Kippen Old Kirk, with its iconic belfry, lies at the heart of the village of Kippen, but the Kirkyard gate is locked and the history that lies within is inaccessible to the public, and will remain so until funds can be raised to secure the dangerous masonry of the ruined Kirk. However, if we can save the Kirk, Stirling Council will stabilise the 19 memorials which are at risk of falling. But clearly, a considerable amount of work is required in order to allow the Kirkyard to be opened again to the community and to visitors.
The first stage of the work will be to make the Old Kirk safe. This involves removing the ivy and self-seeded shrubs which are destabilising the masonry, raking out all masonry joints, repointing in lime mortar, repairing the cracked lintel over the gable window and also the stone slabs forming the base and roof of the belfry. The ancient bell, which in fact predates the Kirk, will be carefully removed and placed in storage until such time as further funding can be raised to replace the eroded iron framework; it will then be returned to its place in the belfry, where it has been for more than 300 years.
Over the years, due to lack of maintenance, the Kirkyard has become overgrown and unsightly, creating a negative environmental impact in the centre of the village. However, a considerable amount of volunteer work has already been done to rectify this. Brambles and ivy have been removed to reveal memorials, many of especial historic interest, that have not been visible for decades. Many inform us of the various trades and occupations that existed in the village, and surnames such as Adam, Armstrong, Buchanan, Crawford, Dougall, Ewing, Forrester, Graham, Galbraith, Harvie, Leckie, Monteith, Rennie, Ure and many more, are still familiar to us in the village today.
There is also a rich Covenanting history in our surrounding countryside, and this too is evident in the Kirkyard where we have the grave of James Ure of Shirgarton, who raised a force of almost 300 locally, to fight for the Covenanting cause. There is also a memorial to Jean Key who, on account of her inheritance, was abducted by Rob Roy’s son Robin Oig MacGregor and forced into marriage, only to die at the age of 20, before Robin was executed for his crime.
It would be very sad to lose the Kirk and the history that lies in the Kirkyard, but unless something is done, and urgently, that unfortunately is what will happen. At the moment, the priority is to save the Kirk but, with the help of volunteers, Kippen Heritage have already begun to create a new archive; memorials are being photographed, inscriptions and histories recorded and ultimately, all information will be accessible on a Kippen Heritage web site.