Holy Trinity Scottish Episcopal Church, Stirling

Rev. Clement Leigh Coldwell, M.A. (1874-1903)

Rev C L ColdwellBy 1874, the Vestry had decided that their building must be improved and extended, but when the architect they approached informed them that change would be impossible � �the spare ground is all in the wrong place� � they decided to find a new site and begin again. Dr Galbraith successfully negotiated for the present site in Albert Place, which had to be feued from the trustees of Spittal�s Hospital. The land was let out to tenants cultivating it as allotments, who had to be compensated. The Albert Hall was not yet built and there were no houses to the westward on Dumbarton Road. The Vestry would have the proceeds of the sale of the old site, but the rest of the cost would have to be raised by subscriptions and very soon a cash credit loan had to be taken out at the Bank of Scotland, the guarantors of which were Col. John Murray, Sir Henry Seton-Steuart and Mr Home Drummond of Blair Drummond.

The architect of the new building was one of Scotland�s most famous architects, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, later first president of the Scottish School of Architects, designer of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and, in 1893, restorer of Dunblane Cathedral. Small wonder that Holy Trinity, when completed, made a considerable impression in the neighbourhood. Perhaps there was a certain amount of criticism too, since speakers on various occasions justified the use of art as the �handmaid if religion�. �Nothing�, said Rev. Coldwell, �could ever be too beautiful or costly to be employed in worship�, so long as externals are �aids to a more spiritual worship in the inward heart of holiness�.

The main form of the completed church was essentially as we see it today. It was built of stone from the Bannockburn quarries. Inside, it comprised nave, chancel, north and south aisles, organ chamber and vestry. The chancel was raised above the level of the nave by four steps, the altar by three more, thus making the sanctuary the focal point of the whole building. There was a large window at the east end and another in the west. The clerestory had ten windows, each of a single light and each side-aisle had five lancet-shaped windows. Outside, the west corner allowed for the erection of a tower or spire, but this was never completed. The choir seats were of �the finest red pine from Pensacola�, though not the oak which the Vestry members had wished for but could not afford.

Not surprisingly, the raising of money for such an enterprise was a major task. Though everyone concerned contributed �according to their means�, the final result could never have been achieved without the bank loan. Its interest was paid throughout by the three guarantors, or rather the first two of them, Mr Home Drummond having died in 1877. His heir later gave a large donation. Sir Henry Seton-Steuart and Col. Murray continued to discharge their obligations and by their contributions and gifts to the various subscription lists certainly earned their description as �founders�; their devoted service to all the business involved and the subsequent affairs of the Vestry perhaps gives them an even better entitlement. The total cost was almost �11,000, excluding the gifts of windows and furnishings.

The glass of the great east window was already installed at the time of the consecration. It was given by Lady Seton-Steuart of Touch. The windows given by the Countess of Dunmore to the second Barnton Street church had been transferred, presumably to the east end of the north aisle. At the west end, also transferred, was the window erected to Col. E. R. Priestly by his brother officers in the Black Watch. Otherwise, all the windows were clear. The lectern, still in place today, had been given by Mrs Home Drummond and the font and ewer by Mrs Honeyman Gillespie, in memory of their respective husbands. The altar and reredos, made by Kempe of London, were given by Col. Murray of Polmaise and Mrs Murray of Gartur. Anonymous friends had given other furnishings and the Bishop�s chair and prie-dieu were given by Mr and Mrs Couper of Craigforth. The pulpit was given by Mrs Ernald Smith, nee Murray of Polmaise. She also gave a set of tubular bells, which are no longer in use. The chancel screen was given anonymously. Later on it was divulged that the donor was Captain Pitt-Taylor.

The Bishop�s chair was occupied at the consecration ceremonies on 12 September 1878 by Rt Rev. Dr Henry Cotterill, Bishop of Edinburgh, the diocese to which Holy Trinity at that time belonged. He was accompanied by Rt Rev. William Scot Wilson, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, his Dean, the Bishop of Colorado (USA) and many other clergy. So large was the procession they had to robe in a neighbouring house and they entered, the clergy and choir �in surplices for the first time in Stirling�, by the west door, singing Psalm 124 � �Had not the Lord been on our side�. The two �founders� handed the Bishop the title deeds �which deeds he laid on the altar�. After the consecration sentences were read, there was Morning Prayer, using chants composed by Dr Allum, the organist, followed by Choral Communion.

