I feel this is especially relevant today?
Many would not believe that I had a minister as my father was a “Fire and Brimstone minister” a Tee – totaller. I looking back had a great child hood though, though we had very little money in a big manse in Ayr, (he tithed his small salary to the Lord) Yet he was a good Dad loved sport, football (Ayr United) and the mountains. He was a dedicated Church Of Scotland Minister his life was the Church and Mum more or less single handily brought us up all five kids in the Manse in Ayr.
I was the last of 5 kids the youngest and was more than a bit of a “wild child “as the Ministers son. I feel maybe it was because you got a lot of grief and most folk expected more from you as was the normal kid for a son of the Manse! I was always playing up a bit rebellious and getting into many scrapes. Dad was very strict and I needed it but looking back he gave me a great start to life though like many I never appreciated it at the time. The rest of the family were well – behaved and as the youngest of the family with three sisters and one brother I was spoiled and often in trouble.
Dad and Mum gave me a love of the wild places, the mountains and sport and we used to go to all of the Ayr United football team games home and away. Dad always wore his dog collar and this often got us into the games for free. I would vanish among the crowd and Dad and Mum would be in the stand. (Mum was always worried I would get arrested) He had a booming voice and it looks like I inherited it and his voice could be heard all around the ground where he was a bit of a local character.
The Church was his life and he worked so hard we hardly saw him. He was an old-fashioned minister who visited his people and was a true hard worker and was always there when you needed him. I see few ministers like that now he knew and loved his people, especially his old folk and would visit them in hospital wherever they were.
In his day he was a very talented runner and won the Arthur’s Seat Race on, several occasions and as Captain of the Hares and Hounds the Edinburgh University Athletics club. His best pal died as an alcoholic very young this gave him his extreme views on drink. He was a fit man playing tennis right into his later life.
It was in the Mountains he spent his early days in the 1930’s at Loch Arkaig in the West Coast as a student Minister visiting the far-flung parishes in Glendessary and about, small Churches with great people. He was looked after by the Head Keeper Cameron Of Loch Eil who carried all the heavy Sacrament communion cups and bits and pieces of the sacraments for my Dad minister to some far-flung parishes. They would do a few Munros after the services. He loved these days and spoke about them often.
He never forgot and always remembered Cameron and his care and loved the mountains and wild areas. We were often sent venison through the post I remember the venison what a treat. It would arrive in a bloody parcel Mum used to dread it I wonder what the postman thought then?
My Dad and I had some great days out. We were in Glencoe when I was very young with Mum and Dad. We were on Bidean Nam Bian and came off the wrong way near Church Door Buttress. The famous climber Hamish MacInnes was in the Corrie it was wet and misty and heard us and our epic. He helped us down my Dad knew who he was this was the mid 60’s and walked us off. Hamish remembers it as Dad told him he was a Minister. Hamish laughs always when we speak about this day. My Dad got a few sermons out of that day.
It was in the hills that I really started to get to know my Dad and when I joined the RAF and joined the RAF Mountain Rescue he was very happy maybe he felt my wildness was being tamed? He helped give me an endurance and though never a great athlete he would always day do your best. I remember as a very young boy about 11 or 12 on the Annual Ayr Advertiser Walk 9 ( about 14 miles over the local Carrick Hills) I collapsed in a lay bye that was a drink and food stop. I said I was finished my Mum wanted to put me in the car but Dad would not let me. I finished the race but learned from that and when the chips were down in the mountains to keep me alive.
We managed a few great days in our amazing Galloway Hills, The Merrick, Corserine and Back Hill of the Bush and of course Arran where we spent so many great holidays.
We had so many wonderful days on the Arran Ridge, Goatfell, A’Chir and the other great peaks. We all went as a family and had such holidays, huge days 12 hours at times and fish and chips on the way home. These are days I will never forget. The family holidays swapping manses in the Highlands were great fun and more big days on the mountains.
He never wore any kit a jumper as his spare kit and old pair of shoes and trousers, he wore the dog collar at times to get up restricted tracks! After we lost Mum of leukaemia Dad never got over it. We had a plan to go round the big Hotels in the Highlands, the Clachaig in Glencoe, Kintail Lodge and the Clachaig on Skye and do the big hills in comfort. Sadly it was not to be what a shame as for once we had a bit of money but Mum died suddenly of leukaemia and Dad took it very hard. He was never the same and he collapsed in the pulpit during Easter week Services and never really recovered he was in hospital till he died. He was all there mentally but the stroke never allowed him to get out of hospital, it was a sad time for all. I came home as often as I could but never really grieved for my Mum or Dad till many years later. I am sure it was as I would see so many fatalities over the years I was struggling at the time.
You are who you are and your family makes you who you are.
I was very lucky to have had such a Dad and Mum, special people who you have no clue at the time what you owe them. Money means little, love and care is far more precious, I was a wild teenager and yet they still loved me and did their best, I will never forget that. They were always there to advise and keep you right never easy especially throughout my youth.
I do not get to my home town often but when I do there are still many who remember my Dad. I always get the stories of how he looked after his flock. They also remind me of how wild I was that is 60 years later.
On Father’s day and every day please give Mum and Dad your love and tell them how much you care for them.
Thanks Dad for a great start so sad that we never got the holiday we planned.
Yet every time I am out in the wild places you and Mum are with me. I thank you for the great start and only recently through the media folk still tell me what a great minister you were to your congregation. There are few like you nowadays!
Thinking of you today and always!