1973 was the centenary of the current building. To mark the occasion, a booklet was printed, which contained a history of the Methodist Church at Wallacestone, written by the minister at that time, Rev. Mervyn Russell, B.A., B.D.. His wife, Anna, drew this sketch of the building and it was used to decorate the cover of the booklet. The booklet itself was sold in aid of Church funds – price 15p.
When it was decided to publish a little pamphlet to commemorate the Centenary of the present church building, reference was made to a tape recording made by a previous minister of the Church, the Rev. William Davis, who had done some research of his own into the history of the development of Wallacestone Methodist Church. Sadly, the Rev. Davis died after only one year’s ministry but his wife had allowed the tape to be used. What follows, then, is based on the work of the Rev. Davis.
On February 11th, 1842, Alexander Patrick arrived in Wallacestone and took up temporary residence in the house where a certain Robert Waugh was also a lodger. Alexander Patrick was a Methodist Lay Preacher, although blind. Patrick came with a sense of having come with a special mission. He and a number of believers at Coatbridge had been praying for a door of usefulness to be open and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Robert Waugh had met and come under the influence of Alexander Patrick in Airdrie and had then removed to Wallacestone. Patrick took it as an answer to prayer when Waugh invited him to spend a few days in Wallacestone in order to reclaim to Christ some of Waugh’s fellow workmen. The new field of labour offered little in the way of encouragement. To anyone but Alexander Patrick, who was aflame with the gospel he proclaimed, evangelising Wallacestone would probably have appeared a hopeless task. He found the people to be, “A hardy, fearless race, living in a state of deplorable spiritual destitution”.
Wallacestone was in the midst of a mining district and the colliers of these days were, of necessity, tough men. They worked hard and they lived hard. Sunday was a day for recreation. The Wallacestone “Lions” were known over a wide area for the valliant character of their sport and the villagers appeared to be very stoney spiritual ground. Only one local woman was considered by the locals to be capable of conversing with the godly man. Alexander Patrick began his work by tackling the job that lay nearest at hand and so this lady and her husband, together with the people in the house where Patrick was staying, were his first converts. The news spread like wildfire.
Patrick was viewed by the locals with wonder and not a little superstitious awe – but an opening had been found. With his first converts around him, he began to preach to the people. After some more weeks, a schoolroom was found that served as a meeting place. The congregation began to grow and soon Wallacestone was at the centre of a Christian revival, as the people realised that every human being falls short of God’s perfection and the only way to reach out to the living God is to accept the sacrificial death and resurrection of God’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Patrick was anxious that this awakening should not spend itself when the surge of emotionalism or excitement had died down and so at this point he asked for the help of the Superintendent Minister in Glasgow. Six weeks after his arrival, 46 people were meeting for fellowship. The Wallacestone Methodist Society can be said to have been established on March 15th, 1842. On March 27th, the Reverend T. Williams of Glasgow visited the society and divided the congregation into two class meetings. At the next quarterly visitation, the Reverend John Symon gave “on trial” tickets to 70 persons and explained the rules of the society to those present. Having as yet no permanent building in which to meet, cottage meetings were held.
A Meeting Place
The favourite open air stand was around the stone memorial to Sir William Wallace, which stands at the top of Wallacestone Brae.
As the winter months drew on, however, the need for some permanent building to house the increasing congregation became apparent. The people were poor but they were zealous and, by the autumn of 1843, the first Wallacestone Wesleyan Methodist Church had been erected by the banks of a burn which runs at the bottom of the brae.
The devotion and loyalty of these early Methodists is striking. What they could not give in money, they made up for in hard labour. One example of this dedication was the women carrying stones in their aprons from the brae to the burn. It was a real labour of love.
The Growing Mission
The church was opened for worship by the Reverend Williams in the autumn of 1843. Appended is a list of those who acted as trustees for this first church. The 70 members soon became 150. Sunday School began with 110 scholars and 20 teachers. A library was opened and a system of tract distribution instituted, while 140 pupils were receiving daily instruction on the premises.
