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The Bonkle Congregation

First printed in 1983 to commemorate the 250 th Anniversary of the congregation

Millennium Edition

Reprinted and enlarged in 2000 as part of the Millennium project.


Chapter 1 - The Church and Her Ministers


As we look at the church in Bonkle village today, nestling in a hollow amid mature trees, it appears tranquil - even sleepy. However, when we trace its history over the last two-and-a-half centuries and examine the circumstances surrounding its birth, we find that it has not always been peaceful.

The story of Bonkle congregation echoes the story of the "Church in Scotland" (note, not the Church of Scotland). Bonkle congregation has not always been part of the National Church. Only 58 years out of the congregation's life of 250 years have been spent within the Church of Scotland.

It had its beginning at a time of protest, and has been caught up in several major controversies down the years.

It began life on the open moorland and has occupied two sites. The congregation has built and outgrown three church buildings and now occupies a fourth. It has had thirteen inducted ministers including a record breaking father and son succession.

Now let us see how it all began

Foreword to Millennium Edition

The text of the original edition by Miss Jessie Brown remains virtually unchanged up to the ministry of Rev Campbell. Small additions have been made to include events, such as deaths, which took place after the initial publication. The ministries of Rev Frame, Rev Duffin and Rev Raeburn have been added.

The opportunity has been taken to include details of the various church organisations. In general there is little in the way of written records so the articles have been contributed from the memories of church members before they are lost forever.

Ian Glen



The year 1688 is a memorable period in British history as the date of the Revolution, when the last of the Stewart kings, James II was driven from the throne and Protestantism was firmly established under William and Mary. In the Revolution Settlement which followed in 1690, Presbyterianism was finally restored in Scotland, and the dark days of the persecution of the Covenanters came to an end. An act of the Scottish Parliament that year abolished the patronage of the Church.

When the Covenanters were in power they made it law that congregations should choose their own ministers. But when Charles II came to the throne this was set aside and the right of presenting a minister to a vacant charge was granted to the chief landowner in the parish, who was known as the "patron".

The 1690 Act put an end to this form of patronage. The right to nominate a minister for a vacant parish was vested in the "heritors, being Protestant, and the elders". (Heritors were the landowners of the parish.) The congregation had the right to approve or disapprove and the Presbytery had the final say. In the event of no nomination being made within six months, the Presbytery could appoint. This was further confirmed in the Act of Security when the Union of Parliaments of Scotland and England came about in 1707.

Five years later the United Parliament restored the rights of the patrons. This Patronage Act of 1712 was the beginning of new trouble for the Church and it led in 1733 to the forming of the Secession Church. As days went by, many patrons pressed their rights and forced upon congregations, ministers who were unwelcome. Sometimes settlements, or intrusions as they were called, had to be made with the help of the military.

In 1731 an overture was presented to the General Assembly on the question of what was to be done when a patron had not pressed his claim and six months had elapsed without a congregation coming to a decision. The recommendation was that, in that case, the heritors and elders were to be at liberty to call a minister and ask the Presbytery to induct him without consulting the members of the congregation.

There was strong opposition to this but the General Assembly carried the overture and in 1732 it became an act of the Church.

The leader of the opposition that day was the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, minister of Stirling. He was Moderator of the Synod of Perth and Stirling, and in a sermon he preached before the Synod that year, he spoke strongly against the Act.

The case came up at the next General Assembly. The Rev. Ebenezer Erskine was rebuked and admonished from the chair without being allowed to read his protest which had been countersigned by other three ministers. The protest which Mr Erskine left on the Assembly table fell to the floor and was picked up by the minister of Dalmeny, who requested the Assembly to read the "insufferable insult". The words of protest so read, "set the Assembly aflame".

Mr Erskine and the three ministers who had signed the protest were "bidden" to appear before the August Commission to express their regret and retract the words they had written. This they were unwilling to do, and after being suspended from their ministries they were on the 16th of November, 1733, 'loosed' from their charges and their churches became vacant.

It was said of Rev Ebenezer Erskine that he was "superlatively pious, deeply conscientious, puritanically stern and a redoubtable champion of independence". At Gairney Bridge, South of Kinross, Erskine met with three others, Rev. W. Wilson of Perth, Rev J Fisher of Kinclaven and the Rev. A. Moncrieff of Abernethy  on 5th December, 1733 and formed themselves into a Presbytery which they called the "Associate Presbytery". Soon after they were joined by the Rev. Ralph Erskine and the Rev Thomas Muir.

When the General Assembly met in 1734 the "Act" passed in 1732, that had caused all the trouble, known as the "Act anent the method of planting vacant churches", was declared to have been passed contrary to the Barrier Act and was no longer binding in the Church. As a result of this the Assembly decided to restore the four ministers to their places in the Synod. But because there were still points of difference between them and many of their brethren, they refused to return. In addition to the matter of election of ministers there was the important issue of presenting the Gospel of God's Grace in Christ. Without doubt there was an evangelical fervour in their outlook, which separated them from the moderatism of many of their fellow ministers.

It was not until 1737 that any organisation of new congregations took place, beyond the four which had followed Ebenezer Erskine and his three fellow members of the new Presbytery. In that year twelve additional congregations were formed with Moorkirk at Daviesdykes heading the list.


Early Distinction

Bonkle Church has the distinction of being the second oldest congregation in the Parish of Cambusnethan, the oldest being Cambusnethan Parish. Its origin is typical of that which occurred at the time of the Secession.

In 1734, the patron, Mr Lockhart of Cambusnethan Manor, presented a Mr Craig of Glasgow to the living of Cambusnethan Parish Church. The parishioners objected. The members and elders appealed to the General Assembly, who remitted to the Presbytery "to proceed in settlement of the Parish as they shall judge best for the edification of the congregation". No decision was reached for some years and the Parish continued in an agitated state until 1737.

In 1737, Mr Wm. Craig, Probationer, was elected to the Parish Church at Cambusnethan contrary to the wishes of a large section of the congregation including seven out of nine elders who formed the session. The elders were named John Bell, David Downie, Robert Keddar, Alex Cleland, James Prentice, George Russell and John Steill. The influential group regarded Mr Craig's settlement as a violent intrusion and, possessing somewhat of the sturdy Covenanting spirit for which the district in bygone days was famous, they "were not slow to protest for liberty to have the gospel preached and to have sealing ordinances and other privileges dispensed to them by ministers with whom they could in conscience join" as an earlier account records.

Although invited by Hamilton Presbytery to do so, the elders did not see their way to return to "exercise their office", and with a large following they subsequently cast in their lot with the Secession Church. They formed a congregation at Daviesdykes. This was on 12th July, 1737, when the country was being aroused from spiritual indifference which prevailed, by the indefatigable evangelical labours of the Erskines.

After prayerful consideration of the path of duty they applied for sermon to the Associate Presbytery on the 12th July, 1737. This infant Presbytery which had only been in existence for little more than three years had on its table in 1737, "petitions for sermon" from upwards of seventy places. Cambusnethan (Moorkirk) was one of them. Because the Presbytery at this time had few preachers they were unable to supply the needs of the breakaway congregations. It was decided, however, to send out preachers in pairs on Missionary tours, at the same time advising the congregations to form themselves into "praying and corresponding societies" thus maintaining fellowship in private devotional exercises.

An entry in the Rev Ralph Erskine's diary reads as follows:--

"In Dunfermline, July 12th, 1737. We had a Presbytery in the church; we were appointed, two by two, to go and keep a day of fasting among the oppressed people. My brother and I were appointed for Cambusnethan, the first Wednesday of August coming".

This appointment was duly intimated to the people of Cambusnethan, and reported by them in the surrounding districts. The first Wednesday fell on 3rd August, 1737.

The appointed day was the fair at Kirk o' Shotts. When tidings spread that the brothers Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine were at Daviesdykes, business came to a standstill, and all the people flocked to the meeting place. It was quoted as "like the skailing o' the Kirk" although it was literally the "skailing o' the fair." The sellers were so annoyed at losing their customers that they boycotted the next fair at the Kirk o' Shotts, and it had to be discontinued.

The next entry in Ralph Erskine's diary was in the following terms:-

"Wednesday 3rd, I preached in the tent with my brother at Cambusnethan where there was very great auditory. I had the forenoon, and after reading the causes of the fast, prefacing and praying, I preached on Jeremiah 13: v. 16. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he causes darkness. Afterwards baptised about twenty-six children. We were very kindly entertained by the people in that place, and they seemed to be refreshed by the fast day's work, the Lord helping in some measure therein. We kept session next day with the elders."

Owing to unpopular settlements at Shotts and Carluke, Secessions took place from these parishes also.

The congregation at Moorkirk continued to grow in numbers and zeal, and when they became consolidated they set about the erection of a place of worship at the "Moor of Daviesdykes" which was first occupied in 1740. They next set about trying to obtain a settled minister.

The minute of Presbytery dated July 22, 1740, has the following entry: "The Rev. James Mair reported that he had preached and baptised at the Moorkirk of Cambusnethan on the 2nd Wednesday of July, but he had not moderated a call, and offered his reasons which were sustained."

