearts we are not sad for them – for ourselves we are sad – for them we are proud.”

The brass plaque William Moyes and his wife Clara placed in the church in memory of “their beloved elder son” bears two quotations from the Book of Revelations: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things” and “I will give him the morning star.”

In 1921 amid a torrential downpour William and Clara joined a large crowd to watch the Duke of Montrose unveil the village war memorial, bearing the name of their son and 26 other men.

Further changes were made to the area around the church. Two old cottages that had flanked the church gate were cleared away. (The Kirkhouse Inn, which had once occupied the one to the west of the gate had moved on to its present site in Victorian times.)

Strathblane Church with cottages at the gate in 1909. The one on the left is the old site of the Kirkhouse Inn

In 1932 a cemetery was added on land between the church and the Kirkhouse Inn, as the churchyard was approaching full capacity. By now Strathblane had become a popular location for holidaymakers and daytrippers escaping the dirt and pollution of Glasgow and the church became a popular subject for postcards.

Strathblane Church with the Kirkhouse Inn and Kirkhouse Farm

The Amalgamation, 1934

In 1929 the Church of Scotland and what was now known as the United Free Church had amalgamated, finally healing the rift created by the Great Disruption of 1843. However, the union did not happen in the parish until 1934 when the ministers of both churches retired. Over the years they had become firm friends and sometimes went on cycling trips together.

The Reverend Theodor Johnson and The Reverend William B. Moyes
The Revs Theodor Johnson & William Moyes with their bicycles

After 1934 the United Free Church in Blanefield continued to be used for the Sunday evening services and for the Sunday school. Even five years after the amalgamation had taken place nationally, some staunch local members of the United Free Church refused to attend services in the parish church. The man given the task of welding the two congregations together was the Rev Frederick Kennedy, who endeared himself to the congregation by getting married on the very day he was appointed and carrying his bride over the threshold of the manse.

Like the Rev Moyes during the First World War, Rev Kennedy served as a chaplain during World War Two. In 1947 the parish church organised a “Welcome Home Dinner” in the Edmonstone Hall. “Victory trifle” was served and the Rev Kennedy gave the address.

Third Statistical Account, 1951

In 1951 Church of Scotland ministers were again called on to produce a detailed portrait of their parishes, as they had been in the 1790s and 1840s. By now the Rev Philip McCardel was the minister in Strathblane. His Third Statistical account records that in Strathblane the minister was also chaplain at Killearn Hospital and Strathblane Children’s Home Hospital as well as Auchengillan Scout camp. He also conducted summer services for the Glasgow and Clydebank families occupying the huts at Carbeth.

More than 400 of the 1100 adult residents of Strathblane were members of the Church of Scotland and at that time the Sunday school roll was greater than that of the primary school. He reflected that services at Christmas, Easter and Harvest Thanksgiving filled the church. (Cross ref to Third Statistical Account)

Rev George Lugton

The Rev George Lugton, ordained and inducted into the parish of Strathblane in 1955, was a particularly popular minister. During his time the parish church underwent major renovation. For two years services reverted to the former United Free church, while the work was carried out.

In 1961 land was obtained opposite the parish church for the building of a new manse, which was completed in 1964. In the meantime, the United Free church and its manse in Blanefield were sold.

In the 1969 the Rev Lugton became the full-time clerk of Dumbarton Presbytery and eventually the assistant secretary of the Kirk’s church and ministry department. After his death in 2018 his ashes were scattered in Strathblane.(See Growing up in Strathblane in the 1950s & 60s by Donald Macintyre)

Rev George Lugton, minister at Strathblane 1955 to 1969 was a particularly popular minister

Rev Malcolm Ritchie

He was succeeded by the Rev Malcolm Ritchie who had come to Strathblane from his first church in Broughty Ferry where he had played a key role in comforting the bereaved after the lifeboat disaster of 1959 in which all eight members of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat were lost in a storm.

