One Fifty at One Seventy | 2. The Late 19th Century: A Period of Rapid Growth

Mr Scott remained minister of the growing congregation of Queen’s Park Free Church until 1898 – a period of 31 years. During the final years of his ministry he experienced poor health and was absent for long periods of time, resulting in the appointment of an assistant minister, the Rev James Henderson, who shared parish duties with Mr Scott for nearly a decade. Eventually, when Mr Scott retired, the church roll exceeded 700, an indication of the extent to which the area had grown in population. This was also the time during which the British Empire reached the zenith of its power.

The Free Church had a long commitment to mission both at home and abroad, and the growing British Empire provided many opportunities for missionary endeavour. It worked happily alongside both the Church of Scotland and the UP Church in this work. The Free Church had established a mission to Livingstonia (now Malawi) as early as 1875 and the UP Church set one up in nearby Blantyre in 1876. There was also a famous mission station at Calabar in Nigeria, founded by Mary Slessor. These and other missions were supported financially by the congregation with great enthusiasm. Later in the century, in 1886, a Scottish mission was established at Kalimpong in the foothills of the Himalayas. There were also at least two important mission centres in China. Even in 1940 there were still 94 Scottish missionaries and other staff working in China, among whom was the famous Olympic athlete Eric Liddell. (Mr Liddell occupied the pulpit at 170 Queen’s Drive on at least one occasion.)

Church magazines of the time devoted a great deal of space to letters and news from the mission field. Sabbath schools learned all about the exciting lives of David Livingstone, Mary Slessor, Eric Liddell and others. This author remembers very well being given as a prize (though in a previous church) a biography of James Chalmers, whose evangelistic endeavours took him to New Guinea and its adjacent islands, where in 1901 he was killed and eaten by natives.

Missionaries home on furlough were expected to be available to tell congregations about the area in which they served and the work they did. Over the years, several did so in Queen’s Park West and a number of young people were inspired by what they heard to seek to follow them. Lexa Boyle, who served for many years in the Yemen and Sudan as a nursing sister, is a recent example. Many in the congregation will remember, in response to an appeal by Lexa, the big effort to send small packets of dried milk for babies to the hospital at Karima in Sudan in the 1990s. At this time, it was not uncommon for large parcels to fail to reach their destinations, or for them to be tampered with in some way at the sorting office. Amazingly, almost all of the small packages in this appeal reached their destination, which was a great benefit to the hospital.

Under the ministry of Mr Connor in Govanhill, Cathcart Road UP Church sought to construct a new church building, no minor task. The minutes of a joint meeting of the Building Committee, the Kirk Session and the Board of Management held on 31 March 1879 record,

It was said by an elder that the dark cloud which had descended after the congregation had decided that the building should go on was beginning to lift… It was pointed out that no undertaking of any magnitude was free from difficulties but these, when boldly faced disappeared… Mr Connor was asked to speak to the people that they go forward, believing God would enable them by combined effort, cheerful giving and loving co-operation to complete the edifice intended for His Worship and raise the copestone with great rejoicing.[1]

Such was the fervour of the congregation to move forward with this great undertaking, that their approval was given almost immediately and the Memorial Stone was laid at Daisy Street on 6 September 1879. Along with the Memorial Stone, a glass jar was deposited, containing the following:

  1. Paper containing the names of Session, Managers, Church Members, Adherents, Sabbath School Teachers, Missionary Record Distributors, Choir, Young Men’s Christian Association, Building and Bazaar Committees, and contractors for New Church work.
  2. Short historical sketch of our Church, with photograph of Rev D. M. Connor.
  3. History of the UP Church, with UP Magazine Record and Juvenile Missionary Magazine.
  4. Glasgow Newspapers.
  5. Current coins of the realm amounting in all to £[2]

Although Cathcart Road UP Church had only been around for some three-and-a-half years, by this time the congregation had grown from the 29 ‘intending members’ to nearly 260. Because of their pending move from Cathcart Road to Daisy Street, the congregation requested that they be permitted to change their name. And so, with the approval of Glasgow UP Presbytery, Cathcart Road UP Church became Govanhill UP Church on 19 January 1880.

The new building in Daisy Street held its first services on Sunday, 23 May 1880. In all there were three services that day: an 11am service, led by the Rev S. Logan Aikman, a 2pm service, led by the Rev James Rennie and a 6.30pm service, led by the Rev D. Young. Some 3,000 tickets were printed for these services and the advertisement in the local newspaper was followed by an intimation: ‘liberal Collection for the Building Fund respectfully solicited.’[3]

Govanhill Trinity

Interior of Govanhill UP Church (called Govanhill Parish Church at the time of this photograph) as it appeared in 1980.

