The 2nd. March, 1813 was quite an important date in the story
old Fairlie. On that day Margaret Ewing "with consent of John
Guilline, Excise Officer, her husband" sold the land in Fairlie
that she had inherited from her grandfather, John Ewing, cooper. The
purchasers were two Glasgow merchants, Charles Stuart Parker and Hugh
Tennent. They both had built large villas and were resident in Fairlie.
At that time the seaside had just become fashionable.
All along the shores of the Firth of Clyde city people were building
"marine villas" , holiday homes at which they would spend
a good deal of their time. On the part of the land he had bought,
Charles Parker built what the family came to know as "the Fairlie
house", while, on his part, Hugh Tennent built a house he named
Creich. Charles Parker and Hugh Tennent were brothers-in-law. Their
wives, Margaret Parker and Christina Tennent, were the daughters of
the Rev. George Rainy of Creich in Sutherland. later, a third sister,
Ann, married another Glasgow merchant, Robert Brown. He bought the
Ferry House at Fairlie, modernised it and renamed it Rockhaven.
Fairlie was then a rather isolated, scattered village. it had a population
of just over 300: Weavers, Fishermen and the craftsmen - Smith, Wheelwright,
Boatbuilder and so on - necessary for the requirements of day to day
living. The newcomers from the town were bound to bring new ideas
and changes. Charles Parker and Hugh Tennent began, in 1826, by building,
almost entirely at their own expense, a school-house on the site of
what is now the Village Hall. It was not the first school in Fairlie,
but was the first built for that specific purpose.
Occasional religious services may have been held in the new school,
but Fairlie people had still, twice each Sunday, to make the journey,
generally on foot, to worship in Largs. The town dwellers, who had
come to see Fairlie as their second home, joined together with the
villagers to raise the very considerable sum of £629 to build
a "chapel of ease". This was a small church to make it easier
for those who lived some distance from their parish church. It had
its own minister but both he and his elders were under the jurisdiction
of the existing parish church in Largs. Amid general rejoicing the
Chapel of Ease was opened on Sunday, 13th. April, 1834. It is still
in use and is now the nave of the present Parish Church.
Fairlie was soon to have a second church. Smouldering
resentment at what many people regarded as intolerable State interference
in Church affairs led, in 1843, to the Disruption, which split the
Scottish church in two. In Fairlie, the then minister, the Rev. Dr
John Gemmel with four of his five elders and the majority of the congregation
left the established Church and formed themselves into a congregation
of the new Free Church of Scotland. Denied the use of church and school
- though both had been provided by the Fairlie people themselves -
they worshipped in a stable at Fairlie Lodge while once again they
set about raising money to build themselves a new church. No list
of subscribers has survived but all gave generously according to their
means with the result that, on Wednesday, 31st. July, 1844, Fairlie
Free Church was opened "free of debt and without assistance from
the General Fund". It subsequently became the Church Hall and
has since been sold and is now a dwelling house, complete with swimming
pool, where the worshippers used to sit.
For the rest of the 19th. century the two Fairlie churches flourished,
side by side. The Free Church (St Margaret's) was almost completely
rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1879.
The tiny Parish Church (St Paul's) was extended during a series of
alterations, a chancel, transepts and a spire were added. The enthusiasm
and energy of the minister, the Rev. Arthur Allan, ensured that the
transformation of the church was carried through. At the time, some
thought that his ideas were too grandiose for a village church. The
result, when the church was opened in July 1895 was "harmonious
in style, quietly impressive". later from time to time generous
gifts from individual members or congregational projects beautified
and adorned the two buildings.
Gradually, over the years, it came to be recognised that what separated
the two congregations was much less important than the common beliefs
that both held. In July 1967 the Rev. Samuel Demspter died, creating
a vacancy in St Paul's, and the Rev.T.J.Gordon Weir, M.A., Ph.D.,Minister
of St Margaret's, offered to retire in the interests of Union.
Negotiations between the two Churches and The Presbytery of Ardrossan
began and were soon completed with friedliness and harmony. Eventually,
the Churches united and on 7th January, 1968 became Fairlie Parish
Church at a Service of Union conducted by the Rev. George Balls, B.D.
minister of St Cuthbert's South Beach Church, Ardrossan. St Paul's
Church became the place of worship and St Margaret's, after alterations
became the Church Hall.