Copyright © St Peter’s Episcopal Church 2015- 2019. All Rights Reserved.
Townsend Place, Kirkcaldy, Fife KY1 1HB
Tel: 01592 204208
A BRIEF HISTORY of St Peter's by Richard Fawcett
Before looking at the history of any Episcopalian parish, it is probably a good idea to consider briefly the history of Episcopalianism in Scotland since the Reformation of 1560. For many people our Church is thought of simply as a Scottish branch of the Church of England. However, although we are now certainly in close communion with the Anglican Churches, our own Church has a very different history from that south of the Border, and it would be wrong to lose sight of this. The first thing of which we must remind ourselves is that our Church takes its name from the fact that, like the Church in the Early Christian and Medieval periods, it is governed by bishops ('episcopos' is a Greek word meaning overseer). Several of the leaders of the Scottish Reformation had wished to replace bishops by superintendents, who it was intended would have less power than bishops. In the event this proved to be only partly possible, and by 1572 it had to be agreed that ministers of the reformed church could become bishops. However, more radical change was in the air and, under the influence of Andrew Melville, in 1581 it was decided that a system of Church government by means of Presbyteries should be introduced. In this we see the tentative beginnings of the organisation of the Church of Scotland as we now know it, though the situation was to see-saw backwards and forwards over many years to come. Bishops were re-introduced in 1584, for example, while presbyteries were in turn re-established in 1592. King James VI was particularly anxious to encourage the continued rule of the bishops since he saw in them an extension of his own authority. He became even more convinced of the need for bishops after he became king of England in 1603 and, in order to ensure that the episcopal succession had not been broken, in 1610 three Scottish bishops were sent down to England to be consecrated by their English fellows. Despite this, James was keen not to offend his Scottish subjects unnecessarily, and a slightly uneasy compromise in which both bishops and presbyteries operated side-by-side within the Church emerged. Unfortunately, his son Charles I - who did not really know Scotland - was to be very much less tactful. With the support of Archbishop William Laud of Canterbury he tried to make the Scottish Church more like that in England. At his Scottish coronation in Holyrood Abbey Church in 1633 he employed elaborate English rituals, and in 1637 he attempted to force the Scottish Church to use a prayer book that was regarded as being too much like that used in England. This was felt to be particularly objectionable because by this stage, whether the Scottish Church was ruled bishops, by presbyteries or by both, the form of its services and the lack of ritual was very different from what was found in England. King Charles's high-handed behaviour led to the signing of the National Covenant and the beginning of a revolt that developed into the Civil War. In 1638 the General Assembly held at Glasgow abolished the rule of bishops and reintroduced Presbyterianism. However, the situation changed again in 1660, when Charles II was firmly re-established on the thrones of the two kingdoms. In 1661 he again rejected presbyterianism and re-introduced bishops, and this remained the situation until the Revolution of 1688-9 which ousted his brother and successor, James VII and II. When William and Mary replaced James on the throne it is likely that they would have preferred to see an episcopal system continued, as it was to be in England. However, Bishop Rose of Edinburgh, with an astonishing lack of tact, told the new king that his fellow Scottish bishops would only be able to give their support to him 'so far as law, reason or conscience shall allow', and in 1689 not unnaturally James decided to restore presbyterianism and to remove bishops finally from the established church. From this time onwards Episcopalianism entered a long twilight existence, with no part to play in the national Church and the network of parish churches. The majority of the clergy who chose to continue accepting the authority of the bishops and to follow their old forms of worship were hounded from their parishes, and they and their families often suffered the greatest hardship. In Kirkcaldy the last Episcopalian minister, Mr Lewis Gordon, was deprived of his charge at the parish church on 2 September on the orders of the Privy Council. He was replaced by the Presbyterian Robert Rule, who had himself been earlier deprived when Episcopalianism was re- introduced in 1661. Some attempts were made to ease the situation, as in 1712 when an Act of Parliament said that those Episcopalian clergy who swore allegiance to