After the Reformation, a new Monyabroch Parish Church was built in 1560 in the present old section of the Kilsyth Cemetery, to accommodate 600 worshippers. Rev. James Robe, Parish Minister, instigated the great Kilsyth Revival of 1742-43 which influenced Church life nationally for years to come.
The Patronage Act of 1712 confirmed that the landowner had the right to appoint a minister. This caused unrest, as congregations saw it their right to appoint a minister as a principle of The Reformation.
In 1761, this ongoing aggravation resulted in a breakaway from the Church of Scotland by a group called The Relief Church and subsequently a faction in Kilsyth Parish, in disagreement with their Minister, John Telfer, broke away to form the Kilsyth Relief Church.
Due to overcrowding in 1816 a much bigger Church was completed to accommodate 793 parishioners on this present location. The building was designed by a Mr Shepherd and the construction supervised by a Mr Lawrie from Dalkeith. The clock, tower and bell were gifted by the landowner, Sir Charles Edmonstone. Built of freestone and coated with lath and plaster on the inside, the heating was provided by coal fired stoves. In 1835, the Kilsyth Gas Company was formed and gas lighting replaced paraffin lamps.
The Rev William Chalmers Burns is credited with another spiritual revival in 1839. An open Bible on the town’s coat of arms represents the two religious revivals which took place in the town. The issue of patronage caused further disruption in 1843 when the minister, the Rev William Burns, with many office bearers, broke away to form The Free Church and established it in Howe Road.
The provision of Hymn books for the pulpit and the Precentor in 1873 led to Hymns being introduced into the staple diet of metrical Psalms and Scottish paraphrases. The Precentor led the singing, as few people could read. Sir Archibald Edmonstone gifted the pulpit in 1880 and instrumental music was introduced in 1886 with a gift of a harmonium by Mr G.A. Whitelaw. With the purchase of adjacent property in 1889, the lower hall was completed in 1901. In the 1920’s a war memorial plaque was unveiled, a communion table was gifted by the Session and a baptismal font from Mrs Mary Lockhart in memory of her husband.
A memorial plaque was erected to the memory of Thomas Hogg, a long serving elder and former Sunday school superintendent.
Due to a building fund and a generous donation by a Mr H Stenhouse, the large hall, ancillary rooms and a church officer’s flat was completed. In 1929, following the reunion of Presbyterian Churches in Scotland. The Parish Church was renamed Kilsyth Old Parish Church. The new chancel was constructed in 1932 and accommodated the organ, Communion table, Choir stalls, baptismal font and lectern.
The gallery was reconstructed and the plaster was removed from the walls to reveal a natural stone finish. During a dedication service a plaque was unveiled to the memory of the Rev Duncan Cameron (minister 1913-1929). In 1966, to mark the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the building, a new staircase to the gallery was built along with extensive renovations of the vestibule.
On 23rd February 1975 the congregations of the Old Parish and Burns Church, (formerly the Free Church) were united to form The Burns and Old Parish Church. Soon after the union, stained glass windows from the former Burns Church were installed within the Burns and Old. In 2002, when the Burns Church was being demolished, a marble plaque in memory of Dr William Jeffrey, along with the bell was recovered and is now displayed. Close to the bell on the south side exterior of the church a stone is sited to mark the death of a young Covenanter who was slain after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645. In our present generation the fall on the lectern commemorates the centenary of the Boys' Brigade whilst a marquetry plaque commemorates the centenary of the Woman’s Guild. A praise corner was established through a gift from the Houliston family in memory of John and Iris. Modern Technology arrived in 2007 when an audio/visual system was installed.
Bill Gracie compiled a history of Kilsyth Burns and Old Parish Church as part of the Bicentenary celebrations. The book is entitled the Old Lady of Backbrae and is full of interesting facts about our history right up until 2016, please contact us if you require more information.
Painting of Burns Church by local artist Peter Sim, April 2020