 Once installed, he quickly became involved in the planning, construction and finally the opening in 1973 of the Kirkrooms. (In 1976 Strathblane ceased to be part of Dumbarton Presbytery and became part of Stirling Presbytery. Later it would join Perth Presbytery!) Strathblane elder Geoff Phillips later described Malcolm Ritchie as “a gracious giant with a bone-crushing handshake and the broadest of smiles”. He added: “He was constantly to be seen moving around the villages on an ancient upright bicycle, stopping to speak to anyone he chanced to meet and offering a helping hand.” In 1982 he accepted a call to become minister of Kilbrandon & Kilchattan in Argyll. He died in 2009.

Rev Malcolm Ritchie, minister at Strathblane 1969 to 1982

Subsequent ministers lay outside the scope of this essay. They were the Rev Alex Fleming (1982-1995); the Rev Alex Green (1995-2010); the Rev Richard Begg (2011-2016); the Rev Murdo Campbell (2017-2023).

On Sunday 25th February 2024, after a lengthy national period of discussion and preparation for the whole of the Church of Scotland , the two separate congregations of Strathblane and Killearn were invited to vote to agree to become two linked congregations under one minister.

This was agreed by ballot, and on 25th April, Stuart Sharp, the existing minister of Killearn, was inducted in a formal service as minister to both charges. 

Appendix 1: Standing Stone.

There is a standing stone in the churchyard. Surrounded by gravestones, it is easy to miss. Though its vintage is unknown, it certainly pre-dates any church on the site.

Standing Stone in the Churchyard

Appendix 2: Stained Glass

 Strathblane Church is well-endowed with stained glass. A comprehensive study of this has been made by the Rev Alex Fleming, minister from 1982 to 1995. (The Stained Glass in Strathblane Parish Church by the Rev Alex Fleming, Lomondside Press, 1994. A copy is available in the Thomas Graham Community Library, Strathblane.)

All the windows were installed between 1870 and the early 1900s and are dedicated as follows:

  1. The Mary Elizabeth Edmonstone Window has the theme “Christ the Light of the World” (south side). She was the wife of Sir William Edmonstone (see No 7).
  2. The John Guthrie Smith Window has the theme of the Resurrection of Jesus (south side). Antiquarian John Guthrie Smith lived at Mugdock Castle and is the author of The Parish of Strathblane and Its Inhabitants from Early Times.
  3. The William Smith Window depicts the calling of Nathanael from John ch1, v47 (south side). William Smith was the father of John Guthrie Smith. It is now recognised that the Smith family made part of their fortune from slavery.
  4. The east window over the pulpit is the Edmonstone Family Memorial Window. The theme of the central panel is Christ’s Ascension.
  5. The Sir Archibald Edmonstone Window depicts the Parable of the Talents (Matthew ch25) over the arms of Edmonstone of Duntreath (north side). Sir Archibald, who died in 1871, was the driving force behind the improvements being made to the church at the time.
  6. The Reverend James Pearson Window has the theme “I am the Good Shepherd”. (North side). The Rev Pearson was minister from 1842 to 1873 and oversaw the 1870 improvements to the church.
  7. The Sir William Edmonstone Window shows Jesus coming to the disciples walking on the water amid a stormy sea (north side). It is particularly appropriate for an outstanding sailor. Admiral Sir William Edmonstone succeeded his brother Sir Archibald in 1871 and died in 1888.

Appendix 3: Strathblane Church Silver

Strathblane Church has a number of items of silver relating to the taking of communion. Most of these are 19th or early 20th century cups and flagons. However, there is also a pair of 8-inch tall William III beaten silver communion cups engraved with the Montrose arms and bearing the name “Strathblen”. Both have Glasgow hall-marks and the initials of Robert Brook, who had been admitted a freeman of the Hammermen’s Society in 1673. The cups are dated 1699 and were gifted to the parish by Isabel, Duchess of Montrose. Her second husband was James “the Good”, second Marquis of Montrose. The Grahams of Montrose were major landowners in the area and patrons of Strathblane Church.