Two years later, Govanhill UP Church established the Polmadie Mission to those living in the eastern reaches of Govanhill. This mission continued to be led by the church at Daisy Street for thirteen years, when, in 1893, the work and property were passed on to the UP Church Home Mission Board. A missionary was then appointed to undertake work at Polmadie, under the direct supervision of Mr Connor. In time, the mission became a church in its own right: Polmadie UP Church.

Govanhill UF Articles

The first page of the ­Articles of Constitution for Govanhill UP Church from 1881, which, oddly enough, features an error in its title: the United Free Church of Scotland would not be formed for another 19 years.

By 1887, long discussions concerning the construction of a larger building for Strathbungo Parish Church resulted in the laying of the foundation stone. The ceremony took place on 22 October, with the stone laid by Sir John Neilson Cuthbertson. The new church opened on Sunday, 7 October 1888.

At the other end of the parish, by 1887, Hutchesontown Free Church was led by Mr Paterson’s successor, the Rev Andrew Ryrie. During Mr Ryrie’s tenure, railway improvements necessitated that the church be removed. With their compensation, the congregation erected a temporary church at the junction of Glencairn Drive and Leslie Road in Pollokshields, outwith the district of Hutchesontown. In time, the temporary church was relocated to Dixon Avenue and became Crosshill Free Church. That same year, Nithsdale UP Church was established.

The foundation stone of a new church in Dixon Avenue was laid on 18 June 1892. As was the custom, evidently, a glass jar was placed under the foundation stone at Crosshill Free Church, which contained:

  1. A short history of the Church with two printed statements thereanent
  2. The names of the Office Bearers and Collectors
  3. The names of the Building Committee
  4. The names of the Architect, Measurer and Contractors
  5. A list of the Congregational Agencies
  6. Copies of the Glasgow Herald, North British Daily Mail, Evening Citizen and South Suburban News of date June 18th
  7. Copies of the Free Church Monthly, Youth and Childrens Record of current month
  8. Calendar of the Free Presbytery of Glasgow
  9. Copy of Invitation Card to the Ceremony.[4]

The building at Dixon Avenue was completed in 1893 and opened for worship that October.


The second Strathbungo Parish Church building.

Finally, the new church boom had slowed down. Things seemed to settle for thirteen years. Within our church family tree, by the 1890s, among the three denominations—the Church of Scotland, the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church—there were twelve congregations.

From the very early days of 170 Queen’s Drive, the Sunday School was regarded as of great importance to congregational life. The Sunday School superintendent was an appointment hardly less important than that of Session Clerk, and the congregation was blessed by a succession of outstanding superintendents. In the 1920s, one of the Sunday School teachers was a young woman called Jane Haining, who later became a valiant Christian martyr at Auschwitz concentration camp.

The congregation also had a long-standing link with Renwick Free Church on Cumberland Street in the neighbouring district of the Gorbals. A Saturday Evening Meeting there was another highlight, often presided over by elders. Two in particular, James F. Annand and George Henderson, are still remembered by older members as having a remarkable commitment. The Saturday Night Meeting ran continuously from 1885 until 1978, when slum clearance and demolition in the Gorbals brought it to an end. A children’s meeting also took place on Saturday evenings at the same time as that for adults. In the 1920s, one Superintendent reported that 200 membership cards had been issued to the children attending, the product of a remarkable effort on the part of both congregations.

The famous evangelist D. P. Thomson, the famous lay evangelist of the Church of Scotland, who with his wife Mary was a member of Queen’s Park West for a number years (though remembered primarily for his attachment to Renwick Church), wrote, ‘with its tremendous asset of the gift of halls you could safely have mobs of children milling in and out. And, indeed, including the five Bible Classes and two Sunday schools nearly a thousand-young people passed through the Halls on a Sunday.’ Very few churches in Scotland then or since could have boasted of such a level of involvement with young people!

OS Maps

Detail of OS map, Renfrew Sheet XIII.6, publication date: 1863 (above); detail of OS map Lanarkshire Sheet X.NW, publication date: 1896 (below). Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

By the turn of the century, Glasgow’s population had surpassed one million people and it had won international recognition as a great centre of shipbuilding, steel production, heavy engineering and textiles. In 1888, the city showed its confidence and ambition by hosting a major International Exhibition at Kelvingrove Park. This exhibition was centred around the newly constructed Museum and Art Gallery and was overlooked by the impressive tower of the new buildings at Glasgow University atop Gilmorehill, the spire of which was completed in 1887.