the crown could continue to worship as they wished, though they could not - of course - use their old parish churches to do this. But this led to a bitter division within the Church between the jurors (those who swore allegiance) and the non-jurors (those who refused to swear allegiance). The situation deteriorated dramatically for those who still practised Episcopalianism a few years later. In 1715 the non-juring Episcopal clergy were closely associated with a rising which attempted to place the son of the deposed James VII and II on the throne, despite the fact that he was a Roman Catholic. The Episcopal Church was also closely associated with the rising of 1745, which was led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). Perhaps inevitably, Episcopalians were now viewed with the gravest suspicion, and membership of the church declined dramatically. Under the terms of an Act of 1719 the only congregations who could 'qualify' for public worship were those who agreed to pray for the Hanoverian dynasty and to repudiate the authority of the Scottish bishops. There was thus now a basic division between 'qualifying' congregations, who were allowed to worship relatively freely, and 'non-juring' congregations, who were not allowed to gather in groups of more than five at a time. This was a bad time for the Episcopal Church, though there were still glorious moments, as when the Scottish bishops in 1783 consecrated Samuel Seabury, the first bishop of the new American republic. Fortunately, better times were to return for the Episcopal Church as a whole before the end of the century. The death of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1788 removed the principal focus of dissent, and in the same year a synod at Aberdeen agreed that prayers should be offered for George III. Four years later the repressive laws were repealed for those clergy who subscribed to the Oath of Allegiance and accepted the thirty nine articles of the Church of England. Nevertheless, it was not to be until 1864 that the last of the restrictions on the Scottish Episcopal Church were removed, though as early as 1811 a General Synod established the framework along which the Church was to develop. With the progressive removal of restrictions, the nineteenth century witnessed a dramatic expansion of the Episcopal Church though, perhaps inevitably, it was to become increasingly Anglican in character. As one indicator of growth, in the twenty years between 1838 and 1858 the number of churches increased from 73 to 150, and by 1900 there were perhaps 116,000 members across Scotland. Our newly revitalised Church was particularly remarkable for its activity in missionary and social work. In our own egalitarian days, however, it may seem less attractive to many that a particularly important source of new members was the sons of the gentry, who were increasingly being sent to English public schools, and who were attracted to the form of services in which they took part there. As a result, for some the Church came to be particularly identified with the land-owning classes. Our own diocese was to play a significant part in the growth of the Church. It began to take on its present shape when the old dioceses of Dunblane and Dunkeld were united in 1811, and St Andrews was added to them in 1837; it was in the latter year that Fife was transferred to the diocese, having earlier been part of that of Edinburgh. Work on the first part of the new cathedral for the united dioceses began at Perth in 1849, and it should be remembered that it was the first new cathedral to be started anywhere in Britain since St Paul's in London. But Kirkcaldy itself has also played a long and distinguished role in the history of the Episcopal Church; we have a continuous succession of clergy since 1811, suggesting there must have been a growing body of Episcopalians in Kirkcaldy for some years before then.
The progressive relaxation of the laws against Episcopalian worship allowed those who had adhered to the old ways to practise their faith openly again, though it must have taken many years of painful work to build up viable congregations. Some - though very few - congregations can claim an almost unbroken succession. But in most places it was in the course of the nineteenth century that clergy began to be appointed to meet the spiritual needs of local groups, and Kirkcaldy is certainly among the earliest of those. Unfortunately the church's records of before 1839 were destroyed in a fire, so we do not know the circumstances under which our first rector, the Rev. Thomas Scot, was appointed in 1811. It is thought he may have been of American origin. (It should perhaps be said here that, although for the sake of convenience the incumbents of St Peter's will be referred to in this booklet as rectors, it was only in 1890 that it was decided they should always be known as such.
