Hundreds of people attend 120th birthday party for pipe organ

For 120 years it has been at the heart of life in an Ayrshire church and has brought generations of families together in music.

Rated one of the finest pipe organs in the UK, it has helped people celebrate the love of God, the joy of weddings and baptisms and provided a source of comfort in times of sadness.

So important is this beloved instrument to the congregation of Kilwinning Old Parish Church, they decided to throw it a special birthday party.

Happy 120th birthday. The organ and its cake.

More than 200 people attended the event which featured a choir, string quartet, a Name that Tune feature and a stunning “organ shaped” cake.

The organ was specially built for the church in 1897 and cost £750, the equivalent of £100,000 today.

The British Institute of Organ Studies has given the instrument Grade 1 status and regards it as “important to national heritage and deserving of careful preservation for the benefit of future generations”.


Organist, Jim Walsingham, said: “The best present we can give this organ is to ensure it continues to be played, to ensure it continues to be heard and to ensure it continues to bring people together for another 120 years”.

Janey Grier, a member of what is known locally at the Abbey Church which prides itself on providing "strong biblical teaching combined with joyful worship and great fellowship", said the birthday party on October 1 was a “fantastic” event.

“Our message on the night was about how we are brought together by the music our organ produces, the singing it energises, in happy and sad times,” she added.

“We had people in the audience who were married with this organ playing and many of us had been consoled by it at the funerals of loved ones.

“It’s seen the joy of births, baptisms, Christmas and Easter.

“It’s played for schools, for award ceremonies, for farewell services, for ordinations, inductions and many, many weekly worship services.”

Jim Walsingham
Organist Jim Walsingham. Kilwinning Parish Church


The organ was built and installed by Forster & Andrews of Hull - one of the most successful organ builders in England.

The congregation, led by Rev Jeanette Whitecross, has a copy of the original Bill of Sale, which noted that the inaugural recital took place on December 29, 1897.

It was played by Alfred Hollins, a world renowned composer and musician who was born blind.

It is likely that he performed a piece of music called Allegreto, which was composed by his friend Edwin Lemare in 1896.

In homage to the past, Mr Walsingham played the tune at the birthday party.

Mr Hollins became the organist at what is now known as St Andrew’s and St George’sWest Church in Edinburgh in 1897 where he remained for 45 years.