Later a festive lunch was held in the Golden Lion Hotel. The guests included the Earl of Mar & Kellie, representatives of the Church of Scotland, of the burgh council and the army, as well as the builders and contractors. There was also a �brilliant gathering of ladies�. Such an assembly testified to the position which the church had gained, being now �a body of some size and significance�. One speaker reminded them of the poorer, smaller and often scattered Episcopal congregations existing elsewhere in Scotland and the Earl further observed that although the church included many wealthy people, it did not neglect the poor, for many of them belonged to their community.

Rev. Coldwell was greatly concerned with the poorer members of society. By this time, many of the large mansions in the Old Town, once town houses of country gentry, or dwellings of rich merchants, had fallen upon evil days and were rapidly turning into tenements, some of which housed very poor families living in very poor conditions. Rev. Coldwell had a succession of curates, but he needed other help and, in 1881, he took the bold step of asking the Mother Superior of St Margaret�s Community in Aberdeen if she would allow some of her Sisters to come and work here. She agreed that Sister Faith should come for a trial period. Sisters of the Scottish Episcopal Church, wearing their habits, were at first eyed with some suspicion in Stirling, but Sister Faith and Sister Harriette Mary who later joined her, rapidly earned the respect and love of those to whom they ministered. After occupying various temporary apartments, always known as �the Home�, they rented a flat at 32 Baker Street (now Dalgleish House) where they stayed until they were finally withdrawn in 1918. Before the days of district nurses and social workers their devotion to the sick and needy, particularly in the Old Town, was invaluable. They also took various classes at �the Home� and in St Ninians and Cambusbarron. Their funds were quite separate from those of the church, though the church contributed, and so greatly were they valued in Stirling that many local firms and tradespeople also subscribed.

One of the �founders�, Sir Henry Seton-Steuart, died in 1881. Although he held many public offices, he never failed in his important vestry duties, or in generosity to his church�s needs. His distinguished ancestry was well known, as was his family�s unswerving loyalty to the Jacobite cause. He was succeeded by his nephew, Sir Alan and after him by his younger brother, Sir Douglas, the last of the line. Both were loyal office-bearers and Sir Douglas, who had the longer period of service, was invariably one of the chief advisers in church concerns.

Rev. Coldwell is said to have �founded� Holy Trinity Primary School in St Mary�s Wynd, but this probably relates to his rebuilding of the school premises, for an Episcopal School existed there in 1862, before he arrived in Stirling.

The 1872 Education (Scotland) Act created non-denominational state schools, as well as making education compulsory for all children aged 5-13. The schools were administered by area school boards and all religious education within them was according to the forms of the established Church of Scotland. The Episcopal schools generally chose not to join the state system, although encouraged to do so, due to concerns about the secularisation of general education and Presbyterian dominance of the religious elements that remained, such as school assemblies and religious education. The independent or �voluntary� schools, however, did receive some grant funding. They were also assessed by inspectors of schools and teachers were expected to have been trained to meet certain standards.  

The property itself must have been in a poor way, for when it was assessed, Holy Trinity School, though praised for its work and atmosphere, found in 1882 its premises virtually condemned, with a considerable loss of grant. So anxious was Rev. Coldwell to keep his school as �an outpost for carrying on the Holy War against sin and ignorance� that instead of handing it over to the School Board, he determined to rebuild it, even though the church debt was not yet cleared and many additional expenses had to be met. By tremendous efforts, he achieved his aim. In March 1884 the site and its new buildings were made over to the congregation �for its use and behoof� and secured as church property in perpetuity.

With the help of his curates, Rev. Coldwell provided services in Cambusbarron and Gargunnock. No detail was too trivial for his attention, no parishioner lacked his care. He prompted his people, too, to charitable efforts outside their own domain, notably the Kaffarian and Chanda missions. He instructed his flock by the articles he wrote in the church magazine and encouraged the use of music in church. In his time, too, societies flourished and many happy treats and outings took place. In fact, the whole church community flourished.

During Rev. Coldwell's ministry, Holy Trinity was well supported by members of the Castle garrison, particularly those serving in the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders, which had its headquarters there. Soon after Holy Trinity was consecrated, the regiment left to take part in the Zulu War of 1879. In many campaigns of this time, more soldiers died of disease than died fighting. There is a commemorative plaque to Major W. P. Gurney who died at Mauritius in January 1880 of illness contracted on the Zulu campaign.

In 1881, the 91st amalgamated with the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Princess Louise�s Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Several officers of the regiment from Rev. Coldwell's time are commemorated in a series of military memorials which reflect its close connection with the church: Capt. William Darling Caudwell, who had served as Paymaster in the Zulu War and died in 1883, Lt David J. A. Dickson, who had served in the Zulu War and died of bronchitis in 1883, Capt. Alexander Duncan Sim, who died in 1893, Capt. Robert de Crespigny Boyd, who died of pneumonia in 1894, Lt. Col. William Salmon Mills, who had served in the Zulu War and died in 1898 and Col. Ormellie Campbell Hannay, killed in action in South Africa 1900.

