Beith Church


"The church of Beith was originally a chapel planted by the monastery of Kilwinning, the monks of which enjoyed the tithes and revenues, and found a curate for performing the clerical duties. The old parochial church was built on the site of the chapel. A small portion, including the front gable and belfry, only now remains, the gable wall at the back having been built to preserve it for the use of the town and burying-ground. The other parts of the building were taken down and removed when the new church was finished in 1810. It would appear that the old church was erected about the time of, or soon after, the Reformation. In the front gable there is a stone bearing the date 1593, which probably belonged to the older building, and may have been built into the gable when it was renewed. Another stone bears the date "A D. 1754" being the year in which the gable was enlarged and repaired. The belfry, rebuilt about thirty years ago, still provides accommodation for the old bell."

"This bell was given", as saith the inscription thereon, "by Hew Montgomerie, son to Hesilhead, anno 1614, and refounded by the heritors of Beith. anno 1734. R. M. & Company, Fecit."

"The interior of the old church contained galleries, or "lofts", as they were popularly called, in each gable, entered by outside stairs. "The Toun's Loft" was in the new front gable, and facing the entrance; in the opposite gable was the "Giffin Lot" in the east was that of "Hasilhead" and in the west that of "Braidstane" which belonged to the Ralstons of that ilk, and was called the "Woodside Loft"."

"The pulpit was at the corner opposite. Upon the front of the Giffin Gallery was fixed a panel of oak carved in relief, and emblazoned with the armorial bearings of Robert Montgomerie of Giffin, and of his spouse, Jean, daughter of Sir Matthew Campbell, of Loudoun, on two shields in juxtaposition, with the initials "R. M." - "I. C." one letter of each name on either side of their respective shields; over all, a scroll, with "M. E. 1596, M. K," the initials conjoined being for Master of Eglintoun, which title he bore, as being the second son of Hugh, third Earl of Eglintoun, and heir-presumptive of his nephew, Hugh, the fifth Earl. The date is that of his death. This relic has been preserved, and is now placed in front of the patron's pew, in the gallery of the present church. It is somewhat remarkable that no memorial of any of these notable families, other than the one mentioned above, occurs in either kirk, vault, or burying-ground."

"About 1683, the Kirktoun of Beith is said to have consisted of "five dwelling houses, besides the kirk and minister's manse". These buildings are still known as the "five feued houses", and now form the centre, or main street, of the town."

"The most distinguished incumbents of Beith were William Leechman, ordained in 1736, and afterwards translated to Glasgow, where he rose to distinction as a Professor of Divinity, and Principal of the University. His successor, John Witherspoon, a lineal descendant of John Knox, soon after his ordination at Beith, on the breaking out of the rebellion, raised a company of militia "in defence of our only rightful and lawful sovereign, King George", and marched at their head to Glasgow. His company received orders to page, the Government having no arms to supply them, but the Rev. commander himself went to the front and was at the Battle of Falkirk, taken prisoner, and confined for some time in Doune Castle. Mr Witherspoon was translated to Paisley and afterwards went to America, where he introduced a system of education calculated to promote the advancement of science and learning. He was repeatedly sent to Congress, and was one of the subscribers to the Declaration of Independence. After the peace of 1783, he paid a visit to his native country, spent some days among his friends at Beith, and preached in the kirk. He died on 15th November 1794, aged 73, leaving to posterity his theological writings, which were published at Edinburgh in 1804, in nine volumes octavo."

"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.