Reverend James MacMorland (1886-1975).


This document is a lightly edited version of notes written by the Rev. James MacMorland. He was the fifth child (born 8 June 1886) of William MacMorland and his wife Agnes Jack and grew up in the School House in the village of Straiton, Ayrshire, Scotland. He was a member of a large family of eleven children (eight boys and three girls) of whom two died in infancy. This story tells of his early life in Straiton and how from there at the age of seventeen he went on to Glasgow University to study for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. He describes the influence that Darwinism had on his thinking and the struggles he had with his conscience trying to reconcile traditional religious belief with modern thought and the life that he saw about him especially in the poorer parts of Glasgow and when serving as a padre in the army during the First World War. He served as a minister in various parts of Scotland, but mainly in Glasgow, till he retired and then went to live with his daughter in West Sussex where he stayed till he died on the 16 April 1975.

The notes that he left were in the possession of his second daughter Agnes Chappell. It is clear that he intended that they should be published and made available to anybody interested. Agnes knew of my interest in genealogy and suggested that I deal with their publication. My first reading of them persuaded me that they were of sufficient interest to make this worthwhile, not only as a record of his life for the rest of the family but also for a wider readership of anybody interested in the difficulties of reconciling traditional Christian belief with the realities of modern life. His notes also included his views on current political events, his enthusiasm for Robert Burns and a short history of the Church of St John’s in Glasgow where he spent the latter part of his ministry. These last are not included in this document.

Agnes had collected the notes together and put them in a box for me to collect but unfortunately she died just before I had a chance to pick them up. However her daughter Beth was able to pass them on to me (6 March, 2006) very soon after her mother’s death. I made contact with Alan and David Jones, Beth’s cousins and JM’s grandchildren and persuaded them to help together with Beth and my sister Wendy Taylor to tackle the job of transcribing the notes from the rather uneven typescript of the originals to their computers and to email these to me for assembly into the present document. I decided not to edit the notes strongly in order to retain their sense, style and historic authenticity although this has resulted in some repetition and lack of balance. Much of this repetition may be avoided by skipping the Pre-amble and Chapter 1 and going directly to Chapter 2 followed by Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6. Some readers may find the section entitled ‘Early Recollections’ (pp. 18 to 23) in Chapter 1 a useful introduction. However I felt it was important to retain all sections of JM’s notes for historic authenticity. Comments and explanatory notes by the transcribers and editor have been enclosed in square brackets thus: [-].

The notes contain very few dates and in order to provide some sort of time scale I have prepared a chronology of his life and attached it as Appendix A. I felt it might also be useful to include an index to the complete collection. This is attached as Appendix B. Prior to making the index I collected the notes into bundles and gave each bundle a document number running from 1 to 31. Documents 30 and 31 are those that have been transcribed to yield the present document as described below. Document 31 was subdivided into 9 sections identified as 31/1, 31/2 etc. Not transcribed for the present document are sections 31/5 and 31/6 which together are his commentary on the first part of the Second World War, and section 31/8 which describes a visit he made to Cornwall.

R.W. Peter McWhirter.

July 2008

 The Story of the Life of the Reverend James MacMorland (1886-1975).




PRE-AMBLE.  (Pages 6 to 13 of the present document)

This is a transcription of what I initially labeled Document 31 Section 1 (31/1) and Section 9 (31/9) – see Appendix B. Collected in it are various parts of his story that don’t fit in easily to the historical flow, such as that is, of the main part. They are reproduced here more or less in the order in which I found them in the collection of papers I inherited from Agnes. They provide an indication of his intentions as far as publication is concerned but also something of an introduction to the main part of his story. The first pages consist of the letter to himself pp. 1-7 (incl.) (page numbers are to his original notes) where he describes a visit to Scotland in May 1968. This is followed by a note about his ‘Story of St John’s’, a letter about his ‘Padre with the Highland Division’ dated 1 July 1968. Finally (for 31/1) on pp 17 – 19 (incl.) ‘An introduction to a semi-detached View of Life’. This is an introduction to the story of his life written, according to the second sentence, ‘after the First War’ when he was in the parish of Tarbat. However part of it must have been written much later as it deals with a summary of his time in Glasgow. I decided that this introduction would best be placed at the start of Chapter 1 which is probably what he intended.

There is a very short (3 pages) section 31/9 which I have inserted here as there is no other more suitable home for it. In it he describes his ministry in St John’s Church in Glasgow which was his longest and last before he retired. He refers to another document that he left called “The Story of St John’s” to which I have given the reference number Document 21 (see appendix B), and which he tried to get published without success and which is archived with the rest of the original papers. It runs to 117 pages of type-script of which only the last ten or so cover the period when JM was the minister. The list of contents indicates that his original intention was for ten chapters but in fact only eight were written with a couple of additional last pages entitled ‘The death of a Parish’. It seems inappropriate to include this document with the story of his life but it is made available for someone interested in the history of Glasgow churches.

CHAPTER 1.  (Pages 14 to 36)

The original (31/2) from which this transcript has been prepared is a photocopy of 36 type-written pages which have been corrected by hand (JM’s) in various places but is substantially unchanged from what must have been the 1946 version although the quality of the photocopy does seem to vary from page to page indicating, maybe, that parts are of slightly different provenance. I have taken the last part of 31/1 and inserted it here as described above. 31/2  is entitled ‘First Person Singular’ with ‘Indicative?’ written above. There is a subtitle: ‘A semi-detached view of Life’. It must have been written some time ago as the first words are ‘At the age of sixty …’. That would have been in 1946 immediately after the Second World War. The ‘sixty’ has been crossed out (twice) and 70 then 80 substituted.

The text starts with ‘Early Recollections’ (pp 6-14) telling of his life in Straiton and revealing his great love for that part of the world. The next bit is called ‘Student days’ (pp 14-28) where he describes his life as a divinity student at Glasgow University and dwells particularly on his doubts about religious belief. ‘The Closed Door’ (pp 28-36) tells of his early days as a pastor and again his difficulties with belief.

CHAPTER 2.  (Pages 37 to 50)

The next section (31/3) was entitled by JM ‘Chapter 1 Awakening’ with the subtitle ‘Youth – Morning: – Truth – Dawning.’ It is another account of his school life and student days at university and much of it is repetitious of Chapter 1. It consists of 21 pages. It covers the period from his youth till he left university and is less concerned with his doubt about religion but presents his early reactions to Bible reading on which he spent a lot of time in his school days. His reminiscences of university lectures continue the theme of biblical interpretation. He tells of his reaction to learning about Darwin’s theory of evolution and the profound effect it had on his thinking. This section ends with some more light hearted stories of his final years at university. Notice that some of these pages were out of order which has been corrected by Beth. JM’s typescript has many fewer corrections than 31/2 and these in an older hand giving the impression that of the two this is the later and closer to the version he intended to publish.

CHAPTER 3.  (Pages 51 to 59)

The fourth section (31/4) of 15 pages is entitled ‘The Closed Door’. The original 15 pages are numbered 21 to 35 and are a photocopy of a typescript that has been corrected in neat hand writing. There are some notes in ink indicating that he was trying to edit this section by moving bits of it elsewhere. In no cases are his intentions clear and the transcription simply presents the material in the form it appears in the original.

He starts in philosophical mode with discussion of the battle between the material and the spiritual. He is much concerned with what happens beyond the grave. He expresses his deep concern of how to offer consolation to people who mourn a dying child or parent. He talks of his socialist principles but recognises that material goods on their own are not enough to satisfy man’s longing for spiritual wellbeing. Towards the end of this section he writes: ‘This life is supremely important: if there be another, surely the best preparation for it is to make the best of this one! Why postulate another life at all’.

 CHAPTER 4.  (Pages 60 to 75)

   This chapter is a transcription of his notes describing his experiences during the First War. It is from the section that I initially labelled Doc. 30 and consists of 25 pages of type-script. It starts with a ‘Foreword’ of two pages followed by the remainder (pp. 1-23) entitled ‘A Padre with the Highland Division in the 1914-18 War’. The introduction covers briefly his time with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Salonika and return to the UK followed by his posting to France.

There is no clear indication of when this section was written. However in a letter dated 1 July 1968 (see Pre-amble below) to an unidentified recipient he writes: ‘After the 1914-18 war I sent you a ms. about my experiences as a ‘Padre with the 51st Division’. Thus some text covering this period must have been written probably soon after the end of the 1914-18 War and when he was in Tarbat. The version we have in document 30 probably dates from just before that of the letter (1968).

 CHAPTER 5.  (Pages 76 to 92)

The original of this section (31/7) consists of 27 pages of photocopied typescript with some changes in (elderly) long hand. The first sentence reads ‘Notes from a post-war diary begun in 1920’.This diary is part of the document collection and has been given the number 3. On the fly-leaf is written ‘To Jim. From Craigfad. Xmas 1920.’ JM’s transcription is selective with some changes to the original. (On page 25 there is a note to the effect that he was 81 when he wrote this section of 31/7.) In transcribing JM’s typescript to the computer I have followed the photocopy and used the diary only to establish uncertainties where the photocopy was unclear. It covers the first six months of his ministry in Tarbat after he left Kirkmaiden. It turns out that the dates in the typescript and those in the original diary do not always correspond. I do not understand why this is so – probably just mistakes. I have chosen to insert in square brackets the dates from the diary where the relevant text appears while leaving the second set of dates as they appear in the typescript without brackets.  The first diary date is November 11 and the last June 24 presumably 1921 although clearly it has not been kept as a daily account of his life but rather a notebook where he records his thoughts. (In the second half of the diary he records the texts he used for his sermons from 5 February 1928 to 28 August 1938 including his visit to Geneva.)

APPENDIX A.  (page 93)

This consists of a chronology of his life that I have prepared to help to compensate for the lack of dates in the main text. The sources that I have used include the vital records of births, marriages and deaths; JM’s war record at The National Archives, Kew; my father’s (JGMcW) notes on our family history; his diary etc.

APPENDIX B.  (Pages 94 to 96)

Besides the notes left by JM that this account of his life is based on, there are others that I have listed in this appendix. These have all been put together in a box and deposited at the University of Glasgow Library. They are available for study by those interested in his biography, his views on Robert Burns and the history of St John’s Church, Glasgow.


Leigh House,   Copthorne Road

Pound Hill, Crawley, Sussex.

21st. September 1968

My Dear Self,

Some time ago, you may remember, I wrote – typed – a short soliloquy and called it “Ultima Verba” (Browning?), but hastily amended it to “Penultima”, as I had no thought of blowing out the candle just then.   Indeed I was much closer to that some fifty years ago in Salonika, but was gently persuaded not to do so by my Sister, who has also survived, though she claims to be two years older than me. True too!  But the End of the Road has to be faced, or at least looked at over my shoulder, and being in very good condition for 82, (thanks mainly to a series of women thinking I am worth preserving), I can view the closing scene with equanimity and some humour.

I am not troubled with foreboding or even curiosity about what lies beyond the curtain.  This may be sheer insensibility, but I have always felt slightly guilty when trying to reassure the dying or those in mourning that there is a better land awaiting them beyond death. For whatever this “future world” may be, if any, it is quite clearly not a continuation of this space-time existence.  In the pulpit, I have sometimes had the courage – or cruelty? – to try to convince my flock that the spiritual is not a continuum but an over-shadowing mystery that is the true reality of this present life, quite unconceivable to our dim mental view.  The eternal, dim concept, is not the everlasting in any temporal-spatial sense.  I do not believe that death can be the final darkness. It is too trivial and too often accidental for that – but as many wise men have insisted, it is the present life that is our main concern. That indeed is concern enough!

But there comes a time, if you survive long enough, when the concerns of this life cease to cause you concern – apart, perhaps, an inevitable concern for those nearest to you, who have made life bearable for you and enriched the content of your sojourn here. One can understand a man like Robert Burns being almost scared out of his wits at the thought of what he would have to face at the Last Judgement, living as he did in the theologically-ridden age in Scotland: he was a young man and knew only too well that he would never be an old man; and though he was comparatively free from the superstitions of his time, and made fun of them, at the back of his mind there was always that spectre of after- death.  The world was still an earth-centred conception, and had been created literally in seven days.  But with the incalculable widening of our space-time concepts, even young people are freed from this rather domestic view of the here-after, with its material Hell and its too clearly physical punishments.   It may just be sheer insensitivity in older folk, but it is surely wisdom that weans them, in their second childhood, from such forebodings to Aurelius, “Sat est vixisse” [It is sufficient to have lived].  I am not forgetting Hamlet’s soliloquy (to be or not to be) but we need not burden Shakespeare with the Dane’s disturbed ravings.  Judgement Day is every other day! The usual argument that this life is too brief, disturbed and inconclusive is no case for a continuation of such conditions, however sublimated or expanded.  Heaven lies around, not only in our infancy, while we have eyes to see and ears to hear, and the question whence we came and whither we go should not distract our attention to the divine order around us, in spite of wars and rumours of wars.   Sat est Vixisse.  Amen.

Having completed “The Story of St. John’s, (Glasgow)” and had it rejected by the Publications Committee of the Church of Scotland or rather by its Secretary, unnamed, I now have the notion of incorporating it into the Story of My Life, which lies at the moment in several fragments or chapters. This may require some rearrangement and pruning, though according to the doctrine of apostolic succession my life and professional career are part of my predecessors’ in St. John’s (besides references to my immediate predecessors in my former parishes in Galloway, Easter Ross, Fife and before these, in my first charge of St. Margaret’s, Tollcross, before the First War (1914-18).

The dove-tailing of the various sections into a more or less continuous narrative presents few difficulties. The question of a title is important for selling purposes and may require some conference. “Round Scotland in Fifty Years” would cover all my ordained service (except the war periods). Not so impressive as “Round the World in 40 Days”, but then I am not a lone sailor or a record chaser. That title leaves out a dozen years of study and preparation for the ministry, but all that is only an introduction to the real job which lasted for half a century. And as Hamlet said “the rest is silence”.

So this work, (or labour of love as a friend dubbed it) begins with reminiscences of early life written and later typed out during idle years in the north, then an account of my ministry in Tollcross [‘Fife and Glasgow’ crossed out by type writer] up to the first War. After appointment to my first country parish in Galloway and marriage, comes my painful journey to Macedonia and back. “A padre with the Highland Division” follows; and this is where “the story of St. John’s” fits in, finally, my retiral and removal to the south. No adequate account of the later years of my brothers (and sisters) is included apart from incidental happenings by the way, and very little of these last few years suffices to bring the story up to date. What remains of my life is in the lap of the gods. Whether this undertaking will prove worth the time and work spent on it depends on those who shall survive to read this. I don’t think I shall be greatly interested.

[Here starts a copy of the letter that he sent to the Secretary of the Publications Committee of the Church of Scotland about his life’s story. It is dated 1st July, ’68 from Leigh House, Copthorne Road, Pound Hill, Crawley, Sussex.]


After the 1914-18 War I sent you a ms. about my experiences as a “Padre with the Highland Division”. It was rejected “for lack of interest”, but I suspect that it was also because of the flood of such reminiscences at that time. Now I have compiled a more or less complete record of my four-score years in this world, including the “Padre” bit, and though I have, on the whole, lived a peaceful life, it has not been without variety and general interest. It is not yet integrated into a consecutive story, but can be combined into a single volume. The chapters can be headed “home and university”, “early ministry”, “R.A.M.C. and the Highland division”, “between the wars”, “1939-1945”, and “post-war and retirement”. The record includes service in Macedonia and France (first war), to Malta and Czecho-slovakia, and fifty years service in parishes all round the map of Scotland, ending up in a return to Glasgow for some thirty years in the East End. A chapter is sketched on life in the south of England since retirement. I am now 82 years old, but still of sound mind and physical fitness. I have suggested as a title, “First Personal Indicative”, in imitation of “First Person Singular”, which has already been chosen by another person. If you think there might be a chance of selling enough copies to cover expenses, I will send it in and leave it in your hands. If not, I will just say “Sat est vixisse”.

Yours faithfully, (Rev.) [his signature, rather shaky:] James MacMorland

But it was returned “for lack of general interest”, and it still lies on my desk. There are also a number of outpourings of my typer. Including the story of my life, which will never reach the press, but may interest my family and friends some day. I have also a collection of old iron, including a gold medal in Semitic Languages – really Hebrew only, though I took in Syriac and started Arabic without enthusiasm. A gold watch, my first presentation from the Mission church in Kinloch Laggan (1909-10) with a gold chain my best girl added to show on my waistcoat, some military “gongs” with ribbons attached, and two precious documents from the war, tell of my deeds and misdeeds in defence of liberty, which prevented me getting the M.C. I was promised but earned me a “mention in despatches”. The Hebrew medal, by the way, was transformed into a brooch for my girl. Other trinkets are not worth detailing now. My books I leave to those who can read them, and a set of robes to some poor cleric who cannot afford to buy them. That seems to include everything at my disposal now.

At my age and after fifty years of true marriage, I am unlikely to contract a new complication (feminine gender), although I can still appreciate a seemly figure with some brain behind it. There is one person, my nursing sister who saved my life in the first war, to whom I should like to leave some small memento, but I will leave that to Agnes, who is better at choosing feminine (and even masculine) things.

I still have a nostalgic urge to write something about my native village and the old home, so we shall see what this visit brings forth (D.V. and W.P.) for private reading. So into the air for Caledonia not so stern and wild, but still beloved above all.

[There follows at the foot of the page what looks like ave atque vale (hail and farewell) and “Amen” in long hand.]

P.S.  On the eve of a flight to Scotland (not from the police but from Heathrow to Prestwick) at the age of 82, I am concerned, not about the risks of flying or coming back to earth which are negligible (I am not going to circle the moon en route) but about the wisdom of disturbing my few remaining years (say from two to eight) with worldly concerns. But the call of home and beloveds is too strong to be resisted.  I trust my gratification will be shared by those who ought to be thinking “Why cumber the earth any longer?”

As this may be my last appearance as a Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (May 1968) at the age of 82, I wish to leave an account of my journey thither and my doings and meeting when there.  The bus journey from Crawley to Heathrow (1 hour 40 minutes) took longer than my flight from Heathrow to Prestwick (50 minutes) not counting an hour’s delay spent wandering around the airport in search of the exact point of departure and a superfluous snack, lest I should be starved on the way.

I flew in a huge jet airliner (Rolls Royce 707) with seating for 190 passengers, with only ten passengers on board. The air hostess was consequently very attentive, and I had a second snack (almost a meal) somewhere south of the border.  The jet was going on to Canada and I saw a number of families waiting to embark at Prestwick for the crossing. I was met at Prestwick by my sister Nancy and nephew Hamish.  After shopping in Ayr, we reached Tairlaw, Straiton, in a flash.  After two nights there and time to explore the familiar home town and a visit to the schoolhouse where I first saw the light of day, sister Anna and Dr. John arrived from Silverburn and whisked me off to Edinburgh.

Next morning I was carried, via Princes Street and the Mound to New College, (now The Assembly Hall). for the opening of the Annual Assembly of the fathers and brethren and equal numbers of Ministers and Elders, (total 1500) but easily outnumbered by the mob of non-members, ministers’ and elders’ wives and daughters, gatecrashers and officials, besides clerks and clerkesses, reporters and superfluous hangers-on.  The floor of the house was crowded out and the three galleries were over-flowing with spectators when the Moderator took his place and awaited the arrival of the Lord High Commissioner, Lord Reith and his staff.  When they were all in place, standing, the Moderator bowed and the Queen’s representative returned the bow.  Then the Moderator turned his back on the Royal Box, which seemed rude of him but wasn’t and the Assembly was duly constituted.  Then Lord Reith addressed the Assembly, regretting that Her Majesty was prevented from being there in person because of her multifarious duties but he conveyed her best wishes for the success of the discussions and decisions of the fathers and brethren now assembled.  These formalities over, the Moderator called for the first business of the Assembly (all being seated by this time) and we all sat back to enjoy the debates and reports.  The first business was to appoint a Principal Clerk during Dr. Longmuir’s year as Moderator, when he would be chiefly occupied visiting Presbyteries and presiding over outside meetings and conferences.  When Lord Reith rose to leave the house the Assembly stood and the Moderator once more turned his back on the Church of Scotland!  Although I was an accredited commissioner (sounds a bit better than “member”) I took a somewhat detached and distant view of the proceedings.  After all Sussex is 500 miles away from Edinburgh, and the perspective is slightly different than say, from Glasgow.

I was more interested in my immediate neighbour, the only woman in the body of the kirk (apart from the scribblers and messengers).  I had arrived late and the only free seat was beside this lady (as if to isolate her from the reverend company) I asked her what she was doing there and she showed me her official papers, and said “I might ask you that question” I showed mine and then we were quite comfortable.  On the last day of the Assembly I found myself again beside her, and asked her to write her name and address on my agenda.  Her address was in North Uist, on the Atlantic fringe of the Outer Hebrides; so I asked her to have lunch with me, and we adjourned to the ‘Wee Windaes’ in the High Street. We returned in time to see the Lord High Commissioner and his staff leaving the House but lost each other in the crush.  It is a long way from Sussex to North Uist!

The only important decision of the session was the admission of women to the ministry of the Church of Scotland, after years of anxious debate and disagreement – a portentous step, as another lady correspondent of mine remarked “My Goodness! With John Knox birlin’ in his grave!”  A propos, she explained the participle as being purloined from an old yarn about the wife who was dying and warned her husband that if he dared to look at another woman, she would turn in her grave.  Later, she, the deceased, became known as “birlin’ Jenny!” But this is away off the record of the Assembly.  The decision about women miniskirts (pardon ministers) may not be so revolutionary as it looks.  For one thing, there seems to be no rush among the girl students to enter the pulpit, though I had a very fine deaconess who occupied my pulpit on more than one occasion – and with much acceptance.  The only danger is that sermons might become longer and robes shorter!  It would be very interesting if Lord Reith’s report to the Queen could be reported with Her Majesty’s remarks about women ministers. Seeing we now have women Cabinet Ministers and women members in the Lords, it might be difficult to find an adequate objection to seeing them in the pulpit or at the altar. Time will solve all that.

My next adventure in Edinburgh, was meeting some of my old collaborators in the old Lodging House Mission.  The Honorary Treasurer was able to report an anonymous gift of £7,000, besides the usual income which was satisfactory.  I was specially pleased to hear that the new Broom House hostel for girls was in full action and that a second house was being negotiated for, to meet the increasing demand for homeless and foot-loose girls. The Women’s Committee is dealing adequately with defamatory reports in some interested quarters.  One sometimes regrets the lack of freedom to deal directly with such servants of the devil.  But with a changing climate of opinion and custom one may hope for an early solution to that problem..  If only the warmongers would cease from troubling.

Having done my duty among the fathers and the brethren, the rest of my time was taken up with visits to friends here and there. One journey across the Forth Bridge had a sad incident for me to report. Our bridesmaid of 50 years ago had died, leaving no less than £47,000 – which would have been good news but for the fact that she had lived a rather dull life looking after old gentlemen, when she might have enjoyed a freer and more comfortable life. She never married, in spite of her pleasing appearance, and it is sad to think of the things she might have enjoyed. But who knows? She may have had sources of satisfaction that we know not of! Ars longa, vita brevis! [art is long, life is short (adapted from Hippocrates)]

Having failed to revisit my old haunts in Glasgow, I was caught up by the arrival of my family, who had come from the Borders, where they were having a short stay in the high Cheviot country, to remove me forcibly to the deep south. Not that I was an unwilling prisoner, for though the hills of home were still able to hold my affection, yet the attractions of the south were superior and easier. The few days at Silverburn, lovely in name and situation, 900 feet above sea level, far removed from the noise and bustle of Church politics, were pleasant enough too. The short respite at Howman on our way south had charms of a different sort, bare of trees nestling in the flanks of the Cheviots, a small hamlet holding the peace of ages in its plain little homes, and especially in its ancient church, purged of all Romanish extravagances but still preserving the age-long nimbus of a true sanctuary of faith. We compromised with modern inventions so far as to take a run some miles to a small loch, now a reservoir with a high dam at the outlet, supplying water of life to near-by Morebattle (a haven of quiet life despite its warlike name) and at the same time supplying salmon-trout to the devotees of the fishing-rod, whom we saw at their patient rites. Sleep came easily in this enchanted retreat, and we were sorry to leave it behind us as we crossed the Border at Carter’s Bar (more carters than Bar about it) and took our way into Northumbria.

The journey south was uneventful till one of our drivers discovered that something was amiss with the car dynamo, and we came to rest at a village with the improbable name of Melmerby, where there was a repair garage. The repairs would take an hour or so, but we were hungry by this time, so we moved into the village pub which provided snacks for passing pilgrims. We had real lunch farther on at Loughborough (pronounced ‘looff’ according to local usage), where there was a market going on, and I inspected an attractive old parish church. We drove along the M1 motor-way, and right through London without let or hindrance it being Saturday evening, and so came to our desired haven, plus Jamie the pup from the home, and found Anne in full possession of both the house and her usual wits, and no damage to report. Sunday was a real day of rest this time, and it was good to be home again all together. The accumulated mail held nothing urgent or disturbing, and anyway I had still to collect my typer from Crawley. That could wait till Monday anyway, so we contented ourselves with paper-backs and reminiscences of our Scottish adventure when we had had enough sleep in our familiar surroundings. So ended a successful and delightful exodus and return to our land of promise without any Egyptians to hasten our departure. The nations might rage, and the youth of Paris erupt in violence and indiscipline, but here was home, the Englishman’s castle without any fortifications or embrasures. Deo gratias for a fine holiday in Caledonia, not so stern and wild after all. Amen.

My last charge and retiral from St. John’s, Glasgow. [Section 31/9]

In writing ‘The Story of St. John’s’, I had left little room for the last, and longest, ministry in that historic charge. My holding of that charge would not have been so long, or so interesting, but for the plain fact that St. John’s was doomed, and my turn would almost certainly be the last. The parish had begun to decline even before Dr. Campbell’s time (1910-1930) and by the time I arrived there was talk of moving the congregation, or at least the endowments and their movables to a new housing area outside the city. As things happened, the removal was only next door, to St. Luke’s in Bain Square, which was then renamed Carlton New (instead of St. Luke’s and St. John’s, which was my choice). There is now not a trace of St. John’s left.

St. John’s being one of the City or Burgh Churches, the last one to be built by the Magistrates of Glasgow, there was no manse for the minister, though some of the older ones had by this time provided a house for the incumbent and his family. My first request, after my appointment, was to ask the Kirk Session if they could find a suitable house for me and my dependants. They found one in Annfield Place, Dennistoun, but did not purchase it, and I had to pay rent for an old if roomy house that would not be mine, unless I put up the price myself. That I was not prepared to do, and after four years we bought a house in Rutherglen, well away from my parish, which ran along the Gallowgate to Glasgow Cross, and originally included the Carlton district. Apart from this I received a very pleasant welcome to St. John’s and soon settled down to city life. One advantage of this was that the girls had a choice of good schools, and the way to the university was wide open. This was quite a change from the miners of Cowdenbeath, and if the parishioners were more untidy and careless domestically, they were no less warm hearted than my Fifers, and I was welcomed into their houses immediately, and very soon to their hearts as well. There was little scope for increasing our numbers, and the movement out into the new suburbs was in full flood, but even those who moved far out were loath to give up their old connexion, and I had to beg some of them to ‘lift their lines’ and join a nearby congregation. One man persisted to the very end in travelling on foot from far Cathcart on Sunday mornings, declaring that St John’s would last his time if not longer, and he didn’t like mixing with a lot of strangers. I hadn’t the heart to discourage him, in spite of the Presbytery’s injunction to church members to attend the church of their domicile. I actually encouraged him in this, though my visits to his home were like the angel’s few and far between.

To these people Church Courts, Presbytery and Synod and even General Assemblies, were foreign bodies, only for ministers and Presbytery Elders. I agreed with them. In the city they don’t expect you to go and sit for hours discussing the weather and the crops, or even the affairs of coal pits. You only go when there is special occasion or need, and stay only as is necessary or profitable. The City dweller has plenty of entertainment, and the minister is not considered entertaining. The city ministers of Glasgow have certain duties to perform outside their parish work, because they were maintained by the Corporation. They were expected to serve on committees, especially where the Welfare or Social Services Committee, and to accompany the High Court Judges to the bench and open the proceedings with prayer. Sometimes I would sit with the judges to hear a case I was interested in, and in one case had to descend to the floor in order to give evidence in defence of one of my Lodging House men. This might be the right place to tell of the Mission which moved its headquarters into my parish just after I arrived there. When I was a student of divinity in 1907, the minister of St. Clement’s in the Carlton came to our student residence to ask some of us to come down to a Gallowgate lodging house to give the men there a concert. During the performance he announced that he had taken a room in the Trongate to which the men might go and read the papers, have a game of draughts or dominoes, and enjoy a cup of tea. That was the beginning of the Lodging House Mission, whose headquarters was now in my parish. Consequently I had to take an interest in this new-fangled thing, and for the next thirty years I was busily involved in this mission, latterly as Convener of Committee. In fact it took up more of my time than my members and parishioners, and latterly became my chief interest in St. John’s as the congregation dwindled. The men from the lodging-house flocked to our meetings and recreation rooms, and the Sunday evening services in East Campbell Street exceeded many times the numbers who came to worship in church. At first I tried to encourage them to come to St. John’s and sit with the congregation but they preferred their own company. Being homeless and mostly friendless, they did not feel easy with my more comfortable people. There were now almost as many women as men coming to the Mission (there were half a dozen women’s lodging houses at that time. Before I left the city I was glad to see them all closed but one, which was run by a fine woman who was not content to collect the pennies but took a real interest in the women’s welfare). The proximity of men and women at our meetings and concerts led to an odd romance – very odd – when a woman with a room of her own would take a man without one, but they insisted on me marrying them first! Sometimes there was a bit of bother with the registrars, when certificates of birth or former marriage were not available. We usually got over that difficulty, once the registrar got used to my peculiar ways. But another problem was baptism, which affected those who wished to become full communicants. Often the birth certificate had been lost, and sometimes the candidate couldn’t say whether she (or he) had been baptised. If no evidence could be found I had to make up my mind if the candidate was probably christened in infancy. I usually gave them the benefit of the doubt, but one woman I remember who stoutly insisted on being baptised before being admitted to communion, because she had not been baptised by a minister. I tried to explain that under Scottish law any member of the church can baptise but she would have nothing to do with that nonsense and I had to give in to her. I suppose a second baptism would cancel the first, but that didn’t matter. At communion we had to use the individual cup – for sanitary reasons, and also to prevent an odd member from draining the cup at one gulp. I suppose the theory was that the more wine you imbibe the more grace accrues to your soul. Sat est creditum.


