The History of Giffnock South Parish Church
On 28th October 1912, a meeting was held in the Maverton Rooms in Giffnock. This was to lead, through many stages of development, to the creation of a new parish of the Church of Scotland, the Parish of Giffnock South.
The minutes of meetings held in the early years are testimony to the faith and diligence of the original Congregation, led by a group of people of great conviction. The story of the people, however, cannot be told without setting it within the times when they lived and worked as this had a great influence on the way in which the church developed.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Giffnock had developed from a totally rural area to one where, in addition to the existing farms, there were a few large houses such as Mains, Birkenshaw, Eastwood and Eastwoodhill. There was also industry in the area, the largest being the quarries where the famous Giffnock sandstone was quarried. The main change to rural Giffnock came when the rail link between Glasgow and the old village of Busby was developed and a station was built at Giffnock. The development of the railway also encouraged men of substance to make their homes in the area as they could commute daily to their business in the city.
The people who came to Giffnock had varied religious backgrounds and initially probably returned to their previous places of worship.. One can picture the gentlemen in their top hats and formal attire making their way to the station and discussing matters of the day on their journey into Glasgow. They would no doubt discuss matters of religion and perhaps from these discussions came the resolve to have a Church in Giffnock.
A group of like minded people met and developed into a congregation of the United Presbyterian Church. Initially they met in the station waiting room, then the Golf Clubhouse, but in 1900, they built a church on the site where the kilns of the closed limeworks had been. It was known variously as Giffnock Preaching Station, Giffnock United Presbyterian Church, Giffnock United Free Church and today as Orchardhill Parish Church.
FROM PROPOSAL TO PARISH
There were those, however, who preferred a different form of worship. At that time The Church of Scotland Parish Church for the Giffnock area was Eastwood Parish Church in the Presbytery of Paisley. A public meeting was held in the Maverton Hall in Giffnock on 28th October 1912, with the Minister, Rev Fred Langlands, and the Kirk Session of Eastwood Parish Church, with a view to forming a Church of Scotland Congregation in Giffnock. This view was unanimously agreed by the meeting. The Giffnock Congregation would be a mission outreach station under Eastwood Parish Church. Once the decision to form a Congregation had been taken, it was agreed, “That a Petition be presented to the Kirk Session of Eastwood requesting that ordinance be commenced forthwith in the Maverton Hall”.
On 19th November 1912 Eastwood Kirk Session “readily and very cordially granted the prayer of the petition”. Rev Langlands agreed to his assistant taking one service per Sunday and further agreed to conduct the opening service personally on 8th December 1912 at 11am.
By 3rd December all homes in the area had been visited with the result that 170 adults had promised to become members and about 70 children would join the Sunday School.
The Opening Services, held on 8th December, six weeks after the initial public meeting, were very well attended. The members of this new Congregation were not going to let the grass grow under their feet!
Ten days later a meeting was held with Mr Dunlop of the Home Mission who advised, “The ideal course is to build a complete church, but failing that build a suitable hall or nave of a church which can afterwards be completed”. Today we should be very grateful to Mr Dunlop for his wise counsel.
At the same meeting the view was expressed that “time should not be lost in choosing a site” and by 23rd January 1913 agreement had been reached with Mrs Ewing of the Mains that a church could be built on the site which we have today. By 30th March 1913, arrangements had been made for a minister, Rev. John McDougall, to be appointed as an additional assistant to Rev Langlands, with responsibility for the Giffnock congregation.
So within five months of holding a public meeting to consider establishing a Church of Scotland Congregation in Giffnock, there was a Congregation approaching 200 people with a minister, holding weekly services, a thriving Sabbath School, a site for a future church and £65 in the building fund. A Committee was formed to deal with secular matters. We can only admire the faith, vision and commitment of these founder members of our Congregation and be grateful to them. They were, however, only beginning and had greater plans for the future.
The Hall Church
On 1st April 1913, only six months after the initial meeting, a deputation of the West of Scotland Advisory Committee of the Home Mission Committee met with Eastwood Kirk Session and the members of the Committee of the Giffnock Congregation to advise as to future procedure. It was decided to build a hall in the first instance and there was support for this from the West of Scotland Advisory Committee.