By 1812 we know that an Episcopalian congregation had come into existence under Mr Scot's leadership, and on 15 December of that year land was bought near the head of Coal Wynd. By 1813 enough had been subscribed for a church to be built, at a cost of about £600. It was a small harled box of a building, with a window on each side of a central doorway. It could seat a congregation of 122. The services were accompanied by a rather temperamental barrel organ with a repertoire of twenty hymn tunes and ten canticles or other pieces. The organ survived long enough to be removed to the later church, but was converted into a more orthodox instrument.
From its earliest days the congregation was attracting many of the landed families. The Oswalds of Dunnikier were to be particularly keen supporters, and gave the timber that was needed for the first building. One of the first recorded baptisms was a son of the earl of Elgin. Mr Scot moved to Haddington after resigning his charge at Kirkcaldy in 1815. He was followed by the Rev. James Walker, under whom the congregation continued to expand. Then as now, however, shortage of funds seem to have been a perennial problem, and at one stage it was suggested his stipend should be reduced, in response to which he threatened to stop preaching at the afternoon service by way of exchange! Mr Walker became very infirm towards the end of his incumbency, and the Rev. John Marshall was appointed as his assistant and successor in 1831. Mr Walker did not die until 1835, however, and for some time continued to receive a higher allowance from the parish's income than his successor.
Evidence of growth of numbers in the congregation is provided by additions that were made to the church in 1833. These consisted of a gallery, staircase and porch, which cost about £120, with decorations costing £30. Contributions towards this were made by the families of Oswald of Dunnikier, Ferguson of Raith, Wemyss of Wemyss and the future countess of Rosslyn, though Mr Marshall was still left personally paying interest on a loan for part of the cost.
Regrettably, after some years Mr Marshall fell out badly with his vestry, and it seems that the life of the parish as a whole suffered in consequence. The vestry cited as one of his misdemeanours that he went to the theatre on a Sunday despite having closed the church due to illness. There may even have been suspicions of mental instability. Eventually, in 1837, he temporarily resigned the living, and in 1838 the bishop inhibited him from preaching in the diocese. The Rev. Samuel Hood was appointed in his place, probably with hopes of the appointment being made permanent, but Mr Hood seems to have left in 1838 at a time when Mr Marshall briefly re-appeared on the scene. After what was certainly an extremely uncomfortable period for all concerned, in 1840 a new priest was appointed, the Rev. Norman Johnston. During the long incumbency of this gentle Irish man, who had earlier been a curate at Dundalk, our congregation enjoyed what was probably one of its most fruitful half centuries.
It is a sign of the extent to which the Episcopalian church was beginning to meet a real need in Scotland that, as soon as peace once again settled on the congregation, it underwent a remarkable expansion. One result of this was that the existing church was no longer big enough. After considering if modifications could provide enough additional seating - always the first hope of any vestry! - it was eventually decided that there was no alternative to building a new church on a larger site. On 15 March 1843 Mr Johnston was asked to advertise for plans for this new church, on a site on Townsend Place that belonged to Mr Oswald, and this was the beginning of our church's connection with its present site. The plans that had been submitted were considered on 7 April, and it was agreed that those of John Baird, a prominent Glasgow architect, should be accepted.
The foundation stone was laid on 19 July, the same day on which foundations stones were also laid of the new extension pier at the harbour and of the new Academy at Loan Wells. All of this was combined in a single extended event accompanied with full masonic and civic ceremonial, on a scale that can have had few equals in Kirkcaldy's history. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that the rector himself was a keen freemason.) The procession started at the Town House, which was where Marks and Spencer now stands, and moved off down High Street to the harbour. It then returned to Whyte's Causeway and the Academy before going on to Townsend Place and the site of the new church. Having reached the site of the church 'The stone was lowered to the beautiful air of the Evening Hymn, and having been laid with Masonic rites - with corn, wine, and oil, as in the preceding instances - the Grand Master proceeded to make the remarks which the occasion required, and concluded by trusting that the Great Architect of the universe would vouchsafe a blessing on their labours.' All of this, with a liberal interspersal of speeches, took about three hours, and was followed by no less than four public dinners in various parts of the town. The Episcopalian party apparently spent the evening at the hospitable house of Bailie Walker in Pathhead.
