The History of Overton Church
Chapter 4: A Long Vacancy (1842-1849)
It is difficult to know accurately the course of events from the time of Mr Sprott’s demission in 1842 until the coming of the third minister in 1849. There was a very long vacancy; for this period no regular records are available; and indeed the congregation came almost to expiring point.
At one time the Office-Bearers intimated to the Presbytery that “they could not take sermon oftener than once in three weeks, though they would be happy to receive it oftener if the Presbytery could furnish it with less expense”. The Presbytery responded in that “any preacher within the bounds having no other appointment was recommended to give them a day gratis”.
At another time there was a move for the congregation to dispose of its property “for the security of those under obligation for the debt”. This latter proposal was made in 1843; and it should be noted that this was the year of the Disruption, when the biggest of all the secessions in the Church took place, and the Free Church was formed.
In West Kilbride the situation was quite confused. The Rev. Thomas Findlay, then parish minister, adhered to the Disruption and “came out” from the Established Church with many of his people to become the first minister of a Free Church congregation.
Thus on one hand there was a new 'Free' Congregation with a minister and a large number of members, but without a church building; and on the other a 'United Associate' congregation with a church building, but with a small number of members struggling desperately to keep going owing to financial difficulties, and without a minister.
One would have thought that here was a case where serious consideration would be given to the question of an amalgamation, and it seems that at one point the idea of the congregations uniting was discussed.
But nothing came of this, and matters hung in abeyance for a further period, until in 1849 the way was opened for better things.