Immediately after this decision, with their now typical enthusiasm and determination, the Giffnock Congregation began raising funds and drawing up plans for the new hall.
The Church Hall was officially opened and dedicated on Saturday 19th September 1914 just six weeks after the Britain declared war on Germany.
In December 1914 Rev. John McDougall resigned. With a new hall and a vacancy for a new minister, the Committee of the Congregation met once again with the Home Mission Committee to discuss the future direction of the Giffnock Congregation. It was decided that the Congregation should be placed under the Home Mission Committee’s Special Church Extension Scheme. This allowed the Church to manage its own financial affairs; appoint a Committee to be voted into office at an annual meeting of the Congregation; deal with the secular matters of the Church and have the right to appoint a Vacancy Committee to look for and call their own minister after the Congregation had the opportunity to hear the nominated ministers preach and to vote for their preferred candidate. Eastwood Kirk Session and the Home Mission Committee also had to endorse the appointment.
Although not yet fully autonomous, another step forward had been taken in the life of Giffnock Church. This was a brave venture as the country was at war and money was tight.
On 2nd June 1915, after due process, Rev. John Will, was inducted as minister. One of his first acts was to introduce a “monthly Supplement printed for Life and Work in which the Congregation would be able to read items of information regarding the various interest of the Church”. The first issue of The Supplement was dated July 1915. However, unlike today’s “Sentinel” the Congregation had to pay for their Supplement.
Rev. John Will worked tirelessly with the Church Committee to “move the life of the Church forward” and on 23rd April 1916, the edict was read for the “Admission and Ordination of Elders to serve Giffnock Congregation”. Under the rules of the Church Extension Scheme, these elders would be appointed to Eastwood Parish Kirk Session with specific responsibility for the Giffnock Congregation which at that time numbered 245 members.
Towards a Quoad Sacra Parish
In June 1916, at a meeting of the Church Committee, Rev. John Will introduced the question of Endowment. The Committee considered that they should seek endowment of the present hall rather than await the building of a Church, as in wartime the cost of building materials was very high and this would be a barrier, not only to building the Church, but would also prevent housing development in the district for some time to come.
A meeting of the Congregation agreed the proposal on 4th September 1916 and Paisley Presbytery agreed the exceptional circumstances brought about by the war and endorsed the proposal at their meeting on 18th October 1916.
On 5th February a petition was presented to Paisley Presbytery: requesting that: The Presbytery grant their consent to an application to the Court of Teinds for the erection of a Church and Parish, Quoad Sacra, at Giffnock, out of portions of the Parishes of Eastwood, Thornliebank and Mearns.
For the information of the brethren, we beg to state that the Congregation of the Mission Station at Giffnock now numbers 299 Communicants and 60 Adherents, and there are 124 children on the roll of the Sunday Schools. The Annual Statistical Return for 1917, now in the hands of the Presbytery, shows that the Christian liberality of the Congregation for the year amounted to over £1200.
Your petitioners are satisfied that the erection of a Quoad Sacra Parish at Giffnock will greatly strengthen the Church of Scotland and extend the cause of Christ among the people of the community.
At their meeting on 20 March 1918 Paisley Presbytery approved the proposal to erect a Church and Parish Quoad Sacra at Giffnock. They also agreed the draft of the proposed Deed of Constitution which was passed by the General Assembly in April 1918.
The Court of Teinds granted the relevant degree to the Giffnock Church on 10th January 1919, raising it to a Parish Church Quoad Sacra.
In consultation with the Kirk Session of Eastwood Parish Church, one of the first actions was to call a minister. Rev. Albert MacCluggage was elected first minister of the Parish of Giffnock on 15th April 1919. At the beginning of May 1921, Rev MacCluggage was advised by his doctor to take a month’s rest. On Sunday 7th August the Congregation was shocked and saddened to learn that Mr MacCluggage had died and Giffnock Parish Church was once again without a minister.
After due process , on 16th February 1922, Rev. Ernest Ormrod Rodger was inducted into the charge of Giffnock Parish Church and began a ministry which was to last for almost twenty seven years and see many very significant developments in the life of the Church.
