Lewis Hay Irvine

LEWIS HAY IRVING was inducted to Falkirk Free Church in November 1843 from the parish of Abercorn in West Lothian.

In the six months since it had been formed, the congregation had grown to 250 and Mr Irving set himself the task of building the members a new church.

This was perhaps the earliest example of his energy and commitment to Falkirk and within a year a fine new church stood proudly in the Garrison, close to the present site of the Post Office.

It opened in November 1844, cost £I400 to build - and was designed by Mr Irving himself!

Lewis Hay Irving was to spend the rest of his life as the Free Church minister in Falkirk. Over the next 34 years, he was responsible for a huge range of social and educational reforms.

The Free Church had decided that each parish would have a school and in 1846 Mr Irving advertised for a schoolmaster.

Temporary premises were found in the Pleasance, but longer term plans were being laid and in 1851 a fine new school was built in Meeks Road. The Free Church School buildings survived until the 1970s, finally serving as St. Andrew's Primary School.

Irving was instrumental in the building of another new school in the town. The `Ragged' or `Industrial' school was opened in Kerse Lane in 1857, offering training and education to destitute children. 1t would later become known as Livingston House, a model lodging house.

It was not only the town centre that benefited from Irving's efforts.

As early as 1851, he and his session had appointed Mr Aeneas Rate as a missionary to work among the poor of the town and surrounding area.

He was kept particularly busy in the most degraded part of Bainsford, the Black Close, and went on to build a school in Mungal head Road, now the North End Hall.

Churches were also built in Bainsford arid Shieldhill.

Irving, who rented Dorrator House (now the Carmelite Convent) until a new manse in Arnothill could be completed, died in 1877 and is buried in Camelon Cemetery.

The Free Church and the Church of Scotland rejoined in 1929, and the original Free Church congregation in Falkirk is that of St. Andrew's in Newmarket Street, built in the 1890s to replace Garrison Church.

He is also remembered in the church which bears his name in Camelon, another area where he did a great deal of work to help the poor.


ON May 18, 1843, almost half of the Church of Scotland's 1200 ministers gave

Two Lead the Way

IN 1859, Irving and Grahamston surgeon James Girdwood travelled to London to speak to ministers on the conditions of the poor and to support a bill before Parliament. Irving was well qualified to speak on these matters.

He was one of the major supporters of the Bill, and a scathing critic of the town managers and the feuars, the principal property owners, whose indifference and neglect had allowed the situation to deteriorate.

Dr Girdwood's testimony was even more stark. He spoke of houses without toilets, and of people dying from fever, whooping cough and even cholera.

He identified one house in the Back Row near Wooer Street where 50 people had died of typhus a few years earlier.

Thanks to his and Irving's submissions, the Bill was passed in August that year and it did much to improve the living conditions for the poorest members of the community.

It certainly went a long way to making Falkirk a cleaner and healthier place !or everyone to live in.