50th birthday celebration is in-spire-ing

St Michaels Church with the birthday spire sitting proudly atop
St Michaels Church with the birthday spire sitting proudly atop
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A special celebration was held in St Michael’s Church on November 23 to mark the 50th anniversary of the church’s iconic spire.

The Crown of Thorns, which has sat atop the church since 1964, was controversial when it was first unveiled.

Tam Dalyell MP was one of the loudest voices of opposition, making no secret of his opinion that a modern design was inappropriate for a mediaeval building.

However, Rev Dr David Steel, who was the minister of St Michael’s at the time, believed that each century should make its own contribution to the structure.

Reverend Steel’s son, Lord Steel of Aikwood, was present at the event on Sunday.

He read from his father’s private memoir which revealed that the Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence had originally favoured a traditional stone spire. The alumnium-covered wooden design, which we see today, was only erected after Sir Spence had a change of heart.

Also speaking at the event was Derek Henderson, whose father worked at Muirhead and Sons’ sawmill in Grangemouth while the structure was being assembled.

Malcolm Fraser, the architect behind the revamped Linlithgow Burgh Halls, also made a contribution. His father, Bill, was the structural engineer who supervised the erection of the eight-ton structure.

The presentation, devised by Jean Long, also included original video footage of the spire from Dr Judy Gray.

Responding to the church’s appeal for memorabilia, Dr Gray had her footage on 8mm film transferred to digital format just a few days before the event.