Introduction to “A Semi-detached View of Life”.

This story of my life is a composite, or should I rather say, a haphazard piece of writing. I began it after the First War, when I had retreated to the Highlands for a quiet life and a higher stipend, as a sort of resumé of my war years, after a sketch of my progress towards the ministry of the Church of Scotland (part of which was written before the war period). When I returned to the south, seven years later, I laid it aside because I had too many other things to attend to. The next section, after I had been in St. John’s in Glasgow for some years, naturally had to do with my activities in that dusty but very kindly city, especially with the Lodging-house Mission, which I had helped to start (as a student) thirty years before, and which now had its headquarters in my parish. Those years before the second War, were so full of their problems and pain, of homelessness and of friendlessness, that my decent, churchgoing parishioners suffered neglect at my hands. The war of the forties brought some relief to the denizens of the lodging-houses, for all fit men, and some women, found employment in war work. Our main aim in the Mission was the abolition of these comfortless resorts, especially the women’s houses, of which only one remained active when I retired from St. John’s – and it was the best-run of them all. I tried hard to join up these lonely people with my congregation in worship and in fellowship, but the nomads preferred their own place, so meantime we provided them with a church of their own by flooring in the gallery of the abandoned church which was their headquarters, with services, concerts, food tickets and bed tickets in case of need. In the body of the church there were games, billiards (which a kind friend in the north had provided) and other games. Tea-room, reading room, quiet room and offices made the place as homely as possible. My committee of elders, and especially the women’s committee of church ladies, gave their services freely and generously, much to my relief and gratitude. After the war it soon became clear that the days of St. John’s were numbered. The people of the parish were leaving the old tenements for new housing estates, and the building itself, 150 years old, was beginning to fall to pieces, with little money to repair it. I continued to serve it till my fifty years of ordained service in the church were completed, and then retired. There was no question of a successor, and before I left the city, the old place had been razed to the ground, not one stone left upon another. But before I left, I was able, and glad, to see a new department of the Mission opened near by, and called Broom House, a refuge for girls who had come to the city from the country or born in the slums, who were in danger of going on the street, in fact some of them already homeless and wandering. This was a triumph of the Women’s committee, supported by the Social Service Committee of the Church. Both the original Mission and Broom House continue to flourish and extend their work, which is still indispensable, led by the new Convener, the Rev. Matthew Liddell of St David’s Ramshorn near by. I have not mentioned names, but the Convener of the Ladies’ Committee, Mrs Graham of Giffnock, deserves special notice for her initiative and leadership in the work among the women and girls. Those who do not know the work may get the impression that we laboured in an atmosphere of gloom and frustration, but that is far from the truth. I used to visit Woman’s Guilds and other church bodies to tell them of the Mission, especially of the large number of men and women who were instructed and admitted to full communion in the Church, sometimes without all the documents considered necessary to justify admission, but if the postulant showed evidence of sincerity and conviction we gave them the benefit of the doubt. Baptism could be proved sometimes by reference to parish records, and in others one could only guess the answer. I never came across a case of gate-crashing in all those years. Holy Communion was provided by continuing the service in the church by carrying the consecrated elements, accompanied by two elders, to the Mission church. Hospitals were visited regularly, and funerals carried out respectably, and on one occasion I married a lodging-house man to a lodging-house woman, after some difficulty in establishing the exact condition of the applicants. They had sat together at services and other occasions and eventually the woman took the initiative and managed to get a room to let. So they were able to say goodbye to the not very hospitable life of the lodger. There were, of course, failures and disappointments. We usually had some men in Barlinnie prison, usually for petty crimes, and I still have a card from one man who wrote “Dear Sir, I am sorry to let you down again, but when I come out I am coming back.” Could repentance go further? Another proof of our usefulness was the large number of parcels and gifts of money from distant friends, who had heard of the Mission, had read our Annual Report, or had actually some family connexion with the inmates which was on their conscience. Long may this indispensable work go on till the day when there will be no more lodging-houses, and no more need to be homeless or friendless. I should mention that we do not recognise distinctions of church or nationality. We had, among the hundreds who came to our services and entertainments, coloured people from the docks, Lascars from the ships, Moslems and Sikhs and even Buddhists, though I sometimes wondered what they made of our strange ways. One thing there is no doubt about, the sincerity and goodwill of our welcome to them, and the food and fellowship we offered them. They could no longer say that they were without a friend in the world, nor a refuge from the cold world, and the number of new communicants we received in the Church, proved that we helped many a lonely soul to find the ‘Friend Who never faileth’. We may even have entertained angels unaware. I have one precious document in my possession proving that one man at least, and no longer young found his way into active Church work in one of our Social Service homes. That is one good reason for the appearance of this account of a quite unimportant minister’s life in the service of the ancient and Reformed Church of Scotland. [The above transcribed from 31/1, pp 17 – 19.]

F I R ST   P E R S O N   S I N G U L A R

[Above the word SINGULAR is written in shaky  hand “INDICATIVE?”]

A Semi-detached view of life.

At the age of sixty [sixty crossed out and 70 then 80 written in its place] one can take, if not a completely impartial, at least a semi-detached view of life, and look at things generally without too much prejudice; and if Youth says that this is only a delusion of age, I can reply that I too have been young and seen both sides of the controversy, and if Youth retorts that I must have forgotten what it was like to be a young man, the answer is that this can only be proved – or disproved – by reading this book. If Youth still remains obdurate in his reasoning a priori my only recourse is to deal with him a posteriori – which suggests a good kick in the pants, to be administered, of course, metaphorically!

But these pages are not addressed solely to Youth. If the reasonable reader finds them somewhat prosy, I would remind him of what Wordsworth did say: that prose is experience recollected in tranquillity. Reader you have been warned! Here is no Apologia provita mea, no Pilgrim’s Progress, but rather the musings of one who could never quite make up his mind whether he was a spectator or competitor at the game: perhaps both in turn. Much of my time has been passed in comparative idleness; and I fancy that if I had to live it over again, I would idle away still more of it. Anyway, it has been great fun – and it is not over yet. I trust that the reader [will] savour some of the fun, while good-naturedly allowing for what has been lost in the telling. My aim has been, not so much to tell the story of my life – a quite commonplace one – but to use the thread of my personal history to join up various things which have interested me; some of which may prove interesting to those who have the grace – more precious than Burns’s gift of humour – of “seeing others as they see themselves”. [Not quite the same as: ‘O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as others see us!/ It wad frae mony a blunder fre us,/ And foolish notion.’ Burns To a Louse.].


Nathaniel Hawthorne, in “Transformation”, tells of two friends gazing up at a stained glass window from the outside of the church, and seeing nothing but a blurred and ugly mass of leaden joints and fragments of glass. Then they step within the church and look at the window from the inside with the light streaming through it. Now its unity and meaning are plain and its beauty revealed to their vision. I wish that the readers of these pages would regard themselves as a window: a very small stained glass window which hides rather than shows the picture from the outside. But step within, please! Perhaps when seen from the sympathetic inside, the jumbled and motley fragments which make up its colour scheme may assume some unity and meaning against the heavenly light of understanding minds. As for real beauty – well, that’s another matter. If it be true, as has been alleged, that an egoist’s eye always has a squint, then beauty or truth is not to be looked for in such a record as this. Autobiography implies egoism, if not egotism, of some sort. I challenge the genuineness of that epigram, and in spite of a slight astigmatism of the left eye, nay because of it, hold that the writer may gain in disinterested fairness by refusing to let his left eye see what his right eye doeth! Even granting that there may be some truth in that cynical observation, if the selfish deflection of vision does not amount to actual blindness, a very solipsist may contribute to [circled] something of real interest to others by his peculiar view of things, however aslant or distorted it may be. When we recollect that such giants as Augustine, Luther, Swift, Carlyle, Byron, (Beethoven), and Nietzsche have enriched our human heritage by the very intensity of their self- absorption, we may reduce the slanderous equation, egoism = astigmatism, to nought. True, these great men, for the most part, sprinkled their discourse generously with the saving salt of humour or the appetising pepper of wit, not lacking irony to balance their sincerity. The present writer cannot lay claim to any measure of these heavenly gifts, but having read somewhere that “originality lies not so much in newness as in genuineness”, he has tried to be original, while endeavouring also to look at things as others see them. Paradoxical as it may appear, that ought to be the aim of all personal narrative; the narrator must consider his readers first. As an army officer lecturing to juniors once remarked, “Tact is just short for contact – keeping in touch with your men”. In so far [as] I – pardon, the present writer – fails to maintain that contact with the reader, or of attaining that universal point of view desired by all communicators, he can only ask the kind reader to reflect on the relativity of all things, as modern philosophy is so fond of repeating after Diogenes of Greece (Sophist).

As the title suggests, you will find no consistent system of thought in these pages. Finished philosophies of life are hard to come by, even at the end of the day. Indeed, that is just what I am trying to avoid. Such traces of philosophy as may be found here and there in these pages, are tentative and rough hewn: a creed of the open road. And, after all, is that not the only workable sort of faith for this imperfect world? When you have grown tired of you idealisms and materialisms, and disposed of your Socialisms and Solitarisms, and given up the tangle of Utility and conscience, it is satisfying to feel that all these theories must anyhow have proved unsatisfactory, and that no amount of discussion over Individualism and Collectivism could ever bring contentment? Level-headed old Aristotle was surely right when he said that “the rule of what is indeterminate must also be indeterminate.” Of course we must postulate some sort of Final Unity behind it all, for otherwise there is an end to all discourse. But do not let us try to define it too closely. We must not always be dreaming of Heaven, nor forget to keep our eyes on the rough road before us, lest the star-gazing wayfarer comes a cropper that will materially alter his views. The scene changes continually as we proceed, and yesterday’s definition does not fit today, while tomorrow baffles prophesy and even foresight. Victor Hugo reminds us that “Man’s destiny is not to reach the end: it is to be ever on the march”: and Gerard Gould has said the last word: that there is no last word.

The immediate cause of my coming into this vale of tears was the marriage of the young schoolmaster with the still younger daughter of the innkeeper. He had intended to study for the ministry of the Church, and was actually taking a correspondence course for the London B.A. when he fell in love with the lively eighteen-year-old girl at the Black Bull. [The Black Bull is the name of the public house in the village of Straiton where JM was born.]They married and without delay set off to have a large family – larger than they intended. There were eleven of us born in that schoolhouse, and nine of these grew up. The merits of a large family have been considerably over-rated by statesmen and clergymen; but in this case the consequences were remarkable enough for that secluded little village. The eldest, after a vain attempt to sit still on a clerk’s stool, preferred to sit on a horse and went off to the Boer war, remaining in South Africa afterwards. The second went to New Zealand and stayed there till the Great War. The third surviving son created a sensation by going direct to a University and becoming a clergyman. The fourth was an even greater shock to the little community of Straiton; he became an artist and an art teacher; something entirely beyond the orbit of the village, though a stray painter had invaded the seclusion of the valley and found worthy scope there for his brush. The fifth son looked like restoring normality by going into a bank; but the War lured him away, and he did not return to his ledger. A girl had next appeared in the house, to the delight of the mother and the puzzlement of us boys. She, however, did nothing unusual, and like her younger sister was content to become a man’s wife like her mother. Of the remaining two, one was just of age when the 1914 War came, and he did not survive it. The youngest, the only one to see active service in the latest war, did everything possible to get himself killed, and in the end succeeded. That completes the family history to date, except that the new generation, of whom there are four or five pairs, promises to be even more enterprising than ours. But the day of large families is past. Quality is better than quantity.

Memories are plentiful, if a bit vague, from those idyllic days of boyhood (or so they seem now): summer days spent on Craigengower or Craigfad, hills overlooking the village, or at Dalishoan, a delightful spot on the river, where you sat on the green verge for hours watching the clear brown water rippling over the brightly-coloured pebbles, marvellous greens and browns and greys, with little minnows flirting their tails as they darted about or lay balancing themselves over the stones. Days in winter when you followed the men to the curling-pond and made slides over the rinks – even while play was on. My father was a skilled curler, skip of the famous rink (famous at least in Carrick). On one occasion he was in danger of missing the final of a medal game because of a large boil on his neck which was just coming to a head. On the morning of the game one of his rink came to enquire for the schoolmaster, and then ran back to the village exultantly crying out, “Hurray! We’re playin’ efter a’; the maister’s neck’s broke!”

Another threatened disaster, more serious this time, stands out clearly in memory. On the road to Loch Doon he [‘he’ crossed out and ‘Papa’ substituted] had fallen from the back of a wagonette on his head, with the resultant concussion. The news came to us in an alarming form, and the suspense and terror in our childish minds was made more dreadful by a maiden aunt who kept wringing her hands and saying, “Guidsakes! What’ll happen to thae bairns if their faither is ta’en awa’?” Happily things didn’t turn out so badly; but such an experience makes a deep mark on a young mind. Both the joys and sorrows of youth are more intense, though they are sooner forgotten, than those of later years. On the other hand, we learn to appreciate (not to say share) the feelings of others as we go on in life. Byron’s lament: “There’s not a joy the world can give like that it takes away,” [‘Stanzas for music’] may be true of the intensity of feeling: but life compensates for that with a wider sympathy and a better appreciation of our neighbours’ troubles and pleasures.

 Early Recollections

The earliest impressions I can remember are of a large family in a small village schoolhouse. Nine of us grew up in that semi-detached dwelling – the other half was the school – and the size of the family was impressed on us most clearly when it came to bed-time. Three boys in one bed was quite common; and the favourite bedroom was a sort of box-room which just held a double bed, but which had a single-pane window with a rounded top through which we could see, by standing on the bed, an avenue of great beeches, and beyond a field the river which meant all sorts of summer and winter sports. The window swung on a pivot, like an old-fashioned mirror, and sometimes we forgot to close it at night, so that the wind and the rain sometimes got in and brought reproof, or punishment, in the morning. While mother was having her frequent babies, an old woman was called in from the village to assist in controlling the rest of us and in feeding and putting us to bed, This old body, Susan Alexander (“Shusie” to us), had a great store of tales and songs and pithy Scots phrases with which she did her best to subdue our high spirits and lull us to sleep at night. Her favourite lullaby I still remember vividly because of the nightmares it induced – crooned somewhat incongruously to a sweet, simple air picked up from some wandering fiddler:

“Cuddle doun, sleep soond, for mind I tell ye, Jock,

Auld Nick’s comin’ ben, he’ll pit ye in his poke.

Cuddle doun, sleep soond, to jink him noo be gled;

For mind ye he’s an awfu’ man – THE MAN BELOW THE BED”

After such a “bedtime story” it was natural to wake up in terror with visions of a figure, emerging from below the bed, compounded of mediaeval knight and Bunyan’s Appolyon! Recollecting Burns’s account of just such an old nurse-maid in his boyhood days, we appreciate his remark that her stories “had so strong an effect on my imagination, that to this hour, on my nocturnal rambles, I sometimes keep a sharp look out in suspicious places.”

Cradled among the hills near the head of the Girvan Water, just where those hills close in to turn the valley into a glen, lies the bonny wee village of Straiton, a single street of white-washed, single-story houses with thatched roofs (or so it was when I was a child). There is nothing beyond but the moors and lochs that border the highlands of Galloway; the milestone as you enter the village, says “Newton Stewart. 30 Miles”. The Church of St. Cuthbert, with its fifteenth century south transept, stands at one end, the manse at the other. Outside the churchyard stands the old school, built probably when the village was remodelled by a reforming laird of Blairquhan; but a new school was built seventy [crossed out and 86 substituted] years ago at the other end of the street, approached by an avenue of beech and oak trees. Attached to the school is the schoolhouse, of two stories this time, but with one room opening into the school, and used as a sewing-room for the girls. In time the schoolhouse proved inadequate for a large and growing family; so the sewing-room became a sitting-room and sometimes a bedroom. In this room (I believe) I was born, the fourth [crossed out and “third” substituted. In fact he was the fifth as two of the younger ones died in infancy – see appendix A.] of a family of nine. I cannot pretend to any memories worth recording and cannot claim to have been anything unusual as a child – apart from a decided squint in one eye but later I was to become a nine days’ wonder when I was the first to go from that remote little hamlet to a university! This was certainly something for the village folk to talk of; but it was left to an uncle of mine to put the matter in a nutshell. A visitor remarked to him one day: “I hear that you have a very clever nephew.” “Och aye”, said Uncle John, “He’s got a heid like a hen for pickin’ up things.” That was as far as his modesty would allow him to go!

My father, having been brought up in a religious home of strongly evangelical cast, intended to enter the ministry of the Church of Scotland; but lacking the means, had meantime taken up teaching after a course at the Glasgow Training College (the “Old Normal”). A brief period at Kilwinning was followed by his appointment to Straiton, where a new school and schoolhouse had just been built. He began studying, by correspondence, for the London B.A., but falling love with the daughter of the “Black Bull” innkeeper (and farmer) put a stop to those studies, and he remained at Straiton to the end of his life. Both father and mother came of farming stock and of large families, which may help to explain how they managed to bring up nine children on £100 a year – later increased to £120. Our fare was doubtless plain, but it was wholesome and sufficient to keep us healthy and full of energy. The farm produce was supplemented by fish brought from the sea twelve miles away, by the fishermen themselves. Our favourite fisherman was one Thomas Girvan of Maidens village; and I remember mother one day remarking to him: “Eh, Tamas, your fish are awfu’ wee”. Tamas’s’ reply was: “Noo missis, they’re no my fish; they’re God’s fish!” That was unanswerable.

There was no lack of liberty for us boys in that lovely upland parish of the Girvan valley, tucked away among the Carrick hills on the edge of the Galloway highlands; and we roamed freely, when out of school, along the river – sometimes with a forbidden line and hook – or plunged in the “dookin’ hole”, where we all learned to swim by the simple plan of being pushed into the deep pool by the bigger boys. Or we would roam over Craigfad hill or Craigengower, whence you had a magnificent view of the Firth of Clyde, with Arran peaks and Ailsa Craig in the distance, and on clear days a glimpse of Kintyre and even the Irish coast. Rock-climbing on Craigencallie (Creag-an-Cailleach) sometimes brought reproof and warnings from the elders, but the adventure was well worth a scolding or even a thrashing! But my fondest memories circle round the Water of Girvan, where I used to pass endless hours of summer, wading in the clear stream and marvelling at the variety of colour on the smooth pebbles. The darting rush of a trout from under a big stone was a never-failing thrill, and the island at Dilishoan (Dal-a-choan?) or the little water fall at the Old Mill [here an illegible word has been inserted] were favourite resting places. Searches for river-oysters which were reputed to contain pearls (though I never found any) would be varied by excursions into Bennan wood for berries and birds’ nests. Though we were the schoolmaster’s bairns we weren’t always an example to the other boys. On one occasion we set fire to some dry grass in a field hard by Traboick wood, and failing to keep it within reasonable limits, we took to the hills for the day, watching from the heights for the wood to, catch fire or the gamekeeper to come in pursuit. A thick mist came down, and we wandered about seeking some land mark to guide us home, till one of us suggested that if we followed a burn we were sure to arrive somewhere. The burn led back to the river, and the river brought us home by nightfall, tired and hungry but quite satisfied with our day’s work! The “dominie” was so relieved to see us safe and sound that he forgot to lecture [the alternative “chastise?” is inserted here] us – not that we were caring much anyway!

Winter had its special charms also, though there was certainly more noise and strife when we were kept indoors. One of the advantages of belonging to a large family is that you learn very early to conform to the democratic order of things. Being third in the hierarchy of years I was prevented both from tyrannising over the younger members and from suffering too much repression at the hands of the elder. Such domestic discipline is priceless for future citizenship, and we owe much to our respectable showing in later years to this beneficial rule. But this midway position in the family had the effect of throwing me back on my own inner resources, and making me more introspective than the others. (The psychologists would put me down as an introvert). This in-turning of the mind’s eye was aggravated by two minor defects of a physical nature – the one was an astigmatism of the left eye (so that I was “skelly” to the boys of the village). Reading the other day that “an egoist’s eye always has a squint”, I felt almost guilty, wondering if the converse was also true! The other peculiarity was being obstinately left-handed (in spite of many a rap on the knuckles from the junior teacher’s pencil), whereby I earned the nickname of “Soothy” (no doubt from “south paw”). These little aberrations mean much more to a boy than to a grown man, and in my case perhaps induced the unfortunate notion that I was somehow different from the others – though that was not allowed to become a warping tendency. The name “Soothy” was also responsible for the delusion that I ought to be a poet (Southbey was one of our favourite poets at school) – a delusion from which I have escaped after some painful efforts to prove it true! But the most serious result of this introspective period was that at the age of twelve I became extremely “religious”, and was “converted” through the influence of some rustic evangelists caught up in a belated backwash of the Moody and Sankey revival. I am not at all inclined, even now, to ridicule these earnest and well-meaning men; for one thing, my father took a leading part in their meetings and only cooled off when they began to attack the Church of which he was a ruling elder. But looking back on that childish experience from a more mature standpoint, I can afford to smile at some of their extravagances and to notice more critically their little frailties. One of them, a cattle-dealer to trade, used to read to us the Pauline epistles with much solemnity, and pausing in the middle of a passage, would exclaim “Now, mind you, this is Paul speaking”; and we would look up startled at the apparition of the great apostle in modern garb. I still confess to a sneaking regard for those “twice-born” men, and I regard that personal committal of my soul to the Lord of Life as an important step in my spiritual progress. When it was made known, some two years later, that I was going to the “college” to train for the ministry, my local apostle shook his head sadly, and prophesied in my presence that I would return “as deid’s a herrin” and I have no doubt they considered the prophesy fulfilled when I returned full of strange theological notions and traditions of the Fathers!

But that was still in the distant future. Having failed to gain a bursary at Ayr Academy, whither all good Carrick schoolboys ascend, and being much humiliated at seeing a chit of a girl, daughter of a neighbouring schoolmaster, being placed ahead of me, I was perforce kept at the village school to prepare for the Higher Leaving Certificate, recently introduced. Thanks to a thorough grounding in English, Latin and Mathematics (with French as a bad fourth), I gained my certificate at one sitting at the age of seventeen, and went up to Glasgow University, (the first to do so in the recorded history of that parish). My father apparently expected me to follow him into the teaching profession; but that ambition was finally crushed by his own hands – and literally on my own hands. While I was busy “stewing” Virgil and the English poets, with quadratic equations as relief, he used to put me in charge of the infants in the “wee room” (his was the “big room”) during the frequent intervals between one assistant teacher and another. I took my duties very seriously, and did my best to inculcate ideas of number and spelling and calligraphy into the unwilling heads of the young villagers. On this sad occasion I had been giving all my attention to one particularly obdurate pupil, while the others took advantage of my preoccupation to relax discipline. The noise irritated me, and when the unlucky child failed at a test, I gave him a sound slap on the ear. Unluckily, the schoolmaster happened to look through the glass partition at that precise moment. He must have had a bad morning too, for he came through in a towering rage, with the taws in his hand, and in presence of the whole class gave me six good ones on the palm – the left one naturally. I stood the punishment silently, and when he was finished, I walked out of the school – and never again was asked to teach. Nothing was said on either side about the incident, but that was the end of a promising – or at least a possible educational career. I had already, in fact, decided to become a minister if I succeeded in reaching university status, but said nothing of it till I was qualified. The question of ways and means was a serious one for a father of nine, but fortunately the late Andrew Carnegie came to the rescue and a summer job as a purser on the G. & S.W. Railway steamers helped to produce the necessary cash for lodgings and books. Meantime I had become an industrious student of the Holy Scriptures, with some little aid from our very limited library; but again fortunately for me, my father had taken a course in New Testament Greek and began to initiate me into its mysteries. The Old Testament, later to be a favourite study, was still more of a mystery to me, with its endless allegories and types of things to come [sic], which were not made easier by the headings of the Authorised Version! Even then I had a vague impression that these ancient documents had some intrinsic meaning for themselves, apart from their prophesies of the Christian age; and I remember particularly that “The Song of Songs (which is Solomon’s)” was enjoyed as much for its naturalistic poetry as for its allegory. But a good deal of this early study was wasted time, except for the Spartan discipline it involved. Oh! the perplexity, the useless concentration of attention, the self-castigation for want of faith in fathoming these old documents of the Torah and the Prophets (the Psalms were more human and applicable). But those naïve perplexities of Bible study were making ready the soil for the seeds of doubt: questions arose and refused to be suppressed, suspicions that want of sense was more to blame than want of faith, and that the mysteries of interpretation were increased by lack of understanding rather than by literal inspiration. But with all this wandering in the wilderness of scholarship, these days of preparation held a promise of revelation that compensated for all the bewilderment, and spread over those tasks a nimbus of holy peace, hallowing even the dreariest tasks; and I keep the memory of that boyhood’s sanctuary as a precious thing not to be lost.

How immensely far off are those closing years of the Victorian era, and how completely have we left behind those ways of personal, private religion, which were still the rule in my boyhood! Distance, doubtless, lends enchantment to the view, and in retrospect there is a rosy halo over those early earnest days, begun and ended with fervent prayer, and solemn with a vivid sense of awful heights and depths – an abyss of woe and a heaven of blissful glory with an infinite chasm between! Often since then I have sought to recall that world of childish faith with its endless vistas and sublimity, but always in vain! “The tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me!” “I remember, I remember” [Thomas Hood ‘I remember’]. “the fir trees dark and high”. No doubt the actual framework of that world was much cruder than it now seems. The dread of Hell was a grim reality: an actual, inevitable state of gloomy despair and physical torture “but for the grace of God”, and a blaze of glory (not so sharply conceived) awaiting the believer at the end of his pilgrimage. Alas! the light of common day has blurred both the ethereal radiance of the one and the baleful glow of the other! Our modern and mundane notions of the kingdom of heaven seem to have robbed the kingdom of darkness of much of its terror and sombre awesomeness. The outer regions “where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” are relegated to the early days of ecclesiastical terrorism and only forgive in poets like Dante and Blake because of their obviously symbolic nature. At the most they are retained as shadowy images of our present miseries and ecstasies, without references to any supramundane sphere. And our loss is perhaps greater than our gain. There was more than mere profanity in the farmer’s complaint about the modern preacher: “A kirk without a Hell’s no worth a damn!” The popular creed, or more correctly, the general assumption of universal salvation, is not only a poorer conception but a sign of loss of insight into human character – hardly compensated by a broader outlook. Have we sacrificed sublimity to sympathy?

 Student Days

Until the day I went up as a “freshman” to Glasgow University, I had never been further from home than the town of Ayr, fifteen miles away; and never absent from home for longer than a month at the seaside, usually with the rest of the family. Those summer holidays were, indeed, the great event of the year; such home occasions as the annual Cattle Show and Sports, the School “trip” to the seashore and the Christmas “treat” lasted only for one day. It was a delightful discovery that one could swim and float more easily in the sea than in the river; after that, the “dookin’ hole” seemed a poor place, and the buffeting of the waves, the taste of saltwater and the half-fearful glimpse of strange creatures in the depths beneath made sea-bathing a tremendous adventure. A night on a herring boat on the Firth, without parental permission, remains one of the liveliest of memories; and perilous visits to the caves below Culzean castle at low tide, with the chance of being cut off and a long detour home through forbidden ground, also stand out as memorable. How prodigal and carefree were these days, each event forgotten almost as soon as it was over; how miserly we now hoard those relics of youth!

But the time came, all too soon, to launch out on the unknown waters of academic life: and the plunge into the great city from the quiet haven of a remote village was a shock, but rather exhilarating than terrifying. I had the luck to get lodgings with a kindly Highland widow who had formerly had three uncles of mine in succession as boarders; and I cannot recollect even a single fit of homesickness or of panic in the strange surroundings of my new life. Attending lectures at Gilmorehill seemed the most natural thing in the world from the start, and my fellow-students seemed just like big school-boys – which in fact they were. Weekends at Cathcart with one of the aforesaid uncles no doubt diminished the distance from home; and that first winter, with its dull regularity of classes and home-work, seemed almost commonplace, enlivened chiefly by student howlers such as the original translation of Horace’s “Exegi Monimentum aeri perennius”: “I have eaten a mountain”. “Have you indeed” came Prof. G.G. Ramsay’s nasal drawl, “Then sit down and digest it!” [Exegi monumentum aere perennius: ‘I have raised a monument more lasting than bronze’.]

Then, in my second year, came Moral Philosophy and Prof. Jones (later Sir Henry), and my whole settled world of ideas went up in eruption. This was my first real awakening to the pitiless daylight of reason, though, looking back now, it seems cruel to accuse that kindly and really orthodox teacher of moral theory, ex-cobbler and ex-Welsh-evangelist, of the havoc wrought on my childish ideas. But ah! What dream-towers came tumbling about my ears with that rude shaking-up of accepted views, and what desolations befell my child’s temple of faith through the crude and inhuman assaults (as they seemed to me) [in long hand: of pure reason] on its sacred interior. Sheer rage possessed my soul at the sight of such havoc, burning indignation at the pitiless exposure of my sacred things to mockery and denial. A brief period of helpless dismay and despondency followed, with nobody to share my misery (professors were not encouraging as confessors then!). Thanks to a sound home training, where the emphasis of faith had been placed on deeds rather than doctrine, this douche of intellectual cold water proved, in the outcome, altogether salutary; but an early essay written for the class, and preserved till now, shows my first reaction to the assault of pure reason on my cherished beliefs. It is a defiant, nay violent defence of the life of action as against that of reflection, full of sound and fury, beginning with Ibsen’s dictum (filched, I fear, from a theatre going fellow-student) “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches” and ending with Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth” etc. At the end, in pencil, is the lecturer’s sole comment: “Don’t be so hard on philosophy until you know something about it.”

