The Bequest of the Bell at Baile na Cille, 1829

The church at Baile na Cille was built in 1829 to accommodate the growing congregation of the evangelical minister Rev Alexander Macleod, who had arrived in Uig in 1824.  Church records include the following:

Dec 17, 1829

Roderick Nicolson Esq residing in Stornoway most respectably expressed his attachment to his native Parish by making a present of a Bell valued at twelve pounds stg for the use of the new church of Uig, built anno domini 1829.

Roderick, a shipowner in Stornoway, was the son of Angus Nicolson and the father of Alexander Morrison Nicolson, whose bequest founded the Nicolson Institute.

4 thoughts on “The Bequest of the Bell at Baile na Cille, 1829

  1. From photographs that I have taken the inscription on the bell appears to read ‘…C. WILSON &Co FOUNDERS GLASGOW ……’. And the only bell-founder who fits this inscription was John C. Wilson & Co. “of Gorbals Brass foundry, Glasgow, who first began to cast bells in 1838, when the foundry belonged to David Burges”1.
    “In 1854 Burgess retired and John C. Wilson took over the foundry. He cast bells under his own name until about 1874. In that year the firm became John C. Wilson and Co. and in 1896 became a limited company.”2 And this is confirmed in another source that says “John C. Wilson alone is found from 1854 till about 1873. From then till about 1895 the firm was called John C. Wilson & Co., and from then till 1928 it was a limited company.”3
    As the inscription runs around the back of the bell my photographs did not capture any date but its seems that the existing bell was cast around 1878 and installed as part of the alteration works undertaken at that time.

    Does anyone know what happened to the original bell bequeathed by Roderick Nicolson?

    1. The Church and other Bells of Kincardineshire, Eeles, 1897
    2. The Ringing World, August 4, 2000 (p763)

  2. I am writing, and hope to have finished in a few months, a history of the Gorbals Brass and Bell Foundry – see & follow links to publications – news. Many of the foundry records have survived, and are in the custody of the University of Glasgow Business Archive. However, the “bell book” from 1878 to 1896 is missing, although there are other extant records of larger bells cast during this period. I cannot trace a record of this casting, and suspect it may be in the “gap” period. From the photo, the bell looks quite small, say 18″ diameter, and may well not have been recorded in the extant records.

    It is likely the earlier bell was replaced because it had become cracked – bells are expensive to replace and one wouldn’t do it just for the sake of having a new one! It would be interesting to know who cast the original bell in 1829. A Glasgow founder active at that time was Stephen Miller & Co in Saracen Lane, but no records for that foundry, which closed in the 1840s, have survived.

    The Gorbals Brass & Bell Foundry was a partnership between John Cook Wilson and George Alexander from 1866 until 1895, when Wilson died at the age of 71. Alexander was 74, and the business was sold to William Kennedy, his son (also William) and Norman Henderson, who formed a limited company, John C. Wilson & Co. Ltd, for the purpose, in 1896. The foundry closed in 1928, and the foundry patterns and googwill were sold to Messrs Steven & Struthers of Kelvinhaugh, who traded until 1961, casting the occasional bell. The Gorbals foundry was Scotlands only ever “industrial” scale bell foundry, and cast about 4,000 bells in its 90 year life.

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