Salvation Army’s UK leaders mark 125 years of transforming lives in Kilbirnie

published on 1 Jun 2017

The Salvation Army has been at the heart of the community since June 2 1892 and marked the milestone with a weekend of activities at its community church on Newton Street.

Leading the celebrations were Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams, who are the territorial leaders of the Salvation Army in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Commissioner Clive said was honoured to be part of the celebrations in Kilbirnie and added: “Looking back through the years it’s fascinating to see the transformation of Kilbirnie and the Salvation Army.

“But while many things have changed since our early beginnings, the Salvation Army remains at the heart of the community to help people overcome the very same social problems that existed 125 years ago. The anniversary weekend is an opportunity to recognise that incredible work.”

The Salvation Army’s mission work in Kilbirnie was spearheaded by Captain Polly Tantram and Lieutenant Joughin and the first church building was nicknamed the “tin hut” because it was made of corrugated metal. The Salvation Army quickly became part of the fabric of Kilbirnie and in 1938 opened what is now the current church on Newton Street. An extension to the building was added in 2013.

In September 1989 the Salvation Army officially inaugurated the Garnock Valley Centre for adults with learning disabilities. The centre was a continuation of a service that had first been established in 1982 by local social worker and Salvationist George Steven. He identified a need for more support for adults with learning disabilities locally and the Salvation Army believed in this community work so much that it opened the Kilbirnie Centre. The service eventually relocated to its current site on Craigton Road in 2003 where it is now known as the George Steven Centre – in honour of George who died two years later.  

The Salvation Army in Kilbirnie is now led by Lieutenant Wendy Leisk, who is originally from Caithness in the north of Scotland.

Lt Wendy is also the chaplain at the George Steven Centre where she delivers a regular programme of activities.

She said: “We are grateful for the chance to thank God and the local community because without them there would be no Salvation Army. The hall was packed to capacity on Saturday night for a celebration festival with our Ayr Songsters. The corps have been greatly encourage and looking forward to the years ahead where God will be worshipped and praised in Kilbirnie." 

Major Raelton Gibbs, Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army in the west of Scotland, said: “It was a privilege to have Commissioners Clive and Marianne with us for the anniversary celebrations in Kilbirnie. It is recognition of the vital work being carried out by our officers, volunteers and staff.”

In addition to church services every Sunday, The Salvation Army in Kilbirnie runs a lunch-club, sing group, band practice, toddlers’ group, craft and chat group, fellowship group, bible study coffee morning and messy church.