John Bell, who was organist and choirmaster here from 1972 to 1987, has been putting together a booklet – mainly about the organ in Finnart St Paul’s, but also including information of interest about the building, the furnishings and the people.
Owing to unavailability of time and of some source materials, it has not been possible for John to complete this project in time for our centenary celebrations. We are grateful to him for all the work he has done so far, and we look forward to seeing in due course the full fruits of his labours.
In the meantime, there follow below a few extracts from the information he has compiled which are particularly appropriate as we celebrate the centenary of the building.
Dr Frank Arneil Walker says of Finnart St Paul’s Church in his book entitled ‘South Clyde Estuary’ – “R. Rowand Anderson’s superb Perpendicular Gothic mouldings still have the well kept air of suburban affluence able to afford the best.”
St Paul’s Church is indeed fortunate in having basically a fine three
manual and pedal and pipe organ, built and cared for since its completion
by the very reputable organ-building firm of Messrs. Henry Willis & Sons.
The organ is place in a chamber opening from the chancel on the north side. The chamber is approximately 23 feet by 13 feet – the opening to the chancel being in two arches having a height of about 22 ½ feet.
The church is also almost unique in that it has perfectly constructed ecclesiastically set out choir stalls, and acoustics nigh perfect for both choir and organ.
At a meeting held in the Mid Kirk Vestry on 18th December 1876, the Committee of Presbytery on Church Extension ad Endowment unanimously agreed that immediate steps should be taken to get a new church erected in the West End of Greenock and that the following Committee be appointed to confer with the West Parish Session on the subject with the view of carrying forward the erection of the church without delay – namely
Reverend John Barclay – Convenor
Rankin John Brymner
Robert Neill John Neill Jnr
Robert Steele Jnr James J. Grieve M.P.
Robert B Finlay Peter McKellar
Duncan Hendry Wm. McClure
Colin S. Caird William Neill
Daniel Rankin Walter Grieve
George Arbuckle Kerr McIlwraith
Colin C. Hunter Robt. A. Baird
BRASS LECTERN ON THE COMMUNION TABLE
a period of five years, Mr Hoeck tendered his resignation on the 20th November
1899 on his appointment to Park Church in Glasgow. This was accepted with
At some point in Mr Hoeck’s tenure, he donated to the church the Brass Lectern, which sits on the Communion Table.
When post of Organist and Choirmaster was advertised at a salary of £70, it was to include lady candidates. It is interesting to note that a total of thirty applications were received, the applicants coming from as diverse places as Castle Douglas, Hawick, Bathgate, Erskine, Govan, Kilmacolm, Old Deer. Stirling, Dundee and from as far afield as Eastbourne, Mirfield (Yorkshire), Swansea, Stratford, Bournemouth and Coldstream.
THE PARISH MAGAZINE
future the Parish Magazine will be issued once a quarter, instead of monthly.
(St.Paul’s Parish Magazine, October 1921)
THE WAR MEMORIAL
War Memorial gifted by the people of the church in memory off those connected
with the congregation who laid down their lives in the Great War, 1914 –
1918, was erected in the middle of October and unveiled and dedicated to the
greater Glory of God on Sunday 23rd October. In consideration of the solemnity
of the occasion, the Kirk Session decided that no other service should be
held in the church that day. The ceremony was held at 3 o’clock and
the Order of Ceremony was printed in full and a copy given to each person
present that it might be preserved in remembrance of the day. The Reverend
Charles L. Warr’s sermon was based on Hebrews XI – 13 “These
all died in faith” The Memorial, which was designed by Dr MacGregor
Chalmers, I.A. consisted of the present reredos of finest Austrian oak, erected
against the east wall behind the Holy Table. The reredos is surmounted by
a heavy and richly carved canopy of striking beauty. The many small traceried
panels which form the canopy are arresting in the delicacy of their workmanship.
Each panel is original in design.
On either side of the reredos stands a carved statue – on the north side the figure is that of St. Paul (the patron saint of the Church) with his sword; and on the south side, is represented St Andrew with his traditional cross. The nimbi of the saints are heavily gilded. A large cross, the emblem of sacrifice, occupies the central panel of the reredos, bearing at its centre the sign of the Lamb of God and on its four points the symbol of the Four Evangelists.
The names of the fallen are inscribed on a Commemorative Tablet placed on the wall of the nave just at the entrance to the chancel. The tablet is of polished brass, mounted on a marble slab and contains some Celtic tracery, an explanatory inscription and the names in full; the order being alphabetical and without reference to distinction of rank.