The reproof was well-meant and well-deserved, and I like to think that I took it in the right spirit. At any rate I regard that winter under the influence of Prof. Jones as the real beginning of my education as a thinking being. He was a patient and impartial teacher, giving full weight to the arguments of intuitional and utilitarian ethics, though he could not quite disguise a leaning to the idealist view. (Where the materialist compels you to go a mile go with him twain) [‘Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain’: Bible St Mathew ch. 5, v. 4.] I recollect, with what glee he quoted a clever remark by one of his students on the Benthamite position: “If Peter likes bread and John likes milk, it does not follow that both Peter and John like saps!” Our modern planners might reflect with profit on that dictum. But it was his exposition of the doctrine of evolution that had the most far-reaching effects on my mental outlook, (though I must allow some weight to Henry Drummond’s “Natural Law” and “Ascent of Man”: that somewhat equivocal evangelist deserves part of the credit and blame for my subsequent wanderings in the desert of evolutionary ethics). However much the details of that doctrine have been modified since then, it still stands as a deciding factor in modern thought; and I still recall with a retrospective thrill what a flood of light it threw on many a dark corner of my little intellectual garret. A unifying principle is a blessed gift of the gods, and my whole hearted acceptance of the theory of development, as it affected human affairs, helped me to arrange my stock of ideas and information in something like decent order. If recent research has made nonsense of much of its claims, and the whole idea has been rejected in some quarters, there are few scientists or thinkers of today who would deny their debt to Darwin and his successors, or think of erasing that phase of thought from their records. As successive governments have adopted and continued their predecessors’ reforms – usually without acknowledging the debt, so the most advanced scientist or theorist of the twentieth century must build on the foundation, or scaffolding, of his forerunners. The best of the moderns are the first to acknowledge this. These reflections are, of course, an anticipation of more mature thinking; but they are relevant here because Jones constantly stressed the principles of unity and continuity in scientific and philosophic thought. Later on I was to realise that these two are complementary in religion: unity being continuity in extent, and continuity being unity in time; but at the moment the impact of this new unifying law on my scattered fragments of knowledge was terrific. No department of ideas was safe from this all-embracing rule: even the once sacrosanct scriptures must be submitted to its universal norm. And so began a complete study of the English Bible from the new standpoint, to the neglect, I fear, of more immediate tasks. What a revolution in method (if there had been method at all in the old Bible-reading); but more to the point, what a revelation, where formerly there had been little but puzzlement and bemusing mystery! These ancient oracles, in the light of “creative evolution”, to use a later phrase, fell into their proper order and perspective as successive stages in man’s search for God, and reconciled one to the uncouth and savage customs which formerly had been explained away or left out in an eclectic survey which smelt strongly of casuistry. But it was a distinct shock to my “fundamentals” when it dawned on me that not even the sacred person of Christ was immune from the unrespecting [sic] operation of the law of development, and that His life must be interpreted as a part of the historical content of His time and race, and of the one grand process of continuous creation. Here honesty of thought and sincerity of faith came to grips in a struggle that has gone on ever since, and even now is not finally solved, though the opposing sides have agreed to an armistice and a modus vivendi. But at that time the strife was fierce and unrelenting, and there was no one to help but the Judge of all the earth, Himself the source of all this conflict! Some consolation there was in reflecting that, in order to give Him a place in the evolutionary scheme, the boundary of that scheme must be widened almost indefinitely; for the fact of Christ must be included and the theory stretched to fit that fact, not vice versa. Unfortunately, my whole-hearted acceptance of the principle made it just as sacred as the fact of the scripture (which were not scientific but biographic), and where the reported facts clashed with the accepted law, the reporters were likely to suffer! For a time I took refuge in the view that while the law of inevitable progress held in every sphere, the acknowledged gaps or jumps from mineral to organic, organic to conscious, and conscious to human, provided for still further jumps from human to divine or at least super-human. Thus the solitary invasion of the Son of God into our world could be regarded as a new creation, a higher step in the Jacob’s ladder from earth to heaven, and even provided for the angelic creatures ascending, if not descending, on it. The simple expedient of ruling out the miraculous element in the gospel narrative might satisfy the thorough-going evolutionist; but when it came to the actual process of unravelling the narrative and picking out the supernatural bits, it was not at all so simple. Indeed it simply ruined the whole story. The claim of the Christian believer that his relation to Christ is purely personal and experiential, and that he is “united to Him” by faith, whether that be understood mystically and sacramentally or merely morally and telepathically, seemed then to be equally unsatisfactory. To hold that just because you believe sincerely in this personal union with the divine redeemer, your faith became fact – and that conversely if you did not believe, your unbelief removed that fact – smacked too much of the wager “Heads I win, tails you lose”. It was just the old story of the esoteric mysteries again and of the childish challenge: “Shut your eyes and open your mouth”! On the other hand, one had to admit the reality (for themselves) of those believers’ experiences – Prof. William James had just demonstrated that position.

Here then was a pretty state of things for one who had set out with the ambition of entering the ministry of the Church, nothing doubting, and unaware of the lions in his path! I looked back with envy, and a little impatience, to those village evangelists of my boyhood, whose simple faith was so obviously sincere and satisfying; and I wondered how these country folk, whose knowledge of even the facts of the Gospel were so limited and often mistaken, could lay claim to this spiritual union with the divine Saviour of the world. Then I remembered my own inadequate grasp of these things, and bowing to the Majesty which had hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes, I resolved to go on in my endeavours to learn the whole truth of that revealed faith which enables the least instructed mind to understand that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” I even forgave those iconoclastic teachers of morals who had so disturbed my peace, and who were sublimely unaware of my inner conflict, or of my magnanimous gesture to them! But a “Confession of Faith” drawn up at this time shows how nebulous and theoretical was my belief in the holy mysteries of the faith. [There is a note here which probably indicated that he intended to insert his ‘Confession of Faith’ but it is not to be found.]

Another indication of my emancipation from the traditional view of the Scriptures survives in a theory of the Creation stories in Genesis, which found little acceptance with the authorities in Gilmorehill. The author of that complex poem was apparently not aiming at an account of the actual making of things terrestrial, but at a six-act play of man’s gradual awakening to consciousness. First came the dim distinction between light and darkness, then a progressive discrimination between air and land and sea. Awareness of details in the landscape followed, trees, animals, birds and fishes. Lastly of course, comes consciousness of self and of sex (“and the evening and the morning were the sixth day”). The Sabbath, I suppose, was the apprehension of “something far more deeply interfused whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,” etc. I was clearly proud of this attempt to square ancient writ with modern psychology – as later I was to score a pulpit success with a sermon on Elijah’s vision of the three great forces and the still, small voice. The great and strong wind, was obviously the will of man, breaking in pieces the rocks and blazing a trail into unexplored regions. The earthquake, moving man to his depths, was of course the power of emotion and faith, patriotism and religious passion. The third voice of Nature, correctly placed, was the fire or flame of knowledge; consuming the rubbish and lighting up the darkness. “But God was not in the fire”. Had I not been reading Hegel? “When reflection comes, some form of life has already grown old; and philosophy, painting its grey in grey, can never make it young again.” True, knowledge always comes too late to revive a passing way of life. But the still, small voice survives all three loud, assertive modes of action, and subdues their pride into obedience to its quiet authority. All the reforming zeal and passionate love of Israel and keen insight into the true needs of his people could not obliterate the fact that the prophet had run away from the post of danger; and only conscience/duty’, “stern daughter of the voice of God”, could send him back – to appoint his successors in the fight.

I had looked forward to entering the Divinity Hall as to initiation into a sort of Olympia or Valhalla of the theologians; but the actuality was a sore disappointment, and my three years there were the least fruitful of all – intellectually speaking. No doubt I was partly to blame for that; but our teachers were certainly not inspiring, and a woeful lack of humour, (which might have compensated for the absence of higher gifts,) prevailed in the Faculty. Professors have been defined as: “people who steal the fruits of other peoples’ brains”; and that certainly applied in the case of some of our instructors in religion. One of them, in particular, suffered from scurrilous and provocative attacks on the part of his students – inscriptions and caricatures on the blackboard or surreptitious notes handed round the benches. These were regrettable and hardly conducive to edification (in the words of the long-suffering victim), but almost justifiable in the circumstances. One example of his dogmatic theology comes to mind. He began his doctrine of Sin, as needs must, with the Fall of Man; but having read in some unorthodox publications (the bold bad man!) that the Fall was not simply a disaster, but also somehow a “fall upwards”, he likened his acrobatic achievement of our First Parents to a newly patented window: on pulling a cord, the upper sash comes down and the lower one goes up. Q.E.D.

An example of reprisals on our part was the rhyme dedicated by a fellow-student to Prof. Henry Martin Beckwith Reid, D.D. It is a parody of a popular students’ song, and runs thus:

“Come, all you jolly young students, and see

A devilish fine sort of fellow in me.

I am called Hairy Harry by some, but indeed

I am Henery Martyn Be-damned-to-you Reid,

With a Deedle-dum-deedle-dum-deedle-dum Dee!”

It is only fair to add that the victim enjoyed this sally quite as much as the rest of us. But our dearest enemy was another and bigger man (both bodily and mentally), a pillar of catholic doctrine, who was most in his element when tracking some modern theological vagary to its ancient source in one or other of the “heresies” of the early church. He knew those heresies like his ten fingers, and could enumerate as many again on his toes! On one occasion I was the culprit of insubordination. Sending in a homily on the First Jerusalem Council of the Church, I chose as the motto which had to be prefixed to our efforts, “Heresy is the salt of the Church.” As I handed it to him, he glanced at the title. I shall not forget the shocked and sorrowful look on the good old man’s face, as he silently drew his pen through the hateful epigram, and handed the essay back to me. You wise and reverend seniors (pardon!) who frown at those puerilities and superfluidity of naughtiness, try to recall your own youth and the unbearable dullness of those lecture hours, as we sat drinking in the dust of ages preserved in lectures of thirty years thumbing, while the call of Spring, within or without, had to be suppressed or ignored. Those professors who thunder at the phenomenon of student rowdyism without understanding, ought to reflect that the cause of it often lies in their own worm-eaten paragraphs. Let them sit at one another’s feet for one session, and even their patient brows will wrinkle in exasperation! What mystified us was that outside the rostrum those jugglers with dry bones could be so human and helpful in the real problems of youth. The merciless heresy-hunter showed a courtesy and a hospitality that made us thoroughly ashamed of our pranks, and a heart as big as Pickwick’s. He had moreover a memory for faces and names which seldom failed, and often astounded the casual acquaintance. Our Hebrew teacher, austere and almost repellent in the class-room, suddenly revealed himself in a meeting of students as a veritable prophet of social justice and mercy. The tedium and ennui of class hours was relieved by pocket editions of R.L.S., Meredith or Henry James, invisible to the lecturer but somewhat destructive of his attempts to impress. How could one, with Ruskin between his knees, take seriously the one iota of difference between Arius and Athanasius, or show interest in the Sabellian or Montanist departures? Gibbon was so much more readable than Augustine, and for mental callisthenics Nietzsche far more exciting than Calvin or Hooker.

And then outside the class hours, there was far more exciting fare to be had in the theatre, where the arid and sombre atmosphere of Ibsen was being expelled by the bracing and gusty breezes of Bernard Shaw. Only the more daring of us ventured to listen to this dangerous new dramatist, and some of the others had not even heard of him. At a joint debate with a sister college of “divinities”, one of the rash ones dared to quote from “G.B.S.” “Who’s that?” asked an innocent opponent – to be crushed by the sarcastic rejoinder, “I thought every schoolboy had heard of George Bernard Shaw!” The subject was a Biblical one, and the innocent one had occasion later to remark that “G.B.S. would acknowledge the authority, on this question, of G.A.S.” It was the Shavian’s turn to ask blankly “And who’s G.A.S.?” Mildly surprised, the other replied, “I thought every U.F. student had heard of George Adam Smith!”

Such stimulating influences, abetted by the repelling power of theological erudition, drove me to closer study of the Social Question, which was popular then, and of the humanitarian creed. Mill and Morris and Marx (in diluted versions) all tended to obscure the ideal of personal immortality, and to substitute for it the amelioration of the mass of humanity as a sufficient motive and object for man’s endeavour. Ruskin and Kingsley, and now H.G. Wells, in their own way supported this view of life. Nay the very gospel of the prophet of Nazareth seemed to aim in that direction also, with its emphasis on healing and its feeling for poverty, its constant insistence on social service, and its denunciation of the rich and comfortable. It was easy to underline the social and revolutionary aspects of the words and deeds of Jesus, especially as interpreted by St. Luke; it was but a step to declare Him the first of the socialists, and to gain his sanction for the wildest communistic schemes of reform. His immediate followers had set the example of “having all things in common”, and if they had failed to perpetuate this through the wickedness of the world, we were living in a more favourable age for successful revolution. We were warned, of course, that it was just as easy to prove that Jesus was a bourgeois, conservative and even reactionary, refusing to be a judge and divider, and rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Scholars, German and otherwise, had shown, to their own satisfaction, that He was purely a mystic and a dreamer; that He was simply a miracle-worker; that He was the last of the Prophets, the prince of Poets, a martyr, a madman, or a myth! In fact there is hardly a name under heaven that He has not been called, from a mere man to Very God of Very God. But we liked him best as the son of man who made friends of the dispossessed and the outcast, and told wealthy Pharisees, at their own sumptuous tables, of women in the city who might sell their bodies but who would save their souls. At any rate social reform seemed the best way to escape from the ghastly mausoleums of theological dogma; so I joined the Fabian Society, read the “Tracts” religiously, and was one of a committee to invite the late Keir Hardie to become a candidate for the post of Lord Rector of the University! We didn’t succeed in getting him elected, but mustered sufficient votes to turn the election in favour of the Liberal candidate against the Unionist. Followed a hilarious midnight meeting of socialists, which had unpleasant consequences for one of them. On reaching the students’ residence where I lodged, I found myself locked out by my fellow boarders and political opponents, doors and windows fastened, bells muffled, all quiet as a cemetery. I recollected a third-floor widow without a “snib”, and had removed my boots and was shinning up the rain-pipe, when a heavy footstep sounded in the street. I clung to the pipe in suspense – but my boots betrayed me. The “bobby” surveyed them, then looked up, surveyed me, and remarked in a leisurely way, “Ye’d better come doon, I’m thinking’!” I was thinking that myself, though I expected to be arrested for house breaking; but by the time I had reached my boots, the representative of the law had decided that I was not the usual type of burglar: and I saw the prospect of tramping the streets till daylight, as I couldn’t go to friends at that unearthly hour, and Robert seemed unwilling to disturb the house. But he was a sympathetic soul, and suggested that I should accompany him to the Western police office where I could sleep till morning. I accepted the invitation; but they must have been listening behind the door, for at breakfast I was hailed as a martyr for political liberty! One of the Tories at that election was the late James Maxton; Walter Elliot was among the Fabians, while O.H.Mavor – better known as “James Bridie” – was too independent to be thirled to any party! [thirl: to enslave OED] Another vivid memory of that occasion was of the special violence of the students’ fight at the main entrance to the polling place (a normal feature of the election, in which the members of each party tried to prevent the other from voting). One kenspeckle figure I still see in retrospect, a huge red-haired fellow with a lovely black eye produced by a missile of pease-meal and soot. I escaped with an abrasion of the left shin and a rooted conviction of the injustices of majorities in politics!

These last student years had been made easy in financial matters by a handsome bursary, bequeathed by the late William McKie, farmer of Knockgerran, to a student from the parishes of Girvan, Barr or Dailly proceeding to the ministry of the Church of Scotland. It had been accumulating interest for some years for lack of a student from those parishes; but my father happened to be a native of Dailly, and so the bursary fell into my lap without any contest of brains. I am still grateful to that kindly elder of the Kirk.

But the time of release came at last, and I left the University to become a licentiate or probationer for the ministry. Here occurred a serious snag to hinder my progress as a preacher of the gospel. I had to sign a formula pledging my adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith as a condition of my admission to the company of probationers. I could not swallow the confession whole; but there were rumours of a new formula being prepared, in which liberty of conscience was permitted on matters “not entering into the substance of the faith”. This promised some scope for honesty and reservations of conscience, and I put off application for licence until the General Assembly should in its wisdom modify the formula. My fellow-students scoffed at my tender scruples, one irreverent but now Reverend friend remarking, “after all, Mac, it’s only a license to wear a dog-collar and bark!” I couldn’t accept that cynical view of a solemn pledge, but took advantage of a kind offer of a new mission in the Highlands, where I spent a delightful year among serious folk who held the ministry in high esteem. That did not lessen my problem, and when I came south and signed the new and meaningless formula, my qualms of conscience were if anything increased. As I put my name to the hateful document (nearly signing the old form through the carelessness of the Clerk of the Presbytery) I seemed to hear again the voice of my old village body: “Ah, laddie, the sin o’ a lee is the scrimpin’ o’t!” I have often reflected on the truth of that queer saying. But the die was cast, and I was committed to accept the “fundamental doctrine of the Church – always in agreement with the Holy Scriptures, of which agreement the Church itself shall be sole judge.” I consoled myself with the thought that those fundamentals had not been strictly defined – even the Apostles’ Creed left room for various interpretations – and went out into the wicked world as a free-lance or knight-errant, with all the windmills in the Scottish scene to tilt at! My first reaction to this adventure was an emotion foreign to Don Quixote: I was scared at my scantiness of arms and equipment. At 23 I was so immature and ill-prepared for this tremendous business of the gospel that I wanted to go back to Gilmorehill and do it all over again. My education was only beginning when it was supposed to be complete. I had the grace now to feel repentant for my scorn at those patient teachers who had done their best to prepare us for the work of the ministry; but I wished – and still wish – that they had given us a little less dogmatic theology and apologetics and a little more light on the real problems we were soon to face in a world which is something less than half-Christian!

I had surprised my friends, and myself, by collecting a gold medal in Semitic languages (of which I knew but one, Hebrew, and that scantily), but I soon wondered what to do with that medal (worth about £20 in gold today) or with my knowledge of the Old Testament tongues. My old Hebrew teacher kept sending me literature and enquiring at intervals “what branch of Semitics was I now studying”; but when I consider that I might have been a Professor of Hebrew today, my ingratitude seems less culpable. “Goodbye to all that” was the word of emancipation then. Another road I refused was when my friend Robert Napier wrote from Africa suggesting that I should follow him to the Foreign Mission field. A root of scepticism held me to the home soil: fear that my humanitarian zeal might not make up for lack of faith and defect of doctrine. But I cherish the memory of that consecrated soul as one of the most precious links with those early, confident days. Napier kept undimmed to the last the glow and ardour of his first love: the splendour of his idealism and purposeful dedication to the task of evangelising the world were wonderful. He gave up the fruits of a brilliant career at college, a priceless opportunity of continental study and of rapid promotion in the home Church, and went out to Nyasaland to teach black boys and girls the elements of education, character and faith, till the War of 1914 claimed his body and released his soul for some higher service. I here offer this tribute of loving memory; if he knows of it, he will forgive its poverty. Often have I felt the rebuke of his earnestness and unfaltering purpose, rousing at times to imitative resolve my dilettante and temporising spirit. The thought of him even inspired me once to verse:

“The fields of God lie fallow,

While we hold high holiday.”

Whether he now rests from his labours, or tills new fields of God, one thing is sure: his works do follow him: a fine, enduring influence over his fellows, a never-dying memory of strong and tender Christian manhood among his friends. He never doubted the resurrection life; it is hard to believe that his life is ended, a beautiful strong pillar broken midway. Perhaps it is only lost in the clouds. I wonder!

 The Closed Door

A wise teacher once counselled speakers and writers to present only the conclusions of their thinking, but not the process by which they reached their conclusions. On the whole I believe he is right, for life is short (and art is often long-winded), but is there not a chance that we may help another by leaving foot-steps in the sands of time, and that some forlorn and shipwrecked brother (to mangle Longfellow’s lines) seeing, may take heart again? Here I retrace a long-past process of thinking.

One night in college days I went to sleep a dreamer, and next morning woke up a materialist. I had fallen out of bed, and the precipitate of my dreams was a painful bump on the cranium! The conclusion was as clear as the cold daylight of my wakening, that things are what they seem, that only the actual is real, and that the body is the sole concern of man. That bump on the bedroom floor was more impressive than all the theories and postulates of philosophy, and drove the last nail into the coffin of my idealism and spiritual vapourings. The funeral rites were spoken, not by Marx or Spencer or even Huxley, but by that Godly apologist Bishop Butler. “Things [and actions] are what they are,” he intoned, “and their [the] consequences [of them] will be what they will be. [: why] Why then should we seek to be deceived?” [ Joseph Butler 1692-1752 English Bishop and Theologian, Ox. Dict. Quotes. p. 165] The corpse was buried; the case for materialism was complete. Why multiply causes or postulate a soul at all? There is no evidence for such an entity; what we call thought is simply cerebration, nervous reaction to stimuli. “Facts are chiels that winna ding”, as a hard-headed, soft-hearted Scot once pronounced. [1786 Burns A Dream, ‘Facts are cheels that winna ding, An’ downa be disputed’: Facts are stubborn things; they’ll neither be moved by force as inert masses, nor driven like cattle. Ox. Eng. Dictionary.] But as the lump on my thinking box began to subside, doubts began to assert themselves and refused to lie still. The ghost was beginning to walk and I wondered how men came to invent all those big words for so simple a matter. Why did Burns ignore his undingable facts and fly to fancies light as air? How could the daft creature go into ecstasies over human love, which He must know was just the simple, natural, physical attraction of complementary elements? He knew only too well how fleeting and how ephemeral is that chemical affinity which Nature uses to prolong this “trouble of ants” on the earth! And now all these wayward loves and the bodies that provoked them are dust and ashes. What remains now of Highland Mary and Bonnie Jean and those others? Ay, there’s the rub! What remains? Those haunting verses that defy the passing of mortal years, those heart stirring melodies that wing their immortal flight round the globe, what chemical analysis can ever explain them away? The ghost begins to talk, to ask questions. What if your so-called material be soul-stuff? What if this tortured and perishing body be spirit in disguise? May it not be that this multifarious conglomerate of organs, muscles and nerves are only inventions of learned doctors to disguise angels, spiritual principalities and powers? Can it be that the unseen, the unheard, the intangible are the true facts, and these apparently solid things nothing but obsessions imposed upon us by some demon of absurdity behind the scene. But no! that is going too far. It is as easy to argue that the soul is material as vice versa. The whole business seems to resolve itself into a battle of words about words, resulting in more and more words like hydra heads sprouting up endlessly; and the duel of Berkeley with Hume ends in the fatuous verdict: “What is mind? No matter, What is matter? Never mind!” We are no nearer the real truth of things than before.

But this everlasting question took a more serious turn for me now when the death of a dear friend drove me to painful speculation on the issue of survival or dissolution. “The resurrection of the body”, to which I had given assent to without thought, now seemed to me to be a mockery of human affection; and St. Paul’s confused dialectics about the spiritual body did not avail at all. Such verbal gymnastics could not abolish the evident decay of the body and its vanishing into inorganic chaos. What was left of the dear human traits and turns, the trick of speech and of look, the familiar signs of emotion, the habits and eccentricities, the endless attributes that gather round the individual and form the personality? Can we think of these as somehow cohering in vacuo, a bundle of attributes without a medium of expression? Or must we posit a sort of universal body or reservoir into which all these characteristics merge at death? But that is only the Buddhist Nirvana – “the shining rain drop sinks into the infinite sea”. Can we speak with any propriety of personal immortality or survival, if all the distinctive features are missing, and if the physical peculiarities and human weaknesses are abolished? Is there not necessarily a break in the continuity which we call personality when the bodily instrument is dissolved? We try to keep those dear human traits in memory; but with all the will in the world, memory becomes blurred and the very features of the beloved are forgotten with the passing years. If death means a final goodbye to all the complex make-up of human frailties and fondnesses which we love in our friends (for the imperfections seem to be as vital as the virtues in our affection), then what hope is there of meeting again “beyond”? If on the other hand “the souls of the righteous are at death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory,” are we not left disconsolate?

“O for the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still!”

A curious sidelight was thrown on this question by meeting a man who had lost his memory: to all appearance a stray fragment of life that could not attach itself to any corresponding bits of experience which might prove identity, a man literally born again. Who yet retained all or nearly all the habits and attributes which had taken many lost years to form. But he had a dim awareness that he was somebody that he had a past belonging to him alone; and in time his belief was justified: his memory returned, and he was able to say, “This is what happened to me.” ME. “ME” was a persistent entity through all the darkness and oblivion, not just a bundle of sensations or stream of consciousness: or if so, the cord was more important than the contents of the bundle, the bed of the stream was deep and permanent in spite of the summer drought. This was, of course, only a temporary lesion of the individuality, a mere suspension of continuity. But what happens when the final break occurs? When this “ME” withdraws permanently out of sight, deep within its house of clay and draws the curtains to all outsiders, while we look, and call, and weep?

This preoccupation with death may seem unnatural in a young man beginning his ministry: and I have learned since then to look upon the final exit from life with some detachment, even when it comes in violent or repulsive form. But this death affected me more strongly than all the others, though it happened in a far land, and without the usual distressing contact to confuse and distract. It left me so much poorer in the wealth that alone endures, friendship. It seems to me now that he was one of the predestined, chosen of God from the beginning to fulfil many days in few. I now recognise that queer nimbus of aloofness in which, quite unconsciously, he wrapped himself, and which he strove in vain to unwind. Full of good humour, and fit to enjoy a “rag” with the zest of a school boy, he never quite escaped from that veil of consecration, that distance of settled purpose which seemed almost preternatural. The more he exaggerated his good-fellowship and played the perfect companion, the more he proved himself a man apart, feigning to be one of us, while quite well aware that he was different, a lonely soul, and yet never alone! Some of us he repelled, indeed, because their frank materialism and pagan out-look clashed with his purely spiritual dedication. Perhaps they were a little afraid, feeling a Presence there; a few of us, timidly, loved him.

One gain I counted after that bereavement: the Closed Door now became the Open Question, the great Perhaps. I could no longer accept a final denial of hope; and the early lesions of home and childhood, in which I learned to believe in the resurrection and the life everlasting, began to reassert their power. But it was quite another matter to transmit that renascent belief to others. In the industrial community where I passed most of my probation, death seemed to be the dominant fact; and to meet the dumb appeal of the bereaved for comfort with second-hand epigrams and vague assurances seemed to me worse than giving a stone for bread to hungry souls. How I loathed the conventional phrases, “vacant chaff well meant for grain”, and even the scriptural quotations, in face of uncontrolled grief and despair by the death-bed of parent or child. I found it impossible to pretend assurances or confidence in the happy reunion hereafter which popular religion held out to mourners. The accepted belief (or superstition, as it was for the most part) as to the destiny of the departed had no place in my half formed creed; and indeed the usual behaviour of mourners at a funeral seemed to prove it quite unreal and hollow. They craved some continuance of the “departed” life; but it seemed to be rather the physical aspect, or at best the soul’s expression in bodily terms, that they clung to. At best, their hope was to meet again and recognise and dwell with the loved and lost just as they had done on earth; but to my detached view, the belief generally lacked conviction; and even in the rare cases where they refused to give way to grief, the spirit evoked was rather one of austere stoicism from which glad assurances were strikingly absent, and the ensuing days of mourning only accentuated this resigned attitude to the finality of the parting.

And what of the dying themselves? I had not then learned to understand the natural shrinking from dissolution which is almost universal, not having yet been threatened myself; so it struck me as strange that only in rare cases did the victim face the fact of approaching death, even in those circumstances where he or she could have no doubt as to the end. I was sometimes given the task of “breaking it gently” to those about to be bereaved, and even to the dying person; but in the latter case I usually made the excuse of consulting the doctor first, and his advice was often negative until it was clear to all concerned that the end was near. Sometimes when the patient admitted to himself its imminence, he hid this awareness from the others, and even tried to deceive his nearest friends. One could not but admire the tenderness and heroism of this attitude, and I still remember a young man who brought himself to the point of facing the enemy bravely, and whose only anxiety was to hide the fact of his impeding death from his mother – who knew very well how things stood with him! Brave and considerate, no doubt – but surely foolish if the Christian doctrine which he professed were true! Courage of a different sort I heard of, when a local secularist died in the midst of his active life. A friend, visiting his sick-bed and noticing the light was hurting his eyes, lowered the gas a little; but the dying man mistook the gesture and muttered, “Ay, turn it out: I’ll die as I have lived – in the dark.”

In spite of the eager efforts of spiritualists and others to overcome the obstinate silence, the one impressive fact which weighs upon us is the entire unresponsiveness of the deceased. The claims made to have communication with them have never convinced me: the alleged responses have always seemed to me (after experience of numerous séances and published accounts of such interviews with the dead) too conventional and repetitive to carry conviction, except perhaps to some recently bereft souls whose craving for contact overcame their natural scepticism. The world supposedly revealed by mediums and “guides” is usually a rather dim reflexion of this life, with certain disabilities removed, but seen “as in a glass darkly”, giving the impression of looking back on former days instead of forward to new experiences and explorations of the spirit. The pronunciations of certain exalted spirits (of ancient or modern times) sounded false to me, second-hand rather than original, and sometimes merely incongruous or absurd. I have learned since that serious spiritualists deprecate such exhibitions as unedifying, and prefer to concentrate on the problems of time and its relation to the timeless and eternal. I am far from suggesting that all mediums are fraudulent, or that spiritualism is just a “stunt” for profitable publication; but undoubtedly the proportion of dishonest “communications” is considerable – and for the rest, I am still in the condition of the “open mind”. Perhaps my earth-bound spirit is unable to rise to the fellowship of the immortal company.

I turned from all such barren speculations to more practical avenues of research, and was content for the time to accept George Eliot’s “Choir Invisible” and Wordsworth’s “Enough, if something from our hands have power to live and act and serve the future hour”. That seems to be sufficient immortality – to live on in the lives of others who have drawn from one’s personality while alive, and from his memory when dead, those immortal things which make for “life and more abundantly”. The things that endure and are alone worthy of resurrection or survival are transmitted to posterity; and what higher destiny could man hope for than to be thus built into the rising temple of God? The accepted idea of the blessed dead as “resting from their labours” is surely inadequate; what of the “works that do follow them”? Must there not be a vital connexion between those finished lives and the continuing labours of their followers? The departed leaders are surely now in far closer touch with the living than before, nearer to the heart of things, and more organically related to the advancing Kingdom of God on the earth! The Communion of Saints must have a forward-looking as well as a historical nexus with the generations that follow. Those who have entered into their rest are the model and norm for the living; but we are not to judge life by its roots but by its fruits. The Creator is not only at the beginning of His work but at the end, and active all through the process of expanding life. This surely involves those who “live in God” are intimately concerned with human affairs, if only as interested spectators of our efforts. We must indeed learn assiduously from the old pioneers and adventurers of faith: they were the forward-looking spirits of their time, who looked for the fulfilment of the Promise and marched on ahead of their fellows. We are prone to regard them as the men of the old world, dead and done with, whereas they lived in the youth of things, and it is we who are the ancients as heirs to all the ages, living in the last days. If we are to keep our faith in immortality strong and fresh, we must be ever mindful of the sources of our river of life, the thousand springs that rise high up in the mountains of memory.

