The Parish Church of Paisley: Glenburn was established beside the slopes of the Gleniffer Braes, by the unification of the Congregation of Paisley: George Street and the Abbey Mission Church which had been established in Glenburn. The transportation and merger was necessary due to the development of the George Street and Canal Street area of the town. The transportation and merger occurred in 1955. The present congregation of Glenburn, being the direct descendant of the George Street congregation can today lay claim to a long period of history of over 200 years.
Paisley Abbey Nethercraigs Misssion in the Nethercraigs School.
The Nethercraigs Mission Church led by Paisley Abbey was established in 1894 to hold services for Abbey Parishoners living in the Glenburn area. In 1953 this ministry was transferred to the wooden hall/ hut on Nethercraigs Drive. The Hut Church was established to better serve the needs of the newly formed community of Glenburn with the support of the Church extension Committee under the leadership of the Rev. D. F. MacDonald, vice-convenor of the Presbytery Church Extension Committee. Paisley Abbey Assistants including Ronald Spiers and Donald MacLeod played a large part in the developing the Mission Church, along with Miss Granger, Deaconess. The original hut was still used as a hall until relatively recently, when it was destroyed by fire.
George Street Origins
The foundations of the congregation of George Street appear to have been laid by a group of 31 members including one elder, after seceding from the Burgher Congregation of Paisley Abbey Close. It would appear they left the church prior to the Old Light Controversy.
Their differences with the Burgher Church however must have been resolved fairly quickly, as it was in January 1799 that their first continuous supply of sermons was received from the Original Burgher Presbytery. Over subsequent years the congregation occupied several meeting places (mostly member’s houses and ‘The Garnel’ a granary store-house in the town’s New Sneddon Street). In 1818 however luck was on their side – the congregation of the Old Low Church moved to their new building St. Georges in George Street, which left the Old Low Church available for use. The early pioneers of George St. remained there for the next five years. The congregation must have been full of vigour and enthusiasm as in 1822 they began the construction of a new building to sit 1058 at a cost of £700 – most of which was borrowed money. The new church in George Street was completed in 1823 and was opened for worship on the 30th of March.
Several months after the opening of the church a petition was made to the Presbytery to moderate in the call of a minister to the charge. This petition was granted and in November 1824, The Rev. Andrew Thomson was Ordained and Inducted. Andrew Thomson remained at the church for 10 years leaving in July 1834.
1834 however saw much disagreement with the Original Burgher Synod who were negotiating for a Union with the Established Church of Scotland. The congregation did not favour this and later resolved by a three-forths majority to seek a Union with the United Secession Church. The three-fourths majority retained the church building while the remaining fourth left the church and joined the Union with the Established Church, worshipping in Martyrs’ Church.
The congregation petitioned the United Secession Presbytery of Glasgow to be recognised as a congregation ‘‘under its inspection’’. The petition succeeded and the Rev. John Boyd of Hexam was called to the charge. Mr. Boyd was Inducted in November 1835 and remained there for 4 years. During his term as minister the congregations size grew form 99 to 180.
With the departure of Mr. Boyd in 1839 the question of a union with New Street Secession Church arose. The New Street congregation were attempting to build a new building, while George Street was looking for a new minister. The advantage of a union was seen, the congregation of George Street, which until now had been known as the 4th Secession Church, Paisley, and the congregation of New Street Secession Church joined together under the name George Street Church, with the Rev. Cairns of the former New Street Church as minister on the 12th of November 1839.
Mr. Cairns was greatly respected in both the church and neighbourhood. During his 18 years at the church he reduced the size of the debt and through his work in the church brought a growth in the size of the congregation. At his death in 1857 the congregation amounted to 242 members and 84 adherents. In February 1858 the Rev. John Wilson of Kilbarchan was Ordained. In 1843 the Presbytery of Paisley & Greenock was formed, hence the George Street congregation moved from the Presbytery of Glasgow to the new Presbytery. Under Mr. Wilson £800 of debts was cleared; he was a very gifted preacher but after a time circumstances compelled him to resign, much to the regret of the congregation.
The Rev. Andrew Elder of Kinkell, Perthshire was ordained in February 1867. He inherited a congregation of 260 members. Under the new ministry the remaining debt was cleared, to such an extent that there was a small credit balance, which resulted in the building of a manse in 1871. In 1879 the congregation amounted to 350. In 1888 a bazaar brought in £870, a large amount at the time. In the same year at Mr. Elders’ semi-jubilee the church was renovated. In 1894 the Presbytery learned that the tide was going back and the debt was again accumulating. For some reason the ‘better placed families were leaving the church’ : wrote one of the office bearers – ‘the annual income fell by fifty percent…. the machinery had somehow got out of order, many elders had resigned and the managers contemplated similar action.’ Other difficulties arose and eventually the matter was referred to the synod who appointed assessors to act along with the Presbytery in bringing it to an issue.
