Bank Free Church

BANK FREE CHURCH: The Iron Church

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The Bank Free Church or Iron Church (photo courtesy of Mrs Haddow)

Erected in 1875 at Bank Glen to serve the coal mining communities of  Connel Park, Craigbank and Burnfoot. Built from corrugated iron it was better known locally as the Iron Church.

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Iron Free Church adjacent to Bank School

BANK FREE CHURCH

In 1899 the  Iron Church was replaced by a new Bank Free Church and a manse built on the opposite side of the road.

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Bank Free Church with the manse on the left

On Friday , May 7, 1897 the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald announced the plans to build a new Free Church at Bank, New Cumnock.

“This Church is about to be built for the congregation at Bank, which has been established for some 20 years back, and which is at present worshipping in a temporary iron church, under the pastorate of the Rev. John Mechie, M.A.  The new church will accommodate 400 sitters and is planned with a nave and one-side aisle, being separated from the nave by an arcade of three-pointed arches of dressed stone supported by piers and responds, which are also of dressed stone. The entrance is through a double porch, which, with the main gable of the nave and its traceried windows, the broad flanking buttresses and the bell tower, form the principal external feature of the design. The roof will be of open-timber construction. A commodious session-room , vestry, and lavatory are provided, The church will be heated by low pressure hot water pipes. The whole seating accommodation will be entirely on the ground floor. The church is designed in a phase of late perpendicular Gothic, and both in regard to internal planning and the general design will be a distinct advance in church architecture in this district. A manse is to be built, but is not shown in our drawing.

Mr James Kennedy Hunter, Ayr, is the architect for both church and the manse; and contracts for both have been let to the following contractors:- Mason work, Mr. A. Beattie, New Cumnock; joiner work, Mr. D. Mathieson, New Cumnock; slater and plumber work Messrs W. Auld & Son, Ayr; plaster work M. Campbell & Son, Catrine; heating work, Messrs Boyd & Sons, Paisley; glazier work, The Glass Stainers’ Coy., Glasgow . The cost of the church and manse will be about £2,500.”

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THE LAYING OF THE MEMORIAL BANK FREE CHURCH , NEW CUMNOCK

Saturday, 22nd April 1899

[Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald April 28, 1899]

Last Saturday afternoon , a function of outstanding interest and importance was carried through when the memorial stone of the Bank Free Church was laid. Happily, the weather auspices, which generally make or mar an out-of-door celebration, were all that could be desired.  A rather cold morning was followed by a beautiful day – a day which was in delightful contrast to several that had gone immediately before it. The shining sun, with a genial atmosphere, had the effect of bringing out great of the general public to witness the full ceremonies.

Although the stone was laid with “Masonic honours,” the Friendly Societies of the place turned out to a man, and their presence went a long way in adding to the success which in a very high degree marked the conduct of the whole proceedings. The procession was formed in the town and then proceeded to the Bank. On both sides the streets were crowded with people, who displayed a very lively interest in all that transpired. Every point of vantage from which a good view could be obtained was eagerly seized upon. From the summit of the Bank Brae the procession was, perhaps, to be seen at its best, and those “in the know” made it their standpoint. This position certainly enabled the spectator to have an extended view of the paraders as they wended their way round the bend of the road below Connel Park, and slowly advanced up the hill. Headed by the New Cumnock Brass Band, playing their brightest quick-steps, the procession mounted the crown of the brae in admirable order. The very air was made resonant with the bright quick-steps of the New Cumnock; and elaborately painted banners, proudly carried aloft : flags , waving to the breeze ; and the brilliant regalia worn by the members of the different Orders, all contributed to make a most imposing spectacle and one which will not readily be forgotten by those whose good fortune it was to see it.

Immediately behind the Band came to the local Lodge of Foresters , and they were followed by the Rechabites. The sons of Rechab are very numerous in New Cumnock. Their Tent is a large and prosperous one, and a noteworthy nature of it is that it contains six brothers belonging to one family. behind them came the Juvenile Rechabites , and then the Free Gardeners, headed by the Bank Flute Band, made their appearance.  The operative masons employed at the Church came next, they were a rather good-looking set of men, each dressed in a spotlessly white apron, and carrying a tool used in their handicraft. Their flag was a unique one, and it bore the legend , “Our cause is good.” Last of all came the Freemasons, and undoubtedly they were the swell of the procession.

