The present congregation is the result of the union of the two former Churches of Scotland in Callander, St. Bride’s Church and St. Kessog’s Church, in April 1985, now known as CALLANDER KIRK.

The former St Kessog’s building in Ancaster Square at present houses the Trossachs Visitor Centre, and Callander Kirk worships in the building in South Church Street, formerly St Bride’s.

There has been a Church presence in the Callander area from very early times. Saint Kessog, a follower of St. Columba of Iona, is said to have preached from the ‘Hill of Kessog’ (Tom-na-Chessaig) beside the River Teith, in the 6th century, and Kilmahog, 1½ miles to the west of Callander, had a Chapel of the Culdee Church, a Celtic foundation, shortly afterwards.

Callander’s pre-Reformation Church was eventually established in the area of the old parish graveyard beside the river, adjacent to Tom-na-Chessaig. With the establishment of the ‘modern’ town of Callander in the 1770s to a Plan (1739) by the Duke of Perth, the then Reformed Parish Church was moved to the Square in 1772. With the growth of modern tourism in the 19th century, this Church was replaced by a larger and more distinguished Gothic building with central spire in 1883, designed by Robert Baldie.

Meanwhile, in 1843 a major disruption took place in the Church of Scotland and many Free Churches were established throughout Scotland. In Callander this took the form of the present building in South Church Street, first opened for worship in 1844. Architectural modifications and additions took place over time, the chancel and western entrance and tower – of Italiante design – being added in 1861 and designed by the eminent architect George Kennedy, also responsible for Trossachs Church and the gardens at Drummond Castle.

The Callander Churches have had many eminent preachers and teachers over the years. In particular the Rev. Dr. James Robertson, Parish Minister, who wrote the first Statistical Account in 1791, a model of its kind; and who also contributed much to the improvement of farming practice at that time, plus numerous forthright preachers who have kept the gospel alive in Callander and the Trossachs area down the centuries.

Points of Interest in the Building
There is an interesting and artistic presentation upstairs – The Bill Stark Gallery – which brings together the various strands which make up Callander Kirk today, including photographs of past ministers and a British Legion First World War Memorial. The design and lettering “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness” were done by Bill Stark, a former organist and art teacher, shortly before his death in 1997. The beautifully carved pulpit was brought from St. Kessog’s, and the chancel area contains the combined lists of the Rolls of Honour of both Churches for the two World Wars.

Note the illuminated ‘Burning Bush’, the symbol of the Church of Scotland, above the vestry door. This was a gift to Callander Churches all the way from Atlanta, Georgia, from where a group of Americans came in 1982 on a Presbyterian Pilgrimage. The carved chair behind the communion table was a gift from the Norwegian troops stationed in Callander during the Second World War, who worshipped here at that time.

The stained glass windows above the choir were dedicated on Sunday 15th May 1921 to commemorate the local men who made the supreme sacrifice in the First World War – the theme was Love and Sacrifice and the text of the sermon on that occasion was 1 Chronicles, 11.19, “Shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy?”
(For further information on the themes in the windows, please see the specially produced leaflet with the information, written by the Rev. Dr. R M Macdonald, who was present at that Service of Commemoration.) More details and pictures.

We welcome you to CALLANDER KIRK today and trust you find refreshment from your visit. The Text on our beautifully-designed banner in the entrance foyer wonderfully expresses Christ’s word for us all (Matt. 11. 28-30) – “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…..”.

As you leave the Church and turn right up South Church Street, note our Hall built in 1849. It was the merchant banker Donald McLaren who gave the money for its building, being used by the Free Church as a ‘comprehensive’ school, teaching English, Maths, Sciences, the Classics etc., as well as Religious Knowledge. Virtually it was the forerunner of the McLaren High School, established in Callander through the Trust, set up by the same Donald McLaren in 1892.

Go down the slope to the right a few yards further on and note the bell of the original Parish Church, later St. Kessog’s. It was used in St. Kessog’s from 1784 to 1985 and was placed here in the garden when the Kirk Hall was redeveloped and opened by Michael Forsyth, M.P., in March 1991. The Kirk Hall is used by the Church and more widely by many groups in the Callander community.

A Brief History of the Church in Callander

Some notes provided by Ken Dunn on the growth of the Church in Callander and points of interest in the present building.