Although no longer a place of worship — it is now a climbing centre — this place has always remained known as the Fishermen’s Church when speaking to someone from the village. At the the time when the two churches were active, it was also referred to as the “one doon the pier” (as against the “one up The Cut”.)
In 1843, a schism over patronage called The Disruption split the Church of Scotland. The Kirk Session of Newhaven Church, along with 450 other congregations, voted to leave the Established Church to form the Free Protesting Church of Scotland.
For a number of years after the split the congregation continued to worship in Newhaven Parish Church, until a Court of Session decision obliged the Kirk Session to hand over the keys to the Established Church. Thereafter, the congregation worshipped where they could. For a while this was on the slopes of Fishermen’s Park, until a wooden building was erected on a piece of ground in Maitland St (now Starbank Rd) near to where Mason’s the Bakers is today. However, this rude shelter was inadequate in a number of ways, not least of which was its size. Rev Fairbairn called the congregation together in 1849 and appealed for a solution to their accommodation problem.
A committee was set up to look at options, designs and sources of funding. By the following year, thanks to the generosity of the fishermen who comprised the majority of the congregation, the modern equivalent of £600,000 had already been raised.
The congregation of the Free Protesting Church of Newhaven obtained ground from the Free Fishermen’s Society by Sasine on 12 February 1851. Architect James Anderson Hamilton submitted a design for the new building, which was accepted by the Building Committee. Work began in 1851 and was completed on November 2nd 1852.
With a seating capacity of 600, plus a further 200 in the gallery, the new church was half as large again as the old church abandoned in 1843. Thus, having had no church at all for nearly 300 years, by the mid 1850s Newhaven had two. St Andrew’s, as it finally became known, was highly regarded not just by all in the village, but also by outsiders struck by the quality of its intricate maritime carvings.
The church had no steeple until 1883, when a fine 120 ft tower and spire was added by Wallace & Flockhart as a mark of remembrance of the long and faithful ministry of Dr Fairbairn. For many years the steeple served as a landmark for boats going up the Forth.
The addition of the steeple was instigated by Dr Fairbairn’s successor, Rev Dr David Kilpatrick who, like his predecessor, served lovingly for many years, before retiring in 1917.
Indeed, there was two stones bearing the names of the first two ministers who between them gave over 75 years of dedication to the people of Newhaven. It must be asked why these very capable and talented ministers who could have easily carved careers in churches with higher profiles and richer congregations should dedicate their lives to humble surroundings. The answer no doubt is the villagers of Newhaven took their religion seriously and returned the grace of the ministry received with respect, appreciation and love.