MSPs hail community work carried out by Edinburgh church members

North Leith minister Rev Alex McAspurren and Rev Dr Martin Scott, secretary to the Kirk's Council of Assembly and a previous interim Moderator of the church.

Communiy work carried out by members of an Edinburgh church which is celebrating its 200th anniversary has been recognised in the Scottish Parliament.

Twenty cross-party MSPs have signed a motion congratulating North Leith Parish Church for reaching the significant milestone and praising a wide range of schemes to help vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the area.

It was lodged by Ben Macpherson, the SNP member for Edinburgh Northern and Leith who attended a special service to mark the anniversary on September 4.

The motion reads: -

That the Parliament welcomes the 200th anniversary of North Leith Parish Church, which was celebrated on 3-4 September 2016; understands that the church can be traced back to 1493 and was given the status of Parish Church in 1606, moving to the current building on Madeira Street in Leith in 1816; recognises that the church is a neo-classical A-listed building designed by William Burn; acknowledges that the first minister was Dr David Johnston, who was one of the founders of Royal Blind; appreciates that the current congregation is a result of several unions representing all strands of Parish, Secession and Free Church background, and recognises and appreciates the church’s community outreach work, which includes facilitating youth and adult social groups, working with the homeless via the Care Van and Care Shelter, providing the main store and distribution centre for Edinburgh North East Foodbank and forming a team of volunteers to work with Edinburgh Churches for Sanctuary to prepare for the support of Syrian refugees in Edinburgh.

War damage

The church features in a unique ledger which outlines the staggering extent of bomb damage caused to properties owned by the Church of Scotland during the Second World War.

The Register of War Damaged Properties records in meticulous handwritten detail every incident that befell churches, manses and halls across the country at the hands of the German air force – the Luftwaffe – in the 1940s.

It sets out the date, the extent of damage caused and the cost of temporary and permanent repairs carried out to around 800 properties in communities including Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Greenock, Clydebank, Lossiemouth, London, Kirkcudbright and Kirkcaldy.

The ledger records that North Leith church, currently led by Rev Alex McAspurren, was damaged on April 7-8, 1941. The entry states that the roofs and windows were damaged.

“The window blackout frames and two leaded panels and doors were damaged at the church halls,” states the entry.

“Windows broken and outer door split at the Session House.”


Dr Jeremy Crang , a senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology, said the “fascinating” tome casts fresh light on the impact of the war on Scotland.

North Leith Parish Church session clerk Anne Lamont said: "Many people contributed to a great weekend of celebration.

"The church was open on the Saturday and details of the major restoration of the building which took place following the war damage were on display.

"Apart from redecoration, the inside of the church is the same today as back then.

"Members’ stories were also on display in the hall where refreshments and the opportunity to chat were welcomed.

"Thanks to the youth organisation leaders, activities were provided in the grounds for the young people; bouncy castle, face-painting, penalty goal shooting.

"On the Sunday the congregations from the other Leith Church of Scotland churches, previous ministers and members joined us, together with other invited guests, for a joyful worship service.

"The youth organisations paraded to the church led by pipers from the Trinity Occasional Pipers Society.

"So we made quite a bit of noise and had a great time again enjoying refreshments and sharing memories after the service.

"We were pleased that a representative of the Lord Provost, our MSP and our MP took time out to join us, and were surprised and delighted that Ben Macpherson showed a real interest in the congregation to the extent that he lodged the parliamentary motion to congratulate us and recognise the service provided to the local community."