The present Church building dates from January 1803 when the Heritors decided it was time to replace the 300 year old low, thatched building with a modern stone structure, “Before winter”.
The work, carried out by local craftsmen, was completed at a cost of £1160 by 11th June 1804 except for the steeple which was not finished until 1809.
The 1804 building was originally a simple square structure with a gallery.
The entrance porch was added in 1817 and, according to local legend, cost as much as a house!
The buildings on the north wall, now housing the choir and session room, were added in 1904.
In 1906, thanks to some generous gifts from prominent members of the congregation, the chancel was added to the rear of the building to house the organ and choir stalls.
The organ was installed by well-known organ builders Norman & Beard and was originally driven by water power. It was first played on Sunday 18th March 1906 and has been in weekly use ever since.
Energetic fund-raising in 1979 allowed a major overhaul and left an organ fund which should ensure that the instrument continues to enhance our worship for many years to come.
A major feature of the chancel is the large and much admired stained-glass window which was dedicated to the Finnies of Newfield, prominent Heritors and strong supporters of the Church.
Featuring Henry Dearle’s “The Last Supper”, it was made exclusively for Dundonald Church by Morris & Co. of London. Examination of the windows allows the identification of Judas Iscariot.
The large, solid oak pulpit was presented by Miss Helena Finnie and the oak lectern by Miss Agnes Buchanan, a descendent of Rev. Thomas Walker.
Memorial tablets to the fallen of the two World Wars are displayed along the wall below the Chancel window and on the pulpit.
The stained glass window on the north wall of the gallery is in memory of James Thorneycroft of Hillhouse, a deputy Lord Lieutenant of the county.
Downstairs, on the south wall, there is a window in memory of Rev. James H. Gillespie who was instrumental in the design of the chancel. He was also the author of a notable history of the parish. Above the door into the Church a carved wooden cross is in memory of Rev. Archie Beaton who founded the Dundonald Boy Scouts and restarted the Boys Brigade. At the bottom of the cross are depicted two rocks, one on top of the other, the Scout woodcraft symbol for “I have gone home”.
At the time the Church was built the minister was Rev. Robert Duncan D.D., a well-liked man who features in the Robert Burns poem “The Twa Herds” as “Duncan Deep”. His Session clerk was the remarkable John Baillie, who was Clerk and Schoolmaster for 60 years.
During their time at the helm in Dundonald not only was there a new Church building but a new manse, the present day Glenfoot house which is slightly down hill from the Church and tucked in behind a wall, and a new school. This new school, now the Mongomerie Hall, was built in 1802, replacing an older building on the same site dating from 1694. The hall served as the school until 1896 when a new school was built at what was then the north end of the village. That school was replaced in 2000 by the present building which also houses the library.
Inside the Church, on the front of the lectern there is a list of the Dundonald ministers since the Reformation. The list is attached to this history. When the aforementioned Dr. Duncan died in 1815 the Heritors replaced him with 60 year old Dr. John McLeod but he was not a popular choice and the Dragoons had to be called out to restore law and order. It is said that only one Elder shook hands with him at his induction. These events are described in “Retrospect of an Artist’s Life by J. Kelso Hunter, a shoe maker and painter born at Gillhead by Dankeith. Two of Kelso Hunter’s paintings hand in the Church Session Room.
Outside the Church a significant feature is the village clock installed in the steeple. The clock is dated 1841 and was built by Breckenridge of Kilmarnock. It was given a major facelift in 1976 thanks to funds collected by the whole community and during this work an earlier set of faces was revealed below the black wooden ones. Most of the restoration work was carried out by the late John Chalmers, who painstakingly cut the numerals from gold leaf in the traditional way.
The kirkyard has an air of tranquillity about it and some of the inscriptions make interesting reading. It is believed that the first Earl of Dundonald is buried beneath the Church itself and the man who built the Church, James Hodge, is buried near the south east corner of the Church. Also interred here are Margaret Wilson, authoress of the song “My Ain Wee Hoose”, members of the Allan family who founded the Allan Shipping Line, and Matthew Hay, a well known smuggler hanged for murder at the end of the 18th. century. The Hay headstone has long since disappeared.
Dundonald Church possesses one of the most complete sets of Session Minutes in the West of Scotland. They start in 1602 and continue to the present day with breaks of only about 70 years. The earliest minutes were printed and published for limited distribution by the Marquis of Bute in the 1930’s. These minutes give an excellent insight in to the social life of the area in the 17th. Century and a copy can be viewed in the local library. There are also many pages on the Scran website.
In the mid 1800s the Church of Scotland ran in to trouble over interference in the selection and nomination of ministers. Under a system known as Patronage, it was possible for wealthy men and land owners to nominate and present ministers to congregations, whether these ministers were bible-believing Christians or not. This interference did not suit many of the staunch believers and so the “Disruption” split the Church with a new Church organisation, the Free Church of Scotland, being formed as a result. Our present church hall, the St. Andrew’s building, built just after the Disruption in 1843, housed that congregation in Dundonald. Our present church,the original Church of Scotland, was called St Giles. They united to form one congregation in 1942, at which time the Church was simply called Dundonald Parish Church.
Our present Church manse is to the right of the main Church building and backs on to the Glebe, a parcel of land traditionally provided to ministers to raise an additional income by farming, raising cattle or, as it is today, by renting it out to others. This is thesecond manse, the first being Glenfoot House behind the Montgonerie Hall.
Access to the Church
Entry to the Church building can be arranged by contacting the Minister or the Session Clerk at the following telephone numbers.
Minister: 01563 850243
Session Clerk: 01563 850781
Clerk to the Congregational Board 01563850702 or by email via this site’s “Contact” page.
Alternatively, the Church is open for worship every Sunday from 11 am to 12 and visitors are welcome.