Love your Local Church: The Old West Kirk

Prof Adam Cumming

Chairperson, Scotland’s Churches Trust

The chairperson of our Trustees, Prof Adam Cumming shares his love of his childhood kirk, now in private ownership, in his latest blog.

I have several churches that I’d regard as favourites, but one is particularly important to me. It is the church in which I was brought up, and where I was Christened. It is also a very historic church for it was the first post- Reformation church licenced by the Scottish Parliament in 1591. It is the Old West Kirk in Greenock and is one of the many Scottish churches that have been closed and recently sold.

Built in the centre of the village of Greenock, it fell into disrepair as the town expanded. It was restored in the 19th century and was sufficiently important to be retained even when Harland and Wolf shipyards wished to expand.

It was moved in the 1920s to make way for the shipyard expansion. It was carefully rebuilt on the Esplanade near Princes Pier. It had a new tower but most of what had been there was retained as you can see from the photo above.

It is a fine building with superb stained-glass originals by Burne-Jones and Cottier and others and was well looked after and loved by its congregation until its recent sale.

It has two galleries, one for farmers and one for sailors.

The sailors’ gallery had a ship suspended above it which you can see in the photo below.

The building takes the usual pattern for post-Reformation Presbyterian Churches but its windows, history and its appearance lift it above the ordinary and has been the subject of at least two books. 

Just for interest, I’ve also shared a picture I took on my last visit of my baptismal record.

I have no idea where these records are now and hope they’re still in the hall where I saw them.

It now seems that there is a possible new life ahead for the Kirk which will hopefully make this special place a living part of the community again so that it can continue to be used and enjoyed as it has been for so long.