A most conspicuous monument within our church is displayed above the north entry door.
The model represents, in exact detail, a captured French Frigate of 50 guns. This model was presented to the Old Parish Church around 1804 and was the craftsmanship and work of Mr. William Dunlop, a Gunner’s mate, said to have been a member of Nelson’s crew at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797. He was of Saltcoats and most likely a member of the Old Parish Church, now North Ayrshire Museum. Within the graveyard there are buried members of his family. The model was presented as a token of thanksgiving for Mr. Dunlop’s preservation during the sea battles.
The ship was originally displayed within both churches by being suspended from the internal roofs, but was removed to its present position around 1959 following some upgrading and renovation. There are some who feel that the model may have lost some of it’s “ethereal” aura by the move.
The 1959 restoration was undertaken by Mr. William Lees of Helensburgh who writes:- “The model is some 155 years old at time of restoration. It is evidently that of a large French Frigate of the period 1790, of about 1250/1500 tons gross weight. It was captured and renamed by the British for service in the Napoleonic Wars. Evidence of her French lines is prominent in the bulwarks and her lack of sheer. The model bears evidence of having been constructed by an able seaman. Everything onboard and outboard is detailed and exact down to the waterline. Below the waterline this is not the case. This type of model is rare in Scotland and this one is probably unique. Unfortunately she has suffered badly from, and during, past restoration, which has made her less valuable as a historic piece”.
The brass commemorative plate displayed close to the model was presented in 1904 by the then minister Rev. Rossie Brown. The plate contains the following information:“ Model of the Caledonia Frigate is the workmanship and gift of Mr. William Dunlop, late Gunner’s Mate, in His Majesty’s ship St Joseph – 1804.”