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FALKIRK OLD PARISH CHURCH




There has probably been a Christian church on the town centre  site for at least twelve hundred years and local tradition has even linked the earliest foundation with the Celtic Saint, Modan, in the 6th century. Sometime during the next three centuries the appearance of one of the early buildings may have given rise to the name
Egglesbreth, the speckled church, which translated into Scots became the Faw Kirk. In the 12th century the church passed into the hands of the Augustinian canons of Holyrood Abbey who remained in possession until the Reformation in 1560. A century before this, a new church building was constructed, cruciform in shape, centred on a square tower with 'lofty arches' the remains of which can still be seen in the doorway linking the vestibule to the side rooms. At this stage the church was described in some sources as 'collegiate', that is there were a number of priests present continuously praying for the wealthy patrons who by this time would have been the powerful Livingstons of Callendar House.

With the exception of two short periods when the armies of Cromwell and Bonnie Prince Charlie were in occupation, this building served as Parish Church and spiritual centre of a huge area more than ten miles long by six wide. In the 1730s a bell tower was added to the top of the existing square tower by the architect William Adam, father of the famous Robert. This remained when the present building, designed by Gillespie Graham, was constructed in 1811. The vestibule of the present church is therefore the old centre of worship, the altar before the Reformation and the pulpit thereafter. The south extension which includes the upstairs hall was added in 1892 and this helped to restore the cruciform appearance of the church. In the 1960s the kirkyard was cleared and the old buildings along the High Street front were removed.

After the reunion of the Church of Scotland in 1929 the church took the name Falkirk Old Parish Church and, following the union with St Modan's Church in 1986, it is now the place of worship of the Falkirk Old and St Modan's Parish Church congregation. There is also a place of worship in Hallglen. When a new hall was added at the west end of the building in the mid 1990s it was called, appropriately enough, St Modan's Hall.


   


Inside the vestibule of the church above the door is a foundation stone which names King Malcolm Canmore as founder in 1057; interesting though it is, it is almost certainly a 19th century forgery! There is a sanctuary cross from around 1200AD in the eastern passageway and nearby is a grave slab commemorating Alexander Livingston of Callendar House, the guardian of the young Mary Queen of Scots, and a roof boss from the medieval church bearing the Livingston arms. The effigies of two other leading Livingstons and their ladies stand in the passageways - they are thought to be from the 15th and 16th centuries and at one time lay beneath the old church hall building to the south.


In the vestibule are memorials to two former Ministers, John Brown Paterson (died 1835) and William Begg (died 1887). By coincidence they are probably both the work of John Mossman of Glasgow, the first his earliest major commission as a young craftsman and the second his last work before retirement. The War Memorial round the doorway was designed by J G Callander and is made of blaxter stone. In was unveiled at a memorable service on 23rd June 1919. Above the door are the names of all the Ministers who have served this congregation since the Reformation. The pipe organ of the church was built in 1892 and the two major stained glass windows of outstanding quality by Christopher Whall of London were installed two years later.


 



Outside in the kirkyard are the graves of Sir John de Graeme and Sir John Stewart of Bonkhill who fell fighting for William Wallace at the first Battle of Falkirk in 1298. The Bute Memorial erected in 1877 is another reminder of that great battle. The Munro and Edmonstone tombs are from the Jacobite Battle of 1746. The square tower of the building remains from the medieval church and the gable marks of the earlier nave and chancel are fairly obvious. The bell tower was erected in 1738 and now contains the thirteen bells given by the Falkirk born philanthropist Robert Dollar of San Rafael, California in 1926. At the east end of the church stands the Zetland Tomb, the burial place of the Dundas family of West Kerse, Grangemouth. Sir Laurence Dundas the founder of the Forth and Clyde Canal is buried here.


Ian Scott 2005

 
 
   
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