The total cost of the new church was about £1,500, with nearly half of that sum being subscribed by local landowners. Among the principal contractors were the mason Thomas Spears of Linktown, the wrights Hunter and Sons, and the heating engineer George Haden of Edinburgh. The work of construction was completed in 1844, and the church was opened for worship at a service conducted by Bishop Terrot of Edinburgh. It is said that the bishop found he had forgotten his sermon notes, though it seems this did not prevent him delivering a powerful and eloquent address. The church was apparently eventually formally consecrated in 1852.
The new church was a handsome stone-built structure in the English Gothic style of the early thirteenth century. At its centre was a deeply-projecting porch and vestibule which rose to the same height as the main body of the church. Above the doorway was a circular window, lighting a loft above the vestibule. Flanking the porch on its left-hand side was a polygonal stair turret capped by a tall octagonal bellcote. The church itself extended symmetrically behind the porch, with a pair of tall lancet windows on each side. The altar was originally at the centre of the long side of the church, facing the entrance, with the font in front of it. At this time, of course, although the Episcopalian Church was doctrinally 'high' there was still little ritual associated with its services, and there was no need for the altar to be at the far end of an extended axis as was usual in England. There was seating accommodation for a congregation of three hundred.
Fund-raising was a prominent feature of nineteenth century church life, and was entered into with an enthusiasm that would put many modern congregations to shame! One of the grandest of St Peter's earlier fairs was held on 29 July 1853. It was even commemorated by a poem published in the 'Fifeshire Advertiser', which particularly extolled the merits of the lady helpers: What crushing and squeezing, their money to spend At the stalls where so many fair ladies attend: From John o'Groats, even to Land's End, With airs so enchanting and charming a grace, And smiles so bewitching enwreathing each face.
The magnificent sum of £270 was raised, no doubt largely as a result of the bewitching smiles of the ladies. One suspects that sometimes these fairs or bazaars might be slightly intimidating events. At one held in 1870 the stalls were presided over by the local great ladies, including the countesses of Rothes and Rosslyn, and it would probably have been a brave person who dared not to buy. It is perhaps hardly surprising that this latter event raised nearly £300.
The next great project facing the congregation was to provide an appropriate rectory. At this time the rector lived at 43 East Quality Street in Dysart, but in 1856 it was rightly decided this was too inconvenient. By the following year enough money had been collected for the new rectory to be built, on land immediately to the north of the church, at the very considerable cost for that time of £1,200. The house was a substantial gabled building on the south side of what eventually became West Albert Road. It was subsequently absorbed into Anthony's Hotel, but with the failure of that hotel it has been demolished to make way for a residential home for the elderly.
As the nineteenth century progresses we see how the new church was being constantly modified to meet changing tastes and requirements. A stained glass window to the memory of Euphemia Bailey was installed in 1875, the first of four such windows about which we know anything. It was produced to the designs of the Edinburgh stained glass makers Ballantine and Son, though photographs suggest it was something less than great art.
However, yet greater enterprises were soon to be undertaken. At this time the Episcopalian Church was tending to draw ever closer to the Church of England in its usages, and in 1863, for example, it was ruled by the General Synod that all new congregations should use the English rather than the Scottish Prayer Book. In view of such changing attitudes the layout of St Peter's, with the altar at the centre of one of the long sides of the building, must have seemed distinctly inappropriate. In 1876, at a time when the wish for greater liturgical decorum was at its height, it was decided that a chancel should be added to the east end of the building, with the pews re-aligned to face towards it. The new work is said by one source to have been designed by Dr (later Sir) Robert Rowand Anderson, one of the greatest architects of his generation, who did a great deal of work for the Episcopalian Church and who had also designed the West School in Kirkcaldy in 1874. The construction was carried out by W. Little and Son of Kirkcaldy, at a contract price of £450.15s.6d., though the total cost of the operation reached nearly £600. The new work was consecrated by Bishop Charles Wordsworth on 18 November 1876.
