When, in 1843, the Church of Scotland was split in two at the Disruption, 487 ministers gave up their churches, their stipends and their manses and went out for conscience sake not knowing whither they went.

One of these 487 ministers was the Rev. James Morison, minister of the Newark Chapel-of-Ease at the head of Balfour Street-from which Chapel Lane derives its name. Nearly the whole congregation followed him and all the elders, among whom were Provost William Birkmyre, John Davie and Charles Macarthur, father of Dr William Forrrest Macarthur, who wrote the "History of Port-Glasgow". For the first two Sundays they worshipped in the graveyard alongside the Church then the remnant-there were eleven all told-complained of the disturbance caused by the singing and the third Sunday they worshipped in the old graveyard at the " Pend," Blackstone. The Rev. James Barr, of the Parish Church, did not come out but several of his congregation joined the Free Church.

Up to the year 1876 it was called simply the "Port-Glasgow Free Church" the name was still on the Communion cups. Then when the Mission Church which was situated at The Glen was raised to the full status of a church with a minister of its own, under the title of " The West Church," the Presbytery decided that in order to avoid confusion, ours should be called "The Hamilton Church" A more appropriate name wouldhave been "The Hamilton Memorial Church".   In addition to this gift the trustees also handed over  his property at 59-63 Princes Street for use as a manse. The Rev Henderson after occupying Captain Hamiltons house for sometime complained it was "too noisey" and the building was let for use as shops and a doctors .

When in 1847 the Trustees of Captain Hamilton, merchant in Port-Glasgow, allocated £2,500 to the Free Church for the building of a new Church one of the stipulations was that it should be named the Hamilton Free Church, Port-Glasgow.

The United Presbyterian Church in Princes Street then offered their hospitality and two services were held each Sabbath forenoon at 10 and 12 o'clock. When the half-yearly Sacrament came round in October, there was not sufficient accommodation for both congregations, and Mr. Wm.Birkmyre put at Mr. Morison's disposal the "Dock-side Store " in Bay Street belonging to the Gourock Ropework Co. The cordage was piled up at one end and covered by a tarpaulin seats and tables were brought in, the office at the end serving as Vestry. And there the first Communion of the Port-Glasgow Free Kirk was celebrated in that "Upper Room"

Meanwhile the congregation had been collecting for a church and in 1844 the original church was erected in Princes Street at a cost of £1,004, including the purchase of the site at £200. In 1847 the trustees of Capt. William Hamilton, a retired merchant gave £2,000, increased later to £2,500, for the building of a new church. This church was erected at a cost of £2,503 with 956 sittings and was opened for worship on 23rd July, 1848, by Rev. J. Bonar, Glasgow.

One of the features of the church was the organ, built by Lewis, of London. It was installed in 1900 at a cost of £I,804 a gift from Mrs.John Birkmyre of Broadstone.
Church Buildings

In 1926 the old heating system, a source of constant trouble, was replaced by a low pressure system, and the whole Church renovated, cleaned and repainted by Messrs. John Barr & Son. The total Cost, £679, was met by the congregation. Other improvements were the installation in 1919 of electric light instead of gas, at a cost of £214 and the alteration of the choir bench to make room for the. Memorial Communion table in 1920, for which congregation subscribed £237.

It may not be generally known that the ground on which the church stood belonged originally to the Citv of Glasgow who were still the "Superiors" a fact of which they were rudely reminded of when in 1911 the Deacons' Court was presented with a bill for £111 being the amount of accumulated Casualties of Superiority. Fortunately these have now been redeemed for all time coming.

The Early Ministers

The First minister Rev James Morrison was ordained to Newark Chapel- Of Ease his only charge in March 1842, just one year before the Disruption, and died at Callander 22nd September 1852 aged 42.
In his later years his health and sight failed him and he was in the habit of using the Vestry as his study. At his own request he was buried in the plot of ground outside the Vestry windows. He was a brother-in-law of Dr. Bonar, Glasgow, who preached his funeral sermon
He was succeeded by Rev John Henderson who died in 1857, while on a visit to Egypt and the Holy Land taken for reasons of health and being found on his knees, at his bedside in the attitude of prayer.

John Kelman was the father of the famous Dr. John Kelman, of St. George's, Edinburgh and was inducted on 11th February 1858 and after five years faithful ministry in Port-Glasgow was transferred to Dundonald and thereafter to St. Johns West, Leith.

