St. Margaret’s Free Church in Fairlie was first known as the Free Church of Fairlie. It’s first minister was the Port Glasgow born Reverend – John Gemmel. He was born 03 March 1807, the second of eight children born to parents Robert Gemmell, a bookseller and Jane Cousins.  John graduated M.A. from Glasgow University in 1824 and was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in October 1829.

He served as a missionary at St. John’s Parish Church, Glasgow before being ordained at Newtown-Crommelin, County Antrim, on 23 June 1835.  By April 1837 he translated to Fairlie Parish Church and was one of the ministers who signed the Deed of Demission in May 1843 following the Disruption of the Church of Scotland.  Shortly afterwards he was evicted from his church and manse.  The majority of his congregation, including four of the five elders, the church precentor David Boyd and the schoolmaster Robert Pinkerton, left with him.

The newly formed Free Church congregation held a service in the schoolhouse (built by two free church members in 1826), but the following Saturday evening, 04 November 1843, prior to their second church service, Rev. Gemmell received word from Lord Glasgow’s factor that they could no longer use the schoolhouse as a meeting place.  Miss Home of Fairlie Lodge came to their rescue and offered her stable until a new church was built.  The four elders, Captain Hay, R.N., Robert Pinkerton, Orby Gray and Robert Gray, formed the first Kirk Session.  The stable also served as the Free Church School.

Miss Home of Fairlie Lodge provided the land on which the Free Church of Fairlie was built and contributed generously towards the building costs.  Others who made major contributions were Captain Nay, R.N., Robert Brown, Esq., Hugh Tennent, Esq., and Mrs Margaret Parker.  Due to its generous benefactors, the church opened completely free of debt.

The Free Church of Fairlie opened on Wednesday 31 July 1844 with services at 1.30pm and 7.30pm led by Dr. Cook of Belfast.  The church building was a plain rectangular shape with the pulpit at the north end and seating for 200.  By 1845 all 200 seats were occupied.  Heating was provided by means of a stove with a chimney.  The church bell was gifted by Hugh Tennent, Esq., and two silver cups, gifted anonymously, were inscribed “To the Congregation of the Free Church at Fairlie, 1844”.

The south end of the church was separated from the main part of the church by means of a folding partition and used as the Free Church School.  During the summer months, the partition was folded back, allowing an additional 80 visitors to attend.  The school masters were paid £40 per year and until 1900 also served as the Session Clerk.  In 1859 William Miller from Tarbet was appointed as schoolmaster and served until 1876, when the Free Church school and the Parish school merged, with William Miller as headmaster.  William Miller also taught the Free Church Sunday School.  From 1846 Sunday School prizes were awarded and from 1847 the schoolroom was used by the young men’s group for ‘mental and religious improvement’.

The Free Church manse was built in 1849 at a cost of £350.  The outstanding £100 debt was quickly cleared by means of a concerted savings drive and assistance from other Free Churches.  Built into the fabric of the manse were stones from the ruins of Chapel House farm.

In 1858 a porch was added to the front of the church building to provide shelter for the elder and deacon on duty at the church doors.  In 1876 when the schoolroom was no longer required additional seating was installed, and a vestry and session house were built in 1877.

Around 4pm on Sunday 18 January 1879 the alarm was raised that the church roof had caught fire, possibly caused by a stray spark from the chimney.   With no fire engine, a chain of men and women formed from the church to the shore, with men standing up to their waists in the water, passing along buckets of sea water in the hope that the church could be saved.  Bibles and other items were quickly removed from the session house.  Two hours later, it became apparent that there was no hope of saving the church and attention turned to the session house, which was successfully saved.  The church itself was destroyed leaving only four blackened walls.

The new church building was designed by architects McKissack & Rowan of Glasgow and William McChlery, engineer.  It was built incorporating the original stone walls, with its entrance porch at the north end and the church offices at the south end.  Costing £1200 to build, the new church opened on Sunday 04 January 1880.  The church clock was gifted by David Miller.

In May 1881 Rev. John Gemmell was awarded an honorary D.D. by Glasgow University.  He died on 25 March 1884 at the Free Church Manse, Fairlie, aged 77 after suffering from a stroke.  Rev. Gemmel was buried in Haylie Brae Cemetery, Largs.  He was succeeded by his assistant Rev. William Shedden Fleck who was ordained at Fairlie in 1875.  Rev. Fleck graduated from the Free Church College, Glasgow.

In 1891 the hot air heating was replaced by hot water pipes and in August 1894 the precentor was replaced by a harmonium organ.   C. H. McNair, who replaced David Boyd as precentor in 1890 became the first church organist, serving until 1909.

In 1911 the Free Church of Fairlie was renamed St. Margaret’s Free Church.  In 1927 Robert Strang, Esq., presented the church with a petrol gas lighting installation.  In 1940 this was replaced by an electric lighting system gifted by William Stevenston, Esq., in memory of his wife.  In 1943 the harmonium was replaced with a Hammond electric organ, gifted by Mr Stevenston.

In 1967 St. Margaret’s merged with St. Paul’s Parish Church, Fairlie and on 07 January 1968 became Fairlie Parish Church.  St. Paul’s continued to be used as a place of worship, while St. Margaret’s became the church hall. St. Margaret’s Free Church was later sold and turned into a private home.