Mr Johnston was clearly a highly active minister over his fifty years incumbency, and it is pleasing to note that after forty years in Kirkcaldy he was chosen as Dean of the diocese. He eventually died in the rectory at the age of 86 in 1890. He was succeeded by the Rev. James Walker, who was senior curate of St Paul's Church in Edinburgh. As a sign of the continuing Anglicanisation of the Episcopalian Church, it was during Mr Walker's incumbency that a choir robed in surplices was first brought together. This was also the period when clergy of 'higher' inclinations were increasingly stressing that the Communion service was the most appropriate form of parish worship, and in September 1893 Mr Walker formed a Communicants' Guild in order to encourage an appropriately reverent attitude to taking part in the Eucharist.
Continuing the progressive improvement of the quality of furnishings in the church, at Christmas 1893 the splendid brass eagle lectern which still graces our church was dedicated. It was given to commemorate one of St Peter's greatest benefactors, Major J.T. Oswald of Dunnikier. In the following year a Sunday School was proposed, although special children's services were already being held. It was realised, however, that if this were to be accomplished effectively there was a need for a church hall, and thus one of St Peter's next targets was identified, with the suggestion that it should be a memorial to Major Oswald.
There was a remarkable sustained growth of Episcopalianism in Kirkcaldy in the later ninteenth century, but it was becoming ever more clear that something had to be done to accommodate would-be members of the Church living in the outlying parts of the parish. In the time of Dean Johnston there were services in the Pathhead area to meet this need, and from 13 May 1882 these were held for a while in what was known as Back Street Hall with a Mr Honeyman as Lay Reader, though it seems they were later allowed to lapse. It was Mr Harper who saw the need for purpose-built mission churches, urging the case for them in a sermon he preached at the service which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the laying of the new church's foundation stone.
As a first step to meet the needs of the Pathhead area, in 1894 Mr (later Sir) Michael Nairn granted the use of the lower storey of Philp's School. In the following year a trained assistant, Mr Clifton of the Lichfield Brotherhood, was appointed to serve the mission. Within a remarkably short space of time funds were found to construct a permanent church, which was dedicated to St Michael, and the foundation stone was laid on 21 September 1897. It was built on land given by Mr John Oswald, and the architect was Mr A Frazer - though it seems the real designer was the rector. It must be admitted that St Michael's was probably not an especially attractive building, and the description of it internally 'as severe in appearance, though substantial' is probably accurate. Nevertheless, it came to have what has been described as a 'homely' feeling inside, and it is very fondly remembered by many of those who formed part of its regular congregation. It was a brick rectangle of four buttressed bays, with a rounded apse for the high altar that could be closed off when necessary. Perhaps its most surprising feature was an adjustable floor, which could be either flat or sloping. It eventually passed out of use in the early 1960s, in the later years of Mr MacCallum, and was subsequently demolished.
Mr Harper was not content with just one mission, however, and on 29 September 1895 he opened a second in the Linktown area, in a pair of rooms on Pratt Street. After some months Mr Marsh of the Wolverhampton Brotherhood was appointed to supervise the work. A permanent church to serve the mission, dedicated to St Columba, was eventually completed in 1906, and was dedicated on 22 September of that year. It was a loosely-grouped building with a half-timbered gable and a porch capped by a low tower with a domical roof. It was largely paid for by funds raised through a sale of work of heroic proportions held in August 1906. It had a shorter life than St Michael's, being sold to the Catholic Church in 1946, in the time of Canon Dobson. It then passed through a variety of uses; following its recent conversion into flats, it still stands in modified form, close to Raith Rovers' football ground.
