Monday 1st. September, 2014 -- My friend Alan McNaught 


I learned yesterday of the death of my friend Alan with whom I spent very many happy hours during my almost nineteen-year stay in Buckhaven in Fife.

I don’t remember the first time I met Alan but I do know that it was very soon after Rachel and I arrived in Fife. Very quickly we had started going down to the old St. Andrews Church Hall of an evening and there, sometimes until quite late, we would play badminton – always, as I remember it, going back to his home in Methilhaven Road where his wife Janette would have supper prepared. I remember their hospitality and I remember the easy way they offered and returned friendship.

Our late-night badminton evenings moved on and soon we were playing golf together sometimes with Chris and Donald on Wednesday afternoons. We progressed from the municipal Leven course to become members of the Leven Golfing Society and that, to one who doesn’t know us, makes us sound very much grander golfers than Alan or I ever were.

Alan and I shared in leading the Buckhaven Boy’s Brigade Company – that, too, sounds grander than it was. Eric Greenaway came along from Kirkcaldy to start a company again based in the St. Andrews Hall, but it was Alan who did most of the actual work with young people and every year we would go away for a week for an annual camp, a journey which took us to the Borders, to Pitlochry and, on one occasion, all the way to the Orkney Islands, Alan driving a large minibus. I remember the weeks of preparation which we made together so that the camps would go well.

I remember a splendid holiday which Alan and Janette shared with us. We drove Rachel’s mother’s vw beetle all the way to Venice and later spent quite a bit of time in Genoa as we showed them both some of the places in which we had lived during my ministry in Italy.

I remember Janette being diagnosed with cancer and the care which Alan lavished upon her during her last days. At that time it seemed like the end of the world for Alan as he was left with his son and two daughters around the void which was Janette’s absence – Janette had always been the home-maker and the very centre of the family.

In time Alan got a new job, as manager of the local sports shop, and from there he moved to become a very important member of the team which ran the Buckhaven Parish Church Agency, working both with the adult programme and with youngsters on the youth programmes. Alan was one of those people who always got the job done, he worked hard and was a hugely loyal colleague and friend to all of us who were on that team. Alan was often the one who had to deal with matters of discipline and he gave the impression (which he enjoyed) of being hard -- but those of us who knew him best knew that inside he was really quite a softie, who put himself into the shoes of those with whom he was dealing and, underneath the bluster, was kind and thoughtful.

It was while working at the Agency that Alan met Wilma, someone I suspect that he had known for ages, through the Church, through the Boys’ Brigade, through the Agency and through being part of the Buckhaven community. They were married soon after I left Buckhaven – I came back to share in their day of celebration – and it was so good to see Alan happy again. And he was so happy until, unbelievably, history repeated itself and Wilma was diagnosed with cancer. She put up a brave fight, supported every inch of the way by Alan and during that difficult time they continued really to enjoy each other’s company – but, things don’t always have a happy ending, and Wilma died. I do not know how Alan survived this second disaster, but he did, carrying I think, his personal sadnesses with him as he returned to one of his earliest loves – East Fife Football Team whom he supported in person at almost every game. His other sporting love, ice hockey, remained and on the night of his death he went to Kirkcaldy to watch a game with his son Ian, of whom he was enormously proud – all of his children have done so well and time spent with Ian, Margaret and Jennifer was the best time of all. Back home after the ice-hockey game in the privacy of his home, he died of a heart attack – he had suffered from breathing problems for many months.

Alan had an enormous sense of fun – we even persuaded him to appear in a production of the Pirates of Penzance as a policeman, and he was a gentleman of Japan in the production of the Mikado with which the Buckhaven St. Andrews Theatre was opened. He was a committed member of the Kirk Session of the Church (it was my privilege to ordain him as an Elder) and he was always up for any adventure. The old photograph which I have dug out and which graces the top of this entry shows Alan (on the right) with Bob Watt and me on the day we played one hundred holes of golf, sponsored to raise money to move a stained glass window from a church that was to be demolished into Buckhaven Parish Church. The golf wasn’t great but the fun was enormous. Then there were parties at New Year, in fact there were parties all year and Alan was at the heart of it all.

I suspect, however, that all of life’s knocks had tired Alan out. He was a good friend to so many people and he will be missed.

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