History of St John’s & Dairsie

History to 1929

The disruption took place in 1843, when 450 ministers of the Church of Scotland formed the Free Church of Scotland. Among those who left was the Rev.Adam Cairns who with those who joined him set up and built the new Cupar Free Church in South Union Street at the estimated cost of £1000 and by 1849 a Manse was also completed and paid for.

In 1853, Mr.Cairns received a call from Melbourne and he left for Australia., but his work was continued under the Rev.John Laird. It was so successful that a new and bigger church was built in the Bonnygate and opened in 1878 -that is the present St.John’s.

The building took two years to complete and including the site cost £10,108. This cost was met largely by a bequest from Sir David Baxter of £7,500 and the proceeds of the first church. The new St John’s set back from the street on the highest part of the site, has a spire of 150 feet high above the floor of the church and tends to overshadow the former United Presbyterian Church (now Cupar Baptist Church) built 10 years previously.

The architects were Campbell Douglas and Sellars from Glasgow. Almost immediately due to the success of the church, a hall was added, designed and supervised by a Dundee firm of architects.

The new church was opened on 28 November 1878. Among those present was the Rev. Adam Cairns, who had travelled from Australia for the occasion.

The congregation had leave from the General Assembly to appoint a colleague for Mr Laird, the Rev. James Ferguson, who succeeded Mr Laird when he died in April 1896 at the age of 85, in the 62nd year of his ministry. Mr Ferguson continued until 1904, when he was called to a charge in Canada. It was during his ministry that a pipe organ and a more efficient heating system were installed.

Mr Ferguson’s successor was Rev. Stuart Crabbe and when he died in 1924, he was succeeded by  Rev. Donald Baillie, who became, perhaps as far as the national Church is concerned, the most famous of all the St John’s ministers. In 1928, the 50th anniversary of the church was celebrated by the building of the Jubilee Room.

History after 1929

In 1929 an important event was the union of the Church of Scotland with the United Free Church and the congregation became Cupar St John’s Church of Scotland.

In 1930, Rev Donald Baillie answered a call to Kilmacolm and later returned to Fife as a professor at St Andrews University and also became Moderator of the General Assembly. He is the author of “God was in Christ” as well as other works. His successor was the Rev W Souter who moved to St Andrew’s Church, Falkirk in 1940.

Rev John McPhail succeeded him and was here during the war years. He moved to Glasgow in 1948 and was followed by the Rev. Ronald Neill.

Rev Dr J K Porteous succeeded him in 1956 and served the congregation for 41 years, retiring in March 1987.  In 1978, he presided over the many celebrations connected with the centenary of the opening of the church for public worship. He had seen a number of changes in the church buildings and fabric, including new furniture in the chancel, the rebuilding of the organ in 1983, a new kitchen and other improvements. In  1996, he dedicated the Celtic Cross which is mounted in the entrance vestibule. It was designed by Dai and Jenny Vaughan, cousins of Miss Isobel Liddle who presented it in memory of her parents.

In November 1997, the congregation welcomed Rev John Hegarty as the new minister. To meet the requirements of the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland, a new manse was built on the South side of the town ready for occupation in December 1997. Generous gifts from members of the congregation, the General Trustees and a number of grant awarding bodies covered the costs before completion. In March 2002, Mr Hegarty moved to Buckie South and West linked with Enzie, and has since retired to Kinross.

On 4 December 2002, Rev Sheila Blount was inducted as minister. She was ordained in Springburn Parish Church in 1978, and came to Cupar following 12 years of ministry in Falkirk Old and St Modan’s, where she job shared for 8 of those years with her husband Graham, who is currently The Scottish Churches Parliamentary Officer. Graham did part of his training for ministry with Rev JK Porteous in the 1970’s. (In fact, Sheila and Graham began married life in Cupar in 1974 while studying for the ministry in St Andrews).

In 2005, St John’s Parish Church was linked with Dairsie Parish Church, with a view to Union by June 2008. Both Kirk Sessions and Congregational Boards worked together to draw up a new Unitary Constitution which was implemented from January 2006. The new constitution sees the Kirk Session delegating many powers to the Session Teams, which has enabled more non elders to become involved in the life of the Church.

After the retirement of Rev Blount, Rev Jan Steyn was called as minister and inducted in Dec 2011.

History – Dairsie Church Buildings

St Mary’s Building at Dairsie Bridge

Earliest mention of the Church of Dairsie is in the Charter of Arnold who was Bishop of St Andrews 1159-1163. At that time the Church in Scotland was Roman Catholic.

In 1243, Davis de Bernham, Bishop of St Andrews, rededicated the Church of Dairsie to the Virgin Mary. (St Mary’s)

In 1567 Peter Ramsay who was then in charge of Dairsie went over to the Reformers and took the Church and congregation with him and he became the first protestant minister of the Parish.

The present building was rebuilt on the site in 1621 by John Spottiswoode, Archbishop of St Andrews who owned the estate and resided in the Castle of Dairsie. He constructed a burial vault for himself but died in London and was buried instead in Westminster Abbey. At least two hundred years later, the stone covering the vault (on the east floor of the church) was moved to the entrance door of the church and is known as the “stinkstone” from the fact that when it is rubbed it gives off a strong sulphurous smell.

The Church bell was recast in 1734 as the gift of the Earl of Elgin. Originally the Church had a flat roof but it began to give way and was restyled “in the modern fashion” in the early 19th century. The pews and pulpit were part of an interior refurbishment in 1905. St Mary’s Church united with St Leonard’s United Free Church (in Dairsie village) in 1928, becoming Dairsie Parish Church. The St Mary’s building was used in the summer and St Leonard’s in the winter.

In 1966, it was decided that the Church in Dairsie village (formerly St Leonard’s) should be used permanently and it was refurbished with pulpit, pews and choir stalls transferred from St Mary’s. The St Mary’s bell is also in the chancel area at the front and a recording of it is played each Sunday.

Dairsie Church was united again in 2009 and became Cupar St John’s and Dairsie United Parish Church, and the former St Mary’s building is no longer owned by the Church.

Dairsie Parish Church, Main St, Dairsie

This church was built in 1843, the year of the Disruption, and restored in 1877.    It was originally St Leonard’s Free Church until, in 1900, when the majority of Free Churches joined with the United Presbyterians, it became St Leonard’s United Free Church.

In 1928, a year before the official union of the former Church of Scotland and the United Free Church, the two congregations in Dairsie, i.e. St Mary’s at Dairsie Bridge and St Leonard’s, united voluntarily under the Rev. G. Webster, minister of .St Mary’s.     St Mary’s was used in the summer months and this church in winter.

In 1966 it was decided that only this church should be used, thus avoiding the heavy financial burden of maintaining two buildings.    The interior was completely renovated, much of the work being done on a voluntary basis.    The fine pulpit, pews and choir stalls were transferred from St Mary’s. The renovation took five months and cost £3,110. The beautiful cross on the wall behind the communion table was made by a former member from the last telegraph pole in Dairsie. The bell, which was gifted to St Mary’s by the Earl of Elgin in 1754 was recently restored and now sits in front of the pulpit.  Its recorded peal now summons worshippers every Sunday.

Dairsie Church later became part of a triple linking with Kemback and Strathkinness. When the Rev. Alexander Strickland, minister since 1981, retired, it then became linked with St John’s Parish Church in Cupar.  These two churches formed a union in 2009 now known as Cupar St John’s and Dairsie United Parish Church with minister, Rev Sheila Blount.