Mr Harper moved to St Margaret's at Leven in December 1899, after achieving a very great deal for St Peter's. His successor, the Rev. Charles Gardyne, who had earlier been in charge of the church at Insch in Aberdeenshire, was instituted on 4 March 1900. Soon after his arrival a church hall - of timber and corrugated iron - was at last achieved; it cost about £200, three quarters of which was given by Mrs Oswald. (It was later extended by the addition of a kitchen in 1912, and there were further extensions to it in 1940.) Among the many other achievements of his six- year ministry, Mr Gardyne also revived the Communicants Guild which had been started by his predecessor.
In 1906, before the completion of St Columba's, Mr Gardyne moved on to St John's church at Forfar. He was followed at St Peter's by the Rev. H.J.T. Waring, who had earlier been a curate at the church of St Ninian in Glasgow. During his incumbency a number of improvements were carried out to the interior of St Peter's. These included the installation of a set of oak choir stalls, which were acquired from the church of St James in Leith, the stalls then in St Peter's being handed down to St Michael's. Mr Waring was apparently a particularly accomplished musician, and in 1909 he proposed that St Peter's should start saving for a new organ. Later that year one was commissioned from the organ builders Norman and Beard, at a cost of £435. After its installation it was generally accepted as being the finest instrument of its kind in Kirkcaldy. The old organ, like the choir stalls, was passed on to St Michael's. In 1913 a new oak reredos was provided for the altar, in memory of a son of a Mr and Mrs Pye, who had died at school. It was designed in a subdued Gothic style, with three arches below gablets, and it still survives in store in the loft above the hall.
Mr Waring moved on to St Mary's at Broughty Ferry in 1913, and his place was taken by the Rev. John Smith Begg. By 1914 certain signs that all was not well with the structure of the church began to manifest themselves more persistently. It seems that the added chancel was beginning to sink and was pulling the original building down with it. There was also evidence that the main roof was in danger of collapse. Attempts had already been made in about 1908 to meet the emerging problem by inserting a tie bar across the chancel arch, and angles irons had been inserted to support the roof, but these were proving to be ineffective. Mr Begg argued that the church should be pulled down and another one built, but could find no supporters, and instead an expensive operation of underpinning was carried out.
Thoughts were soon to be directed elsewhere with the outbreak of the Great War. The introduction of 'lighting restrictions', for example, meant that in 1916 evensong was moved to 3 o'clock. Unfortunately few people seem to have been prepared to turn out at that time, and the eventual solution was to install blinds in the church. Mr Begg left Kirkcaldy in 1918, doubtlessly with few regrets at leaving the structural problems of the church behind him.
The rectory was also beginning to create problems, and there was the usual difficulty of there being no money to meet the necessary costs. After biting the bullet and borrowing money to pay for the work, mammoth efforts were made to set up an Endowment Fund that would be the envy of our present vestry. In 1919 a new rector came to St Peter's, the Rev. Arthur Inglis. One of his first problems was to make good the neglect to the church building that had been a necessary result of war-time restrictions. In 1921 the whole building was cleaned and painted, and electricity was installed in both the church and hall. The rectory continued to be a problem, and more work had to be carried out before the next rector, the Rev. P.M. Buchanan could take up residence in 1927. Electricity was then at last installed in it, and many other works were carried out, mostly with the profits from a sale of work which raised £206.
Much of the more recent history associated with the church built in 1844 is within the living memory of many of the present members of the congregation; it would therefore be presumptuous of a relative newcomer to try to say much about a period of which others know so much more. Nevertheless, a number of changes or events must be mentioned for the sake of completeness. By 1939 the finely carved crucifix which was to be transferred to our present church had been provided, and memory suggests it was a work of a member of the family of the architect Sir Robert Lorimer. A little later there was a major re-ordering within the church. The pews were brought back further from the choir stalls in order to create a more seemly chancel area, and a children's corner was formed in the vestibule area. At the same time hangings were placed behind the altar; one reason given for this was the need to block the east window as part of the war-time blackout, though such hangings were also thought to be a particularly seemly backdrop to an altar at this period.