At the conference of 1845, the Glasgow Circuit was divided and an additional minister sent to the new rural division of which Wallacestone formed a part. This relieved Alexander Patrick somewhat and he felt justified in making an excursion to Dunbar and Edinburgh. He came back to Wallacestone in the autumn of 1847 and was pleased with the progress of the society, which was now visited every fortnight by the Reverend J.A. Paige. However, Patrick’s strength was failing and he died suddenly on March 23rd, 1848. This was a great blow to the society. His death, like his life, had been one of triumph and faith. His remains were conveyed to their last resting place in Polmont Churchyard on March 27th, 1848. Many tears of bitter sorrow were shed and the feeling of all was expressed when some said, “We have lost our father”. If Wallacestone Methodism had lost its father, the seeds of survival had been well and truly sown.
The growth and development of the society was a rapid one. The records show that in 1850, Wallacestone was part of the Airdrie Circuit, which at that time took in Airdrie, Kilsyth, Wallacestone, Kirkintilloch and Campsie. By 1863, Wallacestone had assumed the first place in the circuit and several of the surrounding places had societies meeting there. It could be assumed that at this point a minister lived at Wallacestone for, in 1863, a lease was filed for a minister’s house at Wallacestone. In 1869, we find reference for the first time to the Wallacestone Circuit. Other places in the circuit were: Kilsyth, Kirkintilloch, Grangemouth, Campsie, Falkirk and Denny. The circuit was again divided at the Conference of 1871 and the Wallacestone circuit comprised 4 societies: Wallacestone, Grangemouth, Falkirk and Denny.
At the same time as a lease was obtained from the Duke of Hamilton for some land to build a manse, negotiations were also taking place for a new church. Application was made for a bequest which had been left by a Mrs. Sutherland for this purpose. The amount received from this source was £285. Once again, we find examples of sacrificial giving and devoted service by the church members.
A sum of circa £100 was raised by subscriptions and the present church at Reddingmuirhead was built in 1873.
The Evolving Circuit
From time to time, other names appear on the Circuit Schedule, such as Bo’ness, California and, about 1886, Armadale and Slamannan joined forces with the Wallacestone Circuit. Although some of the smaller societies are now non-existent, we imagine that some of the members who were introduced to and cradled in Methodism in those places have broadcast their influence in other parts of the country. The progressive nature of Wallacestone Methodism all these years ago can be taken from the building schemes taken in hand. In 1888, the present schoolroom was built onto the church. Ten years later, in 1898, a wing was built on to the manse and, in 1912, plans were obtained for further alterations and extensions to the church, although these were never begun.
We find that the boom and depression of the coal industry have had their repercussions on Wallacestone Methodism. Men from time to time have been forced to seek employment in other districts. At the time this history was first recorded, most of the colliery property which once surrounded the church had been pulled down and the church, which a few short years before had been in the midst of an industrial district, was more or less isolated. However, more than 100 years of Methodism had left a mark on the district. Nowadays, the remainder of the Redding Colliery and Nobel’s explosive factory that once extended across the landscape to the South of the church have been completely demolished to allow new housing to be built on the land. Rev. Russell concludes his history in 1973 with words that echo across the years, “The church still stands sentinel, a living witness to a century of influence which has emanated from men and women who, through Wallacestone Methodism, have known the joy of sins forgiven and have lived out Methodist witness and, as long as one stone stands upon another, Wallacestone Methodist Church will hold the secret of the burning heart which transformed this neighbourhood a hundred years ago.”
Richard Allan; David Baxter; Robert Leckie; Colin Maxwell (senior); Robert Small; Alexander Small; Andrew Bennie; William McKenzie; Alexander McKenzie; Colin Maxwell (junior); Peter Maxwell; Thomas McLuckie; John Webster.
The Wallacestone Reformer : or, a Sketch of the Life and Labours of Mr. Alexander Patrick, Wesleyan Local Preacher, Containing Notices of the Revivals of religion at Kilsyth, Wallacestone and other Parts of Scotland. To which is added, a Sermon, preached on the Occasion of his Death, in Kirkintilloch, April 30th, 1848. By the Rev. John Drake pub. Kirkintilloch, W. McMillan; Glasgow. There is a copy in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow – or you can download it in two parts from this website