January 28, 2009
Bid to save Rabbie Kirk from ‘parcel of rogues’
Renton villagers have vowed to battle plans to demolish historic Milburn Church which sits beside the graves of Robert Burns’ relatives. Two of The Bard’s nieces are buried next to the A Listed historic building which will be torn down if planning chiefs get their way. The building has been allowed to fall into serious disrepair but the villagers are adamant that the church is an important part of the community’s history and want it preserved
RENTON villagers have vowed to battle plans to demolish a historic church which sits beside the graves of Robert Burns’ relatives.
Two of The Bard’s nieces are buried next to Millburn Church, which will be torn down if planning chiefs get their way.
They argue that the crumbling A-listed building is dangerous and that no cash is available for its restoration, however campaigners have vowed to lodged official objections.
Renton community activist Archie Thomson said: “Such a parcel of rogues in a council.
“Robert Burns’ two nieces are buried in that cemetery. I think it is absolutely shocking that the council in all its guises over the years has allowed that church and cemetery to get into the state it is in.
“With an SNP administration at Holyrood and at West Dunbartonshire it is unbelievable that such a plan should be brought forward to demolish one of Scotland’s most historic buildings.
“We have had people from all over the world, America, Hawaii, come to Renton to see Millburn Church because they have relatives in the cemetery or their grandparents were married there.
“The council is spending an astronomical amount of money propping up the old academy building yet the best solution they can come up with for Millburn is demolishing it.
“The plans for it can only be seen at Rosebery Place during office hours. How can people who are working view the plans and make any objections?”
Fife woman Morag Bell, who was the church organist for 17 years and left Renton in 1963, has campaigned vigorously to salvage the ruins of Millburn Church.
The pensioner has bombarded West Dunbartonshire Council officials with letters, written to Historic Scotland and also the Church of Scotland in a desperate bid to see action taken.
Many of Morag’s family members are also buried at the rear of the church and she hopes at the very least that, if the church cannot be fully restored, that a prominent landmark could be constructed on the site using some of the original masonry.
She said: “I would have expected to see the site cleared and left tidy, with a small but important record of the church’s history in the form of a stone, cairn or smaller building.
A council spokeswoman said: “Millburn Church is in a hazardous condition and funds are not available for its restoration. As the planning application relates to a category A listed building, the application will have to be submitted to Scottish Ministers for their determination.”
The church, built in the 19th century as the Free Church, is on Historic Scotland’s records as being the work of John T Rochead, who also designed the similar St John’s Free Church in George Street, Glasgow.
However, other historians argue that it is the work of architect George Meikle Kemp, who designed the Scott Monument in Edinburgh which is very similar to Millburn Church.