And so the young revolutionary was coming round full circle, and in danger of becoming a traditionalist! Not that he accepted the orthodox view of eternity, something outside time and place, unrelated to our limited bourne [O.E.D.: The limit or terminus of a race, journey, or course; the ultimate point aimed at, or to which anything tends; destination, goal.] of existence, No, no, he still held to his Hegelian infinite, the self-determined and self-liberated Self, through and in communion with the spirits that had attained their Nirvana. This freedom he kept as an everlasting possession, giving a point of contact with the great cloud of witnesses. Think of the changing point of view of the disciples towards their Master. At first they mourned and craved for the familiar voice and gesture and smile, the handclasp, the noble brow and flashing eye, the Man as he was in the body. But in time calmer reflexion turn to the thoughts he implanted, the ideal he pointed to, the emotions he aroused and the life of service he set before them. Thus his personal character becomes merged in some wider Personality or Presence, he becomes pure Spirit; and at length one of them declares roundly, “Yea, though we knew him after the flesh, now we know him no more”. The object of worship is no longer the Man, but the Word and the Spirit.

I had reached the stage of abandoning all hope of personal survival in favour of some vague Nietzschean future of supermen [Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900, ‘I teach you the superman. Man is something to be surpassed’. Ox. Dict. Quotes. p 495.], who could gather up and embody all that deserved survival in us, when I was brought up short by listening to a sermon from a text in Ecclesiastes, whose theme was “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones” [A speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Ox Dict. Quotes. p. 592.]. Entirely ignoring Mark Anthony’s irony, the preacher thoroughly approved of these pessimistic sentiments, adducing many examples to support his thesis, and triumphantly perorating, to his own huge satisfaction, “Vanity of vanities”! There is one end to the evil and to the good. [Ecclesiastes ch. 1, v. 2.].  I remember sitting in agony of repressed contradiction, muttering to myself, “Fool! It is the good that lives and acts and served the future hour: the evil dies of its own disease!” But that sermon made sad havoc of my fine theory of synthetic immortality, and scattered my supermen with more deadly effect than Samson’s jawbone of an ass. It exposed the disability under which we labour in all our speculations on the after-life; we can only use symbolic language and similes drawn from experience of this life. The schoolboy who wrote in his essay that “Julius Caesar’s death was predicated by a shower of metaphors” was nearer the mark than he knew; and the detailed description of “the better world” once so popular with evangelical preachers, have deservedly fallen into disuse if not disrepute. We must, of course, use words which have some relation to our mortal days, but even the “Many mansions” of St. John’s comforting chapter warns us not to be too definite in visualising the future state of the called and chosen ones. A reverent reticence or “agnosticism”, as it has been called, is surely most becoming to our limited perception of things unseen and eternal; but this much may surely be said without offence: the better world we speak of must have some essential link with the spiritual freedom we feel at times, when we move in a region of ideas, emotions and decisions that “overcome the world” if only for a brief moment!



“Youth – Morning: Truth – Dawning”

When does our life really begin?  Great minds by no means agree in their answers to that question.  Eastern sages say “Never, – as it never ends”.  Shakespeare, sensible man, places the first age of man in the cradle, but to judge by many biographies, a few generations back must be included in a satisfactory account of our beginnings: that is, provided we have chosen our ancestors wisely.  Wordsworth seems to recollect something very long ago, or did when he was a child ‘trailing clouds of glory’.  He is no doubt quite truthful when he says: “Heaven lies around us in our infancy”, but my own earliest recollection is certainly not heavenly.  It is of an old nurse-maid who was wont to encourage (?) sleep by crooning to me:

“Cuddle doon, sleep soond, for, mind I tell ye, Jock,

Auld Nick’s comin’ ben, he’ll put ye in his poke!

Cuddle doon, sleep soond, to jink him noo be gled,

For mind ye, he’s an awfu’ man, the MAN BELOW THE BED!”

In spite of the sages, there is good reason to believe that most people wake up to the fact of being alive at various points between the ages of seven and seventy; and, in spite of superstition, I choose for a beginning my thirteenth year.  At that age, when I was a rather dull boy, introspective and painfully shy, there took place the first awakening to conscious life that I can remember; and it prepared the way for other, and ruder, eye-openings.  It was my ‘conversion’ during a local evangelistic revival: a childish experience, common enough in early adolescence.  Possibly it is a weakness to confess it, but I still look back occasionally, with tender, wistful regret, to that Sunday afternoon when I stood up in the ‘Meeting’ holding my father’s hand for courage – and, instead of the inspired confession I had rehearsed, blurted out: “I have to tell you that I have given myself to Christ”, melting into tears at that, and collapsing in confusion on my seat!

Ludicrously, but firmly, attached to that memory comes up vividly the odour of hot buttered toast for tea, in the cosy comfort of the warm lighted parlour, on our return from that momentous meeting!  But the contrast only heightens the sublimity of the spiritual dawning.  Unlike Bunyan’s Pilgrim, I had not as yet felt the real burden of guilt on my shoulders, and the Slough of Despond was still to come; but the reality of that vision of the Cross I can never doubt.  Rosy in the distant haze of retrospect, idealised as only boyhood can be, appear those early earnest days, begun, continued, and ended with fervent, believing prayer; solemn with an overpowering sense of awful heights and depths – an abyss of woe, a heaven of glory – that I have often since sought to recall.

“But the tender grace of a day that is dead

Will never come back to me”.

The dread of Hell as a grim reality – an actual, inevitable state of gloom and eternal despair, ‘but for the grace of God’ – only heightened the contrasting splendour of that age of gold, and heaven lay around in very truth; but now the light of common day has blurred both the ethereal glory of the one and the baleful glow of the other…  Can it be that, as some are eager to assure us, these are among the passing fancies of the world’s childhood?  Indeed, it seems that, with more mundane adult notions of the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of darkness has lost much of its terror and sombre awe.  How many grown men today can say honestly that they have a clear, or even an impressive notion of the “outer darkness, where their worm dieth not, the fire is not quenched”?  But have we not lost something vital thereby?  Has the moral content gone with the metaphor of a lake burning everlastingly?  There was more than mere profanity in the old farmer’s complaint to the new minister that “a kirk without a hell’s no’ worth a damn!”.  Granted that our grandfathers dwelt too much on the dismal side of the faith, and gave the Devil more than his due, it may be that we have swung too far to the other extreme; and while we pride ourselves on our breadth of mind in these enlightened days, when universal salvation is the popular creed, or at least the general assumption, let us ask ourselves: may it not be that we have lost in depth of insight what we have gained in breadth of outlook?

Have we sacrificed sublimity to sympathy or good nature?  My first classics were the Holy Bible, John Bunyan and Robert Burns – three B’s to follow the three R’s: but the Bible was the first – and last.  How full of eager seriousness were those long hours spent in poring over the Prophets’ oracles, and wading through the endless mazes of the Law – utterly meaningless for the most part, and the rest interpreted as impossible types and symbols of the Gospel to come.  Oh!  The perplexity, the useless concentration of mind, the self-castigation for want of faith and wandering attention!  And in conduct, what over-anxiety about trivial duties, what importunate, childish prayer, what solicitous idealising of commonplace relationships – and withal a holy joy, a real peace, that hallowed every passing day, and transfigured the world with a glory not of earth.

Perhaps foolish fancy has glorified the facts, and yearning lent enchantment to the distant scene, but these could not create it, and I keep the fond memories of that boyhood’s paradise as a precious thing, not to be given up for ever!  Those naïve perplexities of Bible study were, nonetheless, preparing the soil for the seeds of doubt, and even in those omniscient schooldays, questions arose that refused to be altogether suppressed – suspicions that lack of sense or guidance was more to blame than want of faith, and that the mysteries of interpretation were sometimes due to stupidity rather than to inspiration.  Then a sense of literature began to grow with wider reading, and the beauties of Hebrew poetry would steal into the opening mind to the exclusion of ‘typical’ interpretation.  The human side of the Bible, in tine, began to impress itself on me, even at that early stage of learning.  Thus were those first tremulous steps in the great search for truth taken before I left the quiet valley of my birthplace.  I had already, at the age of sixteen, resolved to enter the ministry of the Church of Scotland, and my first journey from my native village (apart from an occasional visit to the market town of Ayr) was to enter the university in a great city!  My revivalist friends dolefully predicted the despoiling of the young hopeful by those wayside robbers, college professors: in a year or two I should be as dead as the Uniformity Act.  And their prophecy came true – at least I am quite sure they thought so – in a year or two.  But their fears and prayers were completely forgotten by an ungrateful disciple whose mind was undergoing a rapid expansion by contact with the wonders of city life.  The stream of faces passing in the street had a strange fascination for me, and I used to tramp from West End to East and back, for the sheer pleasure of watching the endless variety of indices – or disguises – of our common human nature.

At first, college life was disappointingly dull – for the sufficient reason that there is, or was, practically no college life at our Scottish Universities!  Residences and hostels are now multiplying, since it has been discovered that the social side is far more important than the academic, and the free mixing of students more educative than a lifetime of lectures.  Not only do our minds broaden and become keener by rubbing shoulders and living with others, but more class-work improves immensely by the interchange of books, views, and criticisms.  The curse of higher education in Scotland for centuries has been the isolation of the student in stuffy, lonely rooms, with little means of communicating with his fellows: the first two years of my student life were passed under that curse.  What is called – in testimonials and in fond parents’ conversation – a ‘university career’ was a mere matter of plodding through long pages of Latin and Logic, and of ploughing through acres of exam papers (and getting ploughed occasionally) in subjects of no interest at all save as stepping-stones to the study of theology and its subject studies… and then came ‘Moral Phil.’ (under the late Sir Henry Jones) with a real awakening to life’s pitiless daylight through the critical analysis of the most sacred impulses of the human heart.  It was a dreadful time for the recent convert to evangelical Christianity.  What dream-towers came tumbling about my helpless ears with that rude shaking-up of accepted ideas!  What desolations were wrought in my child’s temple of faith by the crude light of pure reason, turned mercilessly on its interior like the destroying beams of some ultra-spectrum ray!  Sheer rage possessed the soul of the young faithful at the sight of such havoc: burning indignation at the exposure of his sacred things to mockery and denial, and fierce hostility against the smooth, smiling wrecker of faith!

Followed a period of hopeless dismay and despondency, but thanks to a sound home training, in which the emphasis of faith was laid on deeds, not doctrine, my sojourn with Giant Despair was brief, and the final outcome of this sudden descent into the dungeon of Doubting Castle was altogether salutary.  An amusing record of this first violent reaction of faith on the assault of intellect remains in the form of an essay written for the class: a fierce and defiant defence of the life of action as against that of reflexion, full of sound and fury, beginning with Ibsen’s dictum: “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches”, and ending with Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth… than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.  Underneath these words, in pencil, is the Prof’s sole comment: “Don’t be so hard on philosophy until you know something about it!”.  He took the trouble, however, to remove some frivolous and offensive remarks about the endless, benighted debates of the Schoolmen – “Thomas Asinus”, “Gulliam of Occam-poccam”, and “Dunce Scottie”.  This was a terrible blow, but I was consoled on learning of a fellow-student receiving a still more crushing criticism.  He fancied himself as a thinker, and in blissful ignorance of the tedium of revising several hundred essays, all painfully familiar, he wrote a lengthy treatise and waited for special mention.  The lecturer duly handed it back, and ‘H’ turned over the pages slowly, growing more and more pleased as he found not a single critical remark, till he came triumphantly to the very end – where his eye caught two pencilled words: “Good God!”.

Here is a slight tribute to the memory of that wise and patient teacher: as the Son of man said of the Sabbath, so might we say of the Scriptures: “The Bible was made for man, not man for the Bible”.  We have often been in danger of losing sight of that truth since the Reformation, when we gave up our belief in an infallible Pope, and put in its place a belief in an infallible Bible.  It is a poor exchange, for a living man is better than a dead letter, and though we say that our standard is “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures” if we do not believe that the Spirit of God works in the spirit of man, and inspires him now as in the days of old, what better are we?  An African traveller tells how he overcame the fear of his native carriers who refused to follow him over the great northern desert to the coast which he knew lay beyond.  He demonstrated how, with the aid of his compass, they might travel direct north without fear of losing their way, and leaving a compass with them he went on ahead and reached his destination in due course.  But they never came – and on returning to their village some months later, he found his compass placed among the fetishes and idols of the tribe!  They explained to him, somewhat shamefacedly, that though it might lead them northwards with safety, they had no assurance that it would bring them safe home again!

Our use, or disuse, of the Bible is somewhat similar: our reverence for it sometimes results, paradoxically, in total neglect of its directions, or else our scepticism prevents us from accepting it as a useful and sufficient guide to life’s journey.  We have much need to take it down from its dusty shelf and see if it may not be of some assistance in exploring the unknown regions of life, or in getting somewhere anyhow!  We may trust it to bring us back to the soul’s true home as well.  The Bible was made for man – and by man, under divine inspiration.  It is neither a sacrosanct idol nor a discarded text-book of exploded theories.  It is a guide-book to the road the spirit of man has taken since he began to search the world of thought and faith and beauty.  It is neither science nor theology: it is poetry.  It deals with religion, which is the poetry of life, but it is history too, the natural history of man’s questing spirit, and of his imagination, playing like some celestial search-light on the facts of human life, lit and manipulated by the holy spirit of God.

Look at the earliest beginnings of the Bible – not the earliest-written part, maybe, but representing a very old tradition.  The Creation stories are neither an impossible yarn about making a world in a week (making a myriad world through millions of years is a far more stupendous miracle!) nor yet a miraculous anticipation, 3000 years ahead, of 19th century evolutionary science.  These passages are poetry – folk-song or saga, passed down from age to age by word of mouth, and no doubt rounded and polished by successive bards – but deriving finally from some far seer of the primitive world who had gazed long at the pageant of life spread before him, and in whose spirit the first inspiration of creation burned.  Did he ask himself, as he meditated on the marvellous scene, Whence came this panorama?  Or, whither is this vast procession tending?  If so, he has not attempted to answer these questions, beyond recording his conviction that it was all very good – that it was God-created.  The task he set himself was quite other: he was, I think, the first poet to act on the principle which is expressed in Pope’s aphorism: “The proper study of mankind is man” for what he told the children of his tribe was this, in effect: “Behold how the mind of man in the beginning awoke from the slumber of beasthood, and slowly took in all his surroundings”.  How he first dwelt in chaos and blind darkness, until one morn there stirred within him a strange uneasiness, and an awareness, dim at first but growing clearer of a distinction between light and darkness (not that he thought out such a modern piece of psychology, but by instinctive, poetic insight, saw this): “and the evening and the morning were the first day”.  The first act of this grand drama of Creation was written.  With that first dim awakening to a difference within his existence came another: the feeling of movement, of time and space (as future ages called them) of what the poet called ‘the firmament’.  Then in exploring this new sensation of movement, he became conscious of a difference in the space he trod, or crawled on: solid and fluid, land and water; and on the land (by degrees) all sorts of growing things, trees and grass and things to eat – especially things to eat.  “And the evening and the morning were the third day”.  But now he raised his head to look around him, and he discovered the sources of his light and darkness, and of his heat and cold: the sun and moon and stars.  A great day, that fourth day of real life!  But now the action of the play proceeds rapidly, and the penultimate act covers a multitude of perceptions, fishes and birds and animals, and hastens to the climax of creation.  There is a prophetic touch of genius about this last act in the drama: the sixth and last day on which man becomes aware of himself.  That is a truth that only a poet-seer could have lit upon, though every child repeats it in its experience: the truth that man is the very last thing man becomes aware of in this world.  Self-consciousness crowns creation, and henceforth, as far as man can see, God rests from his labours.  There may be other and higher beings in existence, but this early thinker is not concerned with them.  For him, man is the culminating point, the object and purpose of creation, and his vision of Creation is told from the point of view of man.  Indeed one might almost say that for him the creator is man himself, as the master of things.

“He hath found out the flaw in his fetters, and cast them behind:

His soul to his soul is a law, and his mind is a light to his mind”.

And so through the whole canon of scripture we find a human library written by human beings for humans: poetry, vision, philosophy, statesmanship, all pointing man upwards to new heights of holiness and to wider vistas of adventure, but always from the point of view of a man, showing his mind in its highest flights of imagination and daring faith: a priceless guide to succeeding generations, a heaven-sent index to the lasting, as well as the changing, factors in human nature, and a sure compass to point us forth to polar exploration or tropical discovery, but at the end to lead us back in safety to the home of the spirit in God, Creator, Sustainer, and End.

This was a long stride on the forward way: the evangelical turned pragmatist.  While the seeds of intellectual doubt germinated among the debris of doctrines, I began to reconstruct my ruined temple into a useful working laboratory: Henry Drummond’s “Ascent of Man” opened an easy way to the study of evolution, and my education seemed only to have begun then.  Vividly do I recall the flood of light which a whole-hearted acceptance of the law of evolution shed into the dark corners of my small garret of ideas.

So blessed a thing is a unifying principle!  Many a short-circuit of facts has been made in its name, and many an important consideration cut across in framing an evolutionary view of the world; but still, as a working rule, it has done wonders in arranging our stock of information about things in general, and in leading on to new fields of investigation.  The details of the scheme have been greatly modified from time to time, and will be still, but we have not yet found a substitute for evolution as a guiding index to the data of life. No department of knowledge can escape the operation of this new law; even the once sacrosanct scriptures are now readily submitted to its all-reaching norm.  I confess freely that I never knew the Bible until I had made a complete study of it from the new point of view: not that I read the Book right through – I have never succeeded in completing that work of merit – but the amazing library of holy writ now for the first time assumed some semblance of order and unity.  What a revelation – where formerly there had been little but puzzlement and darkness!  The fantastic allegorical method – for which, I believe, Jerome was canonised – and the absurd ‘typical’ interpretation of the Old Testament now finds its fulfilment in a scientific, historical development of the idea of God and of His dealings with men of various ages and stages of spiritual growth.  The loss of the Song of Solomon as a ‘type’ of the Son of man is more than balanced by the discovery of the Song of Songs as one of the loveliest dramatic lyrics in the whole range of letters!

The Church has always been slow to acknowledge any debt to science, and loath to accept its conclusions, though in a sense modern science is its own lusty child.  No sane theologian now disputes the right of the true scientific method to rule in all intellectual investigations, nor can he doubt the really tremendous positive contribution to the history of faith furnished by the work of Darwin, Huxley and Spencer.  I say ‘positive’ contribution, though much of their work appears to many defenders of the faith to be purely destructive criticism.  It is never safe to judge of a man’s motives in any activity, and least of all in scientific pursuits, and who would venture to assert that these hard thinkers were destroyers and not builders?  It is usual to distinguish sharply between these two methods, and to contrast the temper of the iconoclast with that of the constructive reformer: but it is very doubtful if such an absolute distinction corresponds with an actual difference as complete.  The reformer must be, so far, an idol-breaker, and on the other hand, no anarchist or atheist has ever been so thoroughly dominated by the spirit of destruction but that his zeal for “Down with everything” has been disturbed, at times, by some vision of a reconstructed faith or social order.  Ibsen’s wise lines are, of course, a necessary warning to the zealot:

“Ere yet the radiant firelight blazes

Throw not the torch upon the ground;

Nor blot the antiquated phrases

Until the great new words be found”.

But the bigot, on the other hand, must be reminded that to ‘build more stately mansions of the soul’ it is necessary first to clear the ground and lay bare the firm and sure foundations of future fabrics – and even then one must distinguish between what is good building material and what is useless rubbish.

But it was a distinct shock to my “fundamentals” when it dawned on me that not even the sacred person of Christ was immune from the unrespecting [disrespectful?] operation of the law of development: that even His life must be interpreted as a part of the historical content of His time and race, and of the one grand forward movement of evolving creation.  Some consolation there was, indeed, in reflecting that the conception of the evolutionary scheme must be almost indefinitely widened, in order to give Him place in that scheme; for the fact of Christ must be taken into account by the thorough-going scientist, and the theory made to fit the fact, not vice versa.  Henry Drummond’s solution seemed at first a satisfactory one: that the ‘breaks’ which occur in the scale of created things – as when Nature seems to jump from inanimate forms to life, from vegetable to animal, and then the vast chasm over which man has at some time leapt – that these constitute each a ‘new beginning’, and that Christ makes another ‘fresh start’ on a higher plane.  His coming, on this theory, is a real invasion of the divine, coming ‘from above’; and He alone is able to raise us to the new level, just as the plant becomes animal matter solely through the action of the latter.

The question that stands in the way of accepting that view, is this: can we apply the principle of universal law in the development of species, including the human race, and at the same time admit this one grand exception, this solitary intrusion from above the law or outside the chain of Nature?

Orthodoxy says “Yes, the fact of Christ is a datum which compels you to postulate this new and higher order of beings, though so far there is but one solitary instance on our planet”.  Grant that, and all difficulties over Virgin Birth and Resurrection, as well as lesser wonders, disappear.

But the great obstacle to this easy solution is the claim of the man Jesus Himself to be included in the scheme as a real man in the fullest sense of the word; and though Hume, Matthew Arnold and others would argue for His non-existence, except as myth, historical critics now admit that such a conclusion is absurd.  He is far above His reporters, and they show one face on all their imperfect canvases.  As well say Boswell invented Dr. Johnson, or that the variety of Shakespeare’s characters prove he never lived.  The thorough-going evolutionist who has no need of religion gets over the difficulty by simply ruling out all those elements in the life and death of Christ which obstinately refuse to conform to his creed of heredity and environment, but that is simply to beg the question.  Besides, the miraculous elements in the Gospel are so intimately interwoven with the naturalistic facts, that it is impossible entirely to excise the supernatural without destroying the whole story, and mutilating the picture of the Son of man.  We must accept the position frankly, and face the claims of the Christian believer with an open mind.

All schools of thought, whether Christian, agnostic, secularist or simply pagan, are agreed that the peculiar claim, real or imaginary, of the Christian, is this: that he is ‘spiritually united to Christ’: whether sacramentally, mystically, or merely telepathically and morally, does not matter here: enough that the union professed is personal, experiential, and unique – not on a level with a literary fellowship such as we might claim to have with Shelley or Wordsworth.  Here is how the problem looked to me in those early days.  I turned impatiently from the facile solution of the evangelicals – that if you simply and sincerely believe you are united to the Saviour, your faith becomes fact; if you do not believe, you have not yet attained to union.  Obviously!  But there is too much of “heads I win, tails you lose” about this; it is indeed just the old story of esoteric mysteries, open only to the initiated, over again: older than Christianity, but now discredited by the fair-minded enquirer, who has outgrown the stage of “shut your eyes and open your mouth!”.  That doctrine has been revived in a new form recently by M. Coué, the apostle of auto-suggestion.  “If you persuade yourself that you can do a thing … you will do it, however difficult it may be”.  A critic of a sceptical turn of mind describes this as “trying to lift yourself by the hair of the head!”.  On the other hand, we must admit the reality (for themselves, at least) of those believers’ experiences.  Even hallucinations have a claim on our respect, if widespread.

Prof. William James, in his “Varieties of Religious Experience”, is perhaps a little too generous in crediting the credulities of the “twice-born”, but from the recital of these multifarious rhapsodies of faith one curious fact emerges: that they are not all necessarily dependent on, or connected with, the personality of Christ, but rather stand on a par with, or follow in the succession of, His God-consciousness, as ‘the first-born among many brethren’.  So even these typical “believers” indicate a humanitarian view of the person of Christ!  The spiritual experiences of the mystics, even when they are explicitly attached to the “Risen Christ” hardly take us beyond that communion of one mind with another which modern thought is so eager to admit and explore; and the most we can make of the doctrine of the Spirit of Christ in the life and teaching of His followers is to regard it as an effective link, making our fellowship with Him just as real as any great teacher’s personality may become to far-off disciples – only more vivid in proportion to the transcendent greatness of the Master.  Beyond this telepathic or “affectional” communion, what does the Christian’s claim amount to?  Granted that a St. Paul or a St. Francis or a St. Catherine may have had a life-like vision of their Lord once or twice in some supreme crisis of their life: is it to be expected that every seeker after soul-rest should share that vivid experience?

I recollect with what painful sincerity I search my heart for traces of such a vision as saints and mystics claimed to have had, but in vain.  Vainly I explored the chambers of memory for contact with the Christ within.  Even at the height of my first fine ecstasy of faith, no Parson ever manifested Himself to my soul, or spoke the word of companionship to me; nor could any effort, after fuller consecration, nor study of the written word, nor any agony of prayer, remove that blank Negative.  Only a further question came pressing for answer: “how could men whose knowledge of the historical Christ is very limited and often erroneous, lay claim to this personal union of spirit with Him?  Must not this belief, to have any moral value or spiritual content, be founded on accurate knowledge of the man Christ Jesus as He lived on earth?”.  No doubt the evangelical will reply that this knowledge is a matter of degree, none understanding that divine life or death in all its full meaning; but that the believer’s mind is so illuminated by the Holy Spirit that even a meagre knowledge of the Gospel assumes, for him, an infinite content, whereas a thorough grasp of the historical facts by a critical or sceptical mind, lacking the illumination of faith, is worthless.  Thus the most uninstructed believer may receive the sole statement of St. John, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” – and at once enter into that union with Christ which means eternal salvation!

To those who have had such an experience (and we need not question that to very many has come in this way what Prof. James calls “that feeling of superiority”) that argument is quite convincing, and indeed unnecessary; but for many “uninitiated” Christians who have ‘learnt Christ’ slowly, it is simply a vicious circle of sophistry!  To speak for myself again, I had every temptation to take up that position of spiritual superiority, for I had known at least something of that “joy in believing” and that wonderful peace of mind which mystical study and prayer brought.  Was this indeed the ‘pearl of great price’ for which a man might sell all that he has? And was I foolish in parting with it for some worldly gems of knowledge?  I know not even to this day: but somehow my soul revolted against the idea of standing “safe on the Rock, and strong in Thee”, watching my less fortunate brother ‘wrestling with the troubled sea’ – too far off, alas! to catch a helping hand.  Somehow I wanted to share the perils of the deep, and, perhaps, the tonic pleasures of the mental surf as well!  Anyhow, the long result of these hard labours of the spirit was – an open question still: not that I abandoned or abated the quest, but for the time I remained a ‘religious agnostic’, while pursuing the study of the New Testament records just as eagerly, and with as practical an aim as ever.  Whatever be the right view of our relation to the Redeemer of men, there is no manner of doubt as to the tremendous moral uplift to be gained in studying His life and words, and in acting on them.

So far it had never entered my head to doubt the wisdom of going on with my training for the ministry, but in the next three years that doubt was to press pretty frequently upon my peace of mind, as I passed through the cold precincts of the “Divinity Hall”.  In my innocence, I had vaguely visualised this temple of Theology as a sort of Valhalla or Olympus of great minds, worthy to house the Queen of the Sciences.  But a new disillusionment befell: far from being divine or heroic, its atmosphere was anything but inspiring, and those three years were the least fruitful of all in spiritual food.  The “revivalists” of my childhood might now gloat with “I-told-you-so” glances and shakes of the head; and a new significance attached to the old story of the newly capped Doctor of Divinity who asked his sexton the meaning of the letters “D.D.” in a tombstone.  “I dinna ken”, replied the grave-digger, “they put “D.D.” on anything nooadays!”.  I was not alone in feeling a growing rebellious contempt of theological Professors in general.  This was unfair to some of them, of course, but the man who recently defined the professor class as “people who steal the fruit of other people’s brains” must, I think, have been a divinity student once!  One teacher, in particular, suffered from scurrilous and provocative attacks on the part of his students – perhaps almost justified in the circumstances.  Here is an example of his Doctrine of Sin.  Beginning, as needs must, with the Fall of Man, but having read in some “advanced” book (the bold, bad fellow!) that the Fall was not simply a disaster, but also somehow a “fall up”, he likened this acrobatic achievement of our first parents to a new-fangled window he had just seen: on pulling a cord, the upper sash came down, and the lower went up.  Q.E.D.  No wonder the budding divines (or ‘blooming divinities’ as they were sometimes dubbed) liked to pull the Professor’s leg at times!  But my dearest enemy of the “Hall” was another and a bigger man, both in body and in mind: a pillar of catholic doctrine, who was most in his element when tracking some modern intellectual vagary to its ancient source in one of the heresies of the early church.  He knew those heresies like his ten fingers, and could, I am sure, enumerate as many again on his toes!  He asked us to send in a written “homily” on the first Church Council at Jerusalem (when the progressive party overcame the reactionaries) and to choose a motto giving the gist of our argument.  My motto was: “Heresy is the salt of the Church”.  The shocked and sorrowful look on the good old man’s face, as he silently drew his pen through the hateful epigram, I shall not soon forget.  But a woeful lack of humour, always, I suppose, prevailed in the Faculty of Divinity!

You wise and reverend ‘seniors’ who smile or shake your heads at these puerilities and ‘superfluities of naughtiness’, please ponder a moment the insufferable dullness and tedium of those lecture hours.  Think of youth and energy “cribb’d, cabin’d, and confin’d” in those uninspiring amphitheatres of sacred lore, drinking in the dust of the dark ages preserved in paragraphs of thirty years thumbing, while the call of spring, within and without, had to be sternly ignored or suppressed!  Do you wonder that we rebelled at times, even to the verge of rustication?  University Senates may thunder, or Principals rage, at the phenomenon of student rowdyism, without understanding or sympathy; but the cause of it usually lies in their own worm-eaten leaves and lectures.  Let them sit at one another’s feet for but a single session, and learn: even their patient brows will wrinkle with occasional exasperation.

