Rev. Ralph Erskine
Ralph Erskine was a Scottish churchman who lived from 1685 to 1752; and was the younger brother to Ebenezer Erskine, another prominent churchman. At the age of 15, he went to The University of Edinburgh to study Theology before becoming the ordained assistant minister at Dunfermline in 1711. Here he produced many works consisting of sermons, poetic paraphrases and gospel sonnets, some of this was not published until 1824.
In the centre of Dunfermline town, in front of The Erskine Church Building and next to the entrance of the Kingsgate Shopping Centre is a larger than life size bronze statue of Ralph Erskine on a pedestal.
Ralph Erskine occupies an important place within the history of the local community in Dunfermline and the interconnected history of the church and the monarchy within Scotland. A highly popular minister at Dunfermline Abbey in the 1720’s 1730’s, it was recorded that he and three assistants used to conduct Sunday communion continuously between 8.0am and 10.0 pm. However Ralph Erskine was expelled from the Church of Scotland in 1740, as a result of his support for the Secession Church led by his brother Ebenezer. This highlighted the issue of local landowners’ right to determine the appointment of ministers. Following this, Erskine established a new church in Dunfermline, initially from a large tent – until a new building was completed in 1741.
Following the death of Ralph Erskine, one of his ten sons, Robert, emigrated and became mapmaker to George Washington during the American War of Independence. The church which stands next to the General Post Office was erected in his memory and was extended throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to incorporate many heritage features. The large stained glass windows were donated by Euphemia Douglas of New York – a friend of Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Erskine’s statue was erected in 1848 on the site of the first church. The Erskine College commemorating Ralph and Ebenezer was later established in Abbeville South Carolina and is still in operation.
The St Andrews Erskine church remained central to the local community until the building was closed seventeen years ago and sold to property developers. The Yes-U-Are Partnership purchased the building in 2012 with the intention of developing it as a community resource for the people of Dunfermline and West Fife. The statue and renovated church building will be used to highlight Ralph Erskine’s heritage to the local and visitor public within the span of Dunfermline’s history.