The congregation having repeatedly renewed their petition for a moderation, the Presbytery at a meeting in Perth, 22nd September, 1741, "considering what moderations they can grant at this time " appointed the Rev. Andrew Clerkson to Moderate in a call at the Moorkirk on the "2nd Wednesday of November next."



 The Rev David Horn 1742 - 1768

On 17th November, 1741, Mr Clerkson, after sermon, moderated in a call, which was unanimously given to the Rev. David Horn. His ordination took place at the Moorkirk of Cambusnethan on 29th September, 1742. Mr Fisher preached the ordination sermon from Isaiah 38 : v. 14.

The first church had a heather roof and it was long a byword with which the seceders were taunted that they had a "heather Kirk and a Horn minister." At that time places of worship such as that erected by the Daviesdykes congregation, were intended to provide for the Spiritual necessities of a large tract of the country and the membership of the "heather kirk", was drawn from no fewer than 22 parishes, including places as far remote as Biggar, Lanark, Carnwath, Whitburn, Carluke, Dalserf, etc.

Mr Horn ministered to the spiritual interests of this widely scattered congregation for 26 years. He retired to Kinross-shire in 1768 on account of his advancing years.

A story is told of two gentlemen of the Rev. James Mair's congregation. Whilst standing at the door and gazing at the sky to discover any symptom of the speedy clearing of the weather, a certain James Brown was accosted thus by an ancient fellow worshipper named Robert Forsyth. "Weel James, are ye no gaun East the day?" "As there is no appearance of the weather wracken up I was thinking about steying at hame" says James. "Hoots, man", replied Robert "Mr Mair will think mair o' us if we gang on sic a day than if we gaed on twa or three guid days". So saying they took their way in the midst of the storm - a long weary trudge of fifteen miles.


Rev William Scot 1775 - 1811

During the vacancy that followed Mr Horn's retirement four unsuccessful calls to the pastorate were made and after an interval of several years, during which there was no stated minister, Rev. William Scot was ordained in June, 1775 as Mr Horn's successor. Five years after his ordination it was found necessary to rebuild the church at Daviesdykes. The old heather roof church was replaced in 1780 by a larger church with a slate roof.

In the time of Mr Scot's ministry, as in that of his predecessors, a bitter controversy arose dividing the Secession Church in 1800 into the "New Lights" and the "Old Lights" (sometimes referred to as the "New Lichts" and the "Auld Lichts"). Because of it the Moorkirk lost a third of its members and three of its elders and it left a blight from which the congregation took twenty years to recover.

The New Lights stood for toleration in religion; the Old Lights advocated compulsory measures to make what they felt to be true religion prevail.

The end of the controversy in the Secession Church came in 1820 when the New Light or tolerant sections of both Burghers and Anti-Burghers joined together to form a new United Associate Synod of the Secession Church. This included the congregation at Moorkirk. None of the Old Lights came into that reunion.

Note: In 1747 the Secession Church split into Burghers and Anti-Burghers. The latter were the stricter sect, disapproving the terms of an oath in which the Burgesses of certain towns declared their adherence to "the true religion presently professed within this realm". Ebenezer Erskine was excommunicated by the Anti-Burghers.

The Rev. William Scot resigned in 1811 after serving his congregation for 36 years.



Rev A Scott 1816- 1870

During the vacancy calls were brought out for various ministers and eventually in July, 1815 a call was made for the Rev. Andrew Scott who at the same time received competing calls from Lilliesleaf, Auchtermuchty and Girvan. He accepted the call to the Moorkirk and was ordained there on 9th April, 1816, to the delight of the congregation. There had been dissension within the congregation and it was felt that "Mr Scott was the one person who could bring them together again."

Daviesdykes had been selected for the site of the original church, shortly after the rise of the Secession, as being a central situation, and more easily accessible than most other sites would have been. New congregations had sprung up round about and it was felt that as the lease had only been temporary and was soon due to expire, a change of site and a new church were to be desired. Still more a new manse was needed, for the young minister had with characteristic resolution said, of the old one, that he "would not set foot in it." After considerable discussions about the best locality it was decided to erect the new church in Bonkle, situated in the beautiful estate of Allanton.

It is reported that the learned proprietor, Sir Henry Seton Steuart having granted a feu, with that refined taste for which he was distinguished, urged the erection of "a pure Gothic edifice," but his ideas were not approved and the more severe taste of the minister and people reverted to the barn-like structure which was the recognised abode of the orthodox dissent. The church was built in 1818, and had accommodation for 560 members. The actual membership at that time was 224.

The cost of the church and Session House was £650 and of the Manse, £496. An immediate response was made of upwards of £400 in subscriptions. Ten years later on the 4th June, 1828, Rev. A. Scott put forward a proposal for adding a milk house, washing house and a bedroom above them. This extension of the manse was agreed to without a dissenting voice on the condition that Mr Scott promised that he should pay out the money for the whole job, not to exceed ninety pounds, until it was convenient for the congregation to pay for the extension.

In 1843 a railway line was being put through to Morningside alongside the old Moorkirk. The church was temporarily fitted up and occupied as a Roman Catholic Chapel for the benefit of the navvies who were carrying out the work. The ruin of this church still stands at Daviesdykes or Dura as it is more often referred to now.

In 1847 Bonkle Church became part of the United Presbyterian Church .


On to Bonkle

It is of interest to note the varieties in the spelling of Bonkle as revealed in the minutes of that time, Buncle, Bunkle, Bunkell. The various spellings alternated from "o" to "u" until 1834 when Bonkle appeared to become the recognised form. It seems that in the records of an earlier century the form Bunkill appeared, suggesting the derivation from the Gaelic "Bunchoille" meaning " the hollow at the edge of the wood."

Bonkle Church in those days had its share of minor problems. The following quotes are examples of how they were dealt with.

Soon after the removal to Bonkle there was a dispute between two prominent members about the occupancy of the back seat below the north end of the church. The matter was settled by a vote at a congregational meeting. In a minute of the same meeting it reads: "Put to a vote of the congregation, whether the people in the 'loaft' (loft) take up their umbrellas when 'wate' (wet) or not. It was carried that none take them above the stone stair when 'wate', and any taken up after this vote, the congregation will be liable for damages that may occur from water drips that may come on the loaft."

They kept an "unbroken peace" by bringing all their problems and differences into the light and having them cleared up.

They were practical people in those days.

It is said that a white pail full of cold water, a drinking cup and a small stool were situated outside the church door on a Sunday morning, presumably for the use of weary worshippers who had to travel a distance along dry dusty roads. A complaint of excessive heat in the back part of the front loft led to appointing a committee "to see if a window can be properly put in the middle of the gallery and another hole in the ceiling if needful."

Consideration was given to deaf members by providing seats near the pulpit.

The constant need of finance was faced as revealed by the following extract from a minute: "Agreed that collectors of seat rents see that every member has a seat" and to use "a measure of speaking and writing to have them regularly paid."

One Sunday an intimation was made from the pulpit: "That no one had to put old coppers into the plate at the church door as they are no longer current coin and of no value as such." The intimation concluded with the words "Many may have done this in ignorance of the fact." Today we occasionally get foreign coins, no doubt brought back by returning holidaymakers.


Family Links

Some families had had a long association with the congregation. In 1743, eight elders were ordained and were added to the eight or nine elders who still remained of the first Kirk Session of 1737. One of these eight was a John Loudon, who lived at Dalziel. Two of his sons became elders, his older son, James, of Penty of Shotts, was ordained in 1776 and was followed in eldership in 1806 by his son Robert. John Loudon's younger son who resided at Westertown, Allanton, was ordained an elder in 1809. It was his son Ebenezer who succeeded James Burns as precentor in 1799. He occupied the precentor's desk for thirty years, retiring in 1830. He became an elder two years later.

Ebenezer Loudon was succeeded by his son Robert, who left for a situation in Glasgow within a year and was followed as precentor by John Loudon, Jnr. of Stane. The salary of a precentor started at rate of 10/- per year, but a means of increasing it was found. This was by taking two special collections for that purpose, from which the average Sunday offering was first deducted. In the minute of his appointment, appears the instruction that he should "read the line every Sabbath morning." The reading of the Psalms line by line, before they were sung by the congregation, was a regular practice in those days. It was also said to be the custom to stand when praying and sit when singing the Psalms.

In 1853 another John Loudon of Stane succeeded him. At a soiree in connection with the ordination of the Rev. J. H. Scott it is noted that John Loudon "chief musician and his band entertained the audience to excellent music." He continued to lead the praise for 28 years and when in 1881 he was succeeded by Mr James Marshall, it was agreed because of his service he be appointed "Honorary Precentor as long as he remains with us."

In 1898 a Church Hymnary was compiled for use in Public Worship by the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church. It included hymns by authors belonging to every branch of the church from the second century to date of issue. The Church Hymnary was issued "with the fervent prayer that its use in the praises of the sanctuary may be to the glory of God and the edification of its people."

