History of Kilrenny Parish Church.

Significant Dates.

c865:    A chapel was dedicated on this site to St Ethernan, companion of St Adrian.

c1155:  Church and lands of 'Kilretheni gifted to the Canons of Dryburgh Abbey by Countess Ada, mother of Malcolm 1V 

             and William the Lion.

1243: 26th June,Church rededicated by David de Bernham Bishop of St Andrews.

1943  700th Anniversary - Article in East Fife Observer 24th June 1943.

                                                   NOTABLE ANNIVERSARY ON SUNDAY 

                                                            Septcentenary of Kilrenny Kirk

                                           I joy'd when to the house of God; go up they said to me.

For seven centuries the Auld Kirk of Kilrenny has stood, a notable landmark, a hallowed House of God closely connected through the long years with the religious life of countless generations of the folk of this part of East Fife.

On Sunday afternoon an anniversary service is to be held within its walls to celebrate the dedication of its foundation by David de Bernham, Bishop of St Andrews, on 26th June 1243.  It was really a redication by the Bishop, for, just as the Kirk of St Monans rose in proximity to the earlier chapel founded by St Monan, so by the Gellie Burn was erected a more substantial church on the site once occupied by a chapel dedicated to St Etheran.

We are told that when St Adrian and his company of monks founded the monastery on the Isle of May, the good King Constantine the Second (863-875) granted them permission to instruct the people of the adjacent mainland in the Christian Faith.

The King was mortally wounded while leading his army in battle against the Danes who had made one of their periodic inroads of the East Neuk.  The May proved no santuary, for St Adrian and most of his companions were cruelly put to death there by the invaders.  Among them was one Etheran, to whom a chapel was erected beside the Gellie Burn. 

Shortly after Dryburgh Abbey was founded in 1150, Princess Ada, the wife of Prince Henry, and mother of Malcolm the Fourth and William the Lion, gifted the lands of Kiletheran to its canons on condition that they should send a priest or a vicar to carry on the religious work in this parish. This led in 1225 to the well known dispute between Dryburgh and Kilrenny regarding the anchorage of fishing boats at the mouth of the Dreel Burn.

By the time of the erection of the church and its consecration by Bishop Bernham IN 1243, the usual transposition of consonants had occurred, and Kiletheran had become Kilrethen, and later Kylrynnie, Kilrennie, or Kilrenny.

John Beaton, cousin (or nephew, as some say) of the famous Cardinal Beaton, was custodian of St Andrews Castle at the time of the Cardinal's murder, and the church granted to him a charter putting him in possession of the lands of Kilrenny on condition that he keep in repair Skinfasthaven, at that time a prominent harbour for fishing boats, presumably on the site of the modern Cellardyke.  It was on the petition of this John Beaton that Kilrenny was elevated to the status of a Royal Burgh on the 24th January 1578, and so came to take precedence for all time of the two Anstruthers.

It is worthy of note that for centuries Kilrenny Parish included Cellardyke and Anstruther Easter, the parochine extending from the confines of Crail to the Dreel Burn. Appropos of this it may be told that when at the reunion of the churches parties were met to decide what allocation of lands should be made, the question arose as to what part should come under the jurisdiction of the minister of Chalmers Memorial.  To the astonishment, and perhaps alarm, of the former Free Kirk's representatives, the Kilrenny representative interjected, "I'll give him two miles."

After the Reformation, when the former shepherds of souls had been scattered to the wilderness, the minister of Anstruther Wester had also charge of Kilrenny, Pittenweem and Abercrombie.  This was James Melville, nephew of the famous Andrew Melville, who when principle of St Mary's College in St Andrews was such a sore thorn in the side of King James the Sixth.  History tells us that the latter got his own back when once he had got to London, but that is by the way.

The two Melville's were the most eminent scholars and staunchest reformers of their times.  The Diary of James Melville (Melville's Tower still keeps his memory green in Anstruther) which was begun when he was minister of Kilrenny, was continued when he was banished by King Jamie V1, when he became "First of England" until his death in 1614, and is regarded as the most reliable account of the religious struggles in Scotland during that stormy period.

When in 1590, following complaints from congregations, the General Assembly decreed that no minister was to have charge of more than one church and parish_there had, of course, not been sufficient ministers of the Reformed Faith to go round_James Melville gave up Anstruther Wester, Pittenweem, and Abercrobmbie, and elected to go to Klrenny. With reference to this transferance the records of the Kirk Session of Anstruther Wester contain this caustic passage:- "Mr James Melville took his guid nicht from this congregation the sayd month of October 1590 yeiris, and took him to Kylrynie to be their minister. God forgif him for doing sa!"  Calderwood says of him_"He was one of the wisest directoures of kirk affairs that our kirk had in his tyme."   

By and by the folks of Anstruther Easter became anxious to have a kirk of their own, and in 1643 the Town Council and community petitioned the General Assembly for permiission to erect a church in their burgh.  The Assembly agreed and in 1641 the parish of Anstruther Easter was disjoined from Kilrenny.

In March 1881 a handsome new church in Cellardyke was completed and dedicated, and two years later the parish of Cellardyke was also disjoined from Kilrenny and became a quod sacra.  But, symbolic of the Scotsman's devotion and tenacity to the kirk of his fathers, Kilrenny still draws two-thirds of its congregation from Cellardyke.

Sharing the fate of many other sacred edifices in Scotland at the time, Kilrenny Kirk, a fine example of mediaeveal architecture, was by the year 1807 in such a ruinous condition that part of the roof fell in. The heritors met and decided to pull down the old building and erect a square structure that would at the same time be commodious and inexpensive.  Mercifully those vandals spared the lovely old tower of which there is only one such other, that at Cupar.

Again by 1932, so remiss had the heritors been in their duty, the fine old place of worship had become so dilapidated that extensive restoration had to be carried out.

The present minister of the church is the Reverend J Marshall Pryde, B.D., who for 18 year, a well loved figure has laboured faithfully in his wide parish and preached the faith as did of old St Adrian and St Etheran.