Much of this work was carried out for the Rev. Denis Taylor, who was probably one of the 'highest' of our rectors, and who is particularly remembered for introducing the use of incense. Around this same time the continuing threat of the collapsing roof necessitated further structural repairs, followed by re-decoration. But a remarkable feature of the congregation at this and other periods is their resilience: no sooner had they tackled one problem than they were planning further improvements, including new vestries and a side chapel.
Something that all long-standing members of the congregation remember fondly is the extraordinarily active social life which was centred on the church, at a time when there were probably relatively few other resources for entertainment. One gets the impression that the hall must have been in constant use, and all of this greatly helped the sense of community. However, the bounds of propriety could be overstepped, and at one sale of work the curate daringly introduced the idea of the entrance charge to a sale of work should be determined by the measurement of the ladies' waists - the charge being a penny for every inch. The idea was apparently not an unqualified success!
A rector remembered as a particularly active organiser of social events and amateur dramatics was the Rev. Noel Lyth, though he was apparently prone to let his tongue run away with him, which did not always endear him to his ecclesiastical superiors! During the Second World War members of the congregation undertook to entertain members of the forces stationed nearby, and evidently earned much gratitude in doing so. From the period after the war the church archives include fascinating photographs of concerts and plays. The Rev Ronnie Halls apparently provided a particularly striking spectacle at one show when he dressed as the Prince of Darkness in black tights and a red-lined cloak. His leap across a stage built over the choir stalls was a seven-day wonder. In 1954 there was even a parish holiday in Cornwall during the incumbency of the Rev. A. Bruce Morton.
By this period the old rectory was becoming an excessive burden for the parish and it was sold in about 1955. In its place the flat above the early nineteenth century bank building at 11 Townsend Place was acquired. This did not prove to be a wise move, since the new rectory was too small, and expensive structural problems soon manifested themselves. By September 1962 the rector, the Rev. Hugh McCallum was urging that an alternative should be found, apparently after an outbreak of dry rot. It was decided that nothing should then be done, and it was only in 1988 that another house was eventually purchased, in the time of our present rector, Canon Ron Leigh.
The problems of the rectory were soon to seem as nothing by comparison with the structural instability of the church. As has been seen, there had been major problems on a number of occasions, and one rector had already suggested that the best course of action was for the church to be replaced. But it was during the incumbency of the Rev. David Rimmer that matters came to a head. Investigations in 1972 showed that the walls were continuing to move perceptibly; in addition there was evidence that the site was undermined by the workings of the old Dunnikier Pit, and it was becoming clear that the foundations of the whole building were inadequate for the nature of the site. Inevitably the first thoughts were to underpin the structure, rather than to replace it, though engineers could give no guarantee that such underpinning would be succesful. As is inescapable in such cases, opinions within the congregation polarised sharply, with one side wishing to retain the old building at all costs, and the other arguing that there was no alternative to building a new one. There was also consideration of the possibility of an ecumenical sharing of the Old Kirk with the congregation there, though the difficulties associated with that idea were to prove insuperable.
It was probably the realisation that grants would almost certainly be available for a new building, rather than the arguments of the engineers, that led to the decision to demolish and rebuild. Discoveries made in the course of demolition amply vindicated that decision, since it was found that the roof was only barely resting on the walls, and that any further movement would almost inevitably have brought it crashing down. Ironically, such movement would certainly have been brought about by the process of underpinning the foundations.
Because of the undermining of the area occupied by the church of 1844 it was decided that the new building should be sited towards the back of the church's land, with the site of the old church being given over to car parking. This proved to be an additionally apposite solution when it was decided to buy the stable building at the back of the adjacent house for adaptation as halls and vestries, since the new building could thus be joined up with the old stable block. The architects appointed to design the new church were Wheeler and Sproson, who had offices in both Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh. They had been responsible for several major operations in Kirkcaldy, including the restoration of Sailor's Walk as well as a number of modern housing developments.