The strange thing about these jugglers with dry bones is that, out of the rostrum, they can be so human and helpful.  The merciless heresy-hunter had a courtesy and a memory for faces that never were known to fail; he was full of anecdote and witty quotation, and he had a heart as big as Pickwick’s.  Every ‘year’ of students received a solemn lecture on the necessity of a celibate clergy – until he himself married: the lecture was then discontinued!  His hospitality was boundless, but I fear he often cast his pearls before swine, both in the dining-room and in the class-room!  I am sure there is not a student of his who does not still mourn his death.

One of the little weaknesses of these reverend teachers which was a constant source of mirth and sarcasm among their students was their anxiety to preserve the ancient dignities and titles of the profession and status in the University.  One of them seemed to have a different kind of robe or gown for each occasion outside of ordinary class work, and once (I think it was the George Buchanan quarter-centenary) he appeared resplendent in a scarlet robe and white cassock, or vice versa, with three gaily coloured hoods flapping around his neck, besides various stoles and cinctures, the whole crowned by the black velvet cap of the schoolmen!  He caused quite a sensation as he arrived – too late to join the procession (no wonder!) and hurried up the aisle, for all the world like a mediaeval cardinal come back to protest against this glorification of the great humanist!  I wonder if his Holiness of Rome has so variegated a wardrobe.

A good story is told of another of our rabbis who was very jealous of honours and titles.  When for the first time in the history of our University, a layman was appointed as its Principal, this professor of divinity held an “At Home” in order to introduce the new Principal to the Faculty.  Quite a number of college and church dignitaries were present, and in the course of his speech, the Principal regretted that he could not put the title “Very Reverend” before his name, as all his predecessors had done.  When he sat down, the host of the evening jumped up, and assured him that the title was not lost to the University, as in such circumstances it reverted to the ‘primarius professor of divinity’ (himself).  The Principal expressed his pleasure, but added that it would be very awkward for his host if during his tenure of office, a ‘Very Reverend’ Principal should be appointed!  This quite floored the professor, but one of the city ministers rose and said: “I think we might obviate the difficulty by giving the professor a title all to himself – by calling him the ‘Rather Reverend’!

I think it was this same professor who was invited to dinner by the wife of a colleague: “Do come round his evening: we are having a real Rabbi to dinner”.  “Dear me!” stammered the Prof.  “I never tasted a live one before!”.

The ennui of class-hours was usually relieved by pocket editions of R.L.S., Kipling, or perhaps Matt. Arnold, invisible to Professors, but somewhat destructive of their attempts to impress.  How could one, with Ruskin between his elbows, be expected to take seriously the one ‘iota’ of difference between the creeds of Athanasius and Arius, or wax enthusiastic over the Sabellian or Montanist departures?  The great hour-gong, booming over college and city, usually dismissed both class and subject for the day, at least; the rest of reading time was devoted to Huxley, Gibbon, or for callisthenics, Nietzsche.  Then at night, a play of Shaw’s or Ibsen’s: which reminds me…

We had a joint debate with the denizens of a sister college of ‘divinities’ on the other side of Kelvingrove (once sacred to the Doric muse, and still surrounded by the temples of Art and enlightenment: fit retreat for those strange half-human creatures who still frequent its fringes!).  The subject was a biblical one, and one of the Lyndoch Street speakers had occasion to quote “G.B.S.”.  “Who’s he?” innocently asked an opponent – to be crushed by the sarcastic rejoinder: “I thought every schoolboy had heard of George Bernard Shaw!”.  But the ignorant one had his revenge, when in replying he began: “G.B.S. will acknowledge the superior authority, on this question, of G.A.S.”.  It was the Shavian’s turn to ask blankly: “Who’s G.A.S.?”  “I thought” came the retort, with mild surprise, “that every undergraduate had heard of GEORGE ADAM SMITH!”.

Perhaps I am a little ungrateful to the Faculty of Divinity.  For one thing, it was to the repelling influence of their erudition that I owed my first practical interest in the Social Question, and the impulse to study the humanitarian faith.  Social reform seemed to offer a way of escape from the ghostly mausoleum of dogmatic theology.  I joined the Fabian Society, read the “Tracts” religiously, and was one of a committee to invite the late Keir Hardie to become a candidate for the post of Lord Rector to the University.  We didn’t get him elected, indeed, but we mustered sufficient force to turn the vote in favour of the Liberal candidate as against the Conservative.

The Fabians held a hilarious midnight meeting which had unpleasant consequences for one of them, for, on reaching home (a students’ Residence) in the “sma’ hours”, I found myself locked out by my fellow-boarders and political opponents, all windows fast and all bells muffled, everything still as a cemetery.  Recollecting a third-floor window without a bolt, I removed my boots and, leaving them on the door-step, was shinning up the rain-pipe when a heavy measured tread sounded in the street below.  I clung to the pipe in an ecstasy of uncertainty – but my boots betrayed me!  The ‘bobby’ surveyed them, then looking up surveyed me, and after a philosophic interval he remarked in a leisurely way: “Ye’d better come doon, I’m thinkin’”.  I had been thinking that for some time, expecting to be arrested for house-breaking and reflecting that it might be the best solution to an awkward predicament – as the inmates would indignantly disown me, and I had no friends near enough to disturb at that unearthly hour, I descended.  By the time I had reached my boots, the leisurely limb of the law had decided that I was not the usual type of burglar, but suggested (sympathetic soul!) that, rather than disturb the neighbourhood in knocking up the inmates, I should accompany him to the Western Police Office and sleep there till morning – an invitation I gladly accepted, not relishing the prospect of tramping about the streets for hours.  But they must have been listening behind the door to this arrangement, for next morning I was enthusiastically hailed as a martyr and prisoner for my political opinions; and the professors were duly informed that there was a criminal among their followers!

The communal life of that Residence during those preparatory years was by far the most valuable contribution to real education for the ministry.  Twenty young bloods, all at various embryo stages of progress toward the priesthood, we ate and read, debated and also ‘ragged’ together; and it was this clash of the rough edges of personality, even more than the exchange of books and ideas and other transferable property, that gave us some knowledge of human nature, and some notion of how to live with our fellow-beings – often lacking in clergymen!

These few notes of school and student days may suffice to give the reader some idea of the raw materials which went to the making of a padre’s perplexities in later years.  Starting from a quiet haven of contentment and faith, yet with enough of the ‘old Adam’ within to become soon a rebel to tradition and authority, I had formed a habit of postponing the big questions of life for fear that today’s answer might not meet tomorrow’s need: though these questions ever seemed to amplify, like the moon’s disc, on the forward skyline.  So now, leaving the shadow of ‘Alma Mater’, I took the pilgrim way, not without many a pause and many a fearful look behind.  I put off the final crossing of the Rubicon into the probationary stage, until the formula of signature to the “Confession of Faith” should be altered; but I at last did sign it, after a year’s hesitation that opened up many new questions, under a new and meaningless formula which closed none!  Through the Clerk of Presbytery’s carelessness, I almost signed the old formula (which bound one to the letter of the Westminster standard as fatally as the skipper of the “Hesperus” was bound to his useless helm), and when I finally put my name to the corrected paper, with an eye over my should to catch the Recording Angel’s smile – or frown – I seemed to hear again an old village ‘buddy’ say: “Ah, laddie, the sin o’ a lee is the scrimpin’ o’ t!”.  A queer saying, but true.  This must, I feel, savour too much of casuistry and moral compromise to please some palates fastidious as to ‘intellectual honour’; but it may comfort others who have had the same struggle between the demands of a delicate conscience and an equally delicate stomach.  I argued that in any other profession (even if I should eventually qualify for any other) the same difficulty would crop up in more practical form; whereas by remaining in the Church, which had already admitted the principle of progressive tests by changing its formula, I might help to frame one article or phrase of the new Confession.  You douce and settled fathers of Presbytery, who in placid middle age or senile calm find the old formula sufficient and the new one disturbing, recollect your mental struggles – ay, and reservations when thirty or forty years ago you nervously took the pen from the Moderator’s hand, to testify your oath of fealty to the cause of Christ.  How many of you can give, even now, a reasoned account of the doctrines you then ratified?  Sometimes I gasp at my temerity in putting my signature to “the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith”, and am thankful that the days of examinations in such things are past!

Behold me, then, a licentiate at last, though not yet ordained (an irreverent, but now Reverend, friend remarked comfortingly: “After all, it is only a license to wear a dog-collar – and bark!”).  Behold, at last, the oath-bound knight-errant, or fully qualified freelance with all the windmills of the Auld Kirk before him to tilt at.  What arms or armour does he wear to storm them withal?  Mighty scanty, either in ideals or in materials!  More sympathy with sinners than wrath against sin, and no very definite conviction as to the responsibility for those atavisms and reversions which we call transgressions of neglect of the moral law.  Little reverence for Scripture, and that mainly critical and literary; still less for its official exponents in pulpit or paper.  A humanist view of Christ, somewhat matured of late, and confirmed by such studies as Arnold’s “Literature and Dogma”.  On the positive side I had plenty of zeal for Christian ethics (as I somewhat vaguely understood it), and some grasp of the social and missionary problems of the day.  I remember being strongly impressed by Dr. John R. Mott, the American missionary-statesman, and I almost made up my mind to follow a friend to the mission-field.  But a root of obstinate scepticism held me to the home soil – a fear that my humanitarian enthusiasm might not make up for lack of faith or defects in dogmatics.

Still, I cherish the memory of that consecrated soul who pled with me to go, as one of the most precious things in life.  He kept undimmed to the last the zeal and ardour of his first love: the glow of his idealism and purposeful dedication to the task of evangelising the world in our generation were wonderful.  He gave up the fruits of an outstandingly brilliant career at college, with a priceless opportunity of continental study and the certain prospect of rapid promotion in the home Church, and went out to teach black boys and girls the elements of education, character, and Christian faith.  He should by now have been at the head of a great mission-centre; but the War claimed his body, and released his soul for higher service – or rest?  I here offer this wreath of loving memory to him: if he knows of it, he will forgive its poverty; but may I ever feel the gentle rebuke of his earnestness that has roused, at times, to imitative energy my dilettante and too often temporising spirit.  Whether he now rests from his labours or tills new fields of God, one thing is sure: his works do follow him in a fine and enduring influence among his fellows, a tender memory of strong, kindly Christian manhood among his many friends.

Now I have had time to think of it, He always seemed to me to be one of the predestined, chosen of God to fulfil many days in few.  Had I been more clairvoyant in those student days, I should have known it: and now I recognise that queer atmosphere of aloofness in which, quite unconsciously, he wrapped himself, and which he strove in vain to unwind.  Full of good humour and high spirits, enjoying a ‘rag’ with the zest of a schoolboy, a perfect companion, he never yet escaped from that veil of consecration, that aura of settled purpose and separateness which was almost preternatural, or rather supernatural.  The more he exaggerated his familiarity and ‘good fellowship’, the more he seemed a man apart, feigning to be one of us, while quite well aware he was not.  A lonely soul, yet not alone!  Some, indeed, he repelled, because their frank materialism or blatant paganism clashed with his purely spiritual atmosphere; but many were a little afraid, feeling a Presence there – and some, timidly perhaps, loved him.  He never doubted the resurrection life; and it is hard to think that his life is ended, a beautiful pillar broken midway, or lost in the clouds?  Has he indeed won through the Pass – out into clearer light?  I wonder!

On the other hand the modernist tends to undervalue what has gone before; his absorption in the advancing stream of life makes him forget sometimes the mountains from which trickled first the waters of the broadening river.  If we are to keep faith with the saints to whom was first delivered the sacred trust of the gospel of light, we must assiduously learn from them and their successors; we must become above all students of history, as much to prevent our becoming slavish imitators of any past period as to keep the continuity of the spirit of man.



“There was a door to which I found no key;

There was the veil through which I could not see;

Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee

There was – and then no more of Thee and Me.”

One night I went to sleep an idealist, and next morning I woke up a materialist, being suddenly precipitated from my castles in the air to a cold, unyielding material substance in my hurry to arise at what sounded like the crack of doom, but was really my landlady’s alarm clock!  The precipitate of my dreams was a bump on the bedroom floor, and a headache which quite convinced me that things are what they seem – once you are awake – and that the actual is the only real, and the body the sole concern of man.  At such a time it is hard to believe that “what we call a solid body is mostly empty space”, as our most recent physicists tell us.  One didn’t imagine, somehow, that empty space could be so impressive!  That bump drove the last nail into the coffin of my spiritualistic faith; and strange to say, the funeral rites were spoken, not by Spencer or Marx or even Bradlaugh, but by our good and pious English bishop and apologist, Richard Butler, who I had been reading in bed the night before:  “Things are what they are,” thus he intoned the R.I.P. of my visions: “and their consequences will be what they will be:  why then should we seek to be deceived?”  Why indeed?  As our Scottish bard paraphrased the English divine:  “Facts are cheils that winna ding!” [Burns “A Dream”  iv, But Facts are chiels that winna ding, / an’ downa be disputed:] What is the good of shutting our eyes at the plain data of things, or hiding our heads in the sands of time?  And yet men have constantly turned away from those same undingable facts, (Burns himself, if not Butler, being one of the worst offenders) to fancies light as zephyrs: even shutting their eyes to obvious actualities while they wove their gossamer visions or their fool’s paradises around their heedless star-gazing heads!  And on what foundations?  Mainly on the grounds that men like them, which is proof that they have what is called a soul.

But, apart from that weakness for visions, there is no evidence that such a [missing words] Well, “there you ‘ave me” – but your idealist can explain no better; and we are always learning more about this mysterious telegraphy of the brain.  Everything will have its full physical demonstration some day.  What is Love itself – the exalted, the divine – but the simple, natural, physical attraction of like to like, or of complementary natures?  The ecstasies of the poet, the delirium of the musician, the inspiration of the artist – all these proclaim their materialism to the world by the media they must use (Expression “mute, inglorious Milton’s” [?]). The very fact of that the painter claims to reproduce the soul in a face, the personality of a figure, is the contradiction in terms of his hypothesis:  for the soul is material!

But here the ghost in the coffin grows restless:  What, it asks, if your material be soul?  What if this mouldering body is spirit?  And all that multitudinous conglomerate of organs, muscles, nerves, bones even – what if these be an invention of doctors to disguise angels and spirits, principalities and powers?  May it not as well be that the unseen, the unheard, the intangible are the facts and these material things only obsessions imposed on succeeding generations of simple souls by some malignant power?

That bump!  It did seem, at the moment, as if some evil spirit were behind it.  But no! – on second thoughts, it might as easily be a well-disposed being that woke me, in order to stimulate forethought by that shock, and to advise me to go to sleep earlier next night.  On the whole, it is safer to hold these material facts as quite indifferent; and so the whole argument resolves itself into a battle of words about words – resulting merely in more words, like hydra heads multiplying as you hack away at them.  We are no further on in our search for the real facts.  (But the bump remained – for a week).

This same problem took a more vital turn, when the death of a dear friend started definite speculation on the question of survival or dissolution.  “The resurrection of the body” never appealed to me as a serious thesis, in spite of S. Paul’s rather confused dialectics.  It is just on a par with the above verbal gymnastics. Granted that the physical is really spiritual – a reflex of consciousness – the decay of the body is none the less real; nay, more so:  it must also have its spiritual significance.

Now, if the body vanishes into inorganic chaos, its human traits and activities cannot survive – the tricks of speech and look, the familiar expressions of emotion, the habits, gifts, and endless attributes that gather round the individual and form the personality.  Can we conceive of these as somehow cohering in vacuo – even when blurred in memory and forgotten by the once beloved?  Can we speak with any propriety of personal immortality or survival, if even the human weaknesses – nay, if the characteristic physical faults are all missing?  Is there not necessarily a break in the continuity which we call a person, at death?  There is certainly a complete break in relations from this side

anyhow.  A mere suspension of consciousness, a temporary lesion of the ego, does not necessarily involve such a break; but if it is “good-bye” to all the complex make-up of human frailties and fondnesses which we love most in our friends, the imperfections having as vital a place in our affection as their virtues, then what hope is there of meeting again “beyond” or of communicating “here”?

A curious contribution to the question was offered at that stage by meeting a man who had lost his memory – to all appearance a stray fragment of a life that could not attach itself to any corresponding pieces of previous identity, a man literally born again, a lost babe, who yet retained all, or nearly all, the attributes and habits that had taken many lost years to form.  But he had a dim awareness that he was somebody, that he had a past; and in time his belief was justified:  his memory returned and he was able to say, “That or that happened to ME”.  “ME” was a persistent entity through it all – not a mere bundle of sensations or stream of perceptions: or, if so, the cord that held the bundle together was more important than the contents, the bed of the stream was deep and permanent, in spite of summer drought.  What happens when this “Me” withdraws itself out of sight, deep within its house of clay and draws the curtains in death, yet seems to escape by some underground passage, while we look – and call – and weep? [There are some illegible words here which look like ‘Does it not’… ‘by way of’ ?? and it is not clear where they should be inserted]

(P.S.  I was to see, very soon, more of death than I ever could have dreaded to see, and in some of its most repulsive forms, but one death among these thousands affected me more than any other score because it uprooted strong fibres of affection and left me poorer in that only true wealth, friendship.  It seems to me that he was one of the predestined, chosen of GOD from the beginning to fulfil many days in few.  Had I been more clairvoyant in those student days, I should have known it – and I recognise now that queer feeling of aloofness, separateness which, quite unconsciously, he wrapped himself, and which he strove in vain to unwind.  Full of good humour and enjoying a rag with the zest of a schoolboy – a perfect companion – yet he never escaped that veil of consecration, that aura of settled purpose which seemed almost preternatural.  The more he exaggerated his fun and “good fellowship” the more he seemed a man apart, feigning to be one of us while quite well aware that he was not.  A lonely soul – and yet not alone!  Some, indeed, he repelled because their frank materialism or paganism clashed with his purely spiritual atmosphere; but many were a little afraid, feeling a Presence there and some, timidly perhaps, loved him.)

My first real touch of death came with my ordination.  Hitherto I had seen little of the great Separation, and felt nothing; but now the Open Question became a pressing problem, demanding some sort of definite attitude – and I was deplorably weak and indefinite about the Hereafter.  I now found that the commonplace generalisations with which I had been content so far – the scriptural assurances, the quotations from “In Memoriam”, the conventional consolations – were indeed “vacant chaff well meant for grain”.  Death seemed to be the dominant fact in that large industrial community where I now ministered and to meet their dumb cry for comfort and pitiful soul-hunger with second-hand phrases and literary rhapsodies seemed to me worse than giving a stone for bread to starving bodies!  It was impossible to look those people in the face on Sunday after seeing their incontrollable grief and despair by the death-bed of a parent or child, and still pretend to be assured and confident as to the happy reunion hereafter, to which popular religion pointed the mourners.  The accepted belief (or conventional superstition, as it was for the most part) as to the destiny of the soul found no place in my half-formed creed; and indeed, the behaviour of the bereaved seemed to prove it altogether hollow.  They craved some continuance of the ‘departed’ life, but it seemed to be rather the physical side, or the soul’s expression in bodily terms, that they clung to.  At best, their hope was to meet again and recognise and dwell with the loved and lost, just as they had done on earth; but the belief generally lacked conviction, and even in the rare case of refusal to give way to grief, the spirit evoked was one of austere stoicism from which glad assurance was strikingly absent; and the ensuing days of mourning, for the most part, only accentuated this attitude to the dead.  Hopeless resignation was the predominant note in spite of, or rather confirmed by, the frequent use of set phrases such as : “He has gone to a better world”, “She is free from all pain now”, “We must hope for the best” – phrases that rang hollow even to the user, and were their own worst denial.  O how my soul loathed the professional “comforting” of the bereaved!  Even the repetition of Scripture was hateful, though it seemed to have some narcotic effect on the mourners.  Most hopeless of all was the attitude of the dying themselves:  with rare exceptions, and these mainly delirious, they would not face the fact of approaching death.  (I have learnt since to understand better that natural shrinking from dissolution); or, if they admitted to themselves its possibility and imminence, they hid this consciousness from others, even trying to deceive their nearest friends.  Now doubtless there is an element of tenderness in this, even of heroism.  I have known a young man bring himself to face the Enemy bravely and the only anxiety he showed was to hide the knowledge of his impending death from his mother!  Brave and considerate – but surely foolish if the Christian doctrine be true – and these were of the church that calls itself Christ’s.  Courage of a different sort I heard of, when a local secularist died in the flower of his youth and strength.  A friend, visiting his sick-bed and seeing that the light was hurting his eyes, lowered the gas a little; but the dying man mistook the action and muttered, “Ay, turn it out:  I’ll die as I lived – in the dark!”

So, while trying, in a troubled way, to help others whose trouble was, perhaps, no deeper than my own, sometimes the utter silence of the dead would invade my very soul and strike me dumb and helpless while the bereaved could find relief in tears.  I envied many a mourner that refuge – or subterfuge?                                                                                                                                                                                       In spite of the spiritualists’ eager efforts to overcome the obstinate silence, the one impressive fact which weighs upon us is the entire unresponsiveness of those who have died.  The spiritualist has to face the problem of how to reconcile the idea of eternity with that of a time after death or a place of bliss or woe.  We talk vaguely of the Beyond, the Sleep of death, the Hereafter, but what possible content of a positive kind can these terms connote?

I turned eventually from all such barren speculation to what promised a more satisfactory avenue of approach to the door of the mystery.  George Eliot’s “Choir Invisible” had attracted me in my student days and led to the study of Comte and the Positivists.  That study I now took up systematically, more for the promise it gave of some light on the Closed Door than for the solving of social problems, pressing as these were.  What if a man’s destiny after death was to live on in the lives of others, who have drawn from his personality while alive, and from his memory when dead, those immortal things that make for “life, and more abundantly”?  Thus was the problem stated at this stage.  Those things that alone endure and are alone worthy of resurrection or survival – are they not transmitted to posterity.  And what higher destiny could man hope for than thus to be built as a stone into the rising temple of God in Humanity?  Otherwise, are the dead of a thousand ages – the prophets, saints and martyrs of progress – to have no part in the perfection of their work, which is rising and ever growing, more noble and majestic, on earth?  The accepted Christian idea of the blessed dead as having no more interest in mundane affairs, or as looking on without being able to influence the course of history, is strangely unsatisfying.  Must we not postulate a vital connexion between those lives and the ‘works that do follow them’?  Surely the departed leaders, at least, are now in far closer touch with the world than before – nearer to the heart of things and more organically related to the advancing Kingdom of God? Here both traditionalist and modernist seem to miss the point, or rather to ‘jump the points’ of logic.  In the popular view of an eternity wholly unrelated to time or space, or else visualised as endless duration and infinite expanse, there is no room for any interest in human affairs on the part of the blessed.

The communion of saints is a backward looking, not a forward looking connexion; those who have entered into rest are the type or model for the living to follow:  they are the norm and sole test of our worth.  This is the vice of theology, and of all science, which seek to interpret everything by its roots and not by its fruit:  and which places the Creator at the beginning of His work rather than at the end, seeking to prove unity, instead of chaos, at the dawn of Creation.  Whereas nothing is clearer in human knowledge than that we are advancing to closer unification and ever higher integration of loose elements, starting from a vague undifferentiated mass of plastic material.  “In the beginning” was Darkness, but the One Eternal Light stands at the END.  On the other hand, the Modernist tends to undervalue what has gone before, and his absorption in the advancing stream of life makes him forget the mountain from which came the waters of the river.  We must assiduously learn from the old teachers, we must become above all students of history in the widest sense, if we are to keep our faith in immortality strong, and make the river worthy of its Sources – the thousand springs high up in the mountains of Memory. [Here JM has written the word ‘Expand’]

Eternity is not outside or beyond our limited bourne of existence, but intimately linked to mortal life, which by self-conquest may attain the infinite – the only true infinite.  Salvation means being self-determined and self-liberated by communion with the spirits that have attained, and that keep, for an everlasting possession, the same high experience of freedom.  This gives the point of contact of the dead with the living.  Think of the changing point of view of a great Master’s disciples, mourning his death.  At first they crave most the familiar voice and gesture and smile, the hand-clasp, the noble brow and flashing eye – the man, in short, as he was in the body.  But in time calmer reflection turns rather to the ideas he taught, the ideal he pointed to, the emotions he aroused and the life he set before the races.  Thus his character becomes gradually merged in some wider Personality or Presence undefined, which one can only call the Spirit of the Race.  The Eternal Christ is greater than the Man Jesus, more than all who follow Him.

I had reached this stage, of abandoning the hope of individual survival in favour of the vague Nietzschean future, when I happened to hear a sermon preached on the theme:

“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” [Shakespeare, ‘Julius Caesar’]

The preacher thoroughly approved of these triste sentiments, entirely ignoring the irony of Mark Antony.  He adduced many examples in proof of his mistaken thesis, and triumphantly perorated to his own huge satisfaction.   I well remember sitting in agony of contradiction, and almost shouting out:  “Shades of Shakespeare!  It is the good that lives, and grows to bless the future; the evil perishes of its own disease”.  But that sad sermon made sad havoc of my theory of survival, and scattered my serried ranks of argument with more deadly effect than Samson’s jawbone of an ass.

(This seems a natural breathing space: — there is very little profit in these speculations regarding “future life”, “another world”, &c., for the very phrases reveal the fatal disability under which we labour, of talking and thinking in metaphors.  (The schoolboy who wrote in his essay that “Julius Caesar’s death was predicated by a shower of metaphors” spoke the truth unwittingly).  We must needs make use of such figures of speech as “Father in Heaven”, “many mansions” or “rising again from the grave; but all these phrases tend to create an idea of separateness which is surely fallacious.  The “better world”, the “future life” we speak of, are surely one with that spiritual freedom we attain to at times, that world of ideal emotions and decisions in which we overcome the world.  The realm of imagination, of freedom, of pure love – what heaven can there be beside this?  And what immortality can there be to equal living on in the imagination, love and liberty of our fellow men and followers?  Is not this the One, Eternal life of which all prophets, poets and saints have told?  We may pass over the various attempts that have been made to bridge the gulf between the Perfect Life and our imperfect lives – Purgatory, Reincarnation, Hades and the like.  Suffice it that one Man on earth has found enough beauty in such sordid lives as the tax farmer and the prostitute to raise them to heaven’s estate.  Then, as for Christ Himself, the Cross was the crown and His death itself the glorious entry into that victory over the world which was the real triumph of His kingdom.) [Here JM has written in long hand: ‘Expand and transfer’.]

But to return to our pessimist:  If the evil survives too, though but for a time, then the personality of the dead Caesar must undergo such a transmutation in being built into the new age (which, we suppose, rejects the evil, or turns it to good) as to lose all coherence, and become merged in a great impersonal ‘stream of tendency’.  So it seems, then, the individual life was nothing, the Race is everything.  Nietzche’s Superman is to supplant, or to fulfil, all Messianic and Christian hope; the words of Christ “Destroy this temple, and in a day or two I will raise it again” are to have a new significance.  The real religious duties of man are the social ones – public health, eugenics, and mutual aid in striving for a better commonwealth of man.  The Sermon on the Mount points to this new socialistic state.  When the first believers, in a glow of Pentecostal faith, essayed community of goods – was not that the Master’s wish?  Was He not present controlling and inspiring their policy of action?  If they failed because of stubborn paganism, we have a much better chance of success, in a world permeated with the spirit of Christ, with enlightenment almost world-wide, and with the mass of the people convinced that man’s duty is to love his neighbour as himself (however weak that conviction may show itself in action).

How did men ever come to separate between these two divinely wedded duties, nay, identical commands:  “Love the Lord thy God” and “Love thy neighbour as thy self”?  Are they not eternally one – the inside and the outside of the seamless garment of God?  Inspiration and reform, love and charity, prayer and justice, must ever go hand in hand.  Christianity without humanity is worse than humanity without Christ.  Even a canonised Father could say “Laborare est orare” [to work is to pray], and certainly worship suffers more from neglect of daily duty than vice versa.  We need not be afraid, in our efforts to reform the evils of society, of getting ahead of our piety; there is no danger whatever of works outrunning faith, but there is always a very real danger of faith languishing, because we fail to translate it into practice; and eventually it petrifies into dogma.  Our first, and quite obvious duty as Christians is to put right the manifest wrongs in our life, public and private.  Let us make all haste to abolish monopoly and selfish greed in industry, to remove poverty to rectify all inequity – so long as we do not make the mistake of putting the material above the spiritual needs of man .  That was the point at which I parted from Socialism, though still friendly to all its manifestations that keep their moral inspiration above their economics.  Scientific Socialism postulates that the economic factor is the basis of all else in human life – the root of all evil, and the foundation which must be put right if mankind is to build better in the days to come.  The ground evil of inequality in this world’s goods (at least in their distribution) is the source of every other plague in society – drink, gambling, the social vice, nay, murder, insanity, war.  All disease, and even death itself, may be abolished if only this is set right first.  Do away with poverty, and then it is, “Courage, mon ami, le diable est mort!”.  So very simple, so plausible, and so true – so far­!   But the human element cannot thus be ignored.  The very simplicity and completeness of the cure makes one suspicious and that it would prove to be the social equivalent of Hamlet’s recipe for “the heartache and the thousand natural ills that flesh is heir to”.  We need not quarrel as to the proper aim of every good man’s life:  Blake has put it in terms acceptable to all: – “Till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land”.  But to define that as a state of perfect economic equality is as absurd as to confine it to Zionist ambitions, or to Britain south of the Tweed!  At once the question arises:  “By what method is this state of social righteousness, this kingdom of love and pity, to be realised?”  Is it essential that all should recognise the spiritual nature of the Heaven we are creating?  Or is it enough that all should be guaranteed a sufficiency of material wealth?  In the first case, many generations must pass before mankind are converted to the true gospel.  In the other, alas, who can define a sufficiency?

“The little more, and how much it is!

