Volunteers glossing over Falkirk church’s past

Volunteers doing the spadework to spruce up the memorial garden at Falkirk People's Church. Picture: Alan Murray
Volunteers doing the spadework to spruce up the memorial garden at Falkirk People's Church. Picture: Alan Murray
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A conversation on social media has led to the renaissance of a spiritual garden in the heart of Falkirk by a group of determined volunteers.

The memorial garden next to the Falkirk Peoples Church, formerly Falkirk West Church, is now receiving some tender love and care after pictures of its dilapidated state were posted on the ‘Old Falkirk in Pictures’ Facebook page.

The area is the Garden of Remembrance for the West Church and was re-dedicated in 1972 as the old burial ground of the congregation of the Falkirk Relief Church – which was a breakaway from the Church of Scotland – from 1819-1870. It features stones on the walls of former ministers and members of the church. According to Falkirk historian Ian Scott, Isabel Steel of Bainsford Granary became the first person buried there on Christmas Day, 1819.

All of the remaining graves and stones were removed in 1972 and the garden was created. But it has lain almost derelict as no one seems to know who actually owns it.

Anne Coney (54), from Shieldhill, Leeanne Buchanan (36) and Julie Smith (44), both from Falkirk, got the refurbishment project off the ground by asking people to get their hands dirty and start clearing the garden and a group of around eight people came forward.

Anne said: “We are all passionate about trying to save things from our past that are disappearing and being left neglected. People used to get their wedding photos taken in the garden but it has gone downhill over the years. Nobody knew who was meant to maintain it so we decided to do it ourselves.

“There were huge amounts of moss all over the paths and a lot of overgrown bushes which have all been trimmed and cleared away and we’ve planted flowers.

“Hopefully by the spring or summer it will look really good.

“It would be good if a stone mason could give us some advice on how to clean the stones and if any landscapers could donate time or materials. More volunteers would also be very welcome.”

Undertakers Thomas Cutthell have already offered help toward the project.

Leeanne said: “The project has snowballed since it started in December. We would like to bring the garden back to its former glory so that the community can enjoy it again. I think it will look great once all the work is done.”

A spokesman for Falkirk Council said it does not own the land. Nobody from the church was available for comment.

To get involved in the clean-up visit ‘Memorial Garden Project’ on Facebook.

BURIAL GROUNDS CLOSED IN 1870

The former burial ground at the Peoples’ Church in West Bridge Street is not the only one in the Falkirk area.

The Parochial Board of Falkirk opened a new cemetery in Dorrator Road in 1870 which brought churchyard burials to an end, according to Falkirk historian Ian Scott.

Five churchyards officially closed in 1871 with some of the graves removed.

They were: a small one behind Christ Church in Kerse Lane; the burial ground of the old 
Erskine Church in Silver Row (170 stones); Falkirk Parish Church (nearly 400 stones); Falkirk Peoples Church (over 150 stones); small burial ground of the former South United Presbyterian Church (aka the Tattie Kirk).