Mr Rodger's first message to the Congregation was:
"I look forward to my work here with great pleasure and enthusiasm and have confidence that the splendid work which you have done in the past nine years will go on unceasingly, that your zeal will be unabating and that the outcome will cause the heart of everyone to rejoice."
He was of course referring to the building of a new church.
The Fulfilment of The Vision of a Church On The Hill
In December 1922, the matter of a new church building was raised at a meeting of the Church Trustees. The Congregation was growing in proportion to the increasing population in the area. On 30th May 1923, the Local Trustees called a meeting of the Congregation to discuss the building of a new church. The proposal was agreed and as before, the Congregation agreed to work to raise the money.
In November 1926, Mr Stewart of Paterson and Stewart, the architects who had been responsible for the hall, produced the plans for the new church. They were presented to the Trustees and the Kirk Session who, after due consideration and some alterations, presented them to the Congregation which endorsed them.
Work began on the building on 13th June 1927 and Lady Weir of Eastwood House laid the foundation stone on 17th September. The Congregation of Giffnock Parish Church had strived for seventeen years to have their own Church and they were determined that it would be a beautiful building fit for worship. The great day came at last and on a snowy 16th February 1929, the new Church was dedicated.
THE UNION AND A NEW NAME
As the plans for the opening of the new Church were being finalised, important plans were also coming to fruition within the wider Church.
Shortly after the opening ceremony, in March 1929, the basis and plan of union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland was considered and met with favour by the Kirk Session of Giffnock Parish Church. In May 1929, the Ministers and Kirk Sessions of Giffnock Parish Church and Giffnock United Free Church met to consider the naming of the Churches after the union. At that meeting the name of St Conval was reserved for the Parish Church while the Kirk Session of the United Free Church approved the name of Giffnock Orchardhill for that Church. By the end of June, however, the decision had been made to name the Parish Church "Giffnock South Parish Church". New boundaries had to be drawn both locally and nationally and Giffnock South was now in the Presbytery of Glasgow.
Union Sunday was held throughout Scotland on 6th October 1929 and special services were held in all Churches. On 7th October, a meeting of the Congregation unanimously endorsed the decision of the Kirk Session to name the Church "Giffnock South Parish Church". By the end of the year the names had been ratified by the Presbytery of Glasgow and the" congregational limits" (parish boundaries) were fixed by minute of the Presbytery of Glasgow on 6th December 1931.
REV FREDERICK LANGLANDS B.D.
One man who did more than any other to establish the Congregation of Giffnock must be remembered. Rev. Frederick Langlands B.D. was Minister of Eastwood Parish Church from 1909 - 1925 and Giffnock was during much of that time within the Parish of Eastwood. Throughout the years leading up to Giffnock Congregation achieving Quoad Sacra status, Rev. Langlands was a constant source of support and advice to the fledgling church, steering the congregation through the various stages of their progress. He left Eastwood Parish Church in 1925 to move to a parish in Galashiels.
REV. JOHN MACDOUGALL, M.A. B.D. (1913 - 1914)
Eastwood Kirk Session appointed Rev. John MacDougall as an additional assistant to Rev. Langlands with the remit of Missionary to the Giffnock Congregation. He was introduced to the Giffnock Congregation on 30th March 1913. Rev. MacDougall demitted his charge on 30th December 1914 on his appointment as assistant to the Minister of Shettleston Parish Church and at this point the Giffnock Congregation decided to appoint their own Minister.
REV. JOHN WILL M.A. B.D. (1915-1917)
On 2nd April 1915 the Rev. John Will B.D. was selected as sole nominee to the vacancy following the demission of Rev MacDougall. The service to introduce Rev Will to the congregation was held on Wednesday 2nd June 1915, the sermon being preached by the Rev. Fred D. Langlands B.D., minister of Eastwood. Mr. Will introduced the Parish Supplement, the first one appearing in July 1915. He thought that: "The Congregation should be able to read items of information. [The Sentinel today.] Rev. John Will worked tirelessly with the Church Committee to “move the life of the Church forward.”
