Cambusnethan Old & Morningside Parish Church

St Nectans Church


In March 1837 the second parish church at Cambusnethan Village was condemned by the Presbytery of Hamilton as it was in a dangerous and unsafe condition.  A new church was ordered to be built to replace it. The New Statistical Account for Scotland was being produced at that time. The parish minister Rev Archibald Livingston added at the end of his report in 1839 that construction of the new church adjacent to the old one had started. It was on a dry site with a pleasant outlook and would accommodate 800 persons. At the same time a Chapel of Ease was also built in the new village of Wishawtown.  The new church at Greenhead took four years to complete at a cost of £1700 but could only accommodate 725 persons.  Mr Livingston was never to enter the new building.  A dispute between the Minister Heritors and Kirk Session prevented the use of the new church. The long dispute finally being settled in the House of Lords early in 1851.

On the 19thApril 1851 Rev Robert Shaw Hutton was presented to Cambusnethan Parish Church as their new minister.  The following year a new bell was purchased and still hangs in the tower. A new Parish School was built to replace the old one which stood on the corner beside the old church. Some years later the growing congregation could not be accommodated in the church. New transepts were added to increase seating for 1200 people. The work cost £1000 and was completed in 1876.. Mr Houldsworth of Coltness estate paid for a new hall built at the same time. He also provided a pipe organ to lead the singing in the church.  The first edition of the Church Hymnary was also published.  Mr Hutton died in 1891 having gained the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Edinburgh University the previous year.

During the vacancy an electoral roll of church members was made. Church law had been changed and the Lord of Cambusnethan had no longer the right to present the parish minister. The congregation selected Rev John Lawrence Rentoul a brilliant orator whose Irish wit and eloquence have made him a legend. The first of the church organisations began soon after his arrival. Cambusnethan Woman’s Guild was started by Mrs Rentoul . A group for men was also started. The large hall was built in 1894.  Mr Rentoul died in 1900 after a brief ministry and the Session Minutes record “the ministrations of one of the most brilliant of pulpit orators and one of the kindest of men”

The congregation again turned to Ireland for their new minister and chose well. The Rev Gilbert Alexander Kennedy had little in common with his predecessor.  As the years went on his personality endeared him to his people. The Boys Brigade Company was formed in October 1901 but was not registered until 1903. It is recorded in 1901 that many of the population of the village of Morningside had no church connection. Money was raised and St Columba’s Church was soon built.

The first World War begin August 1914 and was expected to be over by Christmas.  In 1915 the full horror of it was realised  when news that Gilbert Kennedy the ministers eldest son had been killed. It was at the weekend of the June Communion Sunday the telegram was received.  No alternative arrangements could be made for the services. For about a year and a half from that sad summer the minister fulfilled his clerical functions with faithfulness and more kindness than formally, In the winter of 1916 illness overcame him and he died in December. He was carried to rest in the graveyard by a detachment of Elders on a desolate winter day.

In 1917 Rev John Nicholls was inducted to the charge. A company of the Girls Guildry was formed that year under the guidance of Miss McFarlane. With the end of the war, attention was turned to the church building itself and the interior of the church was reconstructed.  In 1929 the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church were once more joined and our church was given the name Cambusnethan Old Parish Church. The Sunday School was reorganised and the Primary section formed.  Mr Nicholls retired in 1933.

In 1934 Rev W A J Gardiner was called to the charge. He brought to Cambusnethan a wide experience of missionary work in West Africa where he served for three years with Mary Slessor before his ordination by the Presbytery of Hamilton in 1901. After his ordination he returned to Nigeria as the only clergyman in a parish which stretched along the Great River for 200 miles and for 29 miles from each bank. Mr Gardiner was ably helped with his work there by his wife. Unfortunately Mrs Gardiner had very few years as lady of the manse and her sudden death was deeply regretted. Under Mr Gardiner’s guidance Cambusnethan could not fail to realise the signification of outgoing missionary work of the church.

In 1940 his marriage to Miss Jessie Thomson brought happiness to him and the church though the world was again in the throes of war and many needed the comfort and help that the church and its devoted minister could give them. In 1948 Mr Gardiner’s jubilee was greeted with much pride and affection by his people and colleagues. It was fitting that Mr Gardiner was before his retirement able to take part in the Church’s Centenary Week Celebrations and in his last message in the magazine of May 1951 he writes of his happy memories of that week and of his years at Cambusnethan Old.

February 1952 saw the induction of Rev. James Hamilton to the Charge. A new manse was built in Coltness Road and the old manse at Netherton was sold. A new Kitchen and Session House was built in 1956. The following year mention was made of the condition of the Pipe Organ and in 1958 a new electronic organ was installed. In October the anniversary of Mr Gardiner’s appointment to Calabar was celebrated at Stonehouse. Sadly shortly afterward Mr Gardiner died and as a memorial the William Gardiner Bible Fund was established.

In 1965 Mr Hamilton celebrated his Silver Jubilee in the Ministry. The church was refurbished and closer links with the North Church was formed. 

After a severe illness Mr Hamilton found it impossible to continue and had to resign his charge in April 1968. In May 1973 his death is recorded.

The choice of the congregation fell on Rev. John S McBride and he was inducted to the charge in 1969. A Christmas Eve service was suggested by the Youth Fellowship and still continues. The roof of the large hall was found to be in a dangerous condition in 1971 and was closed for some time for major restoration. In June 1974 refurbishment of the Pipe Organ was proposed and implemented. A booklet was published in 1976 to mark the 125th anniversary of the church. The Missionary at Morningside Mr Swanney retired and a replacement was not to be provided. Services continued at Morningside conducted by Readers and retired ministers.  Mr McBride retired in April 1979 after a serious illness.

Rev Douglas R Murray was the choice if the congregation and was inducted to the charge on 14thFebruary 1980 St. Nectan’s day.  The growth in numbers of groups using the halls made Cambusnethan a busy place. The refurbished pipe organ was found to be in a poor condition and was replaced by one from a church in London. Mr Murray continued as minister at Cambusnethan until January 1994 when he was translated to the Scots Church Lausanne in Switzerland. During the vacancy permission to call a minister would be refused by Presbytery unless the Mission Church in Morningside was closed.  The last service at St Columba’s Church was conducted later in the year and the members transferred to the Old Parish Church

A year later in February 1995 Rev Iain C Murdoch was ordained and inducted to Cambusnethan Old and Morningside Parish Church the 9th Minister in the present building. On Sunday 22nd April 2001 the Celebration Service to mark the 150th anniversary of the current building took place. The service was led by the Very Rev Andrew McLellan Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

This is a brief history of Cambusnethan Parish Church whose story can be traced to the time of St Ninian near the end of the Roman occupation of this land we now call Scotland. The Parish of Cambusnethan gets its name from St Nectan one of Ninian’s followers - ”Nethan’s place by the bend in the river”. This was the site of the first Church by the bend in the River Clyde at the south west corner of this ancient parish. Although there is material evidence of earlier times the first known written record of the church dates from the year 1132.