Welcome to Springburn Parish Church

Johnston Church


Long before the first church was built in Springburn there had been rumblings of' discontent. It centred on patronage and the right of a congregation to call a minister of their choice, as opposed to patronage. An attempt was made to remedy this in 1731. An overture was sent down to presbyteries with the warning that if they neglected to declare their opinion, the assembly of 1732 would be asked to pass it into an act. The overture had to do primarily with the procedure to be adopted when the right to a vacant parish lapsed to the Presbytery. Roughly the proposals of the 1711 act were followed, except that the right to elect and call a minister was more explicitly stated to lie with the protestant heritors and elders, or in Royal Burghs, with the magistrates, town councils and Kirk Session, with less stress laid on the rights of the people. Despite a majority of presbyteries against the proposals, it was moved to pass it into an Act. The leader of the opposition was Ebenezer Erskine.
Defeated in the Assembly, Erskine spoke out strongly against it and was censured by the Synod of Perth and Stirling for some of his expressions. He appealed to the Assembly of 1733, but was again censured. Developments took place and eventually attempts were made at reconciliation, but to no avail, and a split, though small at the, time, became inevitable. This was the seed from which other splits took place, but which brought an eventual union, with a later secession which took place under Thomas Gillespie in 1761 , again because of the patronage problem becoming known as the Relief Church, and joined together to become the United Presbyterian Church in 1847.
It was not without difficulty that this union was effected for the two churches differed considerably in ethos. The United Secession stemming from the Erskines had shed some of the characteristics of its founders, notably the custom of 'renewing the covenants', but still retained a certain strictness of ecclesiastical discipline. The Relief Church was more broadly evangelical, more lax in doctrine and discipline, and prided itself on being non-sectarian and non-covenanting. The union took place and became almost as strong numerically as the Free Church, with 518 congregations, but owing to its method of church finance, it was confined chiefly to the cities and towns.
On 10th November 1855 eight years after the union, a meeting was held in a disused weavers' shop in Centre Street (now Carleston Street) having for its purpose "the formation of a branch of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland in that place". Springburn then was still a village, with a cluster of houses along the bottom of the hill, and a few large mansion houses. The meeting was attended by twenty-five of the local inhabitants who made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers. They were a mixed lot in a social sense. Some were local tradesmen, one a master joiner, but one or two were of some substance being of the class known as "Bonnett Lairds" in those days.
The meeting agreed to carry out the purpose they had in view and petitioned the Glasgow Presbytery for recognition. The Presbytery agreed and on the 25th February 1856, the Rev. George Jeffrey preached and constituted the congregation. It was also agreed when the congregation was formed to take steps for the erection of a church and one was built and opened for worship on 17th August 1856 at a cost of £800 with seating for about 430 persons. This eventually became part of the Albert School and eventually the Albert Primary School in Knox's Open - eventually Union Street, later Torrance Street and demolished in 1975
On 31st August Walter Chisholm was ordained and became the first minister of the Springburn congregation. Unfortunately, this gentle Christian soul who successfully carried on the work was not in the best of health and after two years, died in 1860 of Consumption.
After long deliberation, conscious of a growing congregation in a rapidly growing district, a call was given to the Rev. James Aitchison Johnston of West Linton, who was inducted on 3rd July 1861 and whose ministry lasted for 37 years
With a growing congregation, the original church soon became too small and a new church on Springburn Road at Queenshill Street was opened for public worship on the 19th March 1874. To facilitate more work to be carried out by the congregational organisations, more commodious halls were built and opened in 1899.
The Church was a very imposing structure being built in the Grecian style of' architecture, 75 Feet long x 67 feet broad, with a front elevation of 47 feet and designed to seat 950 people at a cost of approximately £3,500.
The Reid family were For long involved in Springburn not only as the head of the North British Locomotive Company, but in much of the church life, being most generous financially. Mr. James Reid had been a member of the Committee of Management of the congregation, and it was inevitable, through their esteem and appreciation of him, that the halls, erected in 1899, should have been named "The Reid Hall"
© Frank Myers 1997

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