In 1899, instrumental music was introduced into public worship. Mr James Somerville of Stane and Mr Thomas Smith of Oakfield donated an organ and Mrs Thomas Smith was voluntary organist for a number of years.

In the early days the beadle, or the church officer as they are now called, was referred to as the Bellman. The following quote from a minute of congregation of 1819 indicates how he was paid: "Put to a vote whether our bellman should have a penny per each seat that was let or a halfpenny, and carried by a great majority - a halfpenny." This is followed by a reference in a minute of the congregation of 1821 as follows: "The Bellman resigned his berth, provided that he did not get a penny for each 'sete' that was let half yearly." It was put to a vote and carried "that such should be the case."

The item "Bellman’s pennies" occurs continually for 20 years even after a stated salary had been agreed upon. Evidently the penny was paid in addition when the seats were retaken. One occasion of an increase in the officer's salary is of special interest, namely the introduction of heating into the church in 1837. Before that date the luxury of a warm church was not thought necessary. Doubtless the full church in those days did something to raise the physical as well as the spiritual temperature. Fifty pounds was the cost of the first heating installation. It was resolved that four-fifths of the money had to be raised before the work was begun and in four months the money was to hand.


Violent Incident

Life in Bonkle was sometimes violent. The Rev A Scott was attacked and robbed on returning along a lonely stretch of road after attending one of his distant prayer meetings. He was found unconscious on the side of the road. It was feared that as a result of the blow on his head Mr Scott would be unable to fulfil his duties, but after a few weeks he made a satisfactory recovery.

Mr Scott later received a letter from a young man, in Canada, who confessed to robbing and beating Mr Scott. He said that he had been attracted by a gold watch Mr Scott usually wore. What he had not been aware of on that night, was that Mr Scott was wearing a silver watch worth less than a sovereign. Mr Scott forgave the young man.

He continued for ten years to do full duties until the congregation, alarmed by a brief illness, decided to call his son Rev James H Scott as his colleague and successor.


In Father's Footsteps

The Rev J H Scott was educated at a school on the Murdostoun Estate known as the Murdostoun School. The teacher was a Mr Russell. He continued his education at Glasgow University and then at the UP Hall, Queen Street, Edinburgh. It is interesting to follow the steps then taken. A Colleague-ship having been decided upon and the young minister having been enthusiastically chosen, a committee went round the districts to see what money could be guaranteed for his stipend. Within four days the response was so satisfactory that it opened the way for application to the Presbytery. The Rev J H Scott was inducted to the charge in 1859.


Rev J H Scott, 1859 - 1910

As the year of the Rev A Scott's Jubilee approached the congregation resolved to celebrate the auspicious occasion. They wished to present him with a testimonial, "which by its intrinsic value should in some measure express the high sense they entertained of his worth and services." Their disappointment and astonishment were great and their anger not to be concealed, when they found he would hear of no testimonial whatever, more costly than an address expressive of their feelings. It was the first occasion he had incurred their displeasure and it grieved them to the heart.

The occasion, however, was not allowed to pass and the public soiree on the 18th July, 1865 was one of the red letter days in Bonkle Church. Ministers from far and near were present and addresses were presented from the Presbytery, the congregation, the YMCA and the congregation of Stonehouse which he had done so much to found. It is of interest to note that the opening prayer was offered by his great friend the Rev W M Watt, Parish Minister of Shotts and great-grandfather of a one-time Scoutmaster at Bonkle, Mr Hugh J. Watt and his brother, William.

The Rev A Scott died in the service of the Lord, 1870, aged 83 years. He had ministered to the congregation for a long period of 55 years and for eleven of these years he had his son as a colleague.



New Church Built

In 1872 came the first ominous signs that a new church would soon be required. The West wall was in danger and was forthwith supported by strong wooden stays. The resolution to build was made the next year and a vote was taken between "spreading the collection over four years or to try and raise the money in one year. The majority voted for the quicker mode and in three months promises of £617 were recorded."

In the Spring of 1878 the old church was closed and razed to the ground and rebuilt on the same site. The new church was opened on Christmas Day by the Rev Joseph Brown.

The church was described as being in style more in harmony with the ecclesiastic ideas of the time. "A church in simple Gothic architecture with intrinsic consonance with modern ideas of comfort and of chaste and elegant style. "Reference is also made of a stone sculptured offertory, the work and gift of Mr John Loudon, with the inscription "God loves a cheerful giver."

The church was built at cost of £1,600 and was free of debt. At a later date a new Session House, vestry and ladies' room were built at cost of £260. This money was donated by an ex-member from Greenock.

A congregational soiree was held, the first meeting of its kind to be held in the new church. It was described as being "altogether most harmonious and social, not being disturbed by the bean throwing, which afforded so much amusement to certain agrarian members in former years." (It has been said that the beans were gathered up and fed to the hens.) A thrifty lot they were.

The church hall was built in 1880.

In 1887 special services and a soiree were held to celebrate the third jubilee (150 years) of the Bonkle congregation. A report on the services stated that the church "was beautifully adorned by Mr R Wilson of Murdostoun. On the front of the pulpit was "Daviesdykes 1737 to 1887." Several pieces of music sung by the choir including special Jubilee verses written for the occasion by a member named Mr J. Miller, Seton Cottage, Bonkle. The words which were set to a hymn tune are as follows:-

Gladly your voices raise,

Aloud the news proclaim,

To God give thanks and praise

And magnify His name


The year of Jubilee has come,

Rejoice, O brethren, now rejoice,

Thrice fifty years have fled,

Their joys and sorrows past,

God has His people led -

He's faithful to the last.


In truth’s most sacred cause,

Our Erskines, nobly fought,

From conscience-burning laws,

Relief and freedom sought.


The fruit of what they sowed,

We peacefully now reap,

The truths that from them flowed,

Still well forth strong and deep.


This sweet but solemn thought,

Should stimulate our zeal,

To fight as they have fought,

For man's eternal weal.


Then trim your lamps anew,

More earnest efforts make,

Your glorious course pursue

If work for Jesus Sake.


A world wide Jubilee shall come

And all the Church of Christ rejoice.


Time For Change

In the 1880's another change of status was brewing. After discussion of certain points, the contemplated union of the United Presbyterian Church and the United Free Church of Scotland took place in 1890. Bonkle then became part of the United Free Church of Scotland.

First recorded minutes of session meetings were made on 12th October, 1890 in accordance with advice from a visiting committee from Lanark Presbytery.

On 25th July, 1894, 10 carts of coal were gifted by Coltness Iron Co. This coal was delivered to needy families. This was a regular gift over a long number of years.

In 1895 the church was closed for redecoration and a special dedication service was held at the reopening.

The number on the roll at this stage was 217 members.


Mary Slessor Visits

In 1887 Mary Slessor, missionary from Calabar, visited Bonkle Manse with a boy named Daniel. He was one of the many twins she rescued from the bush and educated. Bonkle Sunday School sent £5 per year for many years to help educate these children.

It seems that in Africa the custom was that if twins were born to the natives one was killed or abandoned in the bush. If the twins were of different sexes, the girl was disposed of. If they were the same sex it was the weaker of the two who was disposed of. The mother of twins was considered unclean and in some areas they were banished to "twin villages" and considered to be divorced from their husbands. In others they were shunned and often mother and child died of starvation.



Prior to March, 1897 four communions per year were celebrated, but for some unknown reason the session at that date dispensed with the Spring Communion.

Prior to 17th January, 1900, Communion Services had an interval at midday. This interval was between the actual sermon and the Table Services. During the interval the elders gathered in a semicircle at the door of the Church and handed a token to each member of their districts as the congregation came out. The members returned for the Sacrament (table Service) as soon as preparations had been made for the service. The tokens were handed to the elders on re-entering the church. The tokens were small square metal tokens with the initials of the minister and year (eg J. H. S. 1859). They were first used in 1744.

In 1900 it was decided to dispense with the interval at Communion and also to replace the tokens with Communion cards. These cards were issued in the church prior to the Benediction on the Sunday prior to Communion Sunday.

The Session, after considering what means might be adopted to bring elders into contact with the congregation, decided that elders should distribute the Communion cards in their districts two weeks prior to Communion Sunday. It was stated that if "visits were to be effective" they should not be made in a "hurried and perfunctory manner, like handing the card in and passing on, but to converse with members for a little time and thus form an acquaintance with them." This arrangement took effect from 1902.

It was later noted that elders received a cordial welcome in the members’ homes, proving the change had been successful.


Faithful Servants


In 1909 in the fair setting of the church grounds, the members of the congregation and many friends from far and near gathered to celebrate the Rev J H Scott's Jubilee as minister at Bonkle. It was recorded as one of the outstanding events in the history of the Parish. The Rev A Alston, Carluke, presented Mr Scott with an illuminated address from Lanark Presbytery and Mr Wilkinson, Session Clerk handed over a cheque for £330 from the congregation and friends and a suitably inscribed silver spirit kettle to Mrs Scott.

