image1-1As part of the background history of Barony St. John’s church, the Design Team I’ve employed to compile a feasibility report for the buildings came across this model.

It’s an exact replica of the Barony St. John and all they could tell me was that the model was made by Jim Miller and was on display in the Parish Centre of the Church of Saint Peter in Chains as part of their Doors Open Day on 2nd September 2007.

Well, you know me by now, I love a mystery so I had to set to work finding out  – “Who is Jim Miller?”, “What was the model made of?” and “Where was it now?”

The local newspaper, The Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, came to my aid, running an article asking for help from their readership and I soon got an email address for Jim.

After a few unsuccessful bids to meet up, Jim popped into the Barony St. John on his way past one day and I managed to interview him about his model;img_3234

The model itself is made of matches – about 15-20,000 matches in all!!

And this was not the only model Jim has made. In fact, Jim has made a matchstick replica of almost every church in Ayrshire!

So, some background details on Jim – he currently resides in Kilwinning but originally hailed from Dalry. He took up the hobby of matchstick model making around 1994/5 when he became a volunteer in the Abbey Tower Heritage Centre in Kilwinning.

Before then, he had been making a number of small matchstick model kits when he was the Crafts Class Officer with 1st Dalry Boys’ Brigade in the 1970s – 1990s.

However, his first serious model was of the stunningly beautiful Eglington Castle (shown below).

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By 1995, Jim had developed an interest in making models of churches and when the Church of Scotland told the congregation of Mansefield Church in Kilwinning that they  would be moving to another location, Jim decided he would build a matchstick model of the church as a memento (in case it was to be sold or demolished).

Once complete, Jim gifted the model to the church congregation, as he has done with every church model since.

The Barony St. John church model was Jim’s 13th church model (my lucky number) and was built around 1998/99, taking three – four months to complete.

It currently resides in the Kirkgate Parish Church in Saltcoats alongside the model of Kirkgate that Jim made (the congregation having moved to Kirkgate when the Barony St. John closed).

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Jim’s models, as well as being incredibly detailed, also contain a little white dove somewhere on the building as can be seen with the closeup of the parapet in the Barony St. John model (above).

And this Kirkgate church model complete with stained glass windows, looks equally impressive (below).

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The plan is to put both these models on display in the upper gallery of Kirkgate church in Saltcoats.

To date, Jim has completed 83 church models – all of which have been gifted to the congregation of the particular church he has made.

The congregations of churches all over Ayrshire, Pennal in Wales and even Berlin in Germany have been fortunate enough to receive a replica of their church made by Jim Miller. And he has also made 19 other non-church models including a couple of schools, three castles, two Masonic lodges and a Community Centre.

It’s no wonder he is known locally as The Matchstick Man.

Jim also told me that his favourite model is that of St. Margaret’s Church in Dalry (pictured below) where Jim was christened on Christmas day in 1949 and married on 18th October 1974. 😀st-margarets-church-dalry