Our History: Church Bell

Our History: Church Bell

Ken Rae, our Church Historian, has been working over the last few years to document more about the Old Kirk and it’s history.

This time I have delved into the records to find out a little more about  something that is very familiar to both the Congregation and Bo’nessians.  Its sound has summoned many hundreds –even thousands – of parishioners to worship here in the Old Kirk.  It has also marked joyous occasions such as weddings and the not so joyous such as funerals.  I am referring to the Bell in the Bell Tower.  The sound of which we are all familiar with but I am sure but probably know little about what makes that sound.

Not long after the Church was opened in 1888 a committee was formed around about 1892/93 to pursue the installation of a Bell in the Tower.  (Incidentally it would seem to have been very common then to form a committee for all sorts of activity. )

The following information has been gleaned from an excellent record of the inauguration of the Bell found in the Linlithgowshire Gazette dated 25 August 1894.

At the outset of the planning and construction of the Tower, for whatever reason, a bell was not included in the original planning.  However when the Tower was nearing completion the Committee were so enthused by the structure that it was felt that a new bell should be installed.  It would seem from the report in the Gazette that not all of the committee were so minded and it was  “…only through the perseverance of one or two members that such was now an actual fact…”.  The report indicates that the Committee generally had little or no experience in purchasing a bell butit transpires that two members of the committee, namely a Mr Stewart and a Mr Paul, had an interest in such matters.  What that interest was is not detailed but as a result, the bell manufacturers of Messrs Taylor and Co*. were contracted to supply a bell.  (It is recorded that the committee were more than satisfied with the fulfillment of the contract by Taylors.)  Discussions initially took place whether to have a steel bell or a cast metal bell, with a steel bell being firstly considered but on the advice of Mr Stewart a cast bell was finally opted for.

As with many things in the church the next item on the agenda was how would such a bell be funded.  The feeling of the committee was that if they could raise 50% of the required funding they would “…shoulder the balance of the debt until better times…”  It would seem that the congregation were  generous givers because sufficient funds were raised to cover the estimated cost of £94 (£8500 at todays value).  The bell made of bell-metal was therefore purchased and has the tone of F sharp and bears the inscription of “Borrowstoun Parish Church erected 1867; tower; spire and bell added 1894”.

The next matter for consideration was to ensure that the bell actually sounded in F sharp.  This was left to Mr Stewart who indicated that in his opinion the tone was very nearly F sharp.  It is interesting to note that Mr Stewart commented that the bell resembled the one in the U.P. Church and tthat the tone when combined with that of the U.P. Church bell and the town bell “…would have make a grand chord…”

The new bell weighed in at 14 -15 hundredweights  and I have been unable to find any record  as to how it was installed in the tower.  The report of the time notes that the bell was formally inaugurated on a Saturday afternoon and that a number of dignitaries were present.  Interestingly the Rev Robertson-Fullarton was not present , “ …he being unavoidably absent on holiday…”.  His wife Mrs Robertson-Fullarton however was present along with several members of the family.  Mrs Roberston-Fullarton had the honour of giving the first pull of the bell rope.  At the same time the town bell and the U.P. church bell were rung and it was noticed that they harmonized exceedingly well.

The report ends with the information that the party adjourned to the manse where an excellent repast had been provided.

Today the bell is no longer tolled by rope but by mechanical means, however the hole in the floor of the belfry through which the original rope passed is still there to see.  One presumes it was the job of the beadle of the day to toll the bell when required.

*the Bell makers John Taylor and Co, the Loughborough Bell Foundry are still in existence, their motto being –Home of the world’s finest bells-.


Old Kirk