“The little less, and what worlds away”

But was it not the great Marx himself who laid down the principle that “Pain is the great stimulus to progress”?  Primitive hunger, mother necessity, stark poverty – have not these produced much of the greatest work in history: not only inventions and discoveries on the physical plane, but triumphs in art and masterpieces in character?  Has not self-interest itself wrought marvels of industry and miracles of organised production?  Cannot most of the great masters of industry or art point to the urge of want?  These facts are, of course, no argument for keeping the hard urge conditions under which those giants were born – unless all be made poor, slaves, diseased, wretched!  By all means, remove poverty, disease, oppression, and unfair conditions as quickly as possible – still, man will find something to fight for, to long for, and be miserable for!  Soul-hunger is not amenable to economic measures, and even though equal incomes, equal work, and equal opportunity became the law tomorrow, and were enforced for all time, still the root trouble in man’s life would remain:  in Carlyle’s phrase, “Man’s unhappiness comes of his greatness”.  “Peace and Plenty” has its charm, but man must have the “the moral equivalent of war” – something to fight for, or else something to fight against!  And this may bring revolution as well as any common delusion about economic freedom.  Indeed, it seems impossible that revolution on a large scale can be avoided in the near future:  for Parliamentary procedure is so slow and unsatisfactory; party interests seem to be more important than public weal, and interests of a more solid material bestraddle St. Stephen’s, secure and insolent in their giant strength.  What hope of getting justice for the poor, the weak, the enslaved, the vice-ridden, the diseased, except some general rising of the masses in arms?  But revolution will never accomplish a satisfactory solution of the problem. That way lies madness:  the schoolboy’s idea of socialism really goes to the root of the matter:  “Socialism teaches that all men should be of equal height”.  The fundamental impossibility (and the moral undesirability) of bringing all mankind to a standard pattern in mental, as well as bodily needs, is obvious to all.  Indeed, one of the worst counts against the present industrial chaos is that it makes thousands of men, essentially so varied in natural gifts and temperament – makes them look exactly alike, talk and think and behave alike – horribly alike!  What is needed is more room for each to develop his special gift, more liberty to grow in the likeness God meant him to have.  That is sorely needed; but revolution or forced equalisation of income, will not accomplish that.  And yet… How is it to be effected otherwise?  Men are so slow to learn!  The liberated slave becomes as hard a task master as his former tyrant.  The brutal selfishness of the workers will defeat any scheme founded on good-will. The awful example of Russia makes us tremble for the day when we may be tempted to take a similar plunge!  Yet is Russia any worse than Germany was, at war?  And it may be a choice between war and revolution.

Blake’s sadly mishandled lines about “building Jerusalem” unconsciously gives away the fact that modern socialism is really a Jewish ideal, the descendent of the prophets’ vision, the aim of the Maccabees, the dream of the dispersed Hebrews.  Note how the leaders have been Jews, or of Hebrew extraction:  from Marx to Sorel, Liebeknecht, Lenin and the host of cosmopolitan sons of Israel who have forgotten their patronymics, but kept the national faith in its modern international form.  In sharp contrast to the [‘Jews’ missing in the original but needed to make sense] Jesus, the rejected of the Jews, speaks of the perfect life in present tense, the kingdom of GOD within as already here, or rather as transcending, and yet embracing, here and there, now and hereafter, everywhere and always. Not here or there, not now or soon or at some distant day, but as a lightning flash from heaven, cometh the kingdom, and all depends on our being awake and aware to catch its sudden glory.  Such a moment is immeasurably more precious than all your high and holy crusades your gospels and churches and schemes of reform.  The Christ cared for none of these, but only for that germ of immortality, that nucleus of spirit in man that is deathless, changeless and eternal – to which these questions of here and hereafter, of now or next era, are irrelevant.

So, by a wide circuit, I came round to the point of view I started from, in regard to the question of the end of life.  This life is supremely important:  if there be another, surely the best preparation for it is to make the most of this one!  Why postulate another life at all?  Virtue is its own reward, and the happiest life is that which is spent in unselfish pursuit of the best things.  Love glories in sacrifice, and makes eternity of time well used, so why another eternity as the complement of death?  We cannot, indeed, prove that there is no conscious, individual survival of death, but we have no evidence of it (apart from the Resurrection, which is capable of so many interpretations).  Why trouble ourselves so much about it?  For even the most faithful mourner begins to forget at last, the memory fades, the desire to see the departed again, as they were in life, once so poignant, gradually ceases, and even appears in time to be foolish.  Meantime, as Burns says, in one of his serious letters, “we have interesting business on hand” in this life, and it needs all our attention and energy,  We must be ever on the watch to catch the rare golden moments that really make life; as for death, it must come, and better if it come quickly; it cannot come before its time.

“Music, odour, moon, work in youth’s blood –

Who can tell how soon the roses bud?

Nay, I know not – only this

All the world’s not worth a kiss.

or RLS Requiem

Name him not, but death breathes in every sigh –

Who knows with what breath the roses die?

Nay, I know not – only this:

I am ready, when death is”.

“Making the most of both worlds” used to be a common sneer at the comfortable clergy, but nothing is truer than that you must make the most of this world – of the best it has to offer – if you wish to make anything of another;  if you desire even to keep the hope and vision of a higher destiny before you.  Of course that means denying yourself some of the lower things in order to realise the higher; it may mean having many precious things taken form you in order to learn the still more precious things of the spirit.  But you must always be seeking good in every possible experience – enjoying it to the full, ‘glorying in tribulation’ – and finding heaven in those sudden, unsought flashes of bliss, that come when least expected.  The pity is that we so easily accustom ourselves to placing these two worlds in succession, in order of time.  The reason why so many narrow little sects have set their despondent hearts on so many narrow little domestic heavens hereafter, is that they have lost courage and faith in their God-given capacity for happiness here.  They then begin to condemn this and that teaching, forbid this, that and the other practice, fasten on some lugubrious little lesson, to the exclusion of all else – and hope despairingly for a smug little box of Paradise just big enough to hold themselves.  They get it at last – from the undertaker!


 Foreword to “A Padre with the Highland Division”

To explain my presence with the 51st in France, it is necessary to trace the steps whereby I came to be among the Highlanders in 1917.  When the mosquito got me as an R.A.M.C. man with the 42nd General Hospital in Salonika, I owed my survival largely to the careful nursing of Sister Mabel Pearce of the Queen’s Nursing Corps.  At the crisis in that humiliating trouble, I had the unusual privilege of over-hearing my funeral arrangements being made, by the Mortuary sergeant declaring in a broad Aberdeen accent: “but there’s seven boadies in the mortuary a’ready!”.  That helped my recovery somewhat, and when my comrades of the tent came round with long faces to bid me a final farewell, I was able to smile weakly at them.  A fortnight later I was shipped off to Malta to convalesce, and after being “tossed up and down in Adria” spent two comfortable months in that delectable island.  But an urgent call from my home Presbytery to return at once to my parish, as my old locum had had to give up, raised a serious problem.  Hospital ships were rare then owing to the presence of enemy submarines in the Mediterranean, and even if I got permission it might be months before I could sail for home.  A visit from Lady Hunter-Blair, wife of the General in command of forces in the island, solved the problem.  She recognised my name as a fellow-native of my home village, and persuaded her husband to get me temporary leave for home, and having collected an ill-fitting uniform to replace my hospital blue, I caught a leave boat next morning for Marseilles, narrowly missing a U-boat just outside the port.  When the leave boat left the harbour next day she was sunk by the U-boat, which had waited outside.  By this time I was well on my way to Le Havre and home.

After making arrangements for a successor to my ailing locum, I waited orders from the R.A.M.C. authorities.  After several weeks of silence I thought it advisable to find out how I stood with the Army, and received a reply from Blackpool which said: “Know nothing about you”, immediately followed by a wire (from Blackpool): “Report here at once”.  On reporting there I was put under arrest as a deserter.  Obviously I ought to be with the 42nd General in Salonika.  I explained that I had come from Malta on sick leave, and that my medical papers were still there; but that story was too thin for those hard faces, and I was put on punishment duty to drill recruits.  Fortunately a few days later my appointment as a Chaplain to his Majesty’s Forces arrived; the attitude of the bosses underwent a change, and I was given V.I.P. treatment till I was called to the Chaplains’ Department and given instructions how to proceed from being a temporary and now obsolete lance-corporal to the honorary rank of Captain.  I had hoped to be sent to the 52nd Division in Palestine (having failed to get there from Greece) but there was urgent need of a padre with the 51st Highland Division in France, and meantime I was posted to a draft-finding Division in Norfolk, to learn the ropes and try to behave like a gentleman.  I didn’t learn much in that way, but on my way to London to join the boat train for France I did learn one thing – to smoke a cigarette.  I had been dishing out Woodbines by the thousand in the canteen of the 42nd, and if I had had the sense to smoke a few after lights out (my lights still being still in) I might have fought the mosquitoes off.  Half way to London, then, a lady in the uniform of the ATS came into my compartment, and after settling herself comfortably, produced a silver cigarette case and was going to light one when she looked across and discovered an officer of sorts sitting opposite.  Of course she held out her case – and could I refuse a lady?  So we smoked and talked in a friendly way – and I wasn’t even sick.  Actually that was a lucky thing, for I discovered when I got to my division that it was no use going round trenches and dug-outs without a haversack full of Woodbines.

It took me some time to come up with the 51st, who had been moved from the Somme to the Arras sector of the front.  Finding myself belated behind the Arras lines, I came to a farmhouse which was, miraculously, still inhabited, and I asked for a bed.  The lady received me kindly and showed me a bed which seemed to consist of two large square cushions, but I said nothing, and when the lady asked if I wanted a drink I in my ignorance asked for tea.  She brought me a concoction which I believe is called tisane, and which I swallowed without choking.  I thanked madame in my best French and lay on top of the cushions.  Next day I recovered my valise and reached my destination on the Arras front.

 A Padre with the Highland Division (51st) in the 1914-18 War.

I believe I am quite safe in saying that our Scottish soldiers did most (for their numbers) to win the war, and said least about it afterwards.  As a nation, we are reticent about the things we feel most deeply; and the men who saw so much of the horrors and miseries of war, and survived, are still unwilling to talk about it. The classical example of this silence was the Glasgow sergeant who had won the V.C.  His C.O., congratulating him, asked: “You will have told the wife about it?”  “Naw”, replied the sergeant, “Ye see, sir, it’s no my turn to write”.

My only excuse for giving this lecture is that I was a non-combatant, a mere spectator of the great things our Highlanders did and endured in France (1914-18).  But a padre with a line brigade has an almost unrivalled opportunity of seeing things.  He moves about freely (as far as the enemy will allow), having a variety of things to do between Brigade H.Q. and the forward companies, in the First Aid posts and dressing stations, with burial parties and stretcher squads, besides a hundred and one things to attend to when out of the line.  Of these I speak later.

My first day with the Highland Division was a memorable one.  I had hoped to go out east again with the 52nd (Lowland), but a padre with the 51st was sent home, and I was sent in his place.  It took me three days wandering in Picardy to find my H.Q., in the Somme area.  I approached the Highland host with fear and trembling, for Beaumont-Hamel was past, and their name was already a terror to the enemy, and spoken of with awe in England.  But almost the first man I spoke to was a gunner from Ayr, with whom I used to play as a boy, and I soon began to talk and swagger like a veteran (most veteran’s don’t).  But that same day was to bring back terror in a new form.  Hitherto I had seen very little of the front line, and that quiet.  A few air raids on Salonika, the distant rumble of the guns around Doiran, and the routine work in a field hospital, gave only a very faint impression of the actual horrors and chaos of war.  I started off alone to find my senior chaplain, who was at an advanced dressing station.  I was well on my way when the daily strafe began, and for the first time I found myself actually under fire.  At first the terrific upheaval was exhilarating rather than terrifying, but the shells began to fall nearer and the horrible scream and crash began to get on my nerves.  I started ducking and hiding and even running for cover (vain hope).  Then a ration party came in sights, and I put on a brave face and tried to pretend that I was used to it.  The party drew near, and I was ready to go with them.  The next moment they disappeared in smoke: a shell had landed right among them.  When I raised my head again (I had dropped on my face) the smoke had cleared, and at the sight before me sheer helpless fright possessed me.  I wanted to run, but couldn’t, so I sat staring helplessly at the three twisted bodies around the shell hole.  Two more were missing completely, another was crawling away like a wild beast, to hide and die.  The corporal in charge was sitting up, laughing hysterically and staring at the stump of his footless leg.  That saved me.  I saw something to do, and reached the corporal just as he lost consciousness.  I made an awful mess of dressing his leg, and he died in the dressing station, never learning that he had been the means of saving a padre from disgracing himself.

To try to describe trench warfare on a large scale is to attempt the impossible, and the maps and official reports are too dry and technical to be of interest to those who have not been present.  I have selected one battle only, for this lecture, partly because of its dramatic form, partly because I had exceptional opportunities of observing it.  In July 1918 the Germans prepared their last offensive west of Rheims, and Marshall Foch asked Haig to send two of his best divisions to fill gaps in the line.  So the 51st entrained from Arras to Paris and on to Chalons, then marched for three days northwards (on one day’s rations) and relieved a mixed French and Italian corps in the thickly wooded valley of the Ardre.  After a brief but blessed sleep in the woods we went forward (2 battalions of each brigade) to take up a certain position from which to attack.  As the 6th Gordons approached what was supposed to be their assembly point, a sudden rattle of machine guns told us that the enemy was there before us and were impolite enough to anticipate our attack.  We got under cover in a hurry, and then the French barrage came down on top of our forward company, falling short owing to faulty maps or to a misunderstanding with the French staff.  That mistake knocked out more men than the enemy did that day.  In spite of that the 6th Seaforths and the Gordons went over to the minute, and so did the Prussian Guards.  We thought it was our push, they thought it was theirs, but they were the first to change their minds, when they discovered they were up against the “ladies from Hell” as they dubbed our Highlanders.  They had expected mixed hordes of Froggies and Macaroni.  But it took three days desperate fighting to turn their offensive into a retreat.  The Seaforths had suffered heavily in that first attack, and the Brigade fell back a bit, leaving the doctors and stretcher-bearers to clean up the mess.  My year with the R.A.M.C. earned me the job of organising the Brigade stretcher-bearers, and being with the M.O’s at the time I found myself for the first time in No Man’s Land during a battle.  Meantime we had removed as many wounded as there were stretchers to carry them; but they kept accumulating, and the shells were coming over faster, but we couldn’t leave these helpless men to die.  Then came the last straw – the Germans sent over gas.  We fixed up as many as we could with respirators, and the doctors worked away heroically, till one of them, an Australian, was killed.  I had gone off to look for more stretchers, and on the way found a German wheel-stretcher – a perfect godsend.  My batman made six journeys with it and saved a man every time.  I found the Gordons doctor working away alone, but he refused to budge till every wounded man still alive was removed to safety.  We carried the last man between us.  Fortunately darkness had fallen, and next morning the Gordons went forward and never again fell back in that war.  It is difficult to describe the fighting in that battle of the woods.  There was no “line” to speak of.  There was a gap of ¼ mile at the time between the French right and our left; fortunately the enemy didn’t discover it in time!  I saw 30 or 40 Germans charging a whole battalion and getting within a few yards of them before the last man fell – a huge Hanoverian giant who considered himself invulnerable, and fell with a look of intense surprise on his face which remained fixed until we buried him.  In ten days we had them on the run again, and ten kilometres back; three days later we were relieved and went north again for a well-earned rest.  One more incident I may mention because of its consequences after the war.  While we were still feeling our way into the French line, I stumbled into an old dug-out which the Germans had just evacuated.  I marked it as a handy hide-out in case of need.  Next day I came across a machine gun company of reinforcements just arrived from home, and looking utterly washed out.  Their commander, Major P-, asked me to show them the way to their H.Q., but as we went forward the German guns opened up, and the first thing to do was to get the company underground.  The large dug-out I had seen was the nearest refuge, and I led them, at the double, and shoved them in.  Later on, looking in on them, I was offered a tin of champagne, and on asking where on earth they had got it, a corporal led me to the far end of the shelter and showed a cache of the stuff, which the enemy had evidently stored there with a view to recovering it later.  This little incident had a consequence, after the war, which affected my whole life.  A year after the war I received an invitation to spend a weekend in Ross-shire, in a place I had never heard of before, but I accepted the offer and was asked to conduct a service on the Sunday.  I learned that the old minister had retired, and that I was to be chosen as his successor, if acceptable.  I also learned that Major P- of the 51st machine-gunners, was the chief conspirator in this plot.  I found myself among old comrades, and was so taken with the parish that I sent for my wife at the other end of Scotland.  She also approved, and in six months we trekked from Galloway to Easter Ross.  We spent seven happy years in the Highlands, and formed a 51st Club of ex-Service men.  Some bereaved parents, to whom I had written from the front, became my firm friends.

A vivid recollection from that battle is of an Argyll sergeant, horribly torn in the abdomen, who kept begging me to shoot him.  He would listen to nothing, and I knew he couldn’t last long.  I shall never forget his look when I said “I daren’t use arms”.  I went off to find some morphia.  When I returned he was dead – and I felt like a felon.  As a relief to those grisly tales, I must relate the story of my military “crime”, which happened in that same action.  We had gathered a number of wounded men into a little wood, which was no protection against shell fire, but gave a feeling of security to the patients.  We were a long way from the nearest aid post, and no ambulances had been seen in that area for days.  Then the miracle happened.  A fleet of six ambulances came up from the base, picking their way precariously among shell holes and exploded mines.  They were making for the other brigade front, but the temptation was too strong for me.  I stopped the leading driver, and directed him and his immediate follower to turn up our way (I didn’t often use my rank to order men about).  The drivers obeyed, and we got quite a number of severe cases away that day and night.  But I had not reckoned with our A.D.M.S., Col. Rorie.  Two days later he came up to me and gave me a volley of bad language for daring to divert his ambulances.  I listened meekly, but that didn’t help.  He ended his tirade with a threat of a court martial.  Then I walked away and left him.  After we came out of the line, I was getting up a concert for the men, and waiting in trepidation to be tried for my professional life, when I had a brain wave.  Col. Rorie’s other hobby was music.  He had written several songs.  I asked him to preside at my concert and he accepted.  Then came my master-stroke.  He had written a dialect song with the intriguing title of “The Lum Hat Wantin’s the croun”, and I sang it to the immense delight of Col. Rorie, who forthwith forgot all about courts martial.  Meantime I had been recommended for a M.C., but my “crime” stood in the way, and eventually they made a compromise award of a “mention in despatches”, which I treasure along with another crime sheet from Salonika.  [Handwritten addition] Fined three days pay for breaking bounds to go to Salonika to buy fags, soap and polish for the tents. Next day was asked to start to run a canteen for the men.

Strenuous as were these days in the line, the few days “rest” out of the line were even busier – at least for the chaplain.  Rest, indeed, it was – rest from the strain of incessant duties, from the horrid uproar, the nerve-wearing shocks, the interminable watch; but they say the best rest is a change of occupation!  In that respect, the padre rested well.  There were scores or hundreds of letters to be written, to parents, wives, sisters bereaved, all with the same sad tale: the hardest task of all especially when you knew the men.  There were crosses to be printed and erected where possible, innumerable forms to fill up and reports to make out, arrangements to be made for services, concerts, lectures and sports, for the men’s minds must be kept from brooding too much, and lifted out of the depression that always follows a fight, even a successful one.  Our concerts were usually crude affairs, not at all suitable for home consumption.  Comics were always in demand, but we couldn’t always get the right ones, and sometimes the padre had to hide his blushes behind the piano – when there was one.  When an instrument was found anywhere within ten miles of the camp, it was usually an instrument of ten strings or so, and as many keys, not always in alignment, and it required some gymnastic skill to produce a tune at all.  Yet I have seen a Cathedral organist thumping out “Roses in Picardy” with a look of utter agony on his face (which he might have called ecstasy).  We could afford to laugh at very little then!  Church services were rare, Sunday being the favourite day for moving the division into a new sector; but wherever possible services were held in all sorts of places well back from the line.  A Y.M.C.A. hut, a barn with a shell hole for window but neither pulpit nor pews, or a field if the congregation was large and the weather fine, with the band to lead us there and the drums piled to make a desk: a dug-out sometimes, dimly lighted like the catacombs of the Roman Christians.  I once held a church parade in an estaminet (a small bar or cafe) which reminded me of the Glasgow minister who began his morning prayer thus: “O Lord, we have come into Thy public house for worship”.

But the most inappropriate pulpit I ever occupied was on Armistice Sunday.  The text was, of course, “Blessed are the peace-makers”, and the pulpit was – the boxing ring.  I am afraid the pugilistic atmosphere somewhat spoiled the sermon that day, but the grand, triumphant roll of Psalm 145 – “Now Israel may say” made up abundantly for that.  Ten minutes was the limit for a sermon in the army: sometimes that was too long.  An old Brigadier once took me to task for exceeding the limit.  “You padres” he said “are much too discursive.  You talk away at large and waste precious time with generalising.  Take a tip from the drill instructor.  Choose one sharp point and drive it home”.  Very good advice, but I should have liked to hear the instructor – or the Brigadier – preach as he practised!  The singing of psalms and hymns was, of course, the most enjoyed part of the service.  We required no choirs or organs out there.  The whole parade was the choir, and the organ notes of war usually rumbled a solemn undertone to our devotions.  We were apt to choose the favourite hymns: “Jesu, lover of my soul”; “Eternal Father, strong to save”; “When I survey the wondrous cross”; “Nearer, my God, to Thee”; “Lead, kindly Light”; “Abide with Me”, and the grand old psalms: “God is our refuge and our strength”; “I to the hills”; “The Lord’s my Shepherd”, and a Scottish paraphrase “O God of Bethel”.  I even risked some bits of “The Messiah” at times.  We held Holy Communion when possible, especially before going into a big fight.  The sacrament was, if anything, more solemn than at home, because of the presence of the enemy near by, and the possibility that it might well be our last, though we did not think of that.  Many men took Communion over there who never partook at home.  I remember one man who confessed he had never been baptised.  I did not ask why, but he was very anxious to become a full member of the church.  I would have admitted him without baptism (very difficult to arrange) but he was churchman enough to refuse that by-pass, so we arranged for the ceremony to take place before the men assembled for Communion.  Unfortunately, we were suddenly moved on the Saturday to support an English division that was being hard pressed, and neither sacrament was celebrated.

Before we came out of the line again, that lad had gone beyond the need of church or chaplain; but I told his comrades that he was as truly a member of Christ’s Church as if he had been duly enrolled in his home parish, nay, more truly than many who had both baptism and Communion regularly at home.  I have not yet met anyone who is prepared to question that.  Some people at home were rather sceptical about this sudden anxiety over religion shown by many men at the front – especially by men who before going out had been careless of church and sacrament.  These sarcastic critics talked of a religion of “funk” and “salvation by the fear of death”, etc.  But in most cases, so far as my knowledge went, they were very wide of the mark.  For one thing, it was a mistake to conclude that these men were irreligious merely because they took little interest in church affairs at home, or because they didn’t talk about their souls.  Church-going is not the only test of a Christian.  Again, those men, surrounded by the stark realities of war and very close to death day after day, could hardly help showing what they had always believed.  Above all, with the thought of their dead comrades pressing on their minds, and the prayers of the home folks continually rising for them, is it to be wondered at if their faith was quickened to expression as never before?  It is perhaps a pity that those supercilious sceptics didn’t have a spell in the line.  There are few who came through it all who are inclined to sneer at their comrades, though many of these were quite unaffected.  Some, of course, were more superstitious than others, and many were almost devoid of religious feeling, profane in the line and out of it, at home or in the army.  But in all alike the perilous life at the front produced a sort of fatalism, cheerful or pessimistic according to the man’s temperament and character.  One soon got to know that the bullet or splinter with your name on it would get you before you knew.  The things you heard coming didn’t usually come too near.  It was a simple creed: “If your number’s up you go west”, and that’s all there is to it.  But until that moment comes you are safe.  Of course there is always the chance of a nice “blighty” one; but it was better not to think of such luxuries out there.  Perhaps it wasn’t quite a Christian attitude, but it was the only way to avoid funk or madness, and it enabled a man to go about his deadly duties calm and unworried.  “What’s the use of worrying”, sang the private soldier – and he didn’t!  Little aware that he was applying literally the words of the gospel: “Take no thought for the morrow” (apologies to the R.V.).  Whether you call it fatalism or faith or crude Calvinism, this belief in pre-destination was the only creed that could stand the strain of those interminable days and sleepless nights.  “Man is immortal till his work is done”, and that stern gospel saved many a soul from self-destruction.  After all, it is but a short step from fatalism to faith, one might almost say, from natural selection to supernatural election (Darwin was almost a Christian), and the luck of war partakes of both.  To many in the war the sporting chance of survival took on the semblance of divine law.  We might do worse than apply that soldier’s creed to our problems at home, and learn something of their temper; for the real ills of life are bad enough without the many imaginary ones that we dread and worry about.  As an old sergeant-major said to a draft of new boys: “Bless you, you’ve only got to die once, but some of you have lost nine lives already today”.  It may have been one of them who was caught in a nasty corner, and unable to decide between two evils, the danger of capture, or of death in the open, as a last resort began to pray thus: “O Lord, it isn’t often that I trouble You, but if You will get me out of this adjective hole, I’ll never trouble You again”.  More honest, that prayer, than Jacob’s at Bethel, when he promised to be good if only God would bring him safe home again – but the soldier’s case was the more desperate of the two!

Curiously enough the question of courage hardly ever emerged in discussion, though ample praise was always forthcoming when a man had “stuck it” well in a sticky place.  Comparisons in that matter were especially odious to the men at the front, who knew well that one’s courage rose and fell with changing circumstances and a charge of cowardice in face of the enemy was not often made or pursued.  It was easier to go over the top or to stand a barrage when just back to the line after a rest at home or even behind the front, than after a month of cold and mud and jangled nerves, not to mention short rations!  A man fresh from leave would risk more (sometimes for tragic reasons), and also a lot depended on how a man had met his first barrage and attack.  Again, men differed so widely in their nervous constitution, and even more in their powers of imagination.  Some men seemed never to have known fear.  Others had a terrible fight within themselves every time, and didn’t always win out.  One company commander I knew who could face almost anything unmoved; he seemed to have neither nerves nor imagination; but when out of the line he was simply a beast.  As a contrast there was Lieut. B- of the same battalion, who was simply hopeless in action.  He would lose his head at the first shell and make a most awful mess of the simplest orders.  He was all nerves!  Out of the line he was the very life and soul of the Battalion, and could keep us entertained for hours at a stretch with fiddle and piano, with songs and stories.  He had to stand more sneering and misunderstanding than any other man I knew.  He made desperate efforts to overcome his failing, but once he got the wind up at an awkward moment, and it was decided that he was more useful and less fatal, at the back of the front.  In every way (except physical courage) he was vastly superior to that other, but he failed to make good, while the other got distinction or promotion in almost every action he took part in.  But as Donald Hankey said “The true secret of courage is to forget your own fears by thinking of others in worse case than you.  Only he whose care is for others forgets to be afraid.”

In time, a man usually learnt to fear most, not shells or bullets, not wounds or even death – it was wiser not to think of these – but of having nothing to do!  To be under fire without something to do that really mattered, taking up all your attention, that was the most perilous condition of all; and many a long hour of such agony our men had to endure – and not always with honour.  The intolerable strain of waiting for what might happen proved too much for some men of delicate temperament.  I remember a young subaltern who went over the top for the fifth time that week with the remnants of his platoon.  Half-way to their objective they were swept by machine gun fire, and as they lay scattered in shell holes or behind fallen comrades, the officer in charge felt he was about to give way.  Just at that moment he caught sight of his platoon sergeant lying badly wounded and exposed to fire.  Instead of crawling back to safety, the Lieutenant crawled forward, got the sergeant on to his back with some difficulty, and crawled back to safe cover without further damage.  He got an M.C. for this act of bravery, but it might have proved his ruin, as he confessed to me some time later.  He said the sergeant ought to have got the decoration for two reasons: “He both provided cover for my body and saved my soul from disgrace and life-long remorse”.   Speaking of decorations and distinctions, these were as often due to good luck as to personal bravery.  Certainly, where medals and mentions were awarded, they were usually well deserved (except in a few cases where they were certainly not).  But so much depended on how a certain action was reported to H.Q., and on the number of men who distinguished themselves at the same time.  So many hundred who merited distinction never got it.  The number of posthumous awards ought to have been much greater; and many who survived were either not noticed or were too modest to mention their part in the action.  With such huge armies engaged, the only practical method of awards was to allot so many crosses and medals to each corps, each division, and each battalion had to select the most deserving.  There was bound to be injustice, but for the most part the men looked at the matter of “gongs” humorously, remarking that “the MCs and the MMs came up with the rations”.  Of that I have personal experience.  I was on one occasion recommended for an MC because I had used my cudgel to a wounded German who was lying in no man’s land taking pot shots at the backs of our men.  But our G.O.C. wisely pointed out that they must not decorate a padre for breaking the Geneva Convention… but as 6 croix-de-guerre had been allocated to our 51st division by the French authorities, I was put in for one of these on other grounds! So far as I know, none of us has received the cross, but rumour said that, some months later, certain gentlemen at Corps H.Q. were sporting the ribbon, perhaps correctly.  The only Cross I won was the Iron Cross, 1st class, which I purchased in Cologne after the war for 3.50 fr.  They were manufacturing them wholesale for our benefit! I still have a copy of the citation, dated 18th July 1918, which was given me as a sort of solatium.  It commends me for “aiding and encouraging troops in the line when under shell and machine-gun fire”.

Before leaving the subject of awards, I must try to balance that citation with another document, this time from Salonika, which reads: “42nd General Hospital.  Orders, Part ii.  Offences.  83874 Pte. MacMorland, J.  Disobedience of Base Routine Orders, in that he, on 09.09.1916 (1) was in Salonika town without a pass, and (2) was improperly dressed.  Award: deprived of three days’ pay”. The real punishment came next day, when the C.O. came to the ward I was working in and said they had been discussing my case in the mess and had decided that the men must have a canteen of their own.  Would I be willing to take the job?  I asked time to think it over and was told to report next morning.  I told the others in our tent, and they all wanted to take the job but thought I should have first chance since I had been deputising for them.  I agreed to have a try, and next day I was relieved of ward duty, and given a marquee, tables, boilers, utensils and £50 from the Mess – and a couple of mules to draw a trailer (which I didn’t use).  I was given a lance-corporal’s stripe (for protection, said the S.M.) and an assistant.  The canteen flourished (because there was nothing else for the men to spend their pay on) and I continued to buy and sell the usual necessities: polish, tooth powder, fags, writing paper, and a choice of three drinks – tea, coffee or Bovril – the flavours of which sometimes got mixed!  This continued till the mosquitoes got at me, after lights out when my lights were still in, and having no mosquito net, I was almost literally bitten to death.  After a month or two in bed, I was shipped off to Malta and thence to England, and a new canteen keeper reigned in my stead, and continued to make large profits off the men.

