HERITAGE: Kilmaronock Old Kirk will be made available for community use

By Democrat reporter

A historic Loch Lomondside kirk, where luminaries such as Brigadier Alistair Pearson and Lord Fraser of Allander are interred in the ancient graveyard, is to be transformed into an arts venue and heritage centre.

Kilmaronock Old Kirk will also be made available for community use following its acquisition by Kilmaronock Old Kirk Trust.

There are plans to make use of external areas including for natural burial sites.

The goup has been involved in talks to take over the building, car park and the glebe since it closed in 2017 and back in 2019, they were awarded £57,110 through a Scottish Land Fund grant which meant the dream was closer to reality.

Last week Trust chair Willie Roxburgh, of Gartocharn, well known insurance company executive, has been appointed keyholder.

He said: “The intention is to develop the building as a sustainable multi-use community meeting space, an arts venue and a heritage centre.

“The glebe field will be developed as a natural burial ground and outdoor recreational space.”

Located in the southern part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, the Christian use of the site can be traced back to at least 1325, serving the communities of Gartocharn and Croftamie.

The existing building dates from 1813 and was closed by the Church of Scotland in 2017.

Funding for the purchase was made possible by the Scottish Land Fund grant as well as earlier partial funding for feasibility, other studies and surveys plus a business plan from SLF and Forth Valley and Lomond Leader organisation.

Willie Roxburgh told the Lennox Herald: “This external funding would not have been possible without the generous donations from KOKT members and local residents. All contributions are gratefully acknowledged.”

The first phase of the work will renovate the external fabric of the kirk so some initial use can be made of the building.

The work will then focus on converting the interior and improving the external landscape .

Trustees are now engaged in progressing the works as well as fundraising. They are keen to involved the local community as much as possible and invite anyone interested in getting involved to email kilmaronock@gmail.com or visit kilmaronockoldkirk.org.uk

The Fraser family grave in the churchyard at Kilmaronock. Pictures by Bill Heaney

“KOKT trustees very much look forward to proceeding with the project and fulfilling the vision of this unique building achieving sustainable use for local communities and visitors alike.”

Meanwhile, the historic Jamestown Parish Church building has been sold. Sansone Projects Ltd has purchased the building which ceased to be used in autumn 2019 with the congregation attending Lomond Parish Church since.

It is understood the long-term plan for the site is to promote and assist with digital involvement for local young people.

Alexandria dentist Robert Kinloch who was session clerk at Jamestown Parish Church said: “There’s a sadness that we had to leave but we are certainly happy that the new owner of the building is looking to preserve the structure and to bring it back into some form of use involving the community.”

He confirmed discussions are currently ongoing regarding the relocation of some of the stained glass windows from the Jamestown building to Lomond Parish Church.

Kilmaronock Church dates from 1813 and stands on an ancient and historic site.

It is claimed that the name of the church is derived from “Kil-ma-ronach”, the cell of St Ronan, and after whom St Ronan’s Well near the site is named. A primary school in Bonhill was named after the saint as was the Catholic church there.

Sir Hugh Fraser and his father Lord Fraser, the retail magnate, are two of the Loch Lomondside luminaries buried in the kirkyard at Kilmaronock, near Gartocharn. Brigadier Alistair Pearson, of Tullochan, is also interred there.

Many churches and chapels are said to have existed in this area since the time of the Celtic saints, but in 1324, King Robert the Bruce granted the church of St Ronan to the Abbots of Cambuskenneth.

It was served by a succession of vicars until the Reformation, when John Porterfield became its first Protestant minister in 1567.

Inside the building stands a light oak screen, erected several years ago to the memory of the Rev William McLauchlan Goldie, who was a Clerk to the Presbytery of Dumbarton.

A stained glass window in the church, depicting Courage and Diligence, was dedicated in June 1947, and was donated by the late Mr Frederick Davidson Cowieson of Kilmaronock as a thanks-offering for victory in the Second World War.

Throughout the building are plaques in memory of well-loved pastors, and also memorials to other benefactors whose families have resided in the area for many generations.

In the churchyard are tombstones dating from the seventeenth century and various plain slabs, some of which could be flagstones from the pre-Reformation church of St Ronan.

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