He was succeeded in February 1863, by Rev William Bell.

A young man of 27 he was born at Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, on Christmas day 1836
A brilliant college career a genial manner and a high Christian character with a ringing laugh which was well remembered by the older people.

On 24th February 1888, an enthusiastic gathering filled the Town Hall at a social meeting to celebrate Mr. Bell's completion of twenty-five years' ministry in the town. Mr.John Birkmyre, in presenting Mr. Bell on behalf of the ladies, with a pulpit gown and Mr. R. B. Hagart making the presentation of a purse of sovereigns and a gold brooch to Mrs. Bell
He ministered for 34 years in Port-Glasgow, faithful to his first and only charge.

In 1893 Mr. Bell suffered a severe blow in the loss of his wife and, as he was suffering from asthma and bronchitis and nervous debility, he was ordered to take a voyage to New Zealand. He returned to take up his work again and for four years bravely carried on. The end came suddenly on the 14th February, 1897, while taking his morning cup of tea in bed,he was buried at Port Glasgow cemetery beside his wife Mima Dickson.
A bronze memorial tablet, with his bust, was placed in the vestibule of the church in 1898, costing £60. I am unsure if this memorial still exists.

He was succeeded by Rev. Win. B. MacLeod, who was inducted to Hamilton Church in July, 1897. Mr. MacLeod came from St. Helier's Presbyterian Church, Jersey, where he was ordained on 14th January 1892. During his five years' ministry there, the membership reached the highest figure in the history of the congregation, and the Literary Society he founded rose to the remarkable figure of three hundred members.

After five years' ministry in Port-Glasgow, Mr. MacLeod's fine preaching gifts brought him a call from the Candlish Memorial Church, Merehiston, Edinburgh to which he was inducted on 10th October 1902, and where he died at Corstorphine on 17th May 1939 in his eighty-first year.

He was followed in 1903 by Rev Herbert Reid who was responsible for writting this history of the church.

In 1905 the congregation unanimously agreed to join the United Free Church of Scotland, formed by the union of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church.

Rev Cairns of Rose Street Church, Glasgow was inducted to the Hamilton Church on 27th March, 1930.
Mr. Cairns, who had been a combatant during the Great War was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry. When his company of the H.L.I. had to retire before the German advance he with some others, were cut off but, instead of surrendering they defended themselves in a shell hole until their company advanced again and relieved them.


In 1932 he was appointed chaplain to the 171st Battery, Clyde Heavy Brigade, T.A.

In the same year, Lair No:35 in the Port-Glasgow Cemetery, belonging to the late Alex. Gilfillan, was Presented to the Hamilton Church for use if required I have no information if it's still available if required.

In 1942, when the old Parish, Port-Glasgow, became vacant owing to the death of Rev.D J Moir Porteous, the Presbytery brought up the matter of union of the Hamilton Church with the Old Parish Church. After several conferences, where the matter was fully discussed, the Hamilton Church decided against the union and the matter dropped.

On Thursday, 21st February 1929, a social meeting of the congregation was held in The Boys' Brigade Institute to
mark the completion of Mr. Reid's 25 year ministry in Port Glasgow
The hall was crowded and amongst those present were the provost and ministers of the town, Rev. J. M.Sutherland, M.A.
one of Mr. Reid's boys in Thurso, and Rev. J. M'K. M'Naughton, M.C., Greenock.
Mr. John Barclay, the senior elder, presented Mr. Reid with two dwarf leaded book-cases, a gold watch, and a pocket book with cheque. Mrs. Dunsmore, on behalf of the ladies, presented Miss Reid with a handsome silver afternoon-tea tray,

Rev William Bell MA
Rev William B MacLeod MA

The centenery of the church was celebrated at special services held on Sunday, 23rd May, 1943. Mr Cairns presided at the morning service and Mr. Reid, the senior minister, gave the address.

He said :
"It is a great joy to be here to-day to join with you in keeping the hundredth birthday of our congregation. It is a glorious heritage you have to pass on. It is now nearly forty years since I came among you as your minister. They have been very happy years for me. I look back and thank God for the many friends I have made here who worked so loyally and faithfully and are now gone to the higher service above."
In the evening an enthusiastic congregation filled the church, when addresses were given by the town ministers Messrs. Whitley, Donaldson and Allan, and the praise was led by the massed choirs of the various churches.
After fifteen years of conscientious and faithful service for the church and town in which he had been ably assisted by Mrs. Cairns, Mr. Cairns received a call from Kames Church, Kyles of Bute, and was inducted there on 18th April, 1945. At a farewell social meeting held in the Church Halls on Thursday 22nd February, Mr. and Mrs. Cairns received parting gifts from Mr. R. G. Wilson, Session Clerk,
The Office Bearers

Few congregations have been favoured with such a long line of devoted office bearers as the Hamilton Church.