In 1902 a proposal by the Presbytery that a colleague be appointed was submitted to the congregation and accordingly accepted. In May 1903 therefore the Rev. James F. Padkin of Greenlaw, Berwickshire was Ordained. The two ministers got on well together, and continued to be so until the death of Mr. Elder in 1906. Mr. Padkins’ ministry continued to grow, in 1906 there were 200 members – by 1911 the communion roll had risen to 650.
During Mr. Padkin’s seven and a half years in Paisley he repeatedly declined calls from other churches, devoting himself to the work of George Street. While Mr. Padkin was at George Street a debt of £500 was cleared and the church was renovated at a cost of £250.
With Mr. Padkins departure in 1911, the Rev. W.Campbell Smith, M.A. from Denny was called to the church, and was Inducted in July of that year. He immediately set out to consolidate the congregation which Mr. Padkin had built up. But disagreement arose when a meeting was called to consider the possibility of procuring funds for a hall to look after the needs of the youth of the church. With the onset of the First World War in 1914 the plans were abandoned. Mr. Smith was called to a new charge in 1915, leaving a congregation of 713.
In April 1916 the Rev. Graham Park, M.A. of Loudon, Ayrshire was Inducted. Educated at the University of Glasgow and New College, Edinburgh Mr. Park brought a great wealth of knowledge to the church. He was an earnest preacher, notable for his pastoral activities in the Parish. It was mostly due to his influence and enthusiasm that the church became the owner of a new manse (53 Craw Rd. Paisley), electrical lighting and war memorials. During his five years of ministry over £1000 was raised for these purposes. In 1921 Mr. Park was called to Viewforth Church, Edinburgh and accepted.
Mr. Park was succeeded by the Rev. Hugh Davidson, M.A. who was inducted in September 1921. He possessed exceptional pulpit gifts and notably worked in the renewed endeavour to provide suitable accommodation for the development of the youth agencies of the church. During his period of office the centenary of the church was celebrated in November 1922. To celebrate the occasion a meeting was held at Paisley Town Hall, where Mr. Davidson was supported by his three immediate predecessors. At the time three centenary stained-glass windows were installed at the church. (These windows can now be seen in the Hall of Fellowship of the Present Glenburn Parish.) Mr. Davidsons’ association with George Street ended in 1925 when he was called to Rothesay.
Early in 1926 the Rev. Arthur S. Hutchison BD was inducted. Shortly afterwards a new vestry, session house and class-room were opened. In 1929 the congregation joined with the rest of the United Secession Church in joining the Union with the Established Church of Scotland. In November 1932 a new church hall was opened and dedicated by the Rev. Dr. Hugh Mackintosh, Moderator of the General Assembly and other representatives of the Presbytery and former ministers of the church. With much regret Mr. Hutchison left the church in 1934.
Latter Days of George Street
Mr. Hutchisons’ successor was the Rev. J. Birni Allan M.A. who was inducted in May 1935, but remained for only three and a half years. He was succeeded by the Rev. John Scott MA. During World War II, Mr. Scott served for two years as a Navel Chaplain, and in April 1949, he dedicated the War Memorial Organ in memory of those who lost their lives. It is largely due to Mr. Scotts’ forethought and the earnest desire of him for the continuation of the congregation of George Street that we are now worshipping at Glenburn.
July 1950 saw the induction of the Rev. George K. Wood. A graduate of the University of Glasgow in 1921, he completed his theological studies at Trinity College in 1924. He was the Biggart Memorial Bursar prizeman in moral philosophy and gained distinction in English and gained a first-class certificate in Greek at university, and at Trinity College achieved distinction in church history.
Mr. Wood believed in a traditional type of Scottish ministry, putting an emphasis on pastoral visitation and seeking to maintain the high standard of preaching related to the times, and it was along these lines that he carried on the high traditions of George Street Church in the new environment of Glenburn. At the closing service of George Street on Sunday 20th February 1955 Mr. Wood commented:
‘I hope all of us, whether we go to Glenburn or to other churches in the town, will carry on with what has been good in our church life here and become active members.’
The Kirk of Glenburn
The transportation of the congregation of George Street to Glenburn had been preceded by the establishment of a new hut church (in 1953), part of a mission from Paisley Abbey, the congregation of which had previously used the former Nethercraigs School (now demolished). Early in 1955 the Presbytery of Paisley dedicated a new Hall Church for the congregation of the Abbey Mission and the transported congregation of George Street.
The first minister of the newly created charge was the Rev. George K. Wood, the former minister of George Street. Mr. Wood, after sowing the seeds of the new congregation, left to take up another charge. In May 1958, after a short vacancy the Rev. Dr. George G Cameron M.A., S.T.M. was inducted to the charge. Under Dr. Cameron’s ministry the membership of the church rose from 410 to 1,031. The growth of the congregation was such that the existing Hall Church was far too small.