Mr Scott retired in 1910. He continued to serve the congregation on various occasions as Moderator Depute during the first World War until his death in 1917. Father and son had ministered to Bonkle congregation for a total period of one hundred and one years - truly a unique record.


Rev G. Fraser 1910-1918

WAR SERVICE 1915-1918

Rev A Alston, Carluke, was appointed Moderator in the vacancy and a vacancy committee was appointed. A call was made to Rev George Fraser. The Moderator then proceeded to moderate the call. Mr Fraser accepted and was ordained at Bonkle Church on 1st November, 1910.

At that time it was customary for Baptisms to take place in the homes of the congregation. A member of the Session however, felt that Baptism was a sacrament therefore it should, as far as possible, be held in the church. Rev G Fraser agreed and stated that in future Baptisms would be held in the church, taking into consideration the individuals concerned. He would try and make Baptisms in the home the exception and not the rule.

In 1914 Mr Fraser decided to dispense with midweek services during the winter and have evening services every Sunday. He also arranged a course "specially suited for young men" which would be on each alternate Sunday.

The question of introducing individual cups at Communion Services was discussed but as Session and Managers could not agree it was decided that the proposal be put to the congregation. This was done and the congregation voted that individual cups be used and recommended that the Session put this into effect as soon as possible. Individual cups and cubed bread were first used at Bonkle, 19th June, 1914.

The Bonkle Scout Troop was started in 1914, Mr Fraser being the first Scoutmaster.

In view of lighting restrictions during the war, the time of the evening service was changed from 6.00 pm to 5.00 pm.

On 31st January, 1915, Rev G Fraser intimated that he had enlisted in the army and requested of the Session that he have leave of absence for the duration of the war. Mr Fraser said he was willing to give £100 of his stipend to meet the expenses of a substitute during his absence. The Session agreed and for the next four years temporary appointments were made.

Rev A B Hunter, Carluke, was appointed as Interim Moderator during Mr Fraser's absence.

It was at this time that the Rev J H Scott offered his services and during a period of three months, when Mr Hunter was in France he was Moderator depute.

A temporary minister, to serve during the absence of Rev George Fraser, was appointed in 1915. He was Rev. William McGregor who was home from Constantinople owing to the war. On 16th February, 1916 he handed in his resignation but when his stipend was raised from £100 per annum to £150 per annum he agreed to stay.

On 7th May, 1916, it was intimated under the Derby Scheme that his group had been called up for the 29th May. The Session applied on his behalf for exemption from Military Service. This was granted. At the end of the following year Rev William McGregor again submitted his resignation and preached his farewell service on 17th December, 1916.

The Session were unable to agree as to whether to appoint a part- time minister from a neighbouring church or appoint a full-time minister to reside in the Manse and do full ministerial duties within the congregation. It was decided to put both proposals to the congregation who unanimously agreed that a part-time minister should be appointed.

A deputation was formed to approach Rev S Gray, of Law United Free Church and to ask him to conduct the Service at Bonkle at 3.00 p.m. each Sabbath in addition to doing some ministerial work. Remuneration was £78 per annum. Rev. S. Gray accepted and became part-time minister from April, 1917 to 30th June, 1918.

A letter of resignation was received from Rev G Fraser, who stated that it was in the highest interests of the church and congregation that he had decided with deep regret to resign as minister to Bonkle Church from 19th October, 1918.

Armistice was signed on 11th November, 1918 and at a later date a memorial plaque in memory of the young who died in action during the 1914-1918 War was placed in the wall at the south side of the church beside the pulpit.

The inscription on the plaque is as follows:

To the Glory of God and in memory of those from this church who gave their lives for us in the Great War 1914-19

John C. Fleming

Robert Gill

John N. Fotheringham

Walter Paterson

Daniel Smart

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends".


Rev A Gillies 1919-1935

Rev. A B Hunter previously appointed as Interim Moderator during Mr Fraser's absence became Interim Moderator in the vacancy. A vacancy committee was appointed and after hearing various applicants a call was made to Rev Alexander Gillies. He was ordained at Bonkle Church in 1919.

On 5th October, 1921, it was intimated that a sum of money amounting to £62-10/- had been raised by the Young Men's Club and handed to the church treasurer to form the beginning of a Building Fund in view of inadequate hall accommodation. After much discussion it was thought that because of unemployment and high costs of the material that the building of a new hall be considered at a later date.

Two motions were moved and seconded.

• (1) To build a new hall at a more favourable time than the present.

• (2) To enlarge the present building and increase hall accommodation

The second motion was agreed to and a committee appointed to decide when it would be best to obtain plans and estimates for extension of hall.

In October, 1921, an appeal was received from the Parish Council asking, in view of the increased need of poor relief on account of widespread unemployment, that each congregation should undertake relief of its own poor. It was decided that a retiring collection should be taken each week and that 5/- weekly should be distributed to the poor.

In April, 1927, a revised edition of the Church Hymnary was authorised for use in Public Worship by the Church of Scotland, the United Free Church and all other associated churches. The revised Church Hymnary was issued with the prayer that its use may be to the Glory of God and the good of His people.

In 1929 the United Free Church formed a Union with the Church of Scotland. On a majority vote of the congregation, Bonkle became part of the Church of Scotland. There was dissension by some members, who disagreed with this Union and they left the church and helped to found a United Free Church in Wishaw.

The Session petitioned the Presbytery of Lanark that the congregation of Bonkle should be transferred to the Presbytery of Hamilton. This was referred to the General Assembly, who on the 26th May, 1931, agreed to the transfer.

The Young Worshippers League started in 1931 with 64 members, prizes being awarded for good church attendance.

The next few years were busy.

The manse was modernised in 1930 at the cost of £1000.

It was agreed by the Session that Proclamations of (marriage) Banns be called at Bonkle Church, the first of these being called on 3rd April, 1932, the happy couple being David Hope and Nellie Fleming. The fee was 2/6.

The church feu was purchased at cost of £78-18/- in 1932.

• Allanton Mission Church was put under the supervision of Bonkle Session on 14th June, 1932.

• In 1932 a petition was signed calling for disarmament.

The Scouts purchased a feu in Church Road and the Scout Hut was built and opened on 7th November, 1933 and a Guide Company started in that year.

The Rev A Gillies received the honour of becoming Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery on 9th January, 1934. This happened approximately 197 years after the members left Hamilton Presbytery to form the origin of the Bonkle congregation under the Associate Presbytery.

The Woman's Guild held a Gipsy Fair on 22nd June, 1935, in the church grounds. The stall-holders were gaily attired in gipsy costumes and stalls brightly decorated. There was a baby show with an entry fee of 6d., an open air concert by the choir, pony rides, fortune telling and all the fun of the fair. Tea ticket was 1/-, and sum realised £80.


The church and manse were wired for electricity and redecorated at a cost of £140 in 1934.

During his ministry seat lets still accounted for a considerable part of the church income.

The Rev A Gillies died in the service of the Lord on 21st February, 1935. His wife died on 16 July, 1944.



Rev James Winchester 1935-1945

Rev R H Ferguson of Coltness Memorial Church was appointed Moderator in the vacancy. A vacancy committee was formed, who after hearing various applicants, made a call to Rev James Winchester, BD.

Mr Ferguson moderated the call and Mr Winchester was inducted to the charge of Bonkle Church on 20th November, 1935.

A new heating system was installed in the Church in 1936.

Because of inadequate hall accommodation a decision was finally made to extend the existing hall and to build a new vestry on to the church. On completion of the extension a service of dedication was held on 10th April, 1938.

Until May, 1942, the main sources of income were by means of seat rents and open plate collections. The seat rent system being that members were allocated pews, for which they paid rent. Their names and numbers of sittings were affixed to the book board, and that is where they sat Sunday after Sunday. The rents were calculated according to where the pews were situated. Then on advice of the General Assembly churches were asked to look at the possibility of introducing the Weekly Freewill Offering System known as WFO. This was designed to cover seat rent, ordinary and special collections, Foreign Mission and the Life and Work Magazine (then tuppence). The aim was to make Bonkle Church self-supporting as it received £65 yearly from the Maintenance of the Ministry fund. On the basis of 365 communicants this worked out at 8 old pence (3p) per week per person. This proposal was put to the congregation who, by a majority vote, agreed to convert to the scheme. The change took place 19th July, 1942.

Flight Officer Robert McMillan, member of the church and former Scoutmaster was awarded the DFC. in 1943.

A Red Cross Work Party was formed by the ladies of the Church and it is of interest to note that at one stage the Bonkle branch sent:

"288 pairs of socks, 96 scarves, 26 pullovers, 21 pairs of gloves, 17 pairs of sea boot stockings, 15 pairs of mittens, 12 helmets, 10 pairs of over-stockings, 4 sewn garments, together with various gifts including money to Red Cross Headquarters". Many other mentions are made of the Guild's Red Cross work during these years.

In 1942, by Government decree, the churches could not be heated during October, so the then October Communion was delayed until November when heating was allowed.

