Building our future on the shoulders of our past

A Short History of Ballingry Church.

[i]“The Parish of Ballingry consisted of two small portions of land in the north west of Fife. Navitie to the north, Lumphinnans to the south, Rosewell to the east and Benarty to the west. The name Ballingry is thought to come from the word Ba-al. The word means the place of worship of the King. Balan-rhi in Celtic however translates as the dwelling place of the King.

In 1160 the Parish of Ballingry and Auchterderran belonged to the Barony of Lochore.

A church was built in the area to attend to the needs of the people.

In 1561 Peter Watson was sent to minister to the people of Ballingry. However Alexander Wardlaw  had been attending to the congregation in an unqualified position. He did not approve of the new minister. He hindered and interfered in every aspect of church life from weddings,to christenings and burials. It was so bad Alexander Wardlaw was taken to the court of session and ordered to make public satisfaction under pain of excommunication”.

Rev Jamie obtained most facts from old Kirk Session Records, fourteen volumes in various sizes were discovered. These minutes go back to 1669. It is believed that Ballingry is one of the oldest Parishes in Scotland.

 “The only relic left from the original church is the belfry. The church bell was a gift from the First Sir John Malcolm. High on the bell side, facing west is inscribed “Malcolme of Lochore” 1658. On the rim is inscribed, Blessed are they whom these Ballingry chimes summon to the sacred worship of Christ.

The Presbytery of Ballingry, Auchterderran and Kinglassie in 1678 made a formal visit and found the Old Kirk not in good repair. The Kirk has stood on the same site but is smaller. The east wall and the north wall are in exactly the place as before but are longer and broader than before.

In 1706 it is noted that roof repairs are required. 20 Slaits could be purchased for 10s. In 1707 there are frequent reports of putting in glasse.

A mort cloth purchased in 1717 cost £177(Scots pounds) To defray costs a special charge was made for it’s use. Usually 5s was paid. This fee remained the same until 1819. 1724 reads of a conspicuous place in the church. There stood a pillory, of which there is no further mention.

Cannon balls were found when Loch Ore was drained in 1792.  Two cannon balls assumed to come from the loch were removed from the church gates during the renovations of 1966.

The present church was built in 1821.   320 worshippers were able to be seated.

Alterations in 1876 saw widening of seats costing £130. The seating was now 287. A little vestry was made for the elder who stood at the collection plate.

A manse was built in 1678. The main portion of the house was built in the time of Rev Cuthbert 1851-57 He laid out the grounds and gardens.

Numbers in the parish were as follows;-

1755                                464                                                1821                287

1793                                 220                                                1831                372

1801                                 277                                                1889                185   

Four Communion Cups were gifted to Ballingry Church by James Betson of Cluniecraig. Two cups are dated 1678 and two dated 1685. The cups are solid silver and are engraved with the Arms of the Donor.

In 1669 the Minister of Ballingry was paid a sum not exceeding 300 merks.

One merk = 13s 4d. Twenty shillings = £1. One pound = 1s8d or 8p decimal.

The beadle had an annual retaining fee of £4.10s (Scots Pounds) He received other payments for duties, for example 10s for digging a grave.

The smith was equally important. He mended the bell, saw to the locks and gates, made nails to hold together the tables put up for communion as well as the communion tokens needed to attend church.  His fee was 6s. Communion tokens were found dated 1773.

The Minister of Ballingry was paid a salary of £209.14.10d per year in 1837.

The name Benarty came into being in 1866 when William Briggs changed the land called East Blair to Benarty. 

Communion tokens bearing letters RBM were discovered.  This was assumed to be in the time of Robert Balfour Minister dated 1864.

New communion tokens were commissioned to be made in lead. These were pressed out of lead sheets and became unpopular as they were very sharp. They were discarded in 1882.

During the renovations of 1966 workmen found a sculptured stone in the wall bearing a cross in low relief. Expert opinion states it is from the 10th or 12th century”.

A further eight ministers were inducted to Ballingry Church. The last minister Rev Sharon Colvin left in 1998.

A union with Lochcraig Church took place in 2001.

After a vote by all sessions involved in the pilot scheme, the church became St Serf’s Parish Church in 2005.

 1The References used are from a publication by Rev D Jamie. B.D.

 And A Parish Alphabet by Edward Henderson F.S.A. Scotland.