The area around the new church at 170 Queen’s Drive also witnessed great change. There had been much coal mining activity earlier in the century, but by 1898, the industry was in terminal decline. It did, however, leave the district honeycombed by pits and shallow tunnels. A century later, these had to be stabilised by pumping thousands of tons of concrete into the old mine workings. Local residents will well remember the mass of sludge and water forced to the surface leaving the streets like dirty rivers in the 1980s. At the time, there were real fears that the foundations of the church might also be affected, but fortunately, tests proved that this was not the case.

During these years of expansion there had been a significant influx of Jews fleeing from repeated ‘pogroms’ in the Russian Empire and had made their homes in Queen’s Park and Govanhill. In the early twentieth century, a substantial synagogue was built in Niddrie Road, but by that time, most of the Jewish community was already moving to suburbs, such as Giffnock. Other smaller ethnic groups also made their homes in Queen’s Park and Govanhill. The great majority of those coming to live within the parish bounds were not, however, from exotic places, but fleeing from poverty in Ireland after the Great Famine years, and the rural areas of Lowland Scotland, as well as the Highlands and Islands. The telephone book has hundreds of ‘Mc’ names and an almost equal number of ‘Mac’ names reflecting this nineteenth-century movement of people seeking a better life. Refuge and migration have always been thus in our parish, and 2017 is showing no signs of abating.

As the nineteenth century progressed, outlying suburbs like Queen’s Park and Shawlands became linked to the City Centre. By 1876, horse drawn tramcars had reached as far as Shawlands Cross – although the electric tramcars which so many of the older generation remember so fondly would not appear until 1884. The late nineteenth century was also the age of steam, and on 25 May 1886 the Cathcart and District rail line was opened, with stations at Queen’s Park, Crosshill and Mount Florida in the immediate locality. This proved an instant success, and the idea of commuting to one’s workplace became increasingly popular.

At this time, Sundays in Scotland were very different from today. No shops or places of entertainment were open, people did not go to work and there was an air of quiet relaxation. Most people worked long hours in a six-day week and welcomed Sunday as a day of rest (though in the church context, with the notable exception of those who led public worship). Sundays saw services in the morning and again in the evening. Worship had as its centrepiece the sermon, and Scotland at the time had some splendid preachers, several of whom occupied the pulpit at 170 Queen’s Drive from time to time (although he possessed many fine qualities which endeared him to his flock, Mr Scott as not thought to be in the top rank as a preacher). During the service, the minister offered lengthy extempore prayers. Many kudos were earned by any minister in those days who could deliver a sermon from memory, ‘without notes’.

As a Free Church there was, of course, no instrumental music in worship when 170 Queen’s Drive first opened its doors. The singing of metrical Psalms was led by a precentor. It was not until 1873 that the Free Church produced a hymn book, Psalm Versions, Paraphrases and Hymns, and some time after that before hymns were used very often in public worship (although they did figure in ‘evangelistic meetings’ or informal gatherings). However, in a booklet written by the Rev William Steven in 1959, he states that a poll taken as early as November 1873 revealed that Queen’s Park Free Church had voted 173 to 29 in favour of hymns being sung during Sunday services. The Psalms had been put into metrical form, and a limited range of tunes were used, some dating back to the Reformation. Paraphrases were in use and also sung in metre. The longest serving precentor at Queen’s Park Free Church was one James Cunningham, who led praise faithfully from 1882 until his retirement in 1898, when, at last, the introduction of an organ rendered his role redundant.

After much lengthy discussion, the majority of Free Church congregations had agreed to the introduction of instrumental music by the 1880s. A small harmonium had been presented to the Queen’s Park Free Church congregation, but it was only used on occasion at evening services, which were of ‘an evangelistic type’. However, in 1896 an ‘American’ organ was installed and an organist employed. It would appear that it was not a great success, being replaced in 1902 at a cost of £1,100 by a fine pipe organ, which remained in use until major redevelopment of the sanctuary took place in the early twenty-first century.


[1] Richard Porter, Govanhill Church of Scotland: 1880-1980 (Alloa: Alloa Printing and Publishing Co Ltd., 1980), 11.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid, 12.
[4] P.R. Dodds and N.M. Donaldson (compilers), A Historical Record of Crosshill Queen’s Park Parish Church (Glasgow: printed privately, 1976), 7.

1. Our Early History
2. The Late 19th Century: a Period of Rapid Growth
3. Into the 20th Century
4. The Great War & its Aftermath
5. A Second World War
6. The Post-War Era
7. The Late 20th Century
8. The Millennium
9. Queen’s Park Govanhill
Conclusion: Beyond 150 at 170