At Aldershot and later in Salonika I had picked up some first-aid rules, which enabled me to help with the wounded men, and especially with the stretcher bearers.  These regimental cleaners-up have not been given much notice in the histories, but I give it as my sober opinion that they sometimes had the hardest part of all to play during a battle, and perhaps the most testing at times.  Without the support of their comrades or the stimulation of the fight to uphold them, they had to treat wounded men under fire, and carry them gently but swiftly to the doctor’s aid post, after doing what could be done quickly, stopping haemorrhage, fitting extempore splints and rough bandages, giving a word of encouragement if the patient were still conscious, and taking the shock of movement from the man on the stretcher.  The great temptation to a bearer was to drop the stretcher when shells burst close or bullets ripped through the air.  One had to keep one’s mind on the helpless burden, and on the other man who shared the burden.  An old R.A.M.C. sergeant once gave us very good advice: “Always remember you carry only one end of the stretcher”.  That applies to more burdens in life.  The Invisible Comrade may be relied on to keep his end up and help us with ours!

Let us look in at one of those field dressing-stations where wounds are examined and re-dressed before going on to the C.C.S. (Casualty Clearing Station).  There is a soldier lying on an old door and trestle, which is an operating table.  The surgeon is preparing to amputate his leg above the knee, pale and silent and determined, the patient is fighting the devil of despair.  He has something to live for, and though his chances are poor enough, the will to live may yet work wonders, even when the doctor has given up hope.  We speak sometimes of men facing death, but very few of us really face the dreaded form when it draws near.  They are mostly absorbed in other thoughts, if the racking torture of their wounds does not take up all their mind.  Mercifully, most of those who died were not really aware of death’s approach.  That boy over there in a corner, tossing in delirium babbling names and confusing scenes of childhood with the hell he has just come from, is too near death even for prayer to reach him.  Here is a lad who has just come in, making a great hubbub and assuring everybody that a 5.9 shell got him squarely in the back.  The orderly smiles and ripping up his tunic, finds a slight flesh wound that will heal in a week or two.  All our heroes were not silent!  Another man with a bright eye and a high colour, smiling a little but saying nothing, makes you wonder what he is doing here at all; but he will not live beyond a few hours.  All around are cheerful trunks of men, and wretched, tortured giants who show not a scratch – but the hurt is too deep to see.

A German soldier, waiting his turn, and sullenly distrustful, is amazed to find that he is treated in his turn, and tenderly too!  He had been taught to expect something very different.  Here is a Highlander, pallid and shivering, who realises that his time is short, and looks round anxiously for the padre to send a message home.  His parents will receive a posthumous D.C.M. as their best comfort.  But who is that, over in a corner, facing the wall, desiring neither aid nor comfort, his whole attitude expressive of utter weariness and hopeless despair.  As I draw near, his shifty manner and rebellious eye betray him, and looking at his label I find the letters “S.I.” – the sad tale of courage failing at a critical moment, and the last subterfuge of the coward.  Self-inflicted wounds are rare among our Scottish lads, but no more pitiful case can be imagined.  “Why did they bring me in?” he mutters, and will accept no comfort, will not even send a message or give an address.  Let us not judge him harshly, for we know little of what he has come through, or of what led to his undoing – perhaps from his very childhood up to that fatal moment of panic.  Volumes might be written of the miracles of healing performed in these dressing-stations: dug-outs or cellars or shell-stricken houses, clean water being scarce!

One Aberdeen boy I must tell of in this connexion.  Stretchers were scarce, and casualties numerous.  Those who looked like surviving were to be moved first of all.  He looked like dying any moment, one leg gone, blood oozing from his back, and half a dozen gashes on head and arms.  I made him as comfortable as I could in the hole he was lying in.  But when we returned an hour later, he was still alive, so we got him on to a stretcher with infinite trouble, to get no thanks from the M.O. when we reached his den.  But he adjusted our rough dressings, sent him on to the C.C.S., and turned to his next case.  I wrote to the lad’s parents, preparing them for the worst.  Six months later, I had a letter from himself, thanking me for helping him and writing home, but adding in a post-script that he was not dead yet.  He is now back at his old job, minus a leg but twice the man he was.  Such cases are most rewarding.

My old enemy, malaria, proved a friend for once, when I was sent home before that dreadful day, March 21st 1918, when even the Highlanders broke before the avalanche of German arms, and the folks at home thought the end had come.  The chaplain who took my place was captured, while I was doing very different work at a home camp.  But I have a vivid recollection of the crowd of relatives, mostly women, who assailed the South African depot, clamouring for news of husbands, sons, sweethearts – and we could tell them nothing, even after days of waiting and nights passed in the corridors.  The whole South African Brigade had vanished.  All their H.Q. papers were captured, and what few survivors there were, had been pressed into the scratch units that were formed to stem the flood – Scots, English, Colonials, engineers, labourers, Chinamen, strung together in a thin wavering line – but they saved France and our homes!

By way of contrast, a home camp is full of amusing episodes, especially from a padre’s point of view.  In revenge for its obliteration at the front, red tape re-asserts itself at every turn in the training camps.  Church parade at home was a very different affair from an informal meeting for worship in a dug-out or a field (with a doubtful shelter near by).  Church parade was a purely military operation – compulsory and formal.  Some ingenious excuses used to be made to escape church, and some underhand tricks too: witness the occasion when a sympathetic corporal left the hymn-books behind.  When we reached the church door one of the men remarked that they had no hymn-books.  “Aint got no ‘ymnbooks?” roared the S.M.  “’Ow the ‘ell can you sing without ‘ymnbooks?  Dismiss”.  I had a nice walk in the fields that morning.  But the despair of the padre was the Cage – not for prisoners of war but for our own delinquents: a barbed-wire enclosure or a closed barrack, in which were confined those who had been guilty of what the Army called “crimes” or “offences” usually routine offences against military discipline.  For instance, a lad of 19 who was doing 28 days for cheeking a non-com. begged me to have his sentence reduced, as he was to be married in a week or so.  The girl was barely 18.  He gave correct names and addresses, and the name of a minister I knew, so I pled for him with the C.O., and he got off to Glasgow in time.  Six weeks later I found the same lad again in the cage.  “What are you doing here again?”  “28 days, sir, for over-staying my leave”.  Remembering the circumstances, I was inclined to be sympathetic, but I asked him: “What will your new wife think of this?”  “But I’m no’ mairrit, sir?”  Then seeing my frown, he added, “Ye see, sir, ma mither said she wad lose the allowance if I got mairrit”.  The whole cage was convulsed by this time, and I fled, consoling myself with a phrase the old wives of Ayrshire used, “The sin o’ a lee is the scrimpin’ o’t” (grudging it).  My young scapegrace certainly didn’t err in that respect.  If you must lie tell a big one.  Comedy and tragedy are often mingled in life, and even in war.  I cannot leave the seamy side of the war without referring to the saddest and heaviest duty that fell to a padre – burying the dead.  It was hard, wearing work, usually at night and often spoilt by shell-fire, and usually no time could be spared.  The dead within a certain area were collected at a certain point, a trench six feet long and 3 or 4 feet deep, and as wide as the number of bodies required, was dug, and the fallen laid side by side.  A short prayer was said, a silent salute given, and we covered them as decently as was possible, marking each body with a bit of stick or stone, or a bit of paper in a bottle bearing the name, number, rank and regiment, with the date of burial, hoping to erect a wooden cross at each head once the division was relieved.  We treated dead Germans in exactly the same way, but apart from our men.  The men who usually helped in collecting the bodies and digging the trench, were the regimental band, if they were available.

Perhaps there was something appropriate in the pipers and drummers, who had cheered on the living to the fray, making soft the last long bed of the fallen.  Many men were just buried by their own comrades, creeping out into No Man’s Land when it was dark, and making as little noise as possible.  Sometimes there was very little to be buried.  It was not always possible to identify the fallen.  The bodies were always carefully searched for discs, paybooks, letters, Testaments that might bear a name or a number.  All such personal belongings were sent to H.Q. to be forwarded home; but if no evidence was forthcoming, a description if possible of height, colour, marks, probable age, or even a chum’s guess, was sent in along with a note of the place and date of burial.  But very many who had been decently buried were posted as “missing” for want of a clue to their identity.  The most pathetic case I can recall was of the Newcastle man on whose body was found a letter from his wife informing him that she had gone off with another soldier.  But even in connexion with burials, one could find a touch of humour sometimes.  Every man in the Army has to choose a “religion” or denomination.  His particular sect is carefully noted, and his disc bears the sign “PRES.” C. of E., C. or R.C. or U.B. meaning United Board and including Wesleyans and Quakers, Baptists and Unitarians all slumped together.  Those who could not name a church were just marked “C. of E.” to save trouble.  Some S.Ms didn’t like those “fancy religions”, and when an unfortunate man replied, correctly but menacingly, “U.B.”, the S.M. roared “Put him in clink”.  There are martyrs even in our day.

Our senior Chaplain asked me once to get, for his record, the number of Presbyterian soldiers who had been buried by the C. of E. padre of our Brigade.  I chose an unhealthy moment to go along to his battalion H.Q., and when I shouted my message down into his cellar, he replied sarcastically, “Presbyterians?  I’ve buried no Presbyterians, but if you don’t get down pronto I may have to unbury one”.  I agreed that there wasn’t much to distinguish a Calvinist from a Catholic when a shell had got him.  And what did it matter who buries him?  Priest or pastor or local preacher – or a comrade who knew him better than any padre (perhaps his was the best burial service – the unspoken prayer of a chum who really mourned his loss and wondered if they would meet again – soon!).  Distinctions of sect or creed were little thought of out there.  The profession of a Christian faith in any form took second place after the practical virtues of comradeship, loyalty, endurance and cheerfulness – all Christian virtues, no doubt, but hardly recognised as such.  Captain M- of the Seaforths was rounding up a company of Germans who had surrendered, when the enemy opened fire with machine guns on friend and foe alike, killing and wounding many before they could get under cover.  While trying to protect his prisoners, Capt. M- was literally sprayed with bullets.  They got him in, but he died soon after, cursing fiercely, while conscious, the murderers of their own former comrades.  Lieut. S- who was with him at the time, described his death to us in the mess after the relief, and another officer was foolish enough to ask, “Do you think M- went to heaven, padre?”  The crudeness of the question staggered me, and while I hesitated, Lieut. S- burst out “Well, if he didn’t it’s no place for me”.  I thanked him and no more was said.  But the creed of a soldier was best summed up by the R.C. lad whom I helped into the lee-side of an abandoned tank, when I saw he hadn’t long to live.  He couldn’t speak, but he made a sign, and for once I regretted not being a priest.  But I prayed that prayer which we have in common with all Christian Churches.  “Our Father…”  His lips moved with my words, and then I began to repeat the Apostles’ Creed.  “I believe in God the Father Almighty”.  His lips moved and I bent down to catch what he tried to say.  “I believe in God -” but the rest was heard only by the Father Almighty.  I have often thought, since then, that those two words, whispered by a dying Catholic after a Presbyterian padre were a symbol of our Soldiers’ faith.  “I believe”: the unuttered confession in the unspeakable, invisible Reality was so like them.  Unable, mostly, to say in what they believed, or in Whom, unwilling nearly always to speak of spiritual matters, yet they had, with fewer exceptions than many people seem to think, a sublime faith in the reality of goodness and honour and love; they staked their lives on the worth of the struggle for liberty and justice.  Who shall judge them, or even question their hope of eternal life, because their faith was half-unconscious or too vague for words; and though they were often perplexed as to the meaning of creeds and church distinctions, perhaps they were all the nearer to their Master, who had little time for meticulous and vain verbosities!

Ten days before the Armistice the last charge of the Highland Division was made by the 6th Argylls, lately transferred to the 51st.  The enemy saw that our Division was being relieved, and counterattacked, taking the village of Famars which had changed hands twice already.  The Argylls were ordered to retire and re-establish the position for the new division (the 49th).  Lieut. Bisset and C company of the Argylls (he was the only officer surviving) went on forward, and were cut off by a barrage in their rear.  They expended all their ammunition, then fixed bayonets and drove twenty times their number back beyond Famars.  22 men and Lieut. B- mustered at the end of the attack.  They made a show of filling their magazines from empty clips, and the enemy never again attacked there.  Bisset got the last V.C. to be allocated to our division.  The following day we came in sight of Mons, that city set on a hill, looming out through the mist, while the guns still thundered a triumphant envoi after the retreating hordes of defeated Germans.  In the grey morning of November 11 the Canadians, our best pals in the line, entered Mons, and the bells rang out the strains of “Tipperary”, practised for months.

Next day I had my faith in the “Angels of Mons” story rudely shattered, when I asked an old Montois, in my best French, if he had heard of these mysterious visitors of 1914.  “Mais Oui”.  To my astonishment, he offered to show me them! And leading me to the Hotel de Ville, he pointed triumphantly to the brazen figure of a monkey, centuries old and as ugly as sin – more like the Devil, indeed, than an angel.  “Voila” said he, “le singe de Mons”.  It took me some time to explain to him that I had not asked for the monkey but for the angels, of whom he had never even heard all through the war!  But whatever we may make of that story – whether it be hallucination, pure invention or veritable vision: of one thing I am sure, that there were greater than angels at that return to Mons four years after.  Greater than angels, indeed, for on that still day of November, 1918, we communed with the spirits of the men who had come out of great tribulation, who had faced the onset of the long struggle, the weariest of the long, uncertain years, and had passed with the vision of victory in their eyes.  Can we doubt that they came again in spirit to Mons, shared in the triumph of all our efforts, and attained to perfect peace at last?  For we have the assurance of the apostle Paul that “they without us should not be made perfect”.

It was a strangely silent 51st that received the incredible news: “The war is over”.  No bursts of cheering, no fusillades, no demonstrations of relief or joy that first day of peace.  Only silence!  It is impossible to describe the quality of that weird stillness, as was the uproar and confused din that preceded it.  Perhaps we didn’t quite take it in.  Those last months of forward movement had been light-headed enough, like strange wild dream that we feared would end in a crash.  But no! eastward and ever eastward we moved, and back went the enemy, back from the Marne, back from Rheims, back from Verdun, back from Amiens, Arras, Ypres, back to Cambrai, Bruges, St. Quentin, to Mons, Brussels, Liege, wonderful months these, with no more trenches (except for an occasional check), no more interminable and insufferable strain of watching and waiting, the eternal see-saw of push and counter-push, was done for ever!  Little wonder we were silent that first day.  But maybe the main reason was not the unutterable relief that no more sacrifice was demanded of us, but rather the thought that so many of our chums had not survived to share our triumph.  There was a quality in the stillness, as of a ghostly presence, that was like nothing else on earth, before or since.  Next day (to be quite honest) the 51st exploded in a fusillade of spare ammunition, in cheering and singing and dancing with anyone from Colonel to corporal – and the rations that day were not the ones carefully hained in haversacks for an emergency!  Then again, thoughts of home.

I went on leave shortly after, and woke up one morning far from the mud of the front, and something made me feel the stillness of home as quite different, indefinable – then suddenly a bird began to sing – and at last I realised the reason for the difference: we had never heard a bird’s song out there!  Here at home was peace indeed, but there the silence was of the grave.  Now we had time to think of these things, and one could let his mind wander at will among the sad regrets, the tender recollections of so many splendid chums – the best of them left behind in France, no, gone on ahead, too far ahead for us to follow save in wistful yearning – for what?

I think the most precious things that any of us has brought back from the War is this: that we have known comrades who were capable of such deeds of valour and forbearance, and have shared with them the horrors and the heroisms of that mighty conflict – the greatest so far in history.  Could it be the last, we wonder?  It has been a disappointing time since 1918.  Our dreams and visions of a new Age when wars shall cease to the ends of the earth, have not been realised.  The gratitude of the people at home has been short-lived, as usual.  Complaints and recriminations are growing.  Many wrongs are still unrighted, many promises unfulfilled, forgotten.  But there is one vision we shall keep ever clear and strong, the glory of self-sacrifice, the memory of the men who gave their lives that we might live in freedom unmolested by a foreign power.  That thought, and their name, liveth for ever more!  Let us raise an enduring memorial to them – not only in sculptured stone and lettered scroll, but in fleshly tablets of the heart, and in the minds of our children, so long as they shall live, to the men of our beloved land who loved not their lives unto the death for our sakes and for the generations to come.

God of the nations! known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle line,

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine:

Lord God of hosts’, be with us yet,

Lest we forget, lest we forget!  Amen.

A frivolous post-script might be appropriate after these solemn thoughts.  While waiting our turn for leave after the Armistice, we got word of a Victory Ball to be held in Brussels, to which a number of our officers and men were invited.  I was chosen to represent the chaplains department, and was prepared to join the party when the C.O. pointed out that I was improperly dressed to represent the Highland Division.  My sober padre’s uniform would be too conspicuous among the kilted highlanders.  “You must wear a kilt” decreed the G.O.C.  As it happened one of the men, chosen to go to the Ball, went sick at the last moment, and as he was about my size he offered to lend me his kilt (Seaforth), and I arrived in Brussels wearing for the first time the garb of old Gaul (slightly improved since the Roman days).  We were delighted to see that a number of fair partners were provided for us, but a line of demarcation had been fixed between the V.I.P’s and the troops.  Above the line were distinguished guests, including some representatives of royal houses, and very high officers; while we juniors were told sternly not to pass the frontier.  We were quite happy to dance with the pretty Belgian, Dutch and unidentified girls who actually had learnt the steps of our Highland reels and strathspeys, as one of my partners confessed, from the Germans themselves.  There were no introductions, of course, but an occasional scrap as two or three Highlanders competed for the favour of the dance.  I was lucky in securing a nice Dutch lass, because I could speak some French and she taught me some Dutch before I had to relinquish her to a tall Seaforth who threatened to punch my head if I didn’t let him have a turn.  The ball was a great success so far as we were concerned, and one or two of the seniors who had invaded the lower sector of the floor insisted on being introduced to our girls.  I was the master of ceremonies on one occasion, and not knowing the names of the invading officers, I declared to my partner that “this is Lord Godalming”, and his pushing companion as “Lord God Almighty”, which titles the girl accepted quite innocently, and the offended peer threatened my life afterwards.  All went very merry till the wee sma’ hours ayont the twal’ [after midnight: literally beyond twelve], when we were forcibly separated and ushered to a place of safety.  I got an address from my Dutch girl, but alas! the exigencies of peace were nearly as difficult as those of war, and we had to part with promises we never managed to fulfil.  Never mind, the League of Nations had made a beginning, and we all returned home feeling that peace had been well secured in some quarters.

What a pity that such an occasion could not be repeated all over the world!  What a pity that the heads of governments could not meet in a ball room and make advances towards a liaison of nations which might have led to a real peace!


Notes from a post-war diary begun in1920.

November 11, 1920 (Armistice Day). Inducted to Tarbat Parish Church, as assistant and successor to the Rev. Donald MacLeod (for 40 years minister of this parish), having been unanimously elected by the congregation (29 votes) after preaching for three Sundays in August (not as a candidate). Thus ends a six-year ministry in Kirkmaiden, the most southerly parish in Scotland, half of that period being spent on service in the War. Left Kirkmaiden with a good many regrets but with a good conscience, leaving the church there stronger than I found it, and having made many friendships and only a few enemies. Several reasons contributed to my acceptance of the call to Tarbat. For one, Kirkmaiden was a poor living (in the technical sense), and the cost of necessary things made living more difficult after the War. Then, I had taken a strong part in the Local Veto campaign (the enemies referred to were chiefly in the trade), and now that “No Change” has been carried, I am glad to be out of the parish. Over and above that my going to the War was not approved of by most of my flock (who made fortunes out of the high prices for farm products) and my return after the War made some of them uncomfortable. To be fair, I must add that when we were about to leave, those same complainers gave me a generous send-off, and there was no ill-feeling when it came to saying goodbye. My next visit to Kirkmaiden was to preside at the tercentenary celebrations of the church, along with no less than five successors in office, after I had broken the tradition of life-long ministries in that ancient parish.

In this Highland parish (I was with the Highland Division in France for two years) I have found a more congenial climate both physically and socially, and the warmth of the welcome I received confirms me in the hope of a very happy ministry in the north. I have found a number of 51st comrades here (mainly Seaforths and Ross-shire Buffs) and have already presided at a concert and dramatic entertainment, and have made my debut as a singer (not approved by my two colleagues of the U.F. and Free churches) but with some hope of reducing the divisions of our national church.

January 1, 1921:- Have made no good resolutions this New Year. I find I am too happily settled here to need much resolution, with nothing a year, but the prospect of £2 a day next year, and a wife far too good for me, contented and happy in her small kingdom (although not yet settled in our new manse – not a new house, and much in need of certain repairs before we take possession) and a five-year-old daughter not always so good but full of affection and beloved beyond words! Some people might think the life here dull, but I have found it, so far, packed full of interest, and time passing only too fast. Is it a sign of degeneracy or old age coming on [he was 35] that I can be so fully employed doing so little after the hectic war years? I cannot even find time for reading here! One resolve I have made, to devote at least one hour each day, or say six hours per week to reading, apart from newspapers and reports.

January 2: Preached today on “the rainbow in the cloud” (Gen. 9, 14). Wonder if my parable was just? The tender beauty of self-sacrifice and noble sorrow traversing the clouds of war as a sign of God’s mercy, and of hope for the world in the days to come? If His sunlight is refracted in our experience, may we not be assured that the end is Peace?


Monday, January 3: Have opposed the other ministers in the parish by countenancing a dance in the village: over a hundred bright young people, brim full of the joy of life, as free of guilt of evil thinking as their judges are void of charity. Glad to find that I am still young enough to join in the pleasures of music and movement. We have far too few of such wholesome gatherings. What a lot of wasted and misdirected energy a life may contain! Here am I, halfway to three-score and ten, and not much to show for it. Happy the man who can direct his share of the life-force into well defined channels! He is sure to achieve something lasting. But I find so many ways in which to expend energy and enthusiasm. Perhaps that too is destiny. As Robert Burns, in one of his saner moods, wrote to a friend: “While we must keep the end of our journey in view, there is much to interest one by the way.” True!

Wednesday, January 5: Battleships are now declared obsolete and too expensive at £7 million a time; but as so many jobs, ambitions and traditions will be lost if we scrap them, it is suggested that we build no more battleships! [The original diary has: ‘…build more battleships.’ which makes more sense in the context.] It will be very interesting to see if the old country can rise to such a revolution and show the rest how to disarm without loss of honour.

“Say not the struggle nought availeth,

The labour and the wounds are vain,

The enemy faints not, nor faileth,

And as thing have been they remain.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,

Seem here no painful inch to gain,

Far back, through creeks and inlets making,

Come silent, flooding in, the main.”

[Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819-61, The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse, p.327]

In some such fashion must we say our prayers and encourage one another in hope, even against hope, for the good time coming. The vision of a united Church in this parish, and of enthusiasm for union spreading through the country, came very clearly to me tonight. If we appeal to the people, especially the unchurched ones, in the proper way, the way Jesus did (if we are indeed members of His body) then the response would be irrepressible! Do not insist too much, as the early theologians did, on the divinity of our Lord, and so endanger that appeal to His humanity. I mean we put His superhuman side too much in the foreground, whereas Christ Himself hid His divinity, let His disciples find out for themselves, and only confess it at the supreme crisis.

Sunday, January 9: I became more and more convinced that lack of knowledge, and of understanding each other, is the cause of all discord, quarrelling and war. If only we would take the trouble to get to know each other properly (or even improperly) or at least keep in touch, not only officially but personally, there would be no excuse or opportunity for misunderstanding, division or strife. “Cognescentes pacem facemus” (I have to confess that I do not know the source of this wise dictum. Horace?)

Monday, 10: All revolutions have come from below: the barons ousted the King, the yeomen ousted the barons etc. But on the other hand all beneficent changes have come from above, have been born in the spirit of man and then realised in society (No contradiction here, but a solemn warning of what an educated proletariat may do; we already know what an uninformed mass can do and has done). Russia is an outstanding example.

Wednesday, 12: Strange that no poet has sung the praises of Bed (as such) Shakespeare leads in the praise of Sleep, gentle sleep, but Lady Macbeth’s eerie whispers “To bed, to bed” somehow spoils the tune: Night has been sung by Shelley and others, but who is to make famous that blessed thing, a Bed (naturally, for the purpose of sleep). Following that thought, I recollect (on this old New Years Day) that Burns’s only reference is to “beds of men where wealthy smoore” [are smothered] and is by no means laudatory. Yet he must often have been thankful, like his Cottar, to have his repose undisturbed by other contacts. Must make an ode to our nightly “compromise with our lately abandoned horizontal position” (racially speaking).

We seem to have got into a vicious circle of reprisals in Ireland, where the question of who started them is not only doubtful but unimportant. The main thing would seem to be how to break the vicious circle and open a door to any possible move towards reconciliation. Strange position to be in after a war to defend small nations! Is the New Age to come in through the Class War, or through the gentle persuasion of a Christian conscience, in our nation or in a League of Nations? Anyway the question appears to be no longer national but international, worldwide, and must be settled on a world wide basis. Who is to be the prime mover in its inauguration?

When earth, as on an evil dream looks back upon her wars,

And the white light of Christ (peace?) outstreams from the grey dusk of war,

The fame of him who faced the storm of battle well may cease,

But never that which crowns the man whose victory was peace.

So far, there are no claimants for that crown.

Sunday, January 16: The Church is the body of Christ: the risen Life is in that body alone. But can that, glorious and eternal, be so weak and ineffective, as some parts of the Church appear to be in their function of showing forth the Divine Life? Or are these organisations members of His body only in so far as they do so? The resurrection of the body would then acquire a new meaning – the indestructible continuing of the Church, or in the spirit of the good life in the world. Our death, in this context, is the taking up of our life (in so far as it has witnessed to eternal truth) into this Body or Life of God in the world. (St. Paul’s doctrine of the ‘corn of wheat’ seems to point in that direction). We dare not judge our fellow men, even in the case of heinous crime, because the motives of human action are so hidden, and one’s own point of view so variable, with change of environment, health, (even of temperament) that our judgement is almost sure to be wrong. Meantime we are in some danger of being misjudged. “Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul, May keep the path but will not reach the goal. While he who walks in love may wander far, Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.” Or as Oliver Cromwell put it: “A man never rises higher than when he knows not where he is going”. (He must have been a teetotaller or a bird). Likewise he who seeks peace, contentment and plenty in worldly things will be cheated of the real blessings of these things; but he who strives for a wider or higher aim finds what he did not seek for, even if his ideal remains unfulfilled. Not melody but harmony is the song of man. (At length he beats his music out. Temys in memoria). A more earthly poet wrote: “But yet the light that led astray was light from heaven”. Was Burns really an orthodox Calvinist in thus blaming God for his vagaries? Extremes meet even in Predestinationism and anti-nomianism, but ‘in medio tutissum ibis’. The curious fact that, of Burns’ most wayward and spiritual flights of genius, many were due to the unhealthy reactions of a body and brain unduly strained and abused. It makes one sceptical of “prudent, cautious self-control” as “wisdom’s root”. What about the leaf and blossom of airy crown or genius?

“Beauty is truth”, then the level of our taste must be the measure of our faith. To what startling conclusions those poets lead us, and when we try to translate their epigrams into logic. Fortunately, consistency is not demanded of us, else we might go far astray indeed. The man who never went astray never went anywhere.

January 24:  A belief in miracles is not so much a matter of philosophy or science or evidence as of temperament or the temper of the times. Where is Matthew Arnold blandly asserting that “miracles do not happen” Francis Thompson says: “Turn but a stone, and start a wing”. Yet they meant practically the same thing, differently perceived.

January 26: (aftermath of 25th). Prof Medley says that Robert Burns’ spontaneity was due to his adopting the familiar dialect, and his sincerity to his choice of homely subjects. Why not vice versa? Rather a materialistic way of accounting for his genius. Why not vice versa? We cannot explain away such a wayward genius as Burns was by the usual formulae of evolution. Not from below but from above come these angel visits of heavenly light; to explain Burns’ flights of fancy and of music by his physical condition and his misfortunes is simply to beg the question.

January 28: Last night I nearly spoiled a friendly gathering for song and recitation, because I was known to be superior both in musical matters and in knowledge of Burns. I was sorely tempted to hide my light under a tangle of mistakes, but instead I did my very best to appreciate the efforts of the others, and at the same time to show them something better. It succeeded, and I was thenceforth held to be No. 1 musician.

January 28: We are like stones in the bed of the river of life. Far back, up in the heights of infancy and youth, the rough chips of rock are tossed about and down the narrow, steep channel of the stream, having their sharp, ugly corners chopped off, and becoming round and smooth. The further on we go, the less we are affected by the other stones around us, and the finer we become. How much do we lose in this process, and what do we gain in recompense for loss of individual distinction?

January 30: Black diamonds and clear. We have this choice, in this world, of being a precious stone or being a useful lump of coal. Both come out of the dark underworld, and each has its purpose, either to glitter and delight, a beautiful, hard, and unchanging jewel, or to be consumed in warming cold hearts, a glowing and transformed servant of man. The Psalmist wisely lets the sparrows of the world make their nests in the holy place as well as the swallows. But in the gospel Martha is rebuked for her down-to-earth busyness and Mary confirmed in her indolence. The elder son, industrious and blameless, takes second place to the prodigal, loose and lost and profitless, but repentant. One sinner saved against an army of steady plodders who need no repentance. What becomes of all our utilitarian morality in face of this transcendental nonsense? Truly the children of this world are wiser in their own sphere than the children of light, the dilemma of worldly and other-worldly still remains unresolved. There must be a final solution sometime, somewhere – or perhaps only in the timeless sphere of eternal verities.

February 2: The scholar, well equipped to meet the demands of the new age (no capitals) is like a gentleman displaying “things new and old” from among his heirlooms. So our Lord visualises the preacher’s task: prophetic yet traditional, faithful to the old, yet wonderfully new, the gospel of the kingdom preserves what is essential in the old order while reinterpreting it in terms of the present and the future. The passing of the old order, the coming of the new, afford much scope for reflection, for humour and pathos, but not for despair or for too much regret. For every age must have its institutions, creeds and forms. These are the milestones marking our way towards the goal of life, but they are not Truth in themselves. They embody for a time such truth as we can grasp, but the spirit of man must continually find a new and better medium of expression. The difficulty is to know when a dogma in church or constitution has served its term. Securus judicat orbis terrarium [The verdict of the world is conclusive – St Augustine (Routledge’s Dict. of Latin Quot’ns)].