During this period Young People's Services were held on alternate Sunday evenings and a Sunday School Choir took part in worship.

Another effect of the war was that books were not available in 1944 for Sunday School prizes and it was decided that the picnic (at Murdostoun Estate) should be free.

In 1945 the Church of Scotland appealed to each congregation for funds to build new accommodation in areas of rehousing. Bonkle's share was £21 - 10/-. (£21.50) or 1/3 d (5p) per member.

During his ministry the vestry was built and the hall remodelled.

Rev J. Winchester served his Church well during the difficult years of War for a period of ten years.

Rev. Winchester died suddenly in the service of his Lord on 12 April 1945.



Memorial Plaque

The Second World War ended in August 1945. A memorial plaque is situated on the wall in the front vestibule of the church in memory of those who died during it in the service of their country. The inscription on the plaque is as follows:

"To the Glory of God and in loving memory of those of this Church who laid down their lives in the Second World War".

William Conchie

Neil Harvie

James Robb

George Harvie

James A. Ritchie

Robert Scott

Thomas Watson

Alex L. Wemyss

“Their names liveth for evermore."


Rev Robert S Hill 1945-1960

Following Mr Winchester's death, Rev. J. McNeil Urquhart was appointed Interim Moderator. A vacancy committee was formed and after hearing various applicants, a call was made to the Rev. R. S. Hill as sole nominee. He accepted the call and was inducted to the charge at Bonkle Church on 12th December, 1945. Mr Hill previously served congregations at Dreghorn, Forth Parish and Albert Road, Glasgow.

During the period of Mr Hill's ministry the church was renovated and redecorated.

The carved partition which surrounded the choir box was removed, also the steps up to the pulpit, which were situated on the south side of the church. The panels surrounding the pulpit and the balcony were at one time painted in colourful designs, but for some reason it was decided to paint and varnish over them and also to remove the clocks which were situated on either side of the balcony.

A few years after Mr Hill came to Bonkle his wife died. He later married Annie Colquhoun, a local school teacher.

The first Watch-night Service was held on Christmas Eve, 1947 and these services have continued, without a gap, till the present time.

The early part of Mr Hill's ministry was very active. In 1947 the Men's club was reformed with Mr Hill as president. A large Bible class of near 100 met after the Sunday Evening service under his charge. The Sunday School, meeting in the church after the morning service, required both upstairs and downstairs to supply space for the various junior and senior classes. Choirs and other youth organisations were active. (See under separate headings.). Outings, rambles and cycle runs were organised for the younger members of the church.

Prior to 28th October, 1960, a pedal organ was used. The choir members decided to move with the times and raised the money to enable an electronic organ to be installed in the church. This was dedicated on 28th October, 1960, by the Rev. J. McNeil Urquhart.

Towards the end of his ministry Mr Hill's health began to fail, affecting his memory and finally leading to his retirement and early death.

Rev R S Hill died in March 1960. He served the Bonkle congregation for 15 years.


Rev George McMillan, 1960 - 1970

A Vacancy committee was formed which, after hearing various applicants, proposed Rev. George McMillan as sole nominee. This was accepted by the congregation and a call was made to him. The call was accepted and he was inducted to the charge of Bonkle Church on 23rd November, 1960. The following Sunday he was "preached in" by Rev J Ritchie of Haddington.

Mr McMillan had previously served charges at Clydebank West, Kirkinner - Galloway, Balfron South, and Garvald and Markham East Lothian.

During his youth Mr McMillan had suffered from poliomyelitis which had left him partly crippled. Due to this, he was often accompanied by his wife on his many pastoral visits.

Previous to the 13th January, 1964 the business of the church had been handled by a Board of Managers. The Church authorities recommended that this be replaced by a Congregational Board. This was accepted but, apart from abolishing the office of Preses, it was a change in name only.

During this period Allanton Church had its own Missionary Preacher who conducted the Sunday Services, but the services of the minister at Bonkle were still required on occasions. By request of the Bonkle Church Session, the supervision of Allanton Church was transferred to Calderhead Church, Shotts, in 1964.

The Scout troop, which had been formed in 1914 by Rev. G. Fraser, used the wooden "Scout Hut" in the village. This was still under a Board of Trustees of Bonkle Church but at a Board meeting on 15th March, 1964, it was decided to transfer responsibility for the Scout Hut to the General Scout Council. Burgess and Smith, Solicitors, informed the board on 14th April, 1964 that this had been carried out.

The original church heating system was coal fired with a natural convective heat flow supplying both Church and hall from a common hand-fed coal-fired boiler situated below the rear of the Church. When the church was in use, the halls were often cold. The Sunday School proposed that a fund be set up to install a separate heating system for the hall and offered to start the fund with a donation of £30. This was accepted by the Board, but discussion on alternative heating methods was postponed until more money was in the fund. On 22nd February, 1965 the Board decided that, as the fund now stood at £80, information should be obtained on other forms of heating. Finally, the coal-fired boiler was converted to oil firing and a circulation pump installed to improve the feed to the hall, cost £264 15/- (£264.75)

Although the hall had previously been enlarged, it had been left "L" shaped and this had not greatly increased the usefulness of the hall. At the Annual General Meeting of the Congregation in 1967 there was a discussion about increasing the accommodation. A committee was formed to consider this matter. Proposals were put forward for modifying the existing hall by removing the wall between the hall and the entrance corridor, giving a squarer hall. As this was the original outer wall of the hall and supported the roof, expensive and difficult construction work was involved. Other proposals included construction of a completely new hall, perhaps of "prefabricated" construction. Due to lack of funding, the project was abandoned.

In March, 1970, the Nurse’s Cottage in Newmains was sold by the local Nursing Association and a sum of £553, being part of the sum realised, was donated to Bonkle Church.

Due to his infirmity, Mr McMillan retired on health grounds in September, 1970, having served the Bonkle Congregation for 10 years. On retirement, he set up residence in Helensburgh, where he died on 30 August, 1978. On his death his widow returned to Bonkle and was a familiar figure about the Church and Village until her death on 29 November, 1994


Rev Robert Campbell 1971-1978

Rev. G. B. Wilson was appointed Moderator in the vacancy.

Representatives from Hamilton Presbytery put forward a proposal that a linking of Morningside, Allanton and Bonkle churches be considered, but as the three churches did not all agree to this suggestion, it was ruled out.

The Presbytery then decided that Bonkle be allowed to call a minister aged 55 and over. This was put to the Session who agreed by 14 votes to three.

As the manse was in need of considerable repairs it was decided to sell 1/2 an acre of ground south of the manse. The sum realised from the sale was £2000. Most of this money was used to modernise and install oil-fired central heating in the manse.

A tremendous amount of the work involving repairs and decorating was done by members of the church and its organisations thus reducing the overall cost.

A vacancy committee was formed and after hearing various applicants a call was made to the Rev. R. Campbell as sole nominee. He accepted and was inducted at Bonkle Church on 1st December, 1971. The church role at this period was approximately 400.

Mr Campbell had served in the Royal Navy during the war. He had postings to the Mediterranean and North Atlantic and was present at the sinking of the "Bismark". He was demobbed in 1946.

In 1972 youth organisations which had lapsed, were re-formed and flourishing groups of Guides, Brownies, Scouts and Cub Scouts were established.

In December, 1973, there was a total collapse of the church heating system during a spell of cold weather. The severe frost caused radiators to burst, and resulted in extensive flood damage within the church. After expert examination of the damage it was reported that a complete new heating system, redecoration and re-carpeting was required to restore it for use.

A special meeting of the congregation was held at which it was agreed to go ahead with the necessary work and to raise the large sum of money needed, as soon as possible. It was decided to appoint a Ways and Means Committee. This committee was formed and as a result most of the money was raised by donations and special efforts. The remainder was paid by insurance and small grants. Total cost of repairs amounted to £6,000 and this was paid off within two years.

During the period of the Church restoration attempts were made to heat the church with large paraffin heaters. Some services were held in the hall and Sunday School held in members’ homes.

During 1974-5 Mr Campbell was ill for over 18 months and Mr Gallan and Mr Levison acted as interim moderators. The pulpit was often filled by the local bank manager, Mr I McDonald.

A special Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication was held at the reopening of our restored Church. Members of St. Brigid's, Coltness Memorial and Morningside Churches attended the service. It was a wonder and a joy to see the Church filled to capacity and to hear the wonderful sound of voices raised in thanksgiving at the restoration of our Church.

In the Autumn of 1975 three church members, Mrs Ina Craig, Mrs M. Davidson and Mrs Edwina McAlpine, were appointed to the newly formed Community Council.

In 1968 Church Hymnary, Third Edition was approved. It was first printed in 1974. "The Church Hymnary: Third Edition is sent out in prayerful hope that it may enrich the worship of congregations to the greater glory of God."

As new hymnals were required, a change was made to the new Church Hymnal 3 in the Autumn of 1975.

Evening Services were now held on a rota basis at Bonkle, Morningside and Coltness Memorial Churches.