It was he who raised the issue of endowment which would lead to the Giffnock Congregation becoming a Quoad Sacra Parish. Rev. Will resigned on 18th November 1917 to take up the charge of Rothiemurchus and Aviemore.
REV ALBERT MacCLUGGAGE B.A. M.A. (1919-1921)
On 15th April 1919 the Rev. Albert MacCluggage M.A. was elected minister of the Church, being ordained and inducted on 13th May.
At the beginning of May 1921 Rev. MacCluggage reported that his doctor had advised him to go away for a month's rest. On Sunday 7th August intimation was received that the Minister had died suddenly that morning at his father's residence in Belfast.
REV E. ORMROD RODGER M.A. (1921-1948)
On 21st December 1921, Rev. E. Ormrod Rodger M.A. was inducted as Minister. Looking back, it appears that all the years of his ministry at Giffnock were years of challenge. The early years were focused on the planning and raising of funds to build the new Church in years when there were the problems of post war reconstruction. The achievement of that goal must have been one of the high points of his Ministry. Despite the disillusionment of the thirties and the trials of the Second World War years, Mr. Rodger had a cheerfulness that rose above all problems. Under his inspired leadership the membership of the congregation grew by over 1000 members. He had a particular focus on the young and while constantly exhorting parents to ensure that their children attended Church, he established a wide range of activities in the Church for the youth. Drama, table tennis, badminton, the Discussion Group, the Junior Guild, the Junior Choir, Girl Guides, Brownies and Boys' Brigade are just some of the many organisations which began during his ministry.
He was undoubtedly a man of understanding and this was what endeared him to his large congregation, all of whom looked upon him not only as minister but a friend. He will long be remembered in Giffnock South as a very human person who understood the joys and sorrows, the laughter and tears of life and who, in all his minis¬trations—as a preacher and a pastor—tried to help his Congregation to face life in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Rodger became seriously ill in October 1947 and preached his farewell sermon on 19th September 1948. He demitted his charge on 9th October 1948.
REV WILFRID J. TOWART M.A. B.D. (1948 - 1982)
Rev Wilfred J Towart first came first to Giffnock South in October 1947 as Locum Tenens when Mr. Roger became ill. When Mr. Roger demitted his charge n October 1948, a vacancy committee was appointed on 9th November. The vacancy however was not for long because the Congregation knew the man they wanted to be their Minister. On 14th December 1948 Rev. Wilfred Towart preached as sole nominee. Rev Towart was a well loved minister for thirty four years. he wrote to the congregation on 18th September 1982 that he had never thought to leave Giffnock South but he believed most sincerely that God had another job for him to do.
As a mark of the respect in which he was held, Mr. Towart was elected Moderator of the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1983. He continued to live in the local area and was a familiar figure as he walked around the district.
REV EDWARD V. SIMPSON B.Sc. B.D. (1983 - 2009)
On 10th April 1983 Rev. Edward V Simpson preached as sole nominee and was inducted to the charge of Giffnock South Parish Church on 29th June.
In his first letter in Sentinel, he let it be known that he had two main priorities. The first was Worship - Worship, Sunday by Sunday - that is how we enter afresh into the meaning of being a Christian and are renewed in faith and fellowship. His second priority was Pastoral Care which follows on from renewed faith and fellowship. These remained his two priorities throughout his long ministry in Giffnock South.
In addition to being pastor to a large congregation, in 1984, Eddie was appointed a part time prison chaplain at Barlinnie Prison and in 1992 was appointed Chief Chaplain in Barlinnie. His was a very successful ministry there being known to one and all as "The Big Man".
Eddie's retirement in 2009 was approached as a celebration although his leaving was tinged with considerable sadness. Giffnock South had been very well served by such a reliable pastor and great communicator for 26 years.
REV CATHERINE J BEATTIE B.D. (2011 - )
Catherine is a first for Giffnock South - our first lady minister. Catherine preached as sole nominee for Giffnock South on 27th February 2011 and was overwhelmingly welcomed as our new Minister.
She brought new energy and new ideas to her new charge and leads us to ensure that Giffnock South is a strong, vibrant Church as we move ahead together into our second century as a Congregation of God's people.