For several years, our old churchyard and ruined remains of the church, with its iconic belfry, have not been maintained. Ivy is growing on the gable wall of the church and vegetation has become rooted in the joints, thereby jeopardising the stability of the stonework. The boundary walls in places are also clad in ivy which, though attractive, can also be damaging. Self seeded trees are pushing through between the headstones and in one case a mature tree has destroyed the corner of a grave enclosure and dislodged the adjacent table gravestone. In some areas brambles are so dense that it is impossible to access the gravestones.
The graveyard does have visitors, many come from overseas to trace family origins, and there are some fascinating stones and stories to tell within the inscriptions. It is apparent that something ought to be done to rectify the situation and make the graveyard a place where locals and visitors can spend a few reflective moments.
However, it is hoped that the situation can soon be remedied and some initial work has already been carried out in this respect. Barbara Docherty, the Council Cemeteries Officer has been most helpful in giving advice and, should the community commit to raising sufficient funds to restore the remains of the kirk, the Council would offer assistance by way of ensuring the gravestones are stable.
Murray Cook, the Council Archaeologist, has also been very encouraging and supportive, suggesting that a group is formed to spend initially one weekend, perhaps in February, to work with a team of Council rangers to clear the destructive growth such as brambles, saplings and ivy from the stones and boundary walls. This will enable a full survey of gravestones to be carried out as there appears to be no record of inscriptions after 1855 when civil registration began.
Eventually it is hoped that the graveyard can be freely accessed and in view of the work which has already been instigated at the Old Smiddy by Kippen Heritage, the old churchyard could also be included in an historical ‘village trail’ accompanied by a publication which would assist, among other things, in locating burials and identify some of the more ‘celebrated’ occupants!
Quotations to carry out stone repairs to the ruin have already been sought together with costs for the replacement of damaged ironwork and it is also intended to seek advice and costs regarding restoration of the bell. But until the debris is cleared from the boundary walls, a full assessment of the work involved in the grounds of the graveyard cannot be carried out.
However, costs for the works to the ruin alone do not appear to be excessive and if money can be raised locally the need to apply for funding from such organisations as Historic Scotland may not be necessary initially. In this event the work not only can proceed much more quickly but, in view of efforts already made by the community, can assist in any application for match funding which may become necessary in the future.
The Community Council, Friends of Kippen Kirk Trust and Kippen Heritage have all offered their support for the project. Currently, confirmation is awaited from the Kirk Session regarding ownership of the ruin but hopefully further notice can be given in the New Year regarding progress.
Anyone interested in helping in any way can be given an opportunity to take part, whether by joining a group to clear vegetation, fund raising or donating. Any assistance will be most welcome.