The gift is recorded in the session records for that year: “Mair by ordinace of the Session of 8 of August 1699 to George Maiklum, servant to my lady Marquesse of Montrosse, 58/6 for the delivering of two Coomunione silver cups quhilk my Lady Marquesse gifted for the use of the Paroche and Session.”

1699 Communion Cups (Glasgow Museums & Art Galleries, on loan from Strathblane Parish Church)

Appendix 4: Women’s Guild

The Woman’s Guild was founded by a Dr Archibald Charteris in 1887. It was seen as a means of tapping into the enormous potential goodwill and energy of the women in the Church of Scotland. In 1935 the Strathblane Branch of the Guild was formed and met in the Co-operative Hall, Blanefield. [Now demolished, it stood behind where Roots Hairdressers and the Indian take-away are now, formerly the Lennoxtown Victualling Co-operative Society. The Coubroughs, owners of the printworks had built it in the 19th century, when it was known as The Pavilion.] The ladies formed work parties and knitted for Dr Alexander Graham’s Home in Kalimpong, India, a vocational training school for abandoned children. Originally an Edinburgh civil servant, after ordination he encouraged the nurturing of mission work by women at home. Some of the first members were Mrs Grange who lived at ‘The Punch Bowl’, Strathblane and Mrs Lillie of ‘Bluerisk’, Strathblane. During the war the Guild ceased to meet in the Co-operative Hall as it was being used by the Home Guard. Instead they joined forces with the Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) who met in the Village Club. The Guild members were very involved in knitting for the Forces, writing letters to wounded soldiers, Red Cross collection weeks and so on.

In 1947 the Guild returned to meet in the Co-operative Hall, where they organised a variety of activities ranging from children’s parties to knitting and sewing for hospitals as well as providing and sewing the communion cloths for both Strathblane and Blanefield churches. By now Strathblane Women’s Guild had 70 to 80 members.

In 1958 the Guild moved from the Co-operative Hall, which had closed, to meet in the Edmonstone Hall. In 1964 the Young Mother’s Fellowship was begun, with the Guild assisting to allow the mothers to have time away from their children. This group later became the Young Wives and Mothers Fellowship and in 1976 the Young Women’s Group. Sales of work continued to be a great feature of fundraising activity for both the parish church and domestic and foreign charities.

Since its formation in the parish, the Guild has been not only a spiritual group but also very practical in the service they have provided.


Blanefield Smithy

Blanefield’s charming art gallery is housed in a smithy that is thought to be around 300 years old, though its exact age is unknown. It is certainly one of the very oldest surviving buildings in the parish of Strathblane. It appears on John Grassom’s map of the area...


A Distillation of Whisky-Making in the Blane Valley As long as there have been humans, there has been alcohol. Production of wine and beer has been dated back 7,000-odd years in Central Asia, according to archaeologists.  But the origins of whisky distilling, at...


BALLEWAN Painting of Ballewan House, often known as The Ha', by Connie Simmers BALZEOUN Ballewan is an estate in the Blane Valley that was carved out of the earldom of Lennox. For two centuries it belonged largely to the Craig family, culminating in Milliken Craig...


Local Shops Over the years a surprising number of people have run shops in the community. Some have lasted longer than others, but all have been memorable in their own way. The fortunes of retailers have waxed and waned with the general fortunes of the community....

Duntreath and the Edmonstones

A Brief History of Duntreath Castle and the Edmonstone FamilyBy Juliet Edmonstone Originally thought to have been of Flemish stock, the Edmonstone family are said to have come to Scotland in the train of Princess Margaret who became the Queen of Malcolm Canmore III...

School (1716 – 1966)

Though the first Strathblane parish schoolmaster was appointed in 1716, it was many years before the school was housed in a permanent schoolhouse. This was finally built in 1781 at Thorn of Cuilt, at Netherton, which is the area now known as Blanefield.  This...

Dumbrock Mills and Bleachfields

Stained Glass panel from Maryhill Burgh Halls showing bleachfield workers The abundance of water meant that bleaching and water-driven industries were commonplace in the parish in the 18th century and lasted well into the 19th century. By 1870 most of them had closed...