Ibsen has some wise words on this:

“Ere yet the radiant firelight blazes,

Throw not the taper on the ground,

Nor blot the antiquated phrases

Until the great new words be found.”

It needs a truly creative mind (like Christ’s) to show how dead the old law has become, and to revive it with the great new words. One rule may serve to guide us here: when we have truly understood and fully explained the old forms, it is time to discard them and adopt the new. Mere negation is futile, and even our attempts at reconstruction may leave out something essential, then the old ruins will arise again and condemn us, and there is endless waste. Why this haste to abandon the old ways and launch out on the unknown paths? Why not be content to follow the old ways and to understand as we go? What is unfit to survive will drop off dead without our interference. To us the customs and beliefs of a thousand years ago appear savage and uncouth, even ludicrous. To the men of that age, fine, noble, solemn, appropriate. No doubt our customs and legislation, our creeds and classics would seem just as ludicrous to one reawakening from sleep of a thousand years. There is a constant factor in human progress, not merely concatenation or apostolic succession by the laying on of hands, but a surviving spirit, identical but not unchanged, a growing up of Man. History repeats itself, not in a flat circle of change but in a spiral ascent, or as a wheel revolving along a country road, with many familiar and similar turns and scenes, yet discovering fresh points of interest and of profit. The same wheel comes full circle time and again but somehow further on the way, past milestones and inns and churchyards, the road here rising on a slow, steep hill, then falling sharply again to a lower level, but ever recovering and advancing. Do not ask if the end is worth the trouble. You have no choice but to go on.

February 8: Human life is like a stream, beginning on high among the misty peaks and cloudy skies, trickling down the hillside in shadow and sun, over hard rocks and through leafy woods. Individual lives are like the chips of rock in the channel, rolled together, bruised and rubbed round and smooth, and carried along past familiar landmarks and through deep pools, and over many a fall. They become smaller and smoother, but more goodly to see and pleasanter to touch, and as the stream grows deeper and wider, becoming calmer, broader as it reaches the meadow and open land, more stately and peaceful as it moves towards the ocean at last. “Life like a torrent flung for ever down, for ever wears a rainbow for a crown.”

February 12: The Mull of Galloway, lone sentry of the south, keeping outpost watch and ward, lest the foe, with foaming mouth might engulf the land you guard. In your silent stand of old, could you tell what you have seen, what is lost to clerk or bard, you might many a tale unfold from behind oblivions screen, in the blurred and blotted pages of all dark and dismal ages, of the dead days that have been.

February 14. “What is the cause of all these railway accidents Bill?” Bill (agin the Government): “It’s that there Collision government of course.” A young swell, very proud of his ancestry, was showing his plebeian friend his ancestral chart, which led back to the Conqueror. The friend, little impressed, retorted: “I have a much more lineage than that”, and he took his astonished patrician to his garden, where a tropical tree, the jaunt of monkeys, stood. “There”, said he “is my family tree.” But in one case it was indeed a descent, in the other it was an ascent, culturally speaking. Even if the Darwinian dogma be accepted, it seems that Adam in his nakedness had certain advantages over his recent progeny. Climbing trees today is a juvenile and sometimes destructive pastime, whereas in the beginning it was the natural and necessary way of getting home from business.

February 12 [sic]: Happiness has no necessary connection with worldly success or honour, nor for that matter with inward satisfaction of integrity or truth. But it lies in the sense of achievement, in the feeling of freedom, even if that achievement be [crossed out and lies inserted] in self-sacrifice and the freedom be illusory. “The heart’s aye the part aye that mak’s us right or wrang” [? Writing unclear here].

I am on the edge of a decision, to seek or not to seek publication. [The original diary has a similar comment.] The thought that I am writing out of vanity or a desire to gain repute pulls me to one side, while the reflexion that I am giving of my best for the world to appraise and to reward accordingly, urges me to try at least. But first a revision of matter. How easily we flatter ourselves: if I had the gift of reading my own stuff disinterestedly as another would read it, I might perceive it to be mediocre or mere trash. But reading it myself has confirmed me in the belief that it is worth printing. Publication will soon reveal the truth, but will I be any the wiser?

February 20. Historical criticism, the unfortunate name given to literary research, usually ends in the vindication, as genuine, of what had been approved already or long ago. Is it therefore needless? By no means. At least we learn the reasons for our appreciation and can better defend our taste. … Our distrust of new movements and ideas is largely one of our lack of zeal in studying the past. History repeats itself in a spiral progression (so does this diary), and each completed cycle of change should inspire us with confidence in the future. In any case our hanging back is futile and foolish. But what of revolutions, those rapid and Niagaras of the River of Life? Even these are only the adjusting of the rough rule of evolution, arrears of progress suddenly paid up. From whatever point of view, the spiral at some point vanishes, but it is there all the time, invisible, and is continuous. I find that these crude notes, however futile or childish in themselves, are a help to my thoughts on any subject, like thinking aloud or listening to one’s own voice on a gramophone record. There is nothing like fixing the fluid matter of thought.

February 24: The Blind Ploughman. (These borrowings are a substitute for thinking).

“Set my hand upon the plough, My feet upon the sod,

Turn my face towards the east,        And praise be to God!

Every year the rains do fall, The seeds do swell and spring.

Every year the spreading trees         Shelter birds that sing!”

“From the shelter of your heart, Brother drive out sin.

Let the little birds of faith Come and nest therein.

God who made his sun to shine       On both you and me

God who took away my eyes, That my soul might see!”

Quo vadis?

Peter, out worn and menaced by the sword,

Shook off the dust of Rome, and as he fled,

Met One, with eager face, hastening cityward,

And to his vast amaze, it was the Lord!

‘Where goest thou Lord’ he cried importunate,

The Lord replied, ‘Peter, I suffer loss.

I go to take thy place, to bear thy cross’.

Then Peter, there at his master’s feet

Found grace and strength complete,

And turned with his Lord, — to death.

So we, when wearied of Life’s Load,

Are fain to cast our load on Christ our Lord.”

February 25: The timeless Cross.

Thou, First and Last, the End and the Beginning,

Ere earth was made, or Time began to be,

Thou tookest pity on Thy creatures, sinning,

And plantedest, in Thy thought, the sacred Tree.

Then, when the Time has its ripe fulfilling,

Thou camest down, our human dress to wear,

Flesh of our flesh, to be a Victim willing,

The world’s sad sin upon Thy cross to bear.

No chains of force to Thy rude altar bound Thee,

Only the cords of everlasting love.

And when the powers of darkness gathered round thee,

Thou wouldst not call Thy legions from above.

In the solitude of anguish Thou didst suffer

The anguish of a God-forsaken soul.

Rough was the way, and scarcely could be rougher,

Thy pierced feet pressed on to reach the goal.

O timeless Cross: so darkly set and gory

With its blood-ransom for a world of sin,

O timeless Cross! set in eternal glory,

The Love that made our heaven, and calls us in.

O sacred Tree, all lit and ever burning,

With holy Love and sin-consuming flame,

The Love that satisfies my heart’s deep yearning,

And whispers to me, “Jesus is my name!”

March 4: A Dead Letter. Does a truth cease to be true when it is committed to writing? There is something to be said for this paradox. We speak of a “dead cert(ainty)”, and it looks as if the only truly defined facts were dead, for all practical purposes. Harnack says that to write the history of dogma is to write its epitaph; so, to keep the faith once delivered by the saints must mean to embalm it, and to preserve the letter in spirit (liquid? Joke) instead of preserving the spirit of the law! Why did our Lord refrain from writing – except when he wrote in the dust these sphinx-like words that no one saw? He knew that the word must perish so that the Word might live. Each generation or age spells out a new word of the endless sentence of Truth. We catch an echo of last years (age’s) word, but must translate it into our own tongue, and even as we utter it, it trails off into a dying sound, and we feel that we have spoken but half the truth, nay, only an infinitesimal fragment of the infinite affirmation. Each truth (expressed) is like a milestone by the way, marking our progress, not a resting place, not an end of journeying, but as the day passes on to evening we tend more and more to rest by the wayside, and at last build our everlasting habitation, or are built into it, whence we look back on our pilgrimage, or else just forget it. Is that the end of it all? Is it worth while, then, to write down these tentative steps, footprints on the sands of time? At best they can only become literary “remains”, the malodorous refuse of dead vegetation, the cooling lava of an extinct volcano, if even that. Yet they say there are everlasting writers. How have they attained? Is such immortality due to some glimpse of the ultimate peaks of truth, beauty and goodness – and perchance something beyond these? Have they heard an echo of the timeless harmonies of the spheres: are there constant elements in our life?

March 9: I GIVE IT UP FOR TODAY. [This is the comment he also wrote in his diary for March 9]

March 12: Perhaps we must keep sloughing off these “old clothes” of spirit as we grow and decay and die, and perhaps our dying is just a big change of clothes! (“Like as the master layeth his worn robes away, And taking new ones, sayeth: ‘These I shall ware today.’ So layeth by the spirit lightly its garb of flesh, and passeth to inherit a residence afresh.”) Perhaps, perhaps not: but a dogma which has survived so many changes: there must be SOMETHING in it! (Some verses by R.L. Stevenson have turned up pat, a propos of this subject):

“Though he that, ever kind and true, kept stoutly step by step with you, Your whole long, gusty lifetime through, be gone a while before, Yet doubt not, soon the season shall restore Your friend to you. He hath but turned a corner, still he pushes on with right good will, Through mire and marsh, by heugh [steep sided valley] and hill, The self-same arduous way that he and you, through many a doubtful day, attempted still. He is not dead, this friend, not dead, but on some road, by mortal tread, Got some few trifling steps ahead, and nearer to the end, So that you too, once past the bend, shall meet again, as face to face, this friend you fancied dead. Push gaily on, brave heart, the while you travel forward,  mile by mile, he loiters, with a backward smile, till you can overtake, and strains his eyes to search his wake, or, whistling as he sees you through the brake, waits on a stile.”

(or this, of Lady Margaret Sackville’s):

“Let neither faun nor saint reprove others for different ways of Love, Life and delight. There’s room for wing and feet, for wine and water-springs, for things that walk, and things that dance, For Iceland – and the south of France, For lakes and village pump, and sea, For you, but also room for me, so long as daisies don’t complain. The whole world is not a daisy chain, or floating tropic birds condemn to ridicule the sober hen!”

This anti-climax is accidental – or is it? You may differ. “Life, like a torrent flung for ever down For ever wears a rainbow for a crown.”

March 20: The Man with the Magnifying Glass.

I don’t know whether it is a good or bad thing, but most people are prone to exaggerate the importance of the facts of life (that phrase hadn’t then the technical meaning it now has). Certainly one is not attracted to those individuals, happily few, who look through the glass from the wrong end, thus deprecating and belittling things and people. Nor is the man who is painfully accurate in all his ways and sayings an entirely likeable person. But for the most part, people like to throw a haze or romance around the crude facts, I incline to think that such amplification of statement, if wisely controlled and directed, may prove quite a wholesome and helpful thing. The man with the magnifying glass can be a “rale divert” among the children of this world, provided he doesn’t concentrate on the ugly and selfish aspects of life.

March 25: He glorifies a simple daisy till it assumes the royal gold and ermine. He reveals wonderful beauties and amazing delicacies in common weeds. Even the nasty nettle shows a marvellously intricate mechanism. So in the human sphere, a little sympathetic imagination transforms a humble, humdrum life into a pageant of royal quality, nay, into a solemn service of divine worship. A simple unconsidered word of cheer or a smile of friendliness, a helping hand of comradeship, what a miracle of human aid these can become under the magnifying glass of charitable understanding. Let not the careful moralist protest that this is just playing fast and loose with truth. What is truth, if divorced from human welfare and brotherly kindness? It becomes a distorted, hostile, even deadly force. What is that divine gift by which preachers hold their hearers and inspire them to new effort, aspiration and holy, tender feelings for others? Plainly stated, it is the power of exaggeration, the magnifying glass of Christian faith. Of course, that gift is often abused. The glass is turned on to undesirable objects of spite, hate, cruel, selfish, proud and ignorant aspects of character, and your cynic proves triumphantly that both good and ill may be magnified indefinitely and indiscriminately.

March 28: Even so, why not ignore the dismal things, turn your back on them, use the glass for helping and making happy? Evidently we must control this instrument, directing it wisely on the objects we wish to increase, desirable, that is to say for all? If we choose to ignore or neglect the powers of choice and selection given to us from above or from below, if you prefer it that way, then we can only have ourselves to thank, if the evil things overshadow all! Even then kindly understanding helps! “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.” Though scarcely borne out by textual analysis, there is a rendering of this familiar messianic text that may prove illuminating. Christ, by the knowledge of human nature that he gained on earth (Which knowledge, before his incarnation He did not possess!), by the sympathy He feels for sinners, may justify many who are condemned by others, less enlightened, the victim of heredity, of circumstances, the passionate sinner, the social outcast, He may acquit [? before] in face of their earthly judges. Again, by His knowledge of (the power of sin in the souls of men) of what men may become, of what repentance and new obedience they are capable, Christ justifies many, and by His faith in so doing, may actually redeem them. (This is humanist doctrine of an orthodox kind, perhaps).

April 5: Edward Irving, a famous predecessor of mine, assistant to Dr Chalmers of St Johns, was condemned by his Presbytery for just such statements. [This first sentence does not of course appear in the original diary – he was called to St Johns in 1930.] But they are to be excused for the age they lived in (1822). Ordinances transmitted from the past lose their identity and force when applied on a vastly larger and more intricate scale. They need to be developed along with the society they serve. Above all they need to be applied temperately, so that individuals belonging to the van of the movement should not be permitted, for purposes of private gain and influence, to accept offices and emoluments attached to faiths of yesterday (aeonically speaking / ages). Those who have passed on to the enlightenment of today do wrong when they attempt to offer traditional services for traditional pay and position. They give inferior value for what they receive, and they supplant those who could give what the pay was intended to secure. Further, they impair the deficiency of their own doctrine and example by yielding lip service to what they have left behind, what they feel to be effete but have not the courage to abandon. Aristotle commends authentikos, the man who is always himself, truthful in word and deed, authentic in his speech and in his life, because that is his true character.

April 8: These brave words, by Archibald Weir (Hibbert Journal, April 1914) bear strongly on my book (unpublished) “A Padre’s Pilgrimage”. Often had I hesitated, putting off my licensing for a year or more, in order to get the advantage of a new formula to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Had I the right to preach in a Christian church, to accept salary, to perform sacraments, while I could honestly say “I believe in all these things literally”, or even symbolically: Eventually I gave my consent under the new and vague formula, with many mental reservations and private interpretations. I then saw the folly of waiting to get that unfair advantage, I say unfair advisedly, for the mass of the people to whom I would in due time have to minister would have no idea of the special sense of which I understood these things; and my duty as a minister would be to interpret, voice their prayers, and lead their worship: But on the other hand, was it not my duty also to teach, to interpret in modern terms these ancient dogmas? Was it not just because I must be true to myself and to my lights, dim perhaps but my own, that I must accept this office, not of a faith of yesterday but out of an immortal faith living through all changes of form and dogma, yesterday, today and tomorrow the same, the faith once and for all time delivered to the saints not in metaphysical or philosophical tenets but in moral and spiritual inspirations. Thus I find myself defending my bread and butter in the approved fashion! And I am ready to do so before any Church court or House of Lords, spiritual or regal. To be sure I have difficulties at times, grave difficulties, in framing a service of worship, yes I often have misgivings that I may be misleading some and perplexing others, but I am ready to meet them. Nay I seek them out and say to them, I too am troubled, but I can [do] no other. I say, this is true, isn’t it: And that – well, we cannot prove it, but don’t you wish it were truer. “What think ye of Christ, friend?” When all is said and done, like you this Christianity or not? It may be false but do you wish it true? Has it your vote if it can? Yes , we both wish it so. “Then let us pray, etc.” But how far is one entitled to alter the formula of belief, or to change the expression of the Faith? It is not a question of title, or right, or choice. It is a bounden duty to alter and cancel and expand and develop to the very utmost of our knowledge. We must be in the van of the movement to adapt our faith’s expression in doctrine, in form and in conduct to the best knowledge and widest culture of the time. Who are to be the judges of the fitness or unfitness for the ministry? What authority has a conclave of Westminster divines, three hundred years ago, compared to the living witness of the spirit in a twentieth century believer? What norm can an assembly of twentieth century ministers in Edinburgh apply to these matters, save the crucial test of truth to the fact and to the living force of goodwill? Granted that learned divines can convict one of heresy or ‘divisive courses’, are those pundits qualified to judge? Do they represent the most enlightened power in the Church today? Are they the true leaders in good living, true thinking, and right feeling? It would take a very courageous and determined fanatic for orthodoxy to say that a man who is earnestly preaching the truth as he knows it, and living a good life (not necessarily an ascetic one) should be put out of his charge, while scores of others, droning their traditional shibboleth, week in week out, are emptying their churches or hearers minds, are allowed to remain in possession because they have maintained their hold on an orthodoxy with which their hearers are frankly impatient. Have they any right to those privileges or emoluments which they enjoy so prolifically? Fortunately one is not usually molested in the exercise of ministerial duties by the restraints of the central authority unless there is a very decided ill-feeling in the parish. If the pastor is wise and not too impatient with the slowness of his peoples understanding, nor too violent in his presentation of the modern version of things, there is but little danger of any action being taken by the mandarins. The Church of Scotland has always been more anxious that its ministers should be good men, morally speaking than that they should be religious enthusiasts. Am I then a good man? I fear this standard is hardly fair, since the Publican was justified rather than the Pharisee. But I claim the publican’s merit, even if I become a “Pharican”. I desire with all my soul to be open to every good influence, to feel the good towering above me, and the better looming beyond, with all the shadow of the best weighing down my soul to utter humility and the fear of God above. I am willing to confess the worst accusations of pride, stubbornness, blindness, waywardness, in order to become a good man. “Whoever aspires unweariedly is not beyond redemption”. But it is this very pride of humility, this very dogmatism of open-mindedness, that forbids me to close my heart to those new, fresh presentations of God’s word. I dare not because of the fear of Him which is the beginning of wisdom. I dare not refuse to admit new light. I simply cannot deny the call of the spirit, but must follow the Gleam, whether it leads me back to Pentecost or over the hill and far away to Rome or to Utopia; yet all the time it bids to stay at home. This is the everlasting dilemma of the pilgrim.

April 8: There is a point which has just occurred to me (in 1921!) in the discussion above on Christology. When he was challenged to say if He was the Son of God, He either was silent or said: “Thou sayest it”. He was unwilling to assent to the people’s demand for a definite statement as to His divinity. Was this because the avowal would have involved an antithesis between God-head and manhood which was to Him meaningless? Did He regard our distinction between God and man as wrong or illusory? Were divinity and humanity one to Him. They were one in Him according to His own admission. “They that have seen me have seen the Father.” I and the Father are one, I am in the Father and the Father in me; according to St. John.

April 28: But, if we carry this out logically, then either “God” or “Man” should disappear from our theology; and obviously “God” is the one that must go, though we have  heard of those who would prefer to wipe out the human race. What would God do without us? So we are landed in pure humanism, with Christ as its apostle, or else in abject Christology (we prefer not to think of the other alternative). If indeed we find Him an all-sufficient Saviour in our life, then He is our only God, and Him alone do we worship. (In fact a recent theologian has actually suggested that this is right). If we regard Him as prophet, leader, supreme example, then we render Him due homage and we have no one left to worship or pray to! The Church is plainly out-of-date: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”. Strange that wisdom should find its beginning in fear (or awe) whereas one would have thought that it was necessary to be emancipated from fear in order to become wise, indeed the wisdom of today is based on the rout of fear in the mind of man. The fear of death remains, but even that is accounted folly, born of anticipation, traditional dread, instinctive repulsion from the destruction of the body. The fear of misery has been revived in late years, but with the return of normal conditions of living, security has returned to most people, and anyhow fear for the morrow and its needs is by no means wise in any religious sense. But “the fear of God?” what is it? Not the primitive dread of the ancients, fear of the Giant Superman, terrible and unpredictable, unscrupulous and vindictive, pitiless towards the weakness of men. Not fear of a Last Judgement Day, nor of a Hell of torment in the orthodox sense. Fear of God, of what God is, fear of Truth, or Beauty, of Goodness, of Love. As some stupendous scene of transcendent beauty – Grand Canyon, Matterhorn, Everest, Rheims Cathedral, strikes awe to the soul that is open to such vast realities: as the intricacies of some minute form of life, under the microscope, make one dumb with wonder, as the hush of summer eve burdens the heart with indefinable but oppressive yearning: such are the beginnings of the sense of Infinite Deity.

Fear of that which is Above, Beyond and Around us, of truth, beauty and goodness, unattainable yet ever to be striven after, such is the fear of God, the beginning of wisdom. By humility, and the fear of the Lord are riches, honour and life, three ascending steps to His throne. Is not this enough? It is a good beginning, yes!

May 6: “How should I your true love know from another one? By his cockle hat and staff, and his sandal shoon.” Shakespeare’s fancy would seem to make a good motto for my book, “A Padre’s Pilgrimage” (which, alas, has been scrapped for a more realistic story, “A Padre with the Highland Division”) for private circulation only. The Pilgrimage was a sort of Odyssey of the mind, a voyage not from doubt to faith or vice versa, but a journey between agnosticism and credulity, Scylla and Charybdis of the soul, and of seeking to resist the siren voices of a settled faith, offering peace and happiness, but really luring to shipwreck and destruction whence some might survive in order to ‘rates reficiere quaocm’, and beastly compromise for the sake of mere existence; on the other hand seeking to avoid being cast into the whirlpool of doubt, the vicious circle of scepticism, and the endless harrowing negotiations of criticism, ending in the downward plunge into the vortex of despair leading to a subterranean, or sub marine, existence with the shipwrecks and the coral caves, all equally ghastly. (Here the diarist verges on the fantastic and incredible. Editor). But is there such a via media, avoiding the dangers on either side? Is it not too much like a tight rope, or a Mahomet’s bridge, with razor edge… or perhaps a desultory riding of alternate steeds in the circus, jumping from the black to the white and back again, as the vicissitudes of the ring allow: a dangerous occupation. And yet if one is to minister to the various spiritual needs of all sorts and conditions of men, young and old and in between, learned and unlettered, labourer and leisured, rich and poor, celibate and patriarch, Madonna and maiden, child and sage, one would require to have as many soul-sides as would stagger even Robert Browning. Here is the elder of the people, for whom all questions were long ago settled, and here the open-eyed young seeker for whom all questions are open, and not to be closed by an ipse dixit or scriptum est. And here is the doctor, to whom physical conditions and changes seem sufficient to explain everything. And here is the dreamer to whom the body is an insubstantial swathing of the spirit in action. No tradition of authority or opinion of the first century or of the seventeenth can suffice to feed these hungering souls, while ‘wait and see’ is too vague a formula to provide fifty two sermons a year. How then is one to catch the whisper of the eternal word, as it wings its way on the passing breeze? How echo the peculiar note of the Angel’s trumpet, at every passing hour different? Nothing but humble serious devotion to the self of today, rooted in an eternity of yesterdays and shooting up into an infinite sky streaked with tomorrow’s endless dawning. This ever-faithful, ever-aloft attitude can alone suffice, if I am to be worthy of my calling. And what a calling. An ancient foundation, and an ever-upward call. What a task! I must pray. “Spirit of life, lead me into all truth, that I may keep the faith once delivered to the saints”.

May 20: Pentecost, a new birth for the world out of the death of its best God-man. Mors janua vitae, the true resurrection of our Lord. His risen body is still growing, though far from perfect, growing not so much in numbers and in developed organisation as in power of loving among mankind, growing, not so much in numbers or in developed organisation as in this same  power of love. (This was written before the second war.) The relativity of time  (and consequently of space) needs no Professor Einstein to demonstrate, when one compares the very different standards in town and country. Living in the Highlands, one is impressed with their deliberate, unhurried ways and the steady, leisurely outlook of the natives. Haste is a scandal, a mark of weak character or unworthy motive. The five-minute call, with its torrent of conversation on all the topics of the hour, gives place to the two-hour visit, with a long pause between each two items, accompanied by appropriate reflexions of a moral nature. A long silence is not an awkward pause but a time of rumination on what has been said. There is an unwillingness to hasten or finish any undertaking, perhaps because undertakings are welcome diversions and not to be lost too soon, a leisureliness that may horrify the city workman to whom time is money. A war memorial that takes three years to erect, all the better, for once it is erected a new subject of interest and conversation must be found. Besides, circumstances might arise to render all the work and despatch of no value. Reforms have to be discussed by one generation and carried out by the next or next again, and in this there is wisdom. Your social worker, with his terribly urgent programme, is apt to make a mess of things by causing abortive legislation; or as Jerome puts it, forcing Nature’s children prematurely from the womb of time. “Why worry and lose ones serenity in order to advance the comfort of mankind a pennyworth.” They will only demand more tomorrow. Why not learn from the patience of Him to whom a thousand years are but a day. His methods are painfully slow but they are eternally sure. So render unto Caesar and unto God. Granted that rebellion and political revolution have pushed the chariot forward a bit. The road is very long, and posterity, starting from where you left off, will regard your wonderful reforms as anachronism and their wrongs to be righted. Is progress, then, not worth striving for, praying for, dying for? Yes, but let us do these things in faith, not in passion or rage or fanatical extravagance of mis-martyrdom. The power that rules in the changing affairs of men and in their changing standards of living, is not the power of compelling authority, of Parliament, of public opinion, or of military, legal or social wrath, but the power to serve the meek of the earth, the unseen, leaven-like persuasion of grace, pervading our life by its gentle persistence, rendering wrong intolerable, raising the norm of beauty, order, fine perception, and liberty of action. Let us wait upon this influence, fretting ourselves neither to hasten nor resist its sure, steady movement, of humanity towards higher, wider, more mature and solider levels of living. (Looking back on this after two world wars, its optimism is scarcely justified, but the general tendency towards wider, higher and solider levels of living does continue, with set backs and even backward phases due to the atavistic instincts that survive and cast us into all sorts of conflicts.) Don’t lose sight of the marvellous beauty and contentment, even happiness, in the world, by magnifying its wrongs, its sufferings and its vices which continue to dog our steps. It is a far journey to the Fair City. Do not weary yourself at the first mile or two! See what a mess Russia has made in her haste to rid the world of all evil! She may emerge better and purer, if not stronger from the furnace of destruction. But could she not have attained that better state as soon and as easily without all that evil welter of revolution? She no doubt blames the stubborn nationalism of Europe, their childish fears of the great world people which Russia seeks as her Commonwealth. But there it is. We are not yet ready for cosmopolitan communism, and communism in one country alone must fail, even in a self-supporting country. Caesar will have his dues, even in our generation; and it is better for us to render them, be content to keep our hands clean and our hearts free of malice and strife. The New World will come when its hour strikes on the Great Clock of which our planet is only the pendulum, if even that. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” “Stand still and see salvation of the Lord.” “If you don’t know where to turn, don’t turn.” Who said that? “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” “Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and listen to the Word of command.”

June 1: On a Sunday morning (in the spring of 1919) I went to the Academy of Song in Berlin, to hear old German music. One number of the programme, “A Scottish Ballad of a lost battle, proved to be a translation of Jean Elliot’s “The Flowers of the Forrest” sung to the plaintive traditional air (almost as old as Flodden itself) with the thin, far-away accompaniment of the lute and spinet, music’s most noble expression of a nation’s sorrow. “It was like an echo from the lost battles and lost beauty of all time. With bowed head and tear-filled eyes men and women sat silent long after the last heart-rending refrain had died away.” (From Mr. George Young’s “The New Germany”). Strange that this old “Lament After Flodden” should be used to express the defeat which the Scottish regiments did so much to inflict.

June 6: In Kirkmaiden Parish Church there hangs a triangular board like the stern (sheets) or bow piece of a small boat, with these words roughly carved in relief: “LORD MAK ME TO HEIR FAITH AND PRACTICE IN LOVE THY HOLY COMADIMENTS THOU ART MY ONLY SUPOIRT. GOD MAK ME THANKFUL”. Over the prayer are the letters: “P. Adr”, supposed to be an abbreviation for Patrick Adair, probably a sea captain and laird of Maryport, with two red hands and a dog’s head, and underneath the date: 1615. Truly a pious mariner! In Tarbat parish church there is a flat tomb stone with the inscription: “Death is no loss, but rather gain, For we by dying life attain.” The date is 1665. Near it is the grave of “twa honourable persons, Maister John Munro, minister of the parish of Tarbat, and his spouse, Christiane Urquhart Ob. 1625. The tombstone lies north and south, whereas all the others are buried east and west, facing east. Evidently the minister didn’t require to be placed so as to see the rising of the Sun of Resurrection. Well done, Tarbat!

June 8: Today the writer has reached the halfway house of man’s pilgrimage, or the apex of the allotted span, or half-seas over the voyage of life, whichever pleases you best! None of them please me, for the unpleasant fact that I am 35 years old – half of three score and ten – with no hope of a reprieve “by reason of strength”, is a fact. (The writer is now 81 past.) Looking back over those 35 years (only in fairness I must leave out the first five, of which I have some very faint recollections) is like looking at a picture one has been labouring at for a long time, beginning to draw a castle or horse or ship, rubbing out, adding details, making it a landscape, or a crazy design, a decorative panel, a very amateurish piece of work, without any very definite aim, rather with many changing ideas, each erased in turn by changing circumstances, and attitudes to life. Strange to say the War, which should have, I suppose, cancelled all that went before, has perhaps made less change for all its five years, than any half-decade before it. It might have made a mighty difference, and it is funny to think that, a score of times an infinitesimal difference of position and direction, and once a fraction of a degree of temperature would have saved the reader all this trouble! How easily we forget that every year, every day and hour that we live now is a gift from the gods, an extra spell that we had no right to ask for, something quite gratuitous. Is that the reason why so many people are so prodigal of this after-war time, and care not to return to the humdrum, workaday world of pre-war days? They had given up their lives, virtually, and now that fate or Providence or chance has thrown in their laps the unexpected boon of years to burn, they