However, it’s remarkable that for nearly 300 years no church existed in Newhaven after the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St James, built by James IV in 1504, fell into ruin after only 50 years of use. The people of Newhaven had to walk to Leith to worship at North Leith Parish Church.
In 1828, the North Leith minister, Rev James Buchanan, campaigned for a church to be built in the village. The new church of Newhaven-on-Forth, with a capacity of 400, was consecrated on 30th October 1836. In 1838, the Rev James Fairbairn was appointed its first minister.
In 1843, a schism over patronage called ‘The Disruption’ split the Church of Scotland. Rev Fairbairn, the Kirk Session and his congregation, along with 450 other congregations throughout the country, voted to leave the Established Church to form the Free Protesting Church of Scotland.
In time, a new pastor was invited to look after the remaining but still sizeable flock. Rev Dr William Graham was appointed in 1849 and his ministry was a great success until his sudden death in 1887. Dr Graham and Dr Fairbairn formed a friendship in spite of their differences and co-operated in a number of ways. Together they worked onimproving living conditions for the fisherfolk. This included paving the streets, setting up a savings bank, and a scheme for villagers to buy their own homes. This was done for the benefit of all, regardless of their religious affiliations. The ministers also helped to buy decked (and therefore safer) fishing boats.