In September 1961, therefore, the foundation stone of the current church building was laid by the late Mr. Thomas Jackson M.A., M.B.E the last headmaster of Nethercraigs School and the first of Langcraigs School. The foundation stone came by permission, from the Education committee, from Nethercraigs School and represents the traditional Scottish link between Church and School, as well as the Abbey’s ministry in the area for over sixty years. On Wednesday 5th September 1962 the new church was Dedicated and consecrated by the Rev. R. L. Sim M.A., BD moderator of the Presbytery of Paisley., the first sermon being preached by the Rev. Andrew Herron, LL.B, Clerk to the Presbytery of Glasgow.
During Dr Cameron’s time at Glenburn, the church underwent many changes, both in worship and in property as already mentioned. Dr Cameron was a member of the committee responsible for producing the 3rd edition of the Church Hymnary. Due to this many of the new Hymns suggested for the 3rd edition were tried out on the Congregation, with great success. In connection with worship, Dr Cameron’s friendship with song writer Sidney Carter, led to the first public performance of ‘‘LORD OF THE DANCE’’ at an evening service in the Church. At the time the last verse of the song was not even written.
One major achievement of Dr. Cameron’s ministry in his early days was the first edition of the Parish Quarterly Magazine, which after six editions eventually became known as the ‘‘SALTIRE’’ In the first edition Dr. Cameron remarks:
“My first word in print must be to repeat what has already been spoken on your behalf – the word of our welcome to our new fellow members. to those who have come from other congregations or other branches of the Church we offer our kindest assurances of friendship. And I think we can believe that already feel so much at home in Glenburn Church that they include themselves in the ‘we’ who rejoice also to welcome those who have come forward as First Communicants and who join us now in full membership of the Church. All of us together are pledged to Him, and in the fellowship of His word and service our unity will be forged and shaped into an instrument, He can use for great things.’’
A message still relevant today, as we hear many people commenting on our warm welcome.
Dr Cameron left Glenburn at Christmas 1969 to take up a new post in London as Associate Minister of St. Columba: Pont Street. His successor Rev. Malcolm Wright L.Th was Ordained and Inducted in June 1970. Mr. Wright spent 14 fruitful years at Glenburn before taking his leave in 1984. During Mr. Wright’s time, Glenburn celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the modern sanctuary with a service led by the Kirk Session.
Mr. Wright’s successor, the Rev. Francis Dixon was Ordained and Inducted in May 1985 and was with the church until he demitted his charge in 1993.
On the 23rd of March 1994, the Rev. George C. Mackay B.D; Cert. Min., was Ordained and Inducted to the charge of Paisley: Glenburn. George remained with the congregation until 2003, when he left to join Stamperland Church, Glasgow. During George’s ministry the main change to the fabric of the church was the creation of the Side Sanctuary, which returned the communion table, chairs and font from George Street Church to regular use. The War Memorial on the George Street communion table which used to face the congregation, has now been reversed and now lies hidden from view, but protected from daylight.
After a vacancy of almost two and a half years we welcomed the Ordination and Induction of Rev. Graham Nash MA BD to the Congregation on the 16th of November 2006. During his ministry Graham sought to build on the traditions of the Church in Glenburn while working with the Kirk Session to develop the worship, fellowship and prayer life of the congregation. Closer links also developed with our neighbouring parishes, Lylesland Parish Church and St Columba Foxbar with joint evening services being held monthly.
In 2010, the Congregational Board began a programme of refurbishing our Halls. The toilets were significantly modernised and a new accessible toilet was created. A fire alarm was also installed. Alterations were also made to the entrance of the Halls, and walkway to the church doors to allow level access for wheel-chairs and buggies and for the modernisation of the kitchen.
From September 2011 to September 2012 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our present sanctuary. During this year, a series of events were held to remember the history of our Church ..
Graham departed Glenburn on the 2nd December 2012 after a ministry of 6 years, moving to The Bruce Memorial Church in Cambusbarron, Stirlingshire.
As the kirk of Glenburn looks back on the anniversary of the 1962 sanctuary, we forward to a new ministry and another 50 years of ministry in Glenburn.
Early in 214, we welcomed the Rev. Iain M. Reid and his wife Trish to Glenburn.
During 2015 the congregation remembered the Transportation of the George Street Congregation to Glenburn and the joining with the Nethercraigs Mission with several events including an exhibition of Wedding Dresses worn by members of the congregation & Christening Gowns from 1955 to 2015 and special services.
This history of the congregation is based on a history written for a Paisley newspaper in the mid 1950’s, later revised by Bill Henderson, and updated and revised by Stephen J Clancy in 1999, 2014, 2015 and 2016.