Our Historic Church

The Union of Three Churches

Falkirk Trinity Church was created in February 2014 following the merger of Falkirk Old & St. Modan’s Parish Church with The Erskine Church.

Prior to this tradition tells us that the church at Falkirk was founded as part of the Celtic mission of St Modan in the 7th century. The community of Falkirk grew up round the first church building and all those that followed occupied the same site until the present day. From 1166 the church was in the hands of the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey and most of the revenues from the rich farm lands of the district disappeared to the east! Around 1450 a new sanctuary was built and it served the huge parish of Falkirk until the Reformation in 1560 when it became part of the reformed Church of Scotland. In 1811 the congregation decided to replace the old building but to retain the original square tower and the octagonal bell tower which had been added in 1738. The new sanctuary was added to the north of the tower and is essentially unchanged in the 200 years since. Fine stained glass was installed in 1857 and 1896 and a pipe organ in 1893. In the same decade the upper hall with crypt below was added to the south front.

In 1929 on the reunion with the United Free Church, the Parish Church was named Falkirk Old which remained until the union with St Modan’s on the 22nd of October 1986 when the joint name Falkirk Old & St Modan’s Parish Church was adopted.

The Battle of Falkirk – 1298 & 1746

The most notable casualty in the first Battle in July 1298 was Sir John de Graeme, the young man who had fought alongside Wallace from the time of Stirling Bridge. The death of Wallace’s right hand man is one of the most noteworthy passages in the eleven books which make up Blind Harry’s account. It tells how de Graeme fought and killed an English knight.

… there is a touching passage which has affected readers down through the ages. Wallace dismounting and taking de
Graeme in his arms, kissed him and called him his best Brother,
“My faithful friend when I was hardest stead
My hope, my health thou wast in most honour
My faith, my help my strenthiest in stoure …”
There follows a recital of knightly virtues:
“In thee was wit, freedom and hardiness
In thee was truth, manhood and nobleness
In thee was rule, in thee was governing,
In thee virtue without varying;
In thee was loyalty, in thee was largeese
In thee Gentility, in thee was steadfastness …
They carried him with worship and dolour
Into Fawkyrk graith’d him in sepulture.”

It is most likely that de Graeme’s first gravestone was similar to that which covered Sir John Stewart the other notable casualty of the battle. However when Blind Harry’s poem was re-published in 1670 it may have occasioned the erection of the first slab resting on four pillars which certainly was in position in 1697.

Sir John Stewart

Sir John Stewart, brother of the High Steward of Scotland, fell in the very first action of the battle. As he lay mortally wounded, his Men of Bute refused to forsake him, ringed their fallen chief, and were themselves cut down until not a man survived. The brave story of the Men of Bute inspired the erection of the Celtic Cross (left) at the West end of the parish churchyard in 1877. (Since moved to accommodate the St Modan’s Hall.)

It’s legend reads: “In memory of the Men of Bute who under Sir John Stuart on 22nd July, 1298 in the Battle near the Fawe Kirk fought bravely and fell gloriously this Cross is reverently raised by John Stuart, marquess of Bute AD 1877.”

Stewart was laid in the churchyard, and the present gravestone (left) may well be the original for it is typical of the 13th century with its coffin shape and bevelled edges. It lies on the right of the path entering from Manse Place. In the Old Stastical Account reference is made to this stone having no inscription and the present lettering is 19th century: “Here lies a Scottish hero, Sir John Stewart who was killed at the Battle of Falkirk 22nd July 1298.”

Stained Glass

In 1852, stained glass was fitted into the two large windows on either side of the pulpit. At the time the windows were much longer than today, as they stretched down to the same level as the other windows on the corners of that north wall. The work was carried out by the Edinburgh firm of Ballentine and Allan. The pattern was a simple one of geometric circles and the colours were mainly confined to bright blue and red, and at the time they were greatly admired.

Ten years later in 1862, Provost Adam was again successful in his exertions for having more stained glass installed, this time in the upper gallery on the East and West walls Once again Ballantine and Allan were given the contract and these windows can still be seen there today.

The window in the West gallery was another move forward in that it has a very fine painted tree (burning bush symbol perhaps). It was recently identified by a stained glass conservator as glass painting of the highest quality and the most technically difficult important piece of glass painting in the church.

The two major stained glass windows which replaced earlier ones on either side of the pulpit wall were installed in 1897 and are the work of Christopher Whitworth Whall of London (1849 -1924). He was a leading figure in the Art and Craft movement, and an influential teacher of the craft of Stained Glass. The windows were the result of a legacy from Mr Archibald Melville and are in memory of his father John Melville of Kersehill, and his own wife and child who had predeceased him. The subject of the two windows is Love fulfilling the Law; in the first instance our duty to God (the Love of God) and in the second our duty to man (Love of our neighbour).