The original brief for the new building was that it should be as simple as possible; but eventually the idea emerged of giving the roof a steeply-pitched gambrel form, with two triangular windows below each end of the short ridge. It is the high copper- sheathed tent-like form of this roof that is now the most striking external feature of our church, while the open-timber construction gives the interior much of its character. The new building was ready for consecration on 4 September 1976, and the service in which this was carried out is remembered with great fondness by those who took part in it.
It is a remarkable and heartening feature of church history that adversity can often bring out the inherent strengths of a congregation, and regenerate its sense of purpose. This certainly seems to have been the case at St Peter's. It was wisely - and prudently - decided to retain as many of the furnishings of the old church as possible, including the great crucifix, the font, the lectern and the pitch-pine pews. This helps to give a feeling of continuity to the setting of our services that is highly attractive. Nevertheless, complementing the retention of earlier furnishings, many of the other items now seen inside the church, which help to give its present cared- for atmosphere, have come since the rebuilding.
The most significant single acquisition has been the superb organ. It was regretfully decided at the time of demolition that the difficulties and cost of rebuilding the organ of 1909 would be prohibitive, and for a while it seemed that we should have to manage without an organ. However, in 1979 our organist, Jack Boase, heard that a highly-admired instrument that had been built as a demonstration piece by Grant, Degens and Bradbeer for the 1967 St Albans Organ Festival was likely to be available. Despite lack of funds, the opportunity was seized, and it was formally inaugurated at a service on 17 February 1980, followed by a recital given by Richard Galloway. Our services are now accompanied by one of the most refined small organs in Scotland and, once again, an opportunistic act of faith has been fully justified.
Further problems came towards the end of that year, when there was a damaging fire. This broke out after the 10.30 a.m. service on Sunday 7 December, in the room that is now the vestry above the small hall, and a great deal was lost, including vestments and church records. But yet again, once the sense of defeat had passed, the underlying corporate purpose that is present in any congregation worth its salt more than made up for any losses.
Looking around the church today we see a most impressive body of evidence for the vitality that is still here. The Mothers' Union banner made under the direction of Mary Frew reminds us of the constant source of strength offered by the Union. The chancel chairs were given in memory of Charles Gibb in 1968, while the altar candlesticks were offered in 1984 by David and June Paul in memory of their son Cameron. The Women's Fellowship paid for the splendid stained glass window above the altar in 1987, which was made by one of Scotland's leading artists in the medium, Douglas Hogg. The lectern and pew bibles were given in memory of Cathy Harley, a much-loved verger who died in 1990, and the credence table was a thank-offering for the life of George Wood, who died in 1991.
It can now sometimes be a little disheartening to remember that three churches were once necessary to meet the needs of Kirkcaldy's Episcopalians, and that by now a rather small church is enough for all of us. But we should not forget that church attendance has always fluctuated cyclically, and that strong movements for renewal have often come when there seemed least reason for hope. History suggests that the Church has tended to become complacent when it is numerically strongest, and that its periods of greatest vitality have developed when it has felt itself to be under threat. If the Rev. Thomas Scot could bring together a viable congregation from the most unpromising beginnings in 1811, we can draw comfort from the fact that we have a far better basis from which shall be able to build.
Thomas Scot (1811-15)
James Walker (1815-31)
John Marshall (1831-37)
Samuel Hood (1837-38)
Dean Norman Johnston (1840-90)
James Walker Harper (1890-99)
Charles Gardyne (1900-06)
H.J.T. Waring (1906-13)
John Smith Begg (1913-18)
Arthur Inglis (1919-27)
P.M. Buchanan (1927-34)
Noel Lyth (1935-39)
Denis E. Taylor (1939-44)
Canon Edgar Dobson (1944-46)
Ronnie Halls (1946-51)
Alfred Bruce Morton (1951-57)
Hugh C. McCallum (1957-63)
David McCubbin (1963-70)
David Rimmer (1971-78)
Canon Ron Leigh (1979-97)
Priest-in-charge John Penman (1998-2003)
Priest-in-charge Gareth Benson (2004-2011)
Rector Christine Fraser (2013- )