Holy Isle from the Present Parish Church


The ancient parish of Kilbride ( or Church of St. Bride - a legendary Celtic Saint ) has its roots in Molaise, an Irish missionary monk, who took up residence in the cave behind the raised beach near White Point on the Holy Isle about 585 A.D.
From early times the island known as Eilean Molaise, the Gaelic for Molaise's Island, corrupted to Elmolaise, Limolas, and finally Lamlash, now applied to the village across the bay. Holy Isle is a recent name commemorating the original purpose of its use. by the late 13th or early 14th century a small monastery following the 'Rule of Molaise' had been established there and is said to be endowed by Lord John of the Isles. This is possibly Ian McDonald who was Lord of the Isles around the time of the Scottish wars of independence, and who, although semi independant was an ally of Robert Bruce who embarked in 1307 from Arran to Turnberry to recommence his fight for the Scottish throne. While in 1547 Dean Donald Munro, in his record of Western Isles, describes the monastery as 'decayit' the grounds continued to act as a burial ground of the neighbouring villages, until the mid 18th century when a funeral party was overwhelmed in a storm when crossing and many lives were lost. Thereafter all burials took place in the old kirkyard beside the golf course.

Little is known of the early churches on the main island of Arran. In 1357 Joun de Menteith gave the monks of Kilwinning the rights of all the churches in Arran, with, in all probability, the obligation to supply pastoral services. Only one parish existed but in about 1400 the Island was divided into two - the east from Lochranza to Kildonan being the Parish of Kilbride and the western side being the Parish of Kilmory centred on the Church there.

'Kilmory' is the Gaelic for 'Mary's Church'. While the ruined Church at the present graveyard past the golf course at Lamlash may, in part, date from the 14th century it probably followed an earlier place of worship in the vicinity. James lV worshipped there in 1498 paying 9 shillings (Scots) to hear Mass. The church continued in use after the reformation when it had become 'small and inconvenient.' Nothing but bare walls remain.
Its successor, a plain building, was erected along the line of the road in front of the present church and to accommodate a congregation of up to 500. The floor was gravel with wooden walkways. At that time and for another 100 tears these buildings served the whole east coast of Arran and at the annual Sacrament of the Lord's Supper a tent had to be erected to house all the worshippers.

The removal of the church to the centre of the growing village was followed by a new schoolhouse built in 1805. Now known as Belhaven Cottage, education continued there until a new school, now the Council Offices, was built, following the appointment after 1850 of a School Board with power to levy rates.

During the 19th century Arran, originally a crofting and fishing community developed into a holiday resort due to steam navigation improving communications. The previous rather bare and austere Kirk became out of date and in the early 1880's offered to build the present church.


Present Parish Church

The present church replaced a former building of 1773 which stood on the same line as the building at the east end of Church Lane. Its erection was funded by the then chief heritor of the island, William - 12th Duke of Hamilton and cost some 4000. It was opened at the beginning of 1886 and the Rev Dr. Norman Macleod of St. Stephen's in Edinburgh, preached to a capacity congregation. The church then had seating for six hundred persons. The Law at that time required the heritor or landowner to provide a church and manse for the parish and it remained so until The Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act of 1925 provided for the transfer to the General Trustees of all churches and manses. The title of the church was transferred in 1931. It was originally known as KILBRIDE PARISH CHURCH but after the closure of St. GEORGES UNITED FREE CHURCH IN 1947 and amalgamation of the two congregations it was decided to change to the present name - LAMLASH PARISH CHURCH.
In January 1994, the church was listed as a Grade A building by Historic Scotland. Grade A concerns buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type.

Cross and Font - Lamlash Church

Outside the present Church stands an ancient cross
and baptismal font which were unearthed in the present graveyard in 1892
and which almost certainly came at one time
from the old monastery buildings on the Holy Isle