One Fifty at One Seventy | 3. Into the 20th Century

The man chosen to lead the Queen’s Park Free Church congregation into the new century was the Rev Joseph L. Craig, who was inducted on 1 June 1899. He had come from St Peter’s Free Church in Montrose, but was a West of Scotland man.

As mentioned before, our community was home to a number of churches from the two large ‘free’ church denominations in Scotland: the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. From the 1870s, several approaches were made to secure a union between the two, but all failed to find unanimous favour. 1874 saw the abolition of the Patronage Act, which opened the possibility of a reunion between the Church of Scotland and the Free Church. But the Church of Scotland’s remaining ties to the State forced the Free Church Assembly of 1875 to declare that ‘the existing connection between the Church and State … ought to be brought to an end in the interests alike of national religion and Scottish Protestantism.’[1]

While a union between the Church of Scotland and the Free Church remained on hold, a union between the UP Church and the Free Church began to look more like a possibility. In 1893, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Disruption, the Moderator of the UP Church stated that, ‘from his Church’s perspective, there was no obstacle to a union with the Free Church.’[2] The Free Church began to lean toward the same conclusion. By the 1900 Free Church General Assembly, a vote in favour of union with the UP Church carried with 586 in favour and only 29 against. That same year, the UP Church Assembly voted unanimously in favour of the union. In October, the two denominations united to become the United Free (UF) Church of Scotland. At Daisy Street, Kirk Session minutes of the newly-renamed Govanhill UF Church from 26 November record in a prayer that the union marked ‘a revival of vital religion throughout our land and greater zeal and devotion in extending the Redeemer’s Kingdom both and home and abroad.’[3]

For Queen’s Park Free Church, the union presented no serious difficulty, with the congregation having been almost unanimous in its support. Thus, the church at 170 Queen’s Drive became Queen’s Park West UF Church. This also meant that seven other churches in our family tree had quick name changes, with the UF churches now outnumbering the Church of Scotland churches three-to-one.

After a serious illness, Mr McCorquodale of Queen’s Park Parish Church retired in 1907 and was succeeded by the Rev Andrew Brown. Elsewhere, on 3 May 1908, Mr Connor of Govanhill UF Church retired after serving as minister in Cathcart Road and Daisy Street for 29 years. The following month, the Rev Adam Shaw of Gillespie UF Church, Dunfermline, was inducted as minister of Govanhill UF Church. With his induction came a renewed enthusiasm within the congregation. In his first six months, some 146 individuals were admitted as members of the congregation. Although the duration of Mr Shaw’s ministry (six years) was far shorter than that of his predecessor, he was remembered very fondly: ‘He was loved as a father by his people, the children had a special affection for him and he for them and among many other qualities he was particularly happy in the role of “soiree speaker”.’[4]

Also in 1908, the minister of the small Nithsdale UF Church retired. It was determined by the UF Presbytery of Glasgow that a union was appropriate and Nithsdale UF Church became part of Crosshill UF Church. The Nithsdale building became Nithsdale Hall and among other things, served as a place of worship for the Christian Brethren for many years. It suffered significant fire damage in 2006 and has sat derelict ever since. In 1909, Mr Ryrie of Crosshill UF Church, who had been suffering from failing health since 1902, died, leaving the Rev A. R. Cowie, his assistant, as the sole minister.

At Govanhill UF Church, a potential pipe organ had been mooted since 1902, when the famous philanthropist Andrew Carnegie pledged to pay half of the cost. This offer was renewed in 1911 and the congregation was given until 5 August 1912 to decide. With little time to spare, the congregation decided to place an order with Abbott and Smith of Leeds and an organ was installed in July 1912.

Mr Craig, minister at Queen’s Park West UF Church, continued to serve until 1927, a period of 28 years. However, upon retiring he remained a member of the congregation and was ‘Minister Emeritus’ for a further 27 years until his death in 1953. No other minister has had such a long association with the church family at 170 Queen’s Drive, and Mr Craig commanded much admiration and affection. On the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee in the ministry in 1952, he received a presentation from the congregation to mark this milestone. More importantly, the congregation had decided on a more lasting expression of their love and esteem. At the time, a small extension was being built in the church and it was proposed to incorporate in it a small chapel, to be used for prayer and meditation. The chapel was completed and dedicated in early 1953, bearing Mr Craig’s name. Mr Craig was able to attend the service of dedication of the Craig Chapel, which took place just weeks before his death. Present at the service were three of his ministerial colleagues, together with the Right Rev Dr George Johnstone Jeffrey, Moderator of the General Assembly from 1952 to 1953 and a friend of the congregation for many years.[5]

Craig Chapel

The original Craig Chapel at 170 Queen’s Drive.

In the early days of his ministry, Mr Craig was described as being ‘tall, commanding in appearance, with an arresting voice and faultless diction.’ He was a scholarly man with a particular love of the Pauline epistles. Some found his sermons a bit ‘heavy’, but he more than made up for this by his many pastoral gifts. Towards the end of his ministry, a young student minister described him as ‘benign, kindly, stately, scholarly, perhaps an awe-imposing father figure.’

In the period leading up to the devastating shock of the outbreak of war in 1914, Queen’s Park West UF Church experienced a remarkable period of congregational growth. A copy of the Church Magazine from October 1910 illustrates this vividly:


Forenoon Meeting
Morning and Evening Services
Sunday School

Girls Work Party
Literary Society

Boys Brigade
Junior Musical association
Women’s Foreign Missionary Society

Prayer Meeting
Mid-week service

Dorcas Society (afternoon)
Musical Society (evening)

Band of Hope

Gospel Temperance Meeting[6]


[1] Finlay Macdonald, From Reform to Renewal: Scotland’s Kirk Century by Century (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 2017), 159.
[2] Ibid, 160.
[3] Richard Porter, Govanhill Church of Scotland: 1880-1980 (Alloa: Alloa Printing and Publishing Co Ltd., 1980), 14.
[4] Ibid, 17.
[5] In the early part of the twenty-first century, a major reconstruction project in the church building at 170 Queen’s Drive necessitated the removal of the original Craig Chapel. But another, slightly larger Craig Chapel was incorporated into the design and is in widespread use today, not only for its original purpose, but also for other aspects of congregational life. It contains a plaque and photographs of the original dedication.
[6] Sunday’s Forenoon Meeting and Saturday’s Gospel Temperance Meeting took place in Renwick Church on Cumberland Street, with whom the church at 170 Queen’s Drive had a close connection since 1884. This was regarded as a congregational mission to one of the most deprived areas of Glasgow. Several elders and other members spent time there every week, and the Forenoon Meeting continued until 1958, when the demolition of most of the Gorbals dispersed the people to other parts of the city and beyond.

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