The Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy, Fife.

It was Doors Open day in Kirkcaldy last week-end and at last we managed to visit the Old Kirk which is quite well known for its stained glass windows. Two of them were designed by Edward Burne-Jones, who is sometimes known as the last Pre-Raphaelite. There are some lovely images of his work here.

We were told that the conditions weren’t doing them a lot of justice. Obviously they look a lot better if it’s a very bright day outside, but they’re still not at all bad I think.

Burne-Jones
Burne-Jones

I suppose they’re a bit plain when compared with some stained glass but they are in a Scottish Presbyterian church and some of them have no stained glass at all. I suppose it was looked on as being a bit too fancy and frivolous.

We climbed up the tower which was quite a scary hike up the usual kind of stone spiral staircase with narrow steps. This photo is of the lower part of the tower.

Old Kirk Tower bottom

The church is the oldest building in the town and parts of the building date back to 1244. The Church of Scotland decided that they didn’t want to continue to use it as a church and the building has been taken over by a local group who are hoping to keep it alive in some way, so that it can be an asset to the town. You can read about it here.

Internally it’s a great space and I can imagine that it could be useful for all sorts of things. It’s the sort of place which costs a lot to upkeep so I really hope that they can make a go of it.

It was worthwhile climbing up the tower as you get quite a good view of the town and the sea. We didn’t stay up there too long though as the tail end of hurricane Katia was just beginning to pay us a visit and it was quite fierce up there.

Kirkcaldy from the Old Kirk Tower

Since then it has actually got much worse and I was nearly blown off my feet twice today. It feels more like November than September. So much for that season of mists and mellow fruitfullness!

6 thoughts on “The Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy, Fife.

  1. What a gorgeous view! I’m glad you took the photo because I don’t think you’d ever get me to go up that tower! Especially in the tail end of a hurricane.

    The stained glass is lovely and I do appreciate it. The Presbyterian church I grew up in in Pennsylvania was founded in the early 1700s. The original church is very plain, looks like a small stuccoed barn, with no, absolutely no, decorations or ornamentation, nothing to distract you from the service (except watching other people). Adornment came by way of the flowers and leaves arranged in the windows and at the altar. I appreciated that because I think that the church’s money should be spent on helping the poor and the suffering, not fancying up God’s house. But then they felt they had to add a Sunday school part and now they have another addition, even though the congregation hasn’t grown that much. Not at all the Christian family that it used to be. Maybe that’s why they kicked me out!

    • Joan,
      I still can’t get over the fact that you were ‘sacked’ by your church! Still, it’s their loss! The Edward Burne-Jones windows were paid for by a widow in memory of his wife. I think maybe the other windows were all memorials too. I suppose that’s fair enough as they wouldn’t be giving money to the poor in memory of someone. The church is now empty, no pews and the windows are the only decoration. The excuse for stained windows was always that they were so that people who couldn’t read would know some of the bible stories from the designs, but in Scotland even the very poor people could read, after all Robert Burns was just a ploughman. For some reason they were a lot further behind in England.
      Was your church like a Little House on the Prairie church? I love those very symmetrical ones with a wee porch and bell.

  2. Alright, here’s a link to some photos of the church I grew up in. They’ll give you an idea of what it looks like. Or you can Google Donegal Presbyterian Church, Mount Joy, PA.

    http://maps.google.com/maps/place?client=safari&rls=en&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=donegal+presbyterian+church+mt+joy+pa&fb=1&gl=us&hq=donegal+presbyterian+church&hnear=0x89c6211e1e8b4ca1:0x1f65d0f513e96f52,Mt+Joy,+PA&cid=4509999075116732030&ei=sZRwTvXjIoLY0QGLw6SPCg&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=photo-link&cd=1&resnum=2&ved=0CCkQnwIoADAB

    The first photo is of the original 1721 building. There was a huge white oak tree called the Witness Tree out front until it was cut down because of disease several years ago. It was over 300 years old and was called the Witness Tree because, allegedly, the revolutionists from the church and the area gathered round the tree to pledge their allegiance to the Revolutionary War.

    The pipe organ is new and is too big for the church. When I was a child, there was no heat, just two coal or wood stoves halfway back on each side. For Sunday school, we put up partitions to divide up the church for the different classes. Someone wanted to put a bell on the roof but that idea was nixed after a fairly nasty little fight among the congregation. But, as you can see, the traditionalist lost in the end with the new additions, especially the latest one.

    So, that’s my story. And don’t get me wrong, I love stained glass. Trinity Church in Boston has gorgeous John LaFarge stained glass, with some of the most beautiful blues I’ve ever seen. And then there are all your gorgeous and impressive British and European churches. Works of art, all of them.

    • Joan,
      I see what you mean about ‘barn’ – it’s what we would call a Dutch barn shape, not at all as I imagined it. The flag outside seems very strange to me, we only have flags outside the town house but even that’s quite rare, flags inside a church – I don’t remember ever seeing that before . Your church is indeed very plain but nothing like the Victorian one I grew up in (now demolished) which had a very high vaulted ceiling and lots of dark wood but just plain glass windows, so high up you couldn’t look out of them. I see you (they) have a Celtic cross, I don’t think we had a cross at all. The new bits look positively chilly and charmless to me.

      It’s really the colour which attracts me to stained glass and I was annoyed when I forgot to take photos of the episcopal church in Dollar last week, because the blues and different shades of purple were great.

  3. What can I say? We’re a flag waving nation. Personally, I’m not a nationalist and only find flags pretty, not symbolic. One of the flags behind the altar is a Christian flag. (By the way, when they did some repairs when I was a kid, they found a horse’s skull under the altar, assumed to be a loyal horse who’d helped with the building of the church – although how they came to that conclusion is a bit foggy.)

    The Celtic cross is because the church was founded by Scotch-Irish (Scots-Irish?) and has a sister church in Donegal, Ireland. If memory serves, the the cross was a gift from the Irish church.

    • Joan,
      You have flags in common with France, they’re very fond of them. Flags are a bit more common in Scotland than England, the Saltire (St Andrew’s Cross) is quite popular at Scotland football matches but never the Union flag and the St George’s Cross in England seems to have sort of racist connotations nowadays, which is a bit sad but I think the normal English people are trying to reclaim it. A Christian flag makes sense, I thought it might have been a state flag. A horse’s skull! They put a positive spin on that one – sounds a bit Satanic and spooky!

      Yes it did say on the google thingy that it was a Scots-Irish church. We never say Scotch – that’s the drink!

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