GEORGE ALEXANDER BROWN
ROBERT STOBO CRAWFORD
ALFRED JOHN LYLE
WILLIAM WALKJER McWHIRTER
GEORGE HENRY TATHAM PATON
CHARLES HILL PATTEN
WALTER WASHINGTON BUCHANAN RODGER
HUGH PERCY WONHAM WALKER
INSTALLATION OF ELECTRIC LIGHT
1920 saw the installation of electric light in St. Paul’s Church. It was decided by the Kirk Session that the church would be closed during August and divine worship suspended in order that the work could proceed. This was to ensure that the main part of the work would be accomplished during that holiday month.
the month of August the work of installing a system of electric lighting throughout
the Church and Hall was proceeded with, and on the first Sunday of September
public worship was resumed. The new lighting and the quiet and unostentatious
character of the fittings have greatly enhanced the beauty and emphasised
the fine proportions of our dignified and noble House of Prayer. A new system
of heating also is being at once proceeded with, and we hope will be in full
working order before the cold weather begins. The many complaints made in
the past regarding the poor and imperfect heating of the Church in the winter
were, unfortunately, only too well founded; but in future, we trust, this
will no longer cause any trouble or discomfort. A special collection taken
on Sunday, September, 26th, to help to defray the cost amounted to £127.”
(St. Paul’s Parish Magazine, October,1920)
in 1922 an anonymous donor presented a beautiful set of Communion Linen for
service with the Sacramental vessels on the Holy Table. Hitherto there had
been no special linen for this purpose and at the celebration of Holy Communion
ordinary table napkins and bread plate mats have been in use for the chalices
This generous gift constitutes a complete set of eight pieces, consisting of two exquisite chalice veils composed of linen lawn and real Irish lace and three mats for the pattens, with covers to match, these being of real linen, hand embroidered and edged with Irish crochet.
We are safe in saying that no Church possesses a fairer or more lovely set of sacramental linen than now is in use on our Holy Table at the celebrations of Communion
(St. Paul’s Parish Magazine February 1922)
June 1923, Mr P M Lang offered to donate a Piccolo stop for the Choir Organ.
The Musical Committee very gratefully accepted this offer. Messrs. Henry Willis
& Sons quoted a sum of £35 for the new Piccolo stop and also quoted
a figure of £65 for “cleaning, repairing and generally overhauling
The Secretary of the Committee was instructed to write to Mr P M Lang and thank him for his generosity in offering to pay for a new Piccolo stop for the organ.
This work was eventually carried out at a cost of: Cleaning, overhauling and repair of organ - £57.7.6d. New Piccolo Stops (Donated by Mr Lang) £32.10/-
new pulpit frontal (fall) was presented through the Minister to the Kirk Session.
This was of white brocade, richly sewed and ornamented, for use on the pulpit
on special occasions. In order to complete the set, the Session purchased
two large white embroidered markers of the Lectern.
The frontal was the gift of the Rev’d David Watson, Crawford, Lanarkshire, who in 1918 officiated for some months in St. Paul’s during the Minister’s absence owing to illness.
(St. Paul’s Parish Magazine – First Quarter; January 1925)
In 1926 Mr Duncan F Dempster presented the Great West Window in memory of his wife. This window is the work of Douglas Strachan, LLD., HON. RSA, the distinguished Scottish artist in stained glass, who lived from 1875 – 1951.
CHURCH JUBILEE YEAR
was the Church’s Jubilee Year. It was a year, which had been conspicuously
marked by the liberality of the congregation. Since early spring, many appeals
had been made to the people and those had all been responded to most generously.
As part of the Jubilee generosity, the choir stalls were replaced in their original position, which they occupied when the church was built. This made a great improvement to the setting of the chancel, as well as a benefit to the choir, which was now heard to much better effect.
Communion Table was raised a step and therefore seen to better advantage.
Further plans were for panelling round the Reredos, two elders’ stalls
on either side of the Communion Table and the figures on the Reredos.
Besides these, a member of the congregation gifted two handsome oak chairs and kneeling desks for ministers’ use at the Communion Table. Also at this point, the Sunday school offered to give two handsome brass vases for flowers. These gifts were set out in church for the act of consecration, which took place at the Jubilee Commemoration Service on 16th December 1928.
the year of the Jubilee of the church, it was suggested at one point that
robes might be purchased for the use of the choir. This suggestion had not
only the unanimous approval of the Kirk Session but was also gladly welcomed
by the members of the choir itself. (Obviously there were draughts in the
choir area even back in 1929!!)
Unfortunately however due to lack of funds the scheme had to be delayed for future consideration. Mr MacPherson, the minister at that time continued by writing that ‘since the rearranging of the chancel furniture and choir stalls in the recent Jubilee scheme, it has made only the more apparent, the desirability and almost necessity of having a robed choir, and while the Session were unable to move in the matter, it is with the utmost gratification that we are now able to announce that a gift of choir robes has been offered to the church by an anonymous donor.’
