An internationally successful businesswoman has made securing the future of Falkirk’s Erskine Church her next project.
Gina Fyffe founded petrochemical supply company Integra in 1989 and is now executive director of a business recognised as one of the largest players in the world market.
With its headquarters in Singapore and offices in Brussels, Moscow, Houston, Beijing, Seoul, Riyadh and Brazil, hers is a high-powered job - but now the boss has turned her attention closer to home and planning to make sure one of the town’s oldest churches has a part to play in community life for years to come.
Although born and raised in Stirling, Gina’s family has strong connections with the area.
Her father, George, was born here and he and his wife, Christina, moved from Stirling to the Gartcows area when he retired from British Alcan.
Gina’s sister Carolyn and her family live in the town and they have aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces all across the district.
Researching the Fyffe family tree back to the 1700s as part of a challenge she set herself for her 50th birthday in 2007, she learned more about her roots, more about Falkirk and more about what Erskine Church meant to generations of her family.
She said: “I found the connection with Erskine fascinating. Members of my family have been married in the church, been baptised in the church and others, including my mum and dad, had their funeral services held there.
“I think roots are very important. My husband Roger and our children Nicholas (18) and Christina (13) travel from our home in Singapore every year to meet up with all our relatives.”
In 2013, when the congregation decided to join Falkirk Old and St Modan’s Church to form Falkirk Trinity Church, the future of the imposing 111-year-old building at the bottom of Cockburn Street was suddenly in doubt.
But Gina was determined that would not be the case and bought it from the Church of Scotland the following year.
Her original plan was to gift it to the Falkirk and District Arts and Civic Council as part of a social enterprise initiative to run as a centre to be used by the community for the benefit of the community.
Unfortunately, the rent and upkeep costs were such that idea had to be shelved.
Undaunted, Gina invested her own money in making the property wind and watertight, completing essential repairs and redecorating before launching her Erskine Community Halls initiative.
The business plan now is to make the church available for an almost endless variety of functions from weddings and funerals - to birthday parties and other social events - throughout the year.
Gina said: “When the congregation moved away they left the building empty and sad, but I felt there was too much history for it to be lost to the community so the family came up with ‘Plan B’ to re-establish the church as a valuable community resource.
“It was just my crazy idea back in 2014, but it seems to be working. A marketing strategy is being put in place to attract potential bookings and there has been an encouraging amount of interest already.
“The important thing is that after all the uncertainty Erskine Church has a future.”