Sunday 12th. April, 2015 – Low Sunday 


Robbie, Eric, Aunt Agnes, Mum, Jill, Rachel and Martin (with Rowan getting into the picture and enjoying the April sunshine)


I got up, showered and had walked Mix by half-past eight. I breakfasted and then drove with Rachel and Mum to Gavinton Church where Stephen conducted the morning service. It was Low Sunday and considering that it was the Sunday after Easter our twenty-three folk in church wasn’t too bad. Stephen spoke about doubting Thomas coming to faith and then went on to discuss the marks of a Christian congregation’s attitudes to each other (and I suppose to others as well): speaking individually about each of the qualities of being loving, encouraging, forgiving, serving.

I came home and started on the final assault of getting the Bothy completed. Soon afterwards my aunt and Godmother (they are one and the same person) arrived from Edinburgh with her son (my cousin Martin), his wife (Jill), her Dad (Eric) and her son, Robbie. It was really good to see Aunt Agnes; she has come through a major operation after cancer was discovered in her mouth and she is quite, quite remarkable – talking well, in wonderful spirits and looking like a million dollars! The reason for the visit is that Robbie was to be measured for a kilt that Rachel is making for him. That took a very little time and then we all had a snack lunch of soup and rolls with tuna mayonnaise, curried eggs, salami and cheese. There was wine but I settled for my customary Ginger Beer and then coffee in the posh cups!

Before they all left we took them on a tour, lots has been done since they were last here and it was good to show them all that we have been up to. And the rain of the morning had faded away leaving Mount Pleasant bathed in April sunshine.

In the later afternoon I completed the work in the Bothy. It is now tidier than it has ever been and looking quite smart. What a lot of books we have accumulated over the years.

Today was the opening day of the cricket season in England and I followed Durham against Somerset at Taunton on the radio as I worked. It is always hard to get a result at Taunton partly because Somerset are a good team and partly because the pitch is usually very batsman-friendly. It looked like that was the way it was going with Somerset passing 220 runs with only two wickets down. However, Paul Collingwood came to the rescue, taking five wickets, and Somerset were all out for 299.

Durham started badly with two wickets lost for only 13 runs, but by the end of the evening session they had fought back to 98 for two and must be quite content with their first day’s work.

My room tidied and the cricket over, I wandered back to the Granary to discover that Mum had been on the telephone to Cathy who leaves tomorrow for Ireland. She told Mum that Robbie had not been well and had been taken into hospital. I telephoned Marie at once to see how Robbie was and discovered, to my horror, that he had died this afternoon. I was more taken aback than I can say. Robbie was one of those people who just seemed to go on and on. He and Marie came down to stay with us last year and we had a very happy few days visiting places around here and going to see a farming friend of Robbie’s from years ago.

Robbie was the first person I got to know at Luss. It was to his home that I was invited before he took me to the Village Hall reading room to meet the vacancy committee. It was he who asked me to come to Luss and who spelled out exactly what he was looking for in a minister. And when I came to Luss it was he who was my greatest supporter and my Session Clerk throughout the fifteen years I spent there.

I remember him and his wife at the Bible Study groups we shared in together every Monday evening for more years than I care to remember. I remember his encouragement as we started our youth programme, rebuilt the Pilgrimage Centre, created the bridge over the Luss Water to the Glebe (built by members of the Royal Engineers). I remember the great year of 2010 when we celebrated fifteen hundred years of continuous Christianity by Loch Lomond-side, a year-long celebration filled with activities at the centre of which Robbie was always to be found as we welcomed visitors and told the congregation’s story. He was a totally remarkable man.

But most of all I remember the conversations we shared. I learned of his deep faith in a loving God. I learned of how he had had to take over the running of the farm at a very early age, of the accident which left him with only one kidney, of his activities within the Young Farmers which led to his scholarship and his trip to Africa and New Zealand and Australia studying sheep farming around the world. I saw the regard with which he was held in farming circles throughout Scotland, heard of his exploits as a Councillor on the old County Council, learned of the way his farm was at the forefront of new methods of recording sheep and developing the best strain of sheep for the future. I admired the way he was there as the patriarch of his family, supporting, loving, advising and caring for them – although he was growing old in body, he remained so youthful in mind and in outlook (even if he did get a bit forgetful in more recent times).

Always the church had first call on his time. If there was a film show, he was there. If the Guild was meeting, he was sitting in the Pilgrimage Centre supporting it. I don’t think he ever missed a World day of Prayer Service and he was a well-respected member of the Presbytery of Dumbarton. In the Church itself he led by example, a Session Clerk who stood in the church porch Sunday by Sunday to welcome members and visitors into worship, showing elders by his example how to be a really good elder.

Together with Hamish, the treasurer, he spear-headed the project to totally refurbish the Church, raising funds from Historic Scotland and from the Heritage Lottery Fund but also setting up a Church gift shop to raise a huge amount of money locally. More recently he would come and take a turn as beadle during the wedding season, ensuring that brides’ nerves were calmed and visitors were welcomed. Not only was he the embodiment of the Church to many people, but he also stood for all that was good in our village. A friend to many, an example of all that is good and honest and true to his community, and the best Session Clerk a minister could ever wish to have.

Robbie will be missed by so many people but it is of his family I find myself thinking tonight. He shared twenty-one happy, happy years with Marie. They looked after each other in their different ways, they went on wonderful holidays, sometimes abroad seeking out the sunshine, sometimes on coaches throughout Britain -- and they loved to entertain, Robbie sitting at the head of the table conducting conversation while Marie looked after the physical needs of their guests (and she is a fabulous cook). Every Presbytery evening I went for a meal before the meeting. It was a mark of my welcome and acceptance that we ate in the kitchen, everything always beautifully done and always a lovely meal. Robbie would say grace and we talked through everything that was happening within the church. When I think back over my fifteen years in Luss, those occasions with two such special people are among the fondest of my many happy memories.

The news of Robbie’s death naturally doused the sparkle of the day, but I did watch the conclusion of the golf and I did walk Mix before bed. At times like this it is hard to be so far away from those of whom one is thinking.

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