In January, 1976 two elders were appointed for each organisation to visit the organisation and report back on their progress.

£450 was received from the Fergusson Bequest Fund.

The purchase of a cine projector by the Sunday School enabled films to be shown at some church services.

In accordance with the Marriage Act, Scotland, 1st January, 1976, it was no longer necessary to have Proclamations of Banns made in Parish Churches.

Rev R Campbell’s retirement and presentation service was held on 31st December, 1978. He served Bonkle Congregation for 7 years. In his last newsletter, Christmas 1978, Mr Campbell stated that "a great personal sorrow" just before coming to Bonkle had undermined his health during his ministry with us.

Mr Campbell later died at Moffat in 1979.


Churches Link

After the retirement of Mr Campbell meetings were held between the Session, Congregational Board, Hamilton Presbytery and the Union and Readjustments Committee. The Committee stated that as Bonkle Church was not self-supporting and because of a scarcity of ministers, authorisation to call a minister could not be given. After lengthy discussions one possibility suggested was the linking of Bonkle, Allanton and Morningside to be served by one Minister and an Assistant. This was ruled out as the three churches did not all agree to the linkage.         

It was then suggested that Bonkle Church and Coltness Memorial Church be linked with one Minister and each Church would retain its own Services, Session and Congregational Board. The Committee stated that if this was not acceptable Bonkle Church would require to carry on without a minister. Despite long discussions and repeated requests for a full-time Minister for Bonkle Church the Church authorities were adamant that the linking of the Churches was the only course open. At a meeting of the congregation it was carried that Bonkle Church link with Coltness Memorial Church. It was with great regret that Bonkle congregation had to bow to authority.

• Details of the linkage are as follows:-


• (1) ACT OF LINKING: The congregation of Newmains Coltness Memorial and Bonkle shall be linked as from a date to be determined by the Presbytery of Hamilton,

• (2) TRANSFERENCE OF PROPERTY AND FUNDS: The Property and Funds belonging to or held on behalf of each congregation shall remain the property and funds of each congregation as at present.

• (3) PLACE OF WORSHIP: There will be a Service each Sunday in both Churches. The Service in Coltness Memorial Church will be at 10.30 am, and in Bonkle Church at 12 noon.

• (4) TERRITORIAL RESPONSIBILITY: The bounds to be served by the linked charge shall be the bounds served by the linked congregation.

• (5) KIRK SESSION: The Minister of the linked charge shall be Moderator of each Kirk Session. Joint Kirk Session meetings may be held as deemed necessary or desirable.

• (6) CONGREGATIONAL MANAGEMENT: The temporal affairs of each congregation shall be administered as at present. The office- bearers of the two congregations shall meet annually to decide on their respective contributions to the stipend, aid to the fund, to the Aged and Infirm Ministers' Fund, Employers' N.I.C., and listed expenses as may be agreed from time to time by the office-bearers, and subject to the approval of the Presbytery,

• (7) THE MINISTRY: Both charges being vacant, the linked congregations shall proceed to the election of a minister. The Vacancy Committee shall consist of a number of representatives from each congregation proportional to the communicant membership. Any nomination would require to have concurrence of the majority of the Vacancy Committee members from each congregation. In the case of failure to nominate, the usual procedure according to the laws of the Church would be implemented.

• (8) THE MANSES: The present Manse of Coltness Memorial Church will be the Manse of the linked charge. The Manse of Bonkle shall be sold, let or otherwise disposed of subject to the titles on which it is held and subject to the approval of the Presbytery, The free proceeds of any such sale shall be held as a fund for contributing to the maintenance and development of the fabric of the Manse of the linked charge and of church premises at Bonkle,

• (9) MINISTERIAL SUPPORT: The stipend shall be as is sanctioned by Presbytery in conjunction with the Committee on the Maintenance of the Ministry.

• (10) POWER TO ADJUST: While these articles and terms shall form a basis of linking in the two congregations the linked congregations shall be free like other congregations to adjust arrangements under the authority of the Presbytery except for Clause (1) as need may arise.

• Under the terms of the linkage it was agreed that Coltness Memorial Church pay seven-elevenths of the stipend and Bonkle four-elevenths.


Rev William Frame, BTh - 20th June, 1980 - October 1988


The Rev J Noble, Newarthill, was appointed Moderator in the vacancy. A vacancy committee was formed from the linked charge of Bonkle and Coltness Memorial Churches to appoint a minister. After hearing various applicants a call was made to the Rev W Frame as sole nominee. He was inducted to the linked charge on 20th July, 1980, at Bonkle Church.

Willie Frame was a late entrant to the ministry. He left school at 14 and spent the first part of his life underground as a coal miner.

The Rev W Frame served in the Second World War with the Royal Marine Commandos.

He considered that he "lacked an academic background" so when he left the mining industry to follow his calling he trained as a Lay Missionary at Christ's College, Aberdeen. Undoubtedly D P Thomson had a large influence on his life at this time and in 1989 he wrote a biography "Fire in His Bones" about D P Thomson.

Willie was appointed to the summer mission at Seton Dean Holiday Camp where he became very much a "father figure" to the young teams taking part in the summer mission. An account of his time there can be read in Gordon Reid's book "A Touch of The Son".

Willie's answer to all problems was to pray and there is little doubt that his approach had a considerable effect on both mission team and campers, including the unruly gangs which then frequented the camp. The result of his prayers sometimes took him by surprise - healing and speaking in tongues.

Willie then took up the post of Lay Missionary at Carfin from 1965 to 1972.

In 1973 he entered Glasgow University to undertake training for the ministry of the Church of Scotland, his first appointment being at Garthdee Parish Church, Aberdeen.

In 1980 he accepted the call to the new linkage of Coltness Memorial and Bonkle Church. Such a linkage is obviously fraught with problems as the two congregations settle down to a working arrangement. In effect he was the minister of two congregations with separate sessions, boards etc., making large demands on his time. Willie's answer was to take the problems to the Lord in prayer.

A special service was held in Bonkle Church on 27th February, 1980, for the "Setting Apart" of John McAlpine, member of Session, as a Lay Reader of the Church of Scotland. The ceremony was performed by the Rev Keith McRobb, Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery, assisted by Rev A Cunningham, Clerk to the Presbytery. The service was unique in that it was the first time on record, that a service of this kind had been held in Bonkle Church.

On 31st August, 1981, it was brought to the notice of the Congregational Board that there was dry rot in the vestry. Cost of repair was estimated at approximately £3,500. Again the congregation answered a call for help and provided the money in various ways to pay the full cost of repairs.

Since the linking of the churches Bonkle Manse had been occupied by a caretaker tenant for 26 months. After the Manse was vacated the Congregational Board decided to sell it. The sum realised by the sale amounted to £29,137  (another bit chopped off our heritage). Under the terms of the linkage this money can only be "held as a fund for contributing to the maintenance and development of the fabric of the Manse of the linked charge and of the church premises at Bonkle." This money is held in an account in Edinburgh.

The Session decided that in accordance with a Church of Scotland ruling, women could be invited to serve as Elders and become members of Session. Margaret Russell, Edwina McAlpine, Margaret MacDonald and Jessie Brown were appointed and ordained in January, 1983, these being the first Women Elders to serve Bonkle Congregation .

The Session decided to honour three members of congregation who had each served for over thirty years on the Spiritual work of the Church. Long Service Certificates signed by the Moderator of the General Assembly and suitably inscribed Bibles were presented to Peter Wilson, Isa Eadie and Grace Wemyss in January, 1984.

In 1984, the church was redecorated and re-carpeted. The church hall was redecorated and minor improvements carried out one year later. The work was done by the Community Industry Department.

In May, 1985, under a report from the Education for the Ministry Committee, John Mitchell, a member of Session, was accepted by Hamilton Presbytery as a candidate for the Ministry. John left school and trained as an electrician in the pits and thus had a similar background to Mr Frame. Until 1985 he was in full-time employment. John made a commitment at the Louis Palau Crusade which Willie followed up. "The first thing he did was to take me into his sitting room. We knelt down together and prayed, a very touching moment." In 1982 John decided his future was in preaching God's word. He studied hard and gained the qualifications required for nomination as a candidate to the ministry. After qualifying at Glasgow University he was ordained and inducted to the charge of Bonnyrigg on 14th August, 1991 by the Presbytery of Lothian, thus becoming one of "Willies Boys", young people encouraged by Willie to go into the ministry.

It is on record that Bonkle has produced a number of ministers, such as Rev J Henderson Scott, and more recently Ian Munro.

In April, 1986, John McAlpine, a member of Session and Lay Reader, was accepted for training as an Auxiliary Minister. He is the first candidate to go forward from Hamilton Presbytery.

After qualifying, he was ordained as Auxiliary Minister at Newarthill linked with Carfin Church of Scotland where he served from 1988 till his retirement in 1997.

The Auxiliary Ministry is a relatively new office in the Church of Scotland, being introduced by the General Assembly in 1980.

