The launch of the Trail

There has been a church in Killearn since the mid-13th century. The ruined Old Kirk is not the first building on this site.

In 1733 it was reported that the Kirk of Killearn was ‘ruinous and defective’. The building was condemned on 18 April of that year. The History of Strathendrick reported that ‘all the heritors, with the exception of Milndoven (Bontien of Balglass), were very harmonious, and agreed to rebuild, and rebuilt it was, accordingly, the following year.’ It is a surprisingly elegant building for what was then a small village. The date of 1734 is carved above the central door on the south side. Above the two central windows on this side are some strange, mask-like heads.

Faces carved into the stone in Killearn's old kirk
Strange faces stare down from above the windows on the south side of the Old Kirk. (Photographs by Kay Roxby)

By the 1820s it, too, was in a poor state of repair. It was then agreed that a new building (now the Village Hall) should be built to replace it. Initially it was proposed to use the stone from the Old Kirk in the new church. A decision was then taken to continue worship here until the new building was complete. The builder was paid an extra £50 in lieu of using this stone.

Once the new kirk was completed in 1826, the roof of the Old Kirk was removed and the building was reduced in size to a rectangle after the demolition of a section that had been built out from the centre of the north side. The resulting shell was then adapted as a burial ground for local dignitaries. There are memorials to members of the Blackburn family, including John Blackburn who bought the Killearn estate in 1814, and his son Peter, who served as a Stirlingshire MP, and his grandson, also Peter. There are also memorials to the Orr Ewing family. They include a marble memorial on the wall to Ella Orr Ewing (see also the Kirk), as well as her grave. Her funeral was on 9 February 1878. She was buried ‘within the walls of the picturesque ruins of the old church’, as noted by Michael Connal of Parkhall.

Some older grave slabs were moved into the building. The oldest legible slab is to Archibald Bontein of Balglass, an old estate on the road to Fintry, who died in 1695. He was secretary to Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, Lord Advocate of Scotland during the reign of Charles II. He is alleged to have made a fortune by extorting money from Covenanters.