An interesting booklet, “The Story of St. Leonard’s Parish Church by Owsald B. Milligan, B.D. Minister of the Parish contains much information, some of which is reproduced here.
Little is known of the Saint in whose name the Church was dedicated. Leonard was born of noble parents in the Court of Clovis, the first Christian King of France. His father was an officer of high rank in the army and evidently possessed the Royal Favour, for the King consented to stand as sponsor at Leonard’s Baptism. The boy was educated at Misey and Orleans and instructed in Divinity by Remigius, the Bishop of Rheims. He afterwards settled near Limoges, where he founded a religious community. He died about A.D. 559 and his day in the calendar is November 6th. The most notable feature in the life of St. Leonards was his zeal for prisoners and captives. Their reformation, together with the alleviation of their sufferings, was the object that lay nearest his heart. It is said that he obtained permission from the King to release every prisoner whom he visited. He is therefore, recognised as the Patron Saint of prisoners and in Religious Art, he is represented either entering a prison cell or carrying unlocked fetters and chains.
The chapel of St Leonard’s
Approximately a mile and a half to the south west of the town, there stood a chapel and hospital dedicated to St Leonard. Little is known of its origin, its monks or its revenues, and the ruins have totally disappeared. The exact site evidently stood in what is now called “Chapel Park”.
Whilst the surrounding land belonged to the Burgh, the Chapel Park belonged to the Church, the Monks at Fail Monastery in the Parish of Tarbolton. The highway from Carrick to Ayr which crossed the Auld Brig of Doon, ran along the eastern side of the Moor and near the road surrounded by trees lay the Chapel of St Leonard and a hospital. The Chapel is mentioned in a charter of 1614. In a survey of Ayrshire, made probably about 1604-08 “Leonards” is marked as a place near the site which has been indicated.
With thanks to South Ayrshire Libraries for the use of this image of St Leonard’s Parish Church in the early 20th Century.
St Leonards Church
The existence of the chapel explains the reason the present Church received its name. It was built to provide church accommodation for the increasing population at the southern end of the Burgh, at a cost of nearly £6,000. The greater part of the sum being raised by subscription, while £850 was realised by a Bazaar held in the Town Hall from the 22nd-24th December 1885. The Church was completed the following year. It was opened on the morning of May 2nd, 1886.
The addition of a church hall had been contemplated from the beginning and plans were submitted to show the hall, classrooms, together with the Chancel, new Organ Chamber and enlargement of the Gallery. It was decided in March 1910 to proceed with the work, also installing electric light and a heating system throughout.
1886 Communion Plate
Presented by George Hart of Corsehill, a set of 4 Cups, 2 Flagons and 2 Patens in engraved silver
Inscribed “ Gifted to St Leonard’s Church, Ayr, by George Hart Esq., of Corsehill 1887”
Stamped on each vessel are the letter “I.H.S” (originally the first two letters of Jesus and the last letter of Christ as written in Greek, or as later translated into the initial letters of the latin “Jesus Hominum Salvator” (Jesus the Saviour of Men). The letters are surmounted by the Sign of the Cross and enclosed in a Sun – the source of all Light.
1886 Baptismal Font
Crafted in Oak. Presented by David Meikle, The Pines. Inscribed “Blessed are they who are born in the Lord”. The “I.H.S” and “S.L” (initial letters of the Church’s name) are engraved on four of the octagonal sides.
In Oak. Presented by David Meikle, Woodside. Inscribed on a silver plate. “To St Leonard’s Church. Presented by J. Meikle, Ayr. June 1887.
1903 Granger Memorial Window
This window represents our Lord’s Charge to St Peter. In the one light Our Lord is standing, in a rich ruby-coloured dress, holding the pastoral staff which he is about to present to the kneeling St. Peter who occupies the lower portion of the other light. St John and St James are seen in the background. Sheep and lambs, a boat and net form accessory details suitable to the occasion.
The subject is placed within ornament which has been introduced the symbolical open Bible, while the descending Dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, is seen above the figure of the Lord. At the base of the window is the text “Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep” and the following dedicatory inscription “To the Glory of God and in remembrance of William Granger M.A. first minister of this Parish, born 1859 , ordained 1886 , died 1898. Erected by Parishioners” The window was designed and executed by A Ballantine & Son, Edinburgh.
