The ancient parish of Kilbride (or Church of St Bride — a legendary Celtic Saint) has its roots in Molaise, an Irish missionary monk, who took up residence in the cave behind the raised beach near White Point on the Holy Isle about 585 A.D.
From early times the island known as Eilean Molaise, the Gaelic for Molaise’s Island, corrupted to Elmolaise, Limolas, and finally Lamlash, now applied to the village across the bay. Holy Isle is a recent name commemorating the original purpose of its use, by the late 13th or early 14th century a small monastery following the ‘Rule of Molaise’ had been established there and is said to be endowed by Lord John of the Isles. This is possibly Ian McDonald who was Lord of the Isles around the time of the Scottish wars of independence, and who, although semi independent, was an ally of Robert Bruce who embarked in 1307 from Arran to Turnberry to recommence his fight for the Scottish throne. While in 1547 Dean Donald Munro, in his record of Western Isles, describes the monastery as ‘decayit’ the grounds continued to act as a burial ground for the neighbouring villages until the mid 18th century when a funeral party was overwhelmed in a storm when crossing and many lives were lost. Thereafter all burials took place in the old kirkyard beside the golf course.
Little is known of the early churches on the main island of Arran. In 1357 Joun de Menteith gave the monks of Kilwinning the rights of all the churches in Arran, with, in all probability, the obligation to supply pastoral services. Only one parish existed but in about 1400 the island was divided into two parts: the east from Lochranza to Kildonan being the Parish of Kilbride and the western side being the Parish of Kilmory centred on the church there.
Kilmory is the Gaelic for ‘Mary’s Church’. While the ruined church at the present graveyard past the golf course at Lamlash may, in part, date from the 14th century it probably followed an earlier place of worship in the vicinity. James lV worshipped there in 1498 paying 9 shillings (Scots) to hear Mass. The church continued in use after the reformation when it had become ‘small and inconvenient.’ Nothing but bare walls remain.
Its successor, a plain building, was erected along the line of the road in front of the present church to accommodate a congregation of up to 500. The floor was gravel with wooden walkways. At that time and for another 100 years these buildings served the whole east coast of Arran and at the annual Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper a tent had to be erected to house all the worshippers.
The removal of the church to the centre of the growing village was followed by a new schoolhouse built in 1805. Now known as Belhaven Cottage, education continued there until a new school, now the Council Offices, was built, following the appointment after 1850 of a School Board with power to levy rates.
During the 19th century Arran, originally a crofting and fishing community, developed into a holiday resort due to steam navigation improving communications. The previous rather bare and austere kirk became out of date and in the early 1880s offered to build the present church.
History of Lamlash Church as it is now
The present church replaced a former building of 1773 which stood on the same line as the building at the east end of Church Lane. Its erection was funded by the then chief heritor of the island, William – 12th Duke of Hamilton and cost some £4000. It was opened at the beginning of 1886 and the Rev Dr Norman Macleod of St Stephen’s in Edinburgh, preached to a capacity congregation. The church then had seating for six hundred persons. The Law at that time required the heritor or landowner to provide a church and manse for the parish and it remained so until The Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act of 1925 provided for the transfer to the General Trustees of all churches and manses. The title of the church was transferred in 1931. It was originally known as Kilbride Parish Church, but after the closure of St. George’s United Free Church in 1947 and amalgamation of the two congregations it was decided to change to the present name of Lamlash Parish Church.
In January 1994, the church was listed as a Grade A building by Historic Scotland. Grade A concerns buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type.
A massive campanile tower over 90ft high sits above this Gothic-style, red sandstone building by H & D Barclay 1886. The church was built by 12th Duke of Hamilton to replace an earlier building of 1773. Boarded, barrel-vaulted ceiling and carved, wooden tripartite Gothic sedilia. The tower hosts a peal of nine bells played every Sunday before service, the largest peal still existing, cast for a Scottish church in a Scottish foundry. Seven stained glass windows by Anning Bell, Meiklejohn, Gordon Webster and Christian Shaw; all other windows are hand painted, German cathedral glass. Pipe organ, William Hill, Norman and Beard 1934. In the front grounds are an ancient cross and baptismal font from the old monastery on Holy Isle in Lamlash Bay. Major restoration programme begun 1997.
Sunday Service: 11.30 a.m.