Mr. John Birkmvre , of Broadstone, who carried on the Mission Sabbath School in Bouverie for forty-eight years, throwing open his fine grounds for their annual picnic, an event eagerly looked forward to by the parents as well as the children.

Mr.Joseph Russell , shipbuilder, elder of the church for forty-nine years till he removed to Ardrossan in 1917. For thirty-one years he carried on his wonderful Bible Class for young men in the Lesser Hall better known as Mr. Russell's Room."

Mr. Robert Hunter   for fifty-three years a devoted office-bearer of the church, five years as deacon, and forty-eight as elder, being Clerk to the Session from 1898 to 1913. Incidentally it was due to Mr. Hunter that Mr. Reid came to Port-Glasgow. During the vacancy caused by Mr. MacLeod's translation to Edinburgh, when on holiday in Rothesay he made the acquaintance of Rev. J. Traill, Trinity Church, who had been a fellow presbyter with Mr. Reid in Caithness, and who recommended his name to Mr. Hunter.

Mr. John Lindegreen , who gave devoted service as Treasurer of Sustentation and Foreign Mission Funds from 1898 till his death in 1932.

Mr. John Barclay , for fifty years an office-bearer, five years as deacon and forty five years as elder, whose name will long be remembered as Superintendent of the Sabbath School, till he found it necessary to resign in 1921

Mr. John Hood , for twenty four years members of the Deacons' Court and five years treasurer, always ready to place his unique legal knowledge at the service of the congregation.


Ex-Provost William RG Wilson , ordained as an elder in the church c1905. Superintendent of the Sunday School from 1932 to 1941, and now Clerk to the Kirk Session, in which office he succeeded Mr. Holmes 1941

Accordingly, in 1876, an iron church to hold 500 was erected at the Glen at a cost of £998. Provost Fullarton, John MacIntosh (the Clerk of the Deacons' Court), and others went to form the nucleus of the congregation. When the Presbytery later, decided to unite this church with the Newark United Free Church-formerly an R.P. congregation-some of the members found their way back into their old fold. The church buildings were then taken over by the Baptists, but were destroyed by fire in 1938

As far back as 1858, the Kirk Session resolved that "on account of tile immorality and indifference to spiritual things as well as the Sabbath profanation that abounds in the place (place being Port Glasgow), a Probationer of the Free Church should be secured.

In 1874 the Session "having had under consideration the growth of the town and the need of increased church accommodation their own sittings being fully let found that while there was need at both ends of the town, the claim of the West end was the more urgent
Hamilton Church

The churches forefathers seem to have been of an enterprising spirit.


As far back as 1845 the Deacons' Court investing thirty shillings in the Purchase of a potato mill for grinding potatoes into flour for the use of the soup kitchen they ran for the poor of the town. After experimenting, however, on two bolls of potatoes, they found that the process was too expensive and laborious, and it was dropped. In 1849 the vestry of the old church was offered to the young men of the congregation for a reading and recreation room.

In the same year a Church Library was formed ; and in 1853 the Port-Glasgow Free Church Penny Savings Bank was opened, which did a good work till it was wound up in 1869. In 1886 a Band of Hope was formed to give the boys and girls a happy, social evening every Friday night. One of the elders, Mr. John Ross, was chairman, followed by Mr. John Maemillan, and on his resignation in 1906, Bailie Buchanan, F.E.I.S., took up the post, to be followed in 1910 by Mr. Wm. R. G. Wilson. Then the war intervened, and it seems to have been discontinued somewhere about 1913. Other organisations for the young people then came into being, taking the place of the old Band of Hope, which had served its day.

In October 1958 the congregation united with Bardrainney Church in upper Port Glasgow and the building in Princes Street was demolished in 1961 during the improvements scheme of that time.

The original Church which was opened in 1962 and manse are now all that's left standing. The building is used for worship as well as Boys Brigade and an after school child care group. During the day they are used for a toddlers play group and other community groups. It currently shares a minister.

This page last modified on Friday, September 17, 2010

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