Romans and Picts Around Strathblane

By Dr Murray Cook As every patriotic Scot knows, the Romans tried and failed to conquer Scotland…the only nation in Europe to resist the might of the Eagles. Unfortunately, this is not really true. The Romans didn’t really try. They just gave up: the cost of...


Mugdock Village Mugdock was at one time the most important place in the Parish of Strathblane. It was "The Towne and Burgh of Mugdock" and the "head Burgh of the Regalitie of Montrose” with a “weekly mercat ilk fryday and two free faires yearlie", granted by a 1661...


According to John Guthrie Smith’s history of Strathblane, “the compact little estate of Carbeth Guthrie” was constructed between 1808 and 1817 by West Indies merchant John Guthrie. Guthrie was a prominent member of Glasgow’s “Sugar Aristocracy”. He had managed an...


View from Old Mugdock Road, where a lone cyclist contemplates the grandeur of the Campsies. Edenkill (now Edenkiln) occupied the heart of the community we now call Strathblane and was one of the three villages that comprised the parish, along with Netherton...


"Nothing is now left of Old Netherton save the smithy and the school-house, and its very name seems likely to perish, for the factory originally called Blane Printfield has expanded to such ample proportions, and covered its environs with so many workers' houses that...

Blane Valley Railway

RAILWAY MANIA By 8.30 on the morning of Monday 1 July 1867 an excited crowd had gathered in Blanefield near the bottom of the Cuilt Brae to greet the community’s first passenger train. Britain was in the grip of railway mania. The 1861 Blane Valley Railway Act...

World War Two

6. Netherton cottages including Sunnyside 9. The "Noo Hooses" today The white building in the foreground is Sunnyside which was demolished by a landmine in March 1941 killing four people. During the Second World War Strathblane, in common with many other villages, was...


Local Workmen with the Water BoardLeft to right : Tom McCulloch, Jimmy Baxter, Tommy Miller, David Getty , John Harkins The Glasgow Water Supply The Blane Valley is the final stage of what justifiably can be called one of the greatest civil engineering achievements of...

St Kessog’s Roman Catholic Church

Watercolour painting of St Kessog's RC Church by Dr HP Cooper Harrison The opening of St Kessog’s Roman Catholic Church in Blanefield on 28 May 1893 was the culmination of much enterprise in the parish. The number of Roman Catholics had increased through many coming...

Blanefield Printworks

The Printworks (from John Guthrie Smith 1886. Photograph by John Coubrough) Block printing is the printing of patterns on fabrics using a carved block, usually made from wood. It originated in India around the 5th century BC but did not arrive in Scotland until the...

Free Church

John Guthrie Smith records that the neat little church and manse belonging to the Free Church stands on the site of the old village of Netherton and the first ordained minister was the Rev George Rennie. Early records indicate that by 1864 there was a sufficient...

World War One

Silk postcard sent by gardener Sandy Mitchell, fighting on the Western Front, to his wife Georgina, living in staff quarters at Duntreath. Sandy, a Private in the Scottish Rifles, was killed at Arras in April 1917. He is remembered on Strathblane War Memorial. Boer...


Blane Valley from the Cuilt Brae Until the mid-20th century farming was very much an integral part of the life of the parish of Strathblane. The school log contains frequent references to children skipping school to help with the harvest. The Blanefield printworks...

Children’s Home Hospital (1903-1994)

“Often a child made a dramatic recovery on the back of good food, fresh air & loving care” - Margaret McIntyre, who worked at Strathblane Children’s Home Hospital for two periods between 1958 and its closure in 1994.  Penelope Ker  The rapid...


Ballagan House by Frederick Alsop, 1884, from The Parish of Strathblane by John Guthrie Smith, 1886 Strathblane Valley has a long history and Ballagan has been part of it since early times. When a cairn on the estate was opened, a cist containing ashes and a piece of...