The Scots Kirk


192 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-896219-26-8
DDC 285'.2713541




Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


In 1819, a pioneer named David Thomson donated seven acres of land in
Scarborough, Upper Canada, to establish a “glebe” for a growing
community of Presbyterian worshippers. Upon that glebe (a Scottish word
meaning “church land”), a kirk would be established. Eventually,
local worshippers would erect two churches, two manses, a library, a
Sunday school, and a cemetery, complete with sexton’s house and
several outbuildings. The kirk is known today as St. Andrew’s
Presbyterian Church.

Although many Presbyterian churches still survive in Canada, few have
managed to preserve their historical heritage as completely as St.
Andrew’s has. This book, published to honor Scarborough’s
bicentennial in 1997, contains dozens of photos, official records,
treasury reports, and church bulletins, as well as numerous oral
histories recorded from many generations of the congregation.

Written records such as accounts of pew rents and the minutes of church
meetings make for fascinating reading. One of the biggest controversies
to rage at St. Andrew’s was a proposal to instal a pipe organ to
accompany the choir; rather than allow this “disgrace” into St.
Andrew’s, one church elder in the 1890s locked the sanctuary door and
ran away with the key. At a 1920 Women’s Missionary Society meeting,
members who had no qualms about sending female missionaries to live
among “primitive heathens” in foreign lands expressed serious
misgivings about subjecting those same candidates to the hostile
environment of a male-dominated medical school in Christian Canada.

The official text of this book is written in prose that is better than
average for a self-published church history. However, the most
intriguing chapters for the general reader are the oral histories
submitted by the amateur contributors. The Scots Kirk will appeal to
anyone interested in the evolution of Canadian Presbyterianism at the
congregation level.


Chadwick, Andrew, Bruce McCowan, and Nancy McCowan., “The Scots Kirk,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,