History of the congregation
Very Rev James Oswald, DD
The Parish of Blawarthill lies in an area in the north-west of Glasgow which in the early part of the 20th century was part of the Parish of Scotstoun. The city had expanded to the west as shipyards and heavy engineering extended along the banks of the River Clyde. Housing was built to accommodate workers, in a ribbon development running close to the river. This expansion continued until the yards and houses merged with the old village of Yoker. To the north lay the Scotstoun farming estate, containing around 1,000 acres of land.
Originally in the control of the Montgomeries, the estate went into the hands of the Earl of Eglinton and later the Earl of Galloway. In 1751, following the Jacobite uprising, it was sold to the Oswald family, who had made their fortune in the tobacco trade. The Oswalds, while influential and respected in their day, were heavily involved in the slave trade. Their wealth and pre-eminent position in Glasgow society would not have been possible without the immense cruelty, exploitation and contempt for human dignity that was endemic in slave labour.
George Oswald inherited the estate in 1766. As well as being one of the Glasgow “tobacco lords” he was a partner in the Old Ship Bank; he became Rector of Glasgow University in 1797. His father was the Very Reverend James Oswald, Doctor of Divinity, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1765. The clergyman moved into Scotstoun House to live with his son after retiring from church duties in his eighties. Scotstoun House stood on the current site of the Kingsway flats, which are within the present Parish of Blawarthill.
By the end of the 1800s, the estate began to be sold off for housing as the expansion of Glasgow continued. The name Blawarthill is taken from a farm of that name which stood a little to the west of Scotstoun House, on the Blawart Hill at the top of what is now Plean Street (“blawart” being an old Scots name for “bluebell”).
Scotstoun Parish Church ran a mission hall in the early part of the 20th century, from premises in Burnham Road. The need for a purpose built church became clear in the 1930s with the building of the Scotstoun West suburb, popularly referred to as the “Blawarthill Scheme”. This new housing lay north of Dumbarton Road and to the west of Anniesland Road. The area at that time was within the bounds of the Presbytery of Dumbarton. It was they who commissioned the building of a new Hall Church on Kinstone Avenue. The intention from the outset had been to build a separate sanctuary as soon as funds allowed, so a larger area of land was purchased, running down to Millbrix Avenue.
Established in 1940 as a Church Extension charge within the Presbytery of Dumbarton, the Hall Church was built and opened the following year, on 1st March, 1941. Full status was granted in terms of an Act of the General Assembly. The charge became Blawarthill Parish Church, quoad sacra. The architect was James Taylor Thomson, who also designed St John's-Renfield Church (where he was married in 1931), and High Carntyne Church. The first minister was the Rev. James Morrison who served from 1940 to 1949.
The Hall Church got off to an inauspicious start. Just two weeks after the opening, the area suffered its worst ever blow. In the midst of World War 2, the Nazi Luftwaffe embarked on bombing raids on the shipyards which were to become known as the Clydebank Blitz. Over a thousand lives were lost, and many homes were destroyed. An incendiary device fell through the roof of the Hall Church. Relatively minor damage was caused and the church was soon repaired and reopened. Blawarthill began, however, with what has been described as "its baptism of fire".
Scotstoun House, on the site of the Kingsway flats. Our parish looks
much different today.
The procession of clergy at the Rededication of our sanctuary, 2017.