The circumstances of Col. Hannay�s death were exceptional. At the battle of Paardeberg, Hannay�s brigade of mounted infantry was positioned in front of a Boer laager, or fortified camp. At around 3 pm. on 18 February 1900, he received a written order from Lord Kitchener: �The time has now come for a final effort. All troops have been warned that the laager must be rushed at all costs. Try and carry Stephenson�s brigade on with you. But if they cannot go, the mounted infantry should do it. Gallop up if necessary and fire into the laager.� Hannay interpreted this poorly-drafted order to mean that he should charge the laager immediately, which Lord Kitchener later said was not his intention. Hannay then led all the mounted infantrymen that he could muster in a charge that, although carried out with determination, had no chance of success. The laager was about 500 yards away, but Hannay�s horse was killed under him and, when he tried to continue on foot, Boer sharpshooters riddled him with bullets. Two officers and a few men reached the laager, where they were immediately taken prisoner. That so senior an officer as a brigade commander should lose his life in this fashion indicates the rigidity of the idea that an order had to be carried out, no matter how absurd it seemed.

Why should soldiers be drawn to this particular church? Within the British army, there was a strong Anglican tradition, even in Scottish regiments. Wherever a soldier was serving in the Empire, the set liturgy and frequent celebration of the Eucharist offered the comfort of participation in a familiar and reassuring act of worship, full of symbolism and meaning. For soldiers, this comfort and reassurance could be crucial. Much of army life was positive. It brought great comradeship, travel to far-flung corners of the empire, excitement, a sense of shared purpose, square meals and, most of the time, a roof over the soldier's head. However, in a war against courageous, well-disciplined and highly effective fighters, such as Zulus and Boers, often in conditions where it was difficult to distinguish enemies from non-combatants, there was plenty of scope for mental, as well as physical, wounds. Soldiers could suffer deep emotional turmoil: feelings of doubt about what they were fighting for, fear of death, of being maimed, of disease, of letting comrades down, of showing weakness, anger at the enemy�s brutality or at commanders� mistakes, grief over the loss of comrades and a burning desire to avenge them, guilt at having let comrades down, about acts of cruelty carried out or witnessed, or about failing to stop them happening, anguish at experiencing the agonising deaths of friends, enemies and people who got in the way, revulsion at the sight of dead bodies, some horribly disfigured or partly decomposed.

For soldiers, Christianity could be both a restraint and a comfort, providing a guide to right and wrong, a check on cruel, immoral or unjust actions and a means of admitting failings and expressing remorse. A good army padre or a clergyman in a garrison town could help a soldier come to terms with emotional dislocation, without him losing face in front of comrades, superiors or subordinates. Most comforting of all was a belief in the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, no matter what horrors had been seen or done. Faith was a rock to which a soldier could hold and an anchor preventing him from doing that which may later bring agonies of remorse.

In 1888, the Vestry experimented with new technology. The minutes for 29 February record: "With respect to a lawn mower for cutting the grass in the church grounds, it is proposed in the first place to borrow a machine in order to ascertain how it would suit on the church grass, and if found to work satisfactorily, to be worked regularly by Elliott." However, the minutes for 1 May state: "As it appears that Elliott is unequal to the labour of working a lawn mower, it was resolved that, in the meantime, the grass will be cut with a scythe." 

Dr Galbraith, who was clerk to the Vestry for over 20 years, died in 1900. He began his career as a medical officer in convict settlements in Australia and also practised in New Zealand. He is commemorated by a window in the clerestory.

Rev. Coldwell died on 7 July 1903, after an illness of three days. Tributes were paid to him from all quarters. His funeral was conducted by Rt Rev. John Dowden, Bishop of Edinburgh and attended by a large gathering, including many local clergy. On the following Sunday, there was a memorial service for him in the West Parish Church (the western end of the Church of the Holy Rude) when, in conclusion, the choir sang a setting of �Crossing the Bar�. Thus, although the gap between Episcopalian and Presbyterian forms of worship had widened over the past hundred years, it had narrowed where respect and mutual esteem were concerned and continued to do so.

Col. Murray survived Rev. Coldwell by one month. He and his family had also been loyal workers and generous benefactors. The great west window was given by them in memory of Elizabeth, widow of John Murray of Polmaise, who died in 1889. Another window later commemorated Col. Murray himself. His two brothers followed him in succession, both serving on the Vestry; his nephew, the last of the line, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Cameron Highlanders, was killed on 14 September 1914 at the battle of the Aisne.

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