A large number of lodges were represented . The Provincial Grand Lodge of Ayrshire was represented by Bro. J. Orr Sinclair, P.G. Secretary; Bro. C.B. Miller, P.G. Jeweller; Bro. B.W. Hartley, P.G. Organist; Bro. Alex Neil, P.G. Pres. of Stewards; Bro. Alex Lambie, P.G.Tyler. The representatives of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Dumfriesshire were Bro. W.A. Dinwiddie, R.W. Provincial Grand Master , and a large deputation from the Provincial Grand Lodge. The other lodges represented were Dumfries “Kilwinning”, Dumfries “Thistle”, Dumfries “St. Michael”, Kilwinning, Kilmarnock “St. Marnock”, Mauchline “St. David”, Dumfries “Operative”, Stevenston “Thistle and Rose”, Sanquhar “Kilwinning”, Muirkirk “St. Thomas”, Ayr “St. Paul”, Cumnock “St. Barnabas”, Thornhill “St. John”, Hurlford “Burns St. Mary”, and New Cumnock “St. John”.

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Bank House

When the Freemasons arrived at the entrance to Bank House they left the procession, and proceeded to Bro. William Hyslop, where they “lifted” the genial and esteemed laird, and, to the tune of the “Merry Masons,” he was brought round to the church by another road. When they reached their destination the other processionists took open order, and the office bearers , headed by the architect, proceeded to the platform. Awaiting these officials was a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen. (See Appendix.)

When everything was in readiness the National Anthem was sung, and then Bro. J. K. Hunter the architect, formally handed the plans of the church to presiding Bro. Hyslop for approval.

The Rev. Mechie then said he had a very pleasant duty to perform, in fact he had two duties to perform , in fact he had two duties to perform. He had been asked by the Deacon’s Court and Building Committee to ask Mr Hyslop today to lay the stone. He had also been asked by Mr Hunter, the architect, by Messrs Beattie, the building contractors, and the Building Committee, to present Mr Hyslop with the trowel to be used in laying the stone , and he had very special pleasure in doing so. (Cheers.)

Bro. Hyslop fittingly returned his thanks. The choir accompanied by the band having sung “Hail, Eternal,”Bro. Hugh Muir, R.W.M. of St. John’s offered up prayer as follows

Blessed be Thy name , O Great Architect of the Universe, Maker of all things, and Judge of men, regard, we humbly beseech Thee  with Thy special favour this our present undertaking , and grant that the work which is now commenced in Thy name may conduce to Thy Glory and to the good, temporal and spiritual, of all the inhabitants of this parish. Be pleased to bless this our present convention, and the work which is about to be performed. Specially bless and favour those, Thy servants, who are to take an active part in the work of laying the Memorial Stone of this sacred edifice, which is about to be dedicated to Thy most holy name. Breathe upon them Thy Spirit to be within them, to strengthen them; without, to guard them; over, to shelter them; beneath, to establish them; before, to guide them; after, to forward them; round about, to secure them from all evil. Heavenly Father, be pleased to sanctify and consecrate this sacred edifice for the furtherance of Thy cause and kingdom. May the truths of God’s Word be spread abroad, disseminated, and diffused for the good of souls, and may Thy blessing ever accompany the efforts made by Thy ministering servant, the office bearers and members of this church, so that many souls may be brought to those mansions above where the Lord of Glory dwells, and from whence all goodness emanates , so that all may resound to Thy glory , would without end. Amen.”

Bro. Cairns, Secretary, St. John’s, then laid the casket in the cavity of the stone. The casket contains copies of Scotsman, Herald, Cumnock News, Cumnock Express, Perthshire  Advertiser, History of Bank Free Church, Excerpts from the Register of the Free Church Presbytery of Ayr, Bazaar circular, copies of all the printed matter in connection with the bazaar, list of the office bearers and elders of the Bank Free Church, a considerable amount of literature of a Masonic character, copies of Free Church periodicals, and specimens of coins of the realm.

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Memorial Stone now built into the garden wall of the former manse                                         A.M.D.G “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – The Greater Glory of God”

The Hundredth Psalm was then sung and the memorial stone – which bears the inscription

“A.M.D.G. This stone of Bank Free Church was laid April 22nd. 1899”

– which was placed in position. It was duly tested by plumb, level, and square, and the Presiding Master, having expressed his confidence in the skill of his workmen, proceeded to finish it off with customary three knocks. After the cornucopia had been emptied and the wine and oil thrown upon the grain, devotional exercises were engaged, in and then –

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William Hyslop

Bro. Wm. Hyslop said “Reverend Sir, brethren all, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have now very great pleasure in declaring that according to ancient forms of Masonry, this stone has been “well and truly laid,” I trust that it may be the marked continuation of great and lasting good to this community, and that darkness shall give place to light. (Appl.). The step taken by the members and adherents of Bank Free Church in erecting a substantial stone building wherein worship is undoubtedly in the right direction; and, although it will mean additional responsibilities these responsibilities will gradually lessen and ultimately disappear. Let all show that the faith which was so deeply rooted in our forefathers still flourishes and grows, that that faith which was theirs is ours now, and believe that this church shall become a pillar and strength in the church of the Great Architect. (Appl.) But if prosperity in the highest sense is to attend the ministration there, then that charity “which covereth all things” must predominate, Let each one labour, not that his or her work may be seen, but that, when the day closes, it may be found that the wages of a good life have been faithfully earned. (Applause.)

