War Damage To Kirk Buildings Revealed

24 August 2016, 05:00

A wartime ledger has revealed around 800 Church of Scotland buildings were damaged in the Second World War, as an expert said the Kirk was "in the front line'' during bombing raids.

The Register of War Damaged Properties records every incident that befell churches, manses and halls across the country, setting out the date, the extent of damage caused and the cost of repairs to hundreds of properties in communities including Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Greenock, Clydebank, Lossiemouth, Kirkcudbright and Kirkcaldy.

The ledger, which has been preserved for decades in the Kirk's offices in Edinburgh, will soon be handed to the National Archives of Scotland to enable historians to pore over it for the first time.

Dr Jeremy Crang, a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University, said the register shows the Kirk was "very much in the front line'' and provided an "insight into the great challenges and trauma'' members faced.

Rev Bill Hogg, convener of the Church of Scotland's committee on church art and architecture, added: "This ledger provides an insight into what church people faced during the Second World War and how they must have felt threatened in their ordinary life.

"Damaged churches must have been quite devastating for communities because they are regarded as places of stability and continuity.

"What this register represents is the attempt the Church was making to keep things going.''

A total of 89 cities and towns were bombed across Scotland during the war and official figures estimate 2,298 people were killed, and 5,725 injured.

Most casualties occurred during the two-night Clydebank Blitz in March 1941 which claimed the lives of 528 people and left 617 severely injured.

Bearsden South Church near Glasgow, now known as Bearsden Cross Church, was rebuilt after being hit by an incendiary bomb dropped by a plane returning from the Clydebank raid.

The ledger states: "Totally destroyed - only walls standing.''

Audrey Taylor, who has been attending the church since she was three, remembers the night of the attack.

The 81-year-old said her father, an air raid precautions warden, went out while the rest of the family hid under the dining room table.

She said: "That's what we did because the Anderson shelter in the garden was always water logged and full of frogs.

"When the siren went off my mother always made sure she had her engagement ring on and her fur coat just in case she needed to sell them to buy food.

"My father came back in and said there was a fire at Bearsden Cross because the sky was alight and it turned out the church had been hit by an incendiary bomb.''

Mrs Taylor said she had been told the church had been turned into a make-shift refugee centre for people affected by the Clydebank Blitz and was full of straw mattresses.

She added: "It was devastating for Bearsden because it was the only building hit, but it brought the community together and people really rallied round and we just soldiered on.''