The Church in Fairlie

The 2nd. March, 1813 was quite an important date in the story
of old Fairlie. On that day Margaret Ewing"with consent of
John Guilline, Excise Officer, her husband" sold the land
in Fairlie that she had inherited from her grandfather,
John Ewing, cooper. The purchasers were two Glasgow merchants,
Charles Stuart Parker and Hugh Tennent.
They both had built large villas and were resident in Fairlie.

At that time the seaside had just become fashionable. All
along the shores of the Firth of Clyde city people were
building "marine villas" , holiday homes at which they
would spend a good deal of their time. On the part of the
land he had bought, Charles Parker built what the family
came to know as "the Fairlie house", while, on his part,
Hugh Tennent built a house he named Creich.
Charles Parker and Hugh Tennent were brothers-in-law.
Their wives, Margaret Parker and Christina Tennent, were the daughters
of the Rev. George Rainy of Creich in Sutherland. Later, a third sister,
Ann, married another Glasgow merchant, Robert Brown.
He bought the Ferry House at Fairlie, modernised it and
renamed it Rockhaven.

Fairlie was then a rather isolated, scattered village. it had
a population of just over 300: Weavers, Fishermen and the
craftsmen - Smith, Wheelwright, Boatbuilder and so on -
necessary for the requirements of day to day living.
The newcomers from the town were bound to bring new
ideas and changes. Charles Parker and Hugh Tennent began,
in 1826, by building, almost entirely at their own expense, a
school-house on the site of what is now the Village Hall.
It was not the first school in Fairlie, but was the first built
for that specific purpose.

Occasional religious services may have been held in the
new school, but Fairlie people had still,twice each Sunday,
to make the journey, generally on foot, to worship in Largs.
The town dwellers, who had come to see Fairlie as their second
home, joined together with the villagers to raise the very considerable
sum of £629 to build a "chapel of ease".

This was a small church to make it easier for those who
lived some distance from their parish church. It had its own
minister but both he and his elders were under the jurisdiction
of theexisting parish church in Largs. Amid general rejoicing
the Chapel of Ease was opened on Sunday 13th April 1834
It is still in use and is now the nave of the present Parish Church.

Fairlie was soon to have a second church. Smouldering resentment
at what many people regarded as intolerable State interference
in Church affairs led, in 1843, to the Disruption, which split the
Scottish church in two. In Fairlie, the then minister,
the Rev. Dr John Gemmel with four of his five elders and the majority
of the congregation left the established Church and formed themselves
into a congregation of the new Free Church of Scotland.
Denied the use of church and school - though both had been
provided by the Fairlie people themselves - they worshipped
in a stable at Fairlie Lodge while once again they set about raising
money to build themselves a new church. No list of subscribers
has survived but all gave generously according to their means with
the result that, on Wednesday, 31st. July, 1844, Fairlie Free Church
was opened "free of debt and without assistance from the General Fund".

It subsequently became the Church Hall and has since
been sold and is now a dwelling house, complete with
swimming pool, where the worshippers used to sit.

For the rest of the 19th. century the two Fairlie churches
flourished, side by side. The Free Church (St Margaret's) was
almost completely rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1879.

The tiny Parish Church (St Paul's) was extended during a series
of alterations, a chancel, transepts and a spire were added.
The enthusiasm and energy of the minister, the Rev. Arthur Allan,
ensured that the transformation of the church was carried through.

At the time, some thought that his ideas were too grandiose
for a village church. The result, when the church was opened in
July 1895 was "harmonious in style, quietly impressive". later
from time to time generous gifts from individual members
or congregational projects beautified and adorned the two buildings.

Gradually, over the years, it came to be recognised that
what separated the two congregations was much
less important than the common beliefs that both held.
In July 1967 the Rev. Samuel Demspter died, creating
a vacancy in St Paul's, and the
Rev.T.J.Gordon Weir, M.A., Ph.D., Minister of St Margaret's,
offered to retire in the interests of Union.

Negotiations between the two Churches and The Presbytery
of Ardrossan began and were soon completed with
friedliness and harmony. Eventually, the Churches united
and on 7th January, 1968 became Fairlie Parish Church
at a Service of Union conducted by the Rev. George Balls, B.D.
minister of St Cuthbert's South Beach Church, Ardrossan.
St Paul's Church became the place of worship and
St Margaret's, after alterations became the Church Hall.

The Rev. Donald MacLeod, M.A., from Portree, Skye, became
the first Minister of the United Charge of Fairlie Parish Church
and was inducted on 28th. August 1968.
After Mr. McLeod's retiral in 1979, the Rev. Robert J Thorburn
was inducted in June 1980.

In the Millennium year of 2000, the Church underwent further
transformation and enhancement with the replacement of pews
by chairs giving an opportunity fot muti-use.
At the same time the 'Millennium Extention gave another meeting room
which, on Thursday mornings, is the 'Kirk Cafe'.

From 2006 until 2011 the Church was fortunate to have
Rev. James Whyte as minister.
His retiral left Fairlie Parish once again without charge until
the vacancy was filled for three years by Rev, Christian Vermulen

In March of 2019 Rev. Dr. Graham McWilliams was inducted to the joint charge of
Fairlie Parish linked with Largs:St. Columbus bring a fresh life to this church.

So today we have one church in Fairlie. We inherited it from the past,
from the work and witness of many people whom most of us never knew.

We hold it in trust for the equally unknown Fairlie people of the future.

"The village needs the Church, and the Church needs the village"