1903 An additional Portion of Ground
Presented by George Hart, and Andrew Dick Hart, in memory of their father, George Hart of Corsehill. This presentation provided a suitable site for the new hall contiguous with the church, and the Messrs Hart since the erection of the hall, have allowed the Managers , by altering the boundary wall, to square the property with the adjoining fen.
1907 The Meikle Memorial
This window contains the figures of Faith, Hope and Charity. Charity is represented in one light carrying a child on one arm; with the other she guided upon his way another little pilgrim, staff in hand; from the store that is lying by her side she has evidently provided him with the bread which he is holding. On the other light, Hope is shown in a sitting posture, leaning on an anchor and with her eye gazing not at 2the things that are seen and temporal, but at the things that are unseen and eternal”. Faith stands beside here holiday the shield and the staff, which is crowned with the symbol of the Passion.
In the ornamental portions, above the figure of Charity, is the flaming Heart, while in the other light the Cross and Anchor symbolize Faith and Hope.
At the foot of the window is the following dedicatory inscription:-
“To the glory of God and in memory of David Meikle, The Pines, a prominent member of this Church. Born 4th September 1850; died 28th October 1905. Erected by his widow and family.”
The window was designed and executed by A. Ballantine & Son, Edinburgh.
1909 Alms Dish In richly carved and ornamental brass. Presented anonymously. Inscribed:- “Thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God”.
1910 The Chancel Window
Presented by Colonel H. M. Pollock-Morris of Craig, D.L., in memory of his wife.
This window , consisting of three lights and tracery, contains the subject of “The Resurrection of Our Lord”. The figure of the Risen Lord in the centre light represents the Appearance given to the Disciples and to the women after He rose from the dead. The kneeling figure of the Magdalene, in the centre light, forms a group with St John and St. Peter on the one side and the Marys on the other. The struggle of their emotions as they behold the figure of the Risen Lord is depicted in their expressions – the overwhelming sorrow of love, the fear and great gladness, the wonder and thankfulness. The scheme of the stained glass is so arranged that this group of Disciples is shown in heavy colours- dark greens and blues, relieved by touches of purple – while the figure of Our Lord stands above them in a halo of light. The effect of this contrast is to lead the eye and thought at once to the central idea of the window – the glory of the Risen Lord. Beams of light proceeding from above and radiating from His Person strike into the darker colours beneath. The Figure, though still carrying the marks of the Passion, carries the banner of Victory, and while the one arm is raised triumphantly pointing updwards, the eyes of the Saviour of Mankind are turned down towards “His own” who He has left “ a little while”.
The large cusped circle of the tracery contains the figure of the Father robed in majesty. In the hollow of His Hand He holds the world – the world surmounted by the Cross. He sits as Judge, but there is “a rainbow round about the throne” – the symbol of the Divine mercy that surrounds Divine justice. In the two smaller trefoils on either side are introduced the Alpha and Omega.
At the top of either sidelight are shown “two angels in white” – the morning sky above, the darkness of the tomb beneath – sitting with faces towards the Risen Christ. The ruby in their wings, with the ruby in the figure of the Father, and that in the robes of the Magdalene together make a Cross of colour symbolic of the Passion. The whole window is thus filled with the thought of triumph won through sacrifice, joy that comes through pain, and life that conquers death.
On the window is the text from 1st Peter i., 3- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.
Below the window is placed a bronze with the following inscription:- “To the glory of God and the beloved memory of Agnes Tennant Buchanan, wife of R. M. Pollock-Morris of Craig, D.L., who died at Middleton, Ayr, on 26th December 1909. She was the best of wives and mothers. Her whole life was one of noble unselfishness and kindness, which so eminently endeared her to her family and all who knew her.”
“Oh! For the touch of a vanished hand,
and the sound of a voice that is still”
I.Cor., chap 15
The whole work has been designed and executed by A. Ballantine & Son, Edinburgh.
1910 The Communion Table
In Oak. Presented anonymously. The edge of the Table is bored by richly-carved tracery of vine leaves, grapes and ears of wheat – symbolical of the bread and wine used by Our Lord at the Last Supper. The front and sides of the table are finished with deep open work carving.