The Auxiliary Minister is ordained to administer Word and Sacrament, under supervision on a part-time non-stipendiary basis. In other words he is trained to undertake the full range of ministerial duties, working in partnership with a Parish Minister on a part-time, unpaid basis. The process of selection is identical to that for the full-time ministry and candidates for both the full-time and auxiliary ministries go through the same selection "schools" together.

Training now consists of three years of fairly intensive study, at home, under the directions of the staff of the Divinity Faculties in St. Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities. During this time the student is attached, each year, to a suitable charge to gain practical experience. Having completed this phase successfully, he or she then goes as a probationer, to work for a year with a parish minister before being eventually placed in a charge for which he was trained.

The number of Auxiliary Ministers is small, with never more than 5 or 6 undertaking training each year. Some of those who have trained have gone on to the full-time ministry. Auxiliary ministers were introduced to help increase the trained man/woman power at a time when the church was having difficulty in meeting its needs with full-time ministers. It aims to provide an opportunity for men and women to be more fully involved in the Church, without necessarily giving up their lay occupation.

The American Teams

During his time at Aberdeen Willie made contact with an American Church which sent teams of up to four young people out on missionary work overseas. This practice was continued in his new charge, the young workers stay coinciding with the school summer holidays. The team lived with local church members and were greatly appreciated by the people in the area.

Towards the end of his ministry Mr Frame developed heart problems which finally resulted in his absence from the pulpit. This did not stop him. Even when ordered to rest, if anyone was in distress, he insisted on visiting them.

When he finally retired on 27 August 1988 a presentation was held in Coltness Memorial Church which was attended by Rev P Gordon, Interim Moderator and Rev J Wilson, Presbytery Clerk.

Entertainment was provided by 1st Newmains BB Band, St. Mary's Male Voice Choir, and Rev R Brown, BSc, Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery. Presentations were made to Mr And Mrs Frame and Agnes by various organisations. Addresses were given by Father Boyle, St Brigid's Church and the Rev. Wm. Frame.

A vote of thanks was given by John MacDonald, Session Clerk, Bonkle Church. During the service the Hymns "To God be the Glory" and "On Christ the Solid Rock I stand" were sung.

He retired with his wife and daughter Agnes to Dunfermline. Here he was still active in the local churches until his death on 27 March 1992

Even in death he considered this a victory. He was not afraid to die as he knew that he was simply going to be with the One he had led so many others to.

He had already arranged the form of the funeral and had asked that "his boys" (once young leaders he had worked with) be present.

Mrs Frame died in 1998. His daughter Agnes at the date of writing now lives with Gordon Reid.


Rev Graham L Duffin, BSc, Dip Ed, BD 1989 - 2001


During the vacancy the Interim moderator was Rev Peter Gordon and Rev George Baird preached most Sundays.

The vacancy committee formed jointly by Coltness & Bonkle Churches appointed Graham Duffin as sole nominee. The call was signed by both churches on 16 April 1989

The service of Ordination and Induction to the linked charge of Coltness and Bonkle Churches took place in Coltness Memorial Church on Thursday 11th May 1989. Mr Beattie, Shotts, preached a very fine sermon and the service of Ordination and Induction was carried out by the Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery, Rev J F Dunn. The following Sunday at Bonkle Church the Rev. B. Graham Leitch, MA, BD, of Barclay Church Edinburgh introduced Graham to the congregation. Graham's first service was on 21 May, 1989 when the Lord's Supper was celebrated.

Graham was the first young minister (age 29 ) appointed since the early 19th century. Born in Dunfermline and brought up in Perth, Airdrie and Kirkcaldy, Graham gained a BSc in Maths at Edinburgh University. He became a maths teacher at Inveralmond Community High School, Livingstone. During his year of teacher training he felt that God was calling him into full time service. Graham was given the opportunity to work for one year at Barclay Church, Edinburgh as a youth worker which strengthened his belief in the call to the ministry. He met Jane at Barclay Church and they married in March 1985. After undergoing Divinity training at New College, Edinburgh University, he became assistant minister at St. David's, Broomhouse, Edinburgh. Bonkle was his first charge.

Irene Ferris, Pastoral Care Assistant, appointed March 1991

Irene was appointed as part of a team to visit the sick and elderly, or just to simply visit people if this was required. This included visits to home, hospital and nursing home. She was also associated with the organisation of midweek breaks for members of the congregations to Crieff.

Lunch clubs were also organised on a twice weekly basis.

Kevin Simpson, Development Worker, September 1990 - October 1994

Appointment of Kevin Simpson as Development Worker in September 1990 with the remit to develop the work of the church in the local area.

Kevin had previously been a Youth Worker with St Ninian's Church, Kilmarnock so his initial work concentrated on youth, and leaders were appointed for new Crusader groups meeting in Morningside Primary and Newmains Primary schools and Coltness Church halls. The Youth Club at Bonkle also came under the Crusader banner. This ongoing work reached about 100 young people each week.

Kevin helped secure Urban Aid funding for the  Day Care project.

He also undertook the recruiting and training of leaders for the seven new house-groups formed within the churches.

The other major project started was Outer Limits, a non-alcoholic bar for the youth of the area.

Kevin left to take up appointment as Scottish Director for Crusaders in October 1994 but during a transition period of two years 25% of his time was still spent locally.

Sharon Brooks - Development Worker October 1997 - March 1998

David Geddes - Evangelist 1994 - 97

David was the evangelist at Coltness and Bonkle churches for three years. He is a teacher by training and profession but worked for Scripture Union Scotland in their Schools Department prior to joining the team at Coltness and Bonkle Churches in October 1994.

David's work included responsibility for four and later six Crusader groups for children and young people in Newmains, Morningside and Bonkle working with a team of volunteers and upwards of 120 members weekly. Alongside this commitment to the youth of our area there was a responsibility for developing evangelistic (Alpha) courses, house groups, All Age Evangelistic events and prayer projects. David's skill was in convincing others in the church to work alongside him and get involved in the work of the Kingdom.

David left the post of evangelist in September 1997 to take up the post of Development Worker with Lanarkshire Christian Union.

Jim Winning

He was appointed as Evangelist on August 1998. He spent most of his life in Stevenston, Ayrshire, but met Sue at a conference in Wales. In 1991 they became involved in church planning and he felt called to study at Glasgow Bible College. After four years he gained a B.A.(hons) in Theology and studied for his MA in Evangelism Studies at Cliff College, Sheffield. Before coming to Bonkle he worked for two years as the Ministry Assistant at Millerston United Free Church of Scotland. Jim concentrated on youth work, an activity which he carried on at Bonkle, together with family activities and the Alpha initiative.

Kathryn Smith-Anderson

She was appointed in September 2000 to set up a counselling service. Kathryn is American but has married and settled in Scotland. She is qualified as a counsellor and also as a minister. This has been financed by a donation of £48,000.

Rev John McAlpine, BSc.

John was appointed as Auxiliary Minister on 3 March 1998 to assist Rev. Duffin in Worship & pastoral work within the linked charges.

Other initiatives started during Graham's ministry are as follows:-

Day care for the elderly started in October 1991 in Coltness Memorial Church halls and moved to Bonkle Feb. 1992. (Details as separate entry under organisations.)

Crusaders groups were started in October 1990 for primary & secondary schoolchildren at Morningside and Newmains schools. These were organised by the Development Worker/Evangelist with a team of volunteers.

Outer Limits started March 1993 in premises in Westwood Road, Newmains as a non-alcoholic bar. The project's work focussed on young people who were not part of any organised youth work, but were often around the Newmains streets in the evening. The project offered drug and alcohol education to the local primary and secondary school children. Two full time and a number of part time staff were employed. The project closed in June 1998


At an Elders conference in 1997, Brian Burden talked on the structural organisation of the church. Two structures were proposed. Coltness chose teams looking after each (elder’s) district. Bonkle chose to form work-groups to look after various aspects of the work of the church. After some rearrangement, work groups are now:

Pastoral Care - organises a team of workers to provide pastoral care and support for individuals within the area with the aim to show that Bonkle Church cares deeply for all its members. People in hospital, residential homes, or who are housebound, are visited on a regular basis. Young people in the Sunday School are also visited and given birthday and Christmas cards to continue their link with the church. The visitors also gain from these visits, many friendships being made. The group is supported by the Prayer Support Group.

Mission - organised outreach work, including courses for those wishing to find out more about the Christian Faith. (Discontinued).

Youth and Children co-ordinated the work among young people including the various crusader groups and Sunday School. Training on the child protection act and certification, was provided. Various age groups were given activities and training in the Christian faith. Sport and other activities were organised.

Communication - This group produces the church magazine, publicity, a list of organisations with the appropriate contact person and press releases. It also produces and maintains the church web site.

In 1996 a change was made from Church Hymnal 3 and Junior Praise to the Mission Praise hymnal.

Monthly family services were introduced in 1990 to involve the young people in the whole service. More recently the young people leave the morning service for 20 minutes activity related to the sermon.