The robes were to be worn for the first time on a Sunday prior to Christmas – no special date had been fixed; the Mr MacPherson continued with the perhaps unfortunate phrase “but when the choir does make its appearance uniformly clad, the congregation will at once appreciate the great improvement brought about by this generous gift.”
At a meeting of the Congregational Board held on Friday 27th May, the Rev. J.W.G. Masterton explained his desire that the Side Chapel should be converted in to a memorial Chapel. It would entail a light carved, wooden screen, lectern, small communion table, carpet and several chairs. Mr Masterton thought that, in time, most of these articles would be gifted. Permission would require to be obtained from the General Trustees and the Presbytery.
The meeting approved of this suggestion.
Mr Masterton reported at a meeting of the Congregational Board on Thursday 3rd November that a quotation of £700 had been received for erection of carved, woodwork screen at the chancel and that the donor had approved the quotation and therefore final drawings had been applied for.
Organist’s salary increased by £10 to £130 from 1st January 1951.
(Meeting held on 25th March 1951)
to the Board, Mr A.R. Stewart intimated that as he was shortly taking up residences
in the South of England, he was obliged to tender his resignation as Clerk
to the Board. The Chairman, the Rev. J.W.G. Masterton thanked Mr Stewart for
the splendid service which he had given during the 17 years he had held office
of Clerk and assured him that he would always have a very warm place in the
hearts of the members of St Paul’s.
Mr J.G. Roy took over the position of Clerk to the Board
(Meeting held on 25th March 1951)
At the same meeting, the Chairman, The Rev. J.W.G. Masterton reported that for the purpose of furnishing the Side Chapel, Miss J.H. Kerr of Westfield wished to donate a Communion Table and Lectern. Mr P.J.F. Williamson wished to donate a Minister’s Chair.
The Board cordially approved of these gifts being accepted.
On Sunday 16th December, the Clerk to the board, Mr Roy intimated that the Women’s Guild wished to donate a chair for the Side Chapel to the memory of the Hair family.
regard to the furnishing of the Side Chapel, the Chairman intimated receipt
of an anonymous gift to complete the furnishing of the Memorial Chapel and
reported that twelve chairs had been ordered.
Further chairs were purchased and donated by individual members of the congregation, which allows the people to sit round two sides of the Chapel. These chairs which have carvings of spring flowers on the backrest (symbolising faith in the resurrection) were designed by Henry Wyllie.
The meeting were also in favour of the suggestion that an ornamental iron gate be erected at the entrance to the Chapel.
At a Congregational Board Meeting held on Thursday 12th June it was noted “ The Board were pleased to accept the generous gist by Miss Elizabeth T. Caird, of Oak Panelling for the Memorial Chapel.”
This screen of the finest Austrian Oak was designed by Henry Wyllie, R.I.B.A. Edinburgh, and made in Glasgow.
was announced at a Congregational Meeting held on 9th April 1953 that Mr Houston
Rowan had gifted a Hanging Pendant Wrought Iron Light Fitting for the Memorial
Chapel. This was designed and made at the Scottish Craft Centre, Canongate,
The green embroidered cloth, which up until a few years ago covered the Communion Table on all Sundays, except festal days, was made and embroidered by Mrs Ferguson, mother of Mrs Ian Lang.
Mrs Malcolm MacPherson, wife of a former minister of the congregation, gifted the white satin embroidered cloth for festal occasions.
The white satin pulpit Fall and Bible markers, embroidered with a coracle, was made (?) and gifted by Miss Nancy Campbell, a former member of St. Paul’s now residing in England.
The violet Fall and Bible markers for Lent and funeral occasions, were given by the Misses M and J Denholm.
original Lectern Bible was gifted from the Sunday School and Minister’s
Bible Class of the “Tine Tabernacle” just prior to the opening
of the new (i.e. present) church.
Apparently Miss Paton was able to recall to Mr Easton that as a little girl she “escorted” the new Bible in a cab to the church from her home to which it had been delivered, her father then being the Superintendent of the Sunday School. The following Sunday the children filed past the communion table on which it was laid, to look at their gift.
Organists and Choirmasters of
The former ST. Paul’s Iron Church, St. Paul’s Church
Finnart St. Paul’s Church, Greenock.
G.T. Poulter 1879 – 1884
Mr Samuel S. Woolley 1884 – March 1892
Mr Jackson July 1892 – June 1894
Mr J. Hoeck September 1894 – November 1899
Mr Allan Paterson 1899 – March 1918
Dr Robert Fox Frew May 1918 – March 1922
Mr Frank Smith (Dr) 1922 – September 1945
Dr Percy Elton October 1945 – September 1972
Mr John Bell November 1972 – November 1987
Mr Jon Currie November 1987 – 1993