The Rev. John Miller then said – Now that the stone had been well and truly laid – the memorial stone of the House of God – he had been commissioned to return to Mr. Hyslop grateful thanks for the services he had that day rendered. He had a peculiar pleasure in proposing the vote of thanks. He looked back to twenty-five years ago and recalled the meetings with several proprietors of the district. Very specially did he remember Mr Hyslop’s father, nor would he ever forget the kindness and courtesy which that gentleman had ever extended towards him. (Cheers.) The large-hearted generosity which the late Mr. Hyslop possessed had evidenced itself at the time of building of the first Free Church at Bank. Almost all of the proprietors and coal masters with whom he used to come in contact when he had church business to transact had passed away – their memories only remained to him.  He greatly rejoiced in the proceedings of that day, and he would report to the Presbytery how successfully they had been carried through. On behalf of the Bank congregation , he had to thank Mr. Hyslop, the band, the choir, and all who had contributed to that day’s work. He prayed that the blessing of Almighty God would rest upon the new church, and that, when erected, it would be a source of blessing to all parties in the district. (Cheers.)

Bro. Hyslop  made a suitable reply, and the proceedings were brought to a fitting close. Tea was afterwards served in the old church.

In connection with the laying of the memorial stone, there were special services held in the church on Sabbath, morning and evening, the preacher being the Rev. John Miller, Newton-on-Ayr. There were large attendances at both diets of worship. In the forenoon the rev. gentleman took for his text,”Suffer little children to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In the evening he chose for his text, “Come unto Me all ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Both sermons were eloquent and earnest. It may be worth recording that the memorial services fell on the anniversary of the Rev. James Armstrong’s introduction to the church, he having been ordained April 22nd, 1878, the date of the laying of the memorial stone being his ordination 21 years ago. May the coincidence be for good.

BANK UNITED FREE CHURCH

In 1900, a year after Bank Free Church was built, the United Free Church of Scotland was formed from the union of the Free Church (apart from a small section that remained) and the United Prebyterian Church.

The Bank Free Church became the Bank United Free Church.

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Bank U.F. Church (left) and Bank School House (right)

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Bank United Free Church and Manse

The Last Service, 1961

The last service in the Bank United Free Church was held on the 7th May 1961. The churh was demolished and the memorial stone built into the front garden wall of the former manse, which can still be seen today,

Appendix

The large gathering of ladies and gentleman

  • Rev Mr. and Mrs. Mechie – minister of Bank Free Church
  • Mr. and Mrs. Mechie, Perth
  • Rev. Mr. Miller, Newton-on-Ayr
  • Rev, Mr and Miss Hutchison – minister of Afton Free Church
  • Mr. and Mrs. Scott
  • Reverend Kirkwood Hewat, Prestwick
  • Rev. Mr Fleming, Sanquhar
  • Rev. A. Richardson
  • Mrs. Hyslop, Bank House
  • Mrs. Hyslop, Auchingee Cottage – mother of William Hyslop
  • Dr. and Miss Herbertson
  • Miss Galbraith, Cumnock
  • Mr. and Mrs. Brown, Ardnith – coalmaster Lanemark Coal Coy.
  • Mr and Mrs. Harley Glasgow
  • Captain and Mrs. Dempster, Newmilns
  • Mr. Peter Campbell, Glasgow
  • Mr. and Mrs. Coan
  • Mr. J.K. Hunter – architect
  • Miss Steele, Ayr
  • Mr. D. Mathieson – joiner, Pathhead
  • Dr. Fraser
  • Mr. and Mrs. Moodie
  • Mrs Penman, Craig Villa
  • Miss Bessie Brown
  • Mrs Henderson
  • Mrs. Browm, Blackwood
  • Mrs Wales, Schoolhouse
  • Mr. Dobbie, Ayr
  • Messrs. A. & J. Beattie
  • Mrs Cairns, Matura Cottage
  • Mr. Smith, Straid
  • Mr. Horne and Mr. Smith, Lugar
  • Mr. R. Mitchell
  • Miss Findlay, Auchinleck
  • Mr. Pollock, Glasgow
  • Mrs. McFarlane
  • Mrs. Thomas McFarlane
  • Miss Aird
  • Mr. A. Mackay, Dalleagles Schoolhouse
  • Mr. Peter Dowie
  • Mr. T. McQuiston
  • Mr. J. Lees
  • Mr. Paterson
  • Mr. D. Murdoch
  • and others

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Many thanks to Mrs Haddow  for the photo of Bank Iron Church

National Library of Scotland