Benholm Kirk is Very Much Alive

3 Jan 2007

It seems a long time ago now since Benholm Kirk closed it’s doors as a place of worship in the Mearns Coastal Parish. In fact it was early in June 2004 that the Closing Service was held.

The Kirk then stood unused except for daily visits by the key holder and occasional visits from tourists interested in ancient buildings and members of the public trying to trace family history through the gravestones.

The building was put on the market and suddenly attracted the attention of organisations interested in preserving Scotland’s Heritage. In December of 2005 the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust submitted an offer for the Kirk, which was accepted by the Church of Scotland General Trustees. On the 1st of February 2006 the Trust became the proud owners of Benholm Kirk thus assuring the safe preservation of this important historic building for the future and also ensuring that local people and visitors alike can access it at will.

In April 2006 the Kirk was put to it’s first alternate use. As part of the 7th International, Music and Arts Festival, Yellow’s on the Broom, workshops with a World Music and Dance theme were held over the last weekend of the month. This was linked with events held at Benholm Mill.

On 17th of June 2006, A Musical Celebration to mark the reopening of Benholm Kirk, ’Under New Management’, was held. This event included traditional poems and music of the area. A formal handover of the Kirk Key from the Rev George Hastie, on behalf of The Church of Scotland, to Mrs Ann McCarter, on behalf of The Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, took place. The key was then handed to myself as nominated key holder.

In July we had a meeting of “Friends of Benholm”. This is a group of people living in and out of the area who share a common interest in the preservation and use of Benholm Kirk by the Community and for the benefit of the Community. The attendees agreed the roles they were prepared to undertake in order to maintain and prepare the building for the various events that will take place. The next event to be held, on 18th August, “In The Clear Air”, was an evening of ’Airs, Dances & Romances for Harp, Whistles, Strings and Things’ as so eloquently described by it’s organiser, Mr Bob Dunsire. He along with some friends provided some first class entertainment.

Two days later, on Sunday the 20th August, A Songs of Praise was held to commemorate St Marnoch’s Day. Benholm Kirk has always been dedicated to St Marnoch so it is intended that this will become an annual event.

The first weekend in November saw the Kirk once again being used as a venue for workshops, this time as part of The 3rd Annual Howe Festival of dancing, poetry and crafts. The events at the Kirk were centred around singing and songwriting and featured Christine Kydd, a much in demand teacher and performer across Scotland and singer songwriter Gifford Lind. These events were supported by The New Makars Trust. The evening event was “Mearns and Angus Verses”. and featured poetry and songs of the area.

In mid November the Kirk was used, in conjunction with other venues and activities, by a local family for a private Service of Thanksgiving.

On the first Sunday of December we held a ‘Celebration of Your Favourite Christmas Carols’. Attended and thoroughly enjoyed by around 200 people, who really brought the old Kirk to life singing the carols that we all love. There was a lot of emotion in evidence during the afternoon and I felt there were a lot of memories rekindled. Additional singing was provided by a group of singers from the area who also acted as a choir. Some children from Lathallan performed songs from their school Nativity play. The event was followed by some very tasty refreshments provided by the ladies of The Friends Group. It should be noted that the male members of the friends group also did their bit in helping the ladies with the cleaning and decorating of the Kirk before the event. Yes, men with vacuum cleaners, brooms, dusters and polish.

So what’s next? Well the next event on the calendar is a wedding in February. This has a special significance in that the bride to be is none other than the granddaughter of the dear departed Mrs Watson who a lot of us knew and loved and who had a special affection for the Kirk.

So as you can see, it has been a fairly busy first year for Benholm Kirk and we would like to see it used even more in the future. As was said by Mrs Ann McCarter at the handover ceremony, ’although declared by the Church of Scotland as redundant, Benholm Kirk is not redundant. It is now a community facility for the use of and by the community’.

Read more about Benholm Kirk on this website. Click here.