The form of worship on Sunday Evenings changed over a period from 1992 with the introduction of more modern styles of music. Guitars, keyboard, flute and drums are now used to lead the praise, along with multimedia presentations such as video and computer graphics.

From the summer of 1999 the evening services were held mainly at Coltness Memorial. Children join with adults for part of the evening service before going to their own activities, returning towards the end of the service. This has increased the attendance at the evening services from around 20 in 1992 to about 60 at present

Faith healing services started in 1996 conducted by Andrew McCance. These continued until 1999 when they were replaced by regular prayers for healing within the morning and evening services.

Choir practices resumed more than once! These were under Allison Boseman.

A new hall was built which resulted in the formation of Thursday Club, Badminton club, and (indirectly) walking group. (See separate entries.)


Morningside Church closed in October 1994

Rev Graham L Duffin, 1999 – 2001

The activities already running continued during the remainder of Graham's ministry and continue to this day.

In May 1999 a survey was carried out to establish the “Talents” of people in the congregation. This enabled people to be channelled into appropriate jobs within the church.

Outlook projects were carried out including the distribution of the “Good News” version of St Luke's Gospel to all pupils in Morningside and Newmains primary schools. It was also distributed with the Church magazine to members of the congregation.

April 2000 saw a change in the dates of communion to the 3rd Sunday in September, December, March and June. As there was also communion served on Easter Sunday, if this fell near the March communion it would replace it.

The Palm Sunday and Harvest services would now be joint services, alternating between Bonkle and Coltness Memorial church.

During this period the “Youth for Christ” group consisting of 4 members undertook youth activities during the 20 Summer months. This included local churches and Schools in the Bonkle, Newmains, Wishaw area.

Other youth and joint activities included a youth lunch, Safari Park visit, Sports evening, sports dinner, BBQ and speaker and quiz night.

In February 2001 the Church, Halls and gates were “B” listed by Historic Scotland.

Graham Duffin received a call from Loanhead Parish church and his final service took place on Sunday 17th June 2001 and the churches entered a period of vacancy.


Vacancy 2001 – 2004

The vacancy committee was duly appointed with members from Bonkle and Coltness Memorial Churches. Rev I Watson was appointed as interim moderator and K Simpson (Coltness Memorial) as chairperson of the Vacancy Committee. D Geddes was given overall responsibility during the vacancy with the assistance of K Simpson.

In Easter 2003 Rev I Watson resigned as Interim Moderator and was replaced by Rev P Johnston. K Simpson was replaced by Dr John Glen (Bonkle).

During this period there were many vacant charges and few ministers qualifying.

Adverts were placed in Life and Work and other church magazines. For the first time the World Wide Web was used to advertise the post via the Bonkle website. This resulted in 3 applications from abroad – America, South Africa and Canada (The South African applicant finally accepted a post in a Scottish church).

Rev J McAlpine supplied the major share of ministerial duties including pastoral duties (funerals etc.).

Rev J McAlpine, K Simpson, J Winning and later student ministers were active in pulpit supply.

The team already in operation under Rev G Duffin, led by Rev J McAlpine, (Jim Winning, Rev K Smith-Anderson, Irene Ferris, May Park, Ben McGinnie) remained active during the vacancy. They were assisted  by other members of the congregation who found hidden talents.

Due to the strength of these groups, the church continued in strength during the entire vacancy. A co-ordinating Management committee under Marion Donald with  K Simpson, E McAlpine and Glen Low was set up to supply overall control of this group.

From September 2002 evening services were held only in Coltness Memorial as Bonkle was considered unsuitable for the type of services proposed.

“Church Without Walls” was discussed at session in November 2003.

Jim Winning resigned in March 2003 as he was moving South.

D Geddes  left  in September 1997 to work with Lanarkshire Christian Union and Hamilton Presbytery - both development and training posts. He returned in 2001 as locum minister immediately after Graham Duffin left.


Graham Raeburn, M Th 2004 – Present

Graham Raeburn preached as sole nominee on 23 Nov. 2003.

The congregations were invited to sign the call on 23 and 30 November, 2003. He was inducted on 12 February 2004.

Rev J McAlpine’s assignment to Bonkle & Coltness church ended in March 2004  soon after Rev G Raeburn’s arrival.

From March 2004 the Morning Service was recorded on tape and distributed to persons unable to attend church. This still continues, CDs now being used.

Activities and new innovations, especially youth activities, tended to be centralised at Coltness Memorial Church due to its more central location.

Protection of Young People

In 2004, the government required that anyone working with young people should be vetted.

T Young was appointed in May 2004 to oversee the Protection of Young People legislation. Training courses for certification were arranged.

Health and Safety

Due to government legislation, a Health and Safety Committee formed – jointly with Coltness. A handbook was produced and training sessions were arranged. This was especially important because of the Daycare for the Elderly project at Bonkle and the Lunch Club at Coltness Memorial.

Other Activities

In February 2006. Mr H Inglis was given a present in appreciation of  50 years as our Church organist.

In June 2006 a Stewardship campaign and Family meal was held. The theme – The Church in Your Hands, (Working hands, helping hands, praying hands, In Your Hands, Lord) being the theme throughout the booklet.

K Simpson took part in the “Habitat for Humanity” (Chile) project which aims to build houses in Chile. In later years other members of the congregation, including G Raeburn, also took part in various parts of the world.

The Churches also  became involved in the Fair Trade scheme, the object being to provide a fair price to the producers of food products.

In  2007 D Shaw, Evangelist, started the  Men's Breakfast at Bonkle church. A breakfast was provided with a speaker afterwards.

In June 2008  Dr John Glen received a presentation for 50 years service as Elder.

The communion wine had been ordered through the local chemist but in November 2008 the warehouse stopped stocking it. As no local supply was now available it was agreed to use red grape juice.

In October 2009, Geocities was taken over by Yahoo and closed thus closing original website containing both churches. Bonkle Church material was moved to Bonkle village site at

M Donald contract finished on 31/7/05 but asked to stay on till July 2006.

K S Anderson was appointed Sept 2000 as Counsellor and finished on 30 Sept 2005.

Over these years activities run at Bonkle included BBQ, Quiz and Ceilidh and a Holiday Club over school holidays.

In February 2010 a Pamphlet - “Short History of Bonkle Church” was published.

Every home in Woodside was visited over a period of 5 months.

D. Shaw left us at the end June 2011 and Irene Ferris in September 2011.

D Geddes started as Evangelist September 2011.

A charity shop was opened in Newmains Manse Road.

A library of religious music and books set up.

In future, Summer services would be joint during July and August – July Bonkle August Coltness.


Long Service Certificates

To date, three presentations of Church of Scotland Long Service Certificates have taken place.

These certificates are awarded to persons who have served for at least 25 years as Sunday School teachers, or 30 years in other posts.

The first occasion was in January 1984 when presentations were made to Peter Wilson (Elder), Grace Wemyss and Isa Eadie (choir)

The second occasion was during the service on Sunday, 16th August, 1987, held in conjunction with the 250 year celebrations when certificates were presented to Jessie Brown, Ian Glen (Sunday school teachers), Charlotte Hobson (Choir), Harry Inglis (organist & choir), and Agnes Willis (clerk to board and magazine editor) by the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. Duncan Shaw

The third occasion was during the Centenary year on Sunday 21 May 2000 when certificates were presented to ten members of the congregation by Rev Graham Duffin as follows:-

Mrs Marion Allison, Miss Marion Allison, Mrs Edwina McAlpine, Miss Agnes Armit, Mrs Margaret Glen, Mrs Jean Russell (all Sunday School teachers).

Mrs Annice Pringle (choir), Mrs Ella Johnston (choir and other duties), Mrs Betty Darling (guild treasurer and other duties), Mr James Cranston (treasurer, Men's Club).

We would like to take this opportunity to thank these people for their long and devoted service to the activities of Bonkle Church and wish them every happiness in the years to come..


In this year of our 250th Anniversary one of our members, Mrs Elizabeth (Lizzie) Hamilton will celebrate 60 years of membership of Bonkle Church. She joined the church on 19th June, 1927.

At age 83 she was the longest serving member of our congregation and has been a member of the Woman's Guild for 46 years. She attended both Church and Guild regularly and was still a willing helper at Garden Fêtes and other church functions, a record of which to be proud. .

During the centenary year Mrs Sirrell, another long standing member, reached her one hundredth birthday and duly received her telegram from the Queen.


Scott Jubilee?

Congregation 250th anniversary

Congregation in 2000


Faithful Servants


Rev G Fraser

Early Distinctions

Rev A  Gillies

Rev David Horn

Rev William Scot

Rev James Winchester

Rev A Scott

Rev Robert S Hill

On to Bonkle

Rev George McMillan

Family Links

Rev Robert Campbell

Violent Incident

Churches Link

In Father’s Footsteps

Rev William Frame

Rev J H Scott

Rev Graham  Duffin

New Church Built

Long Service Certificates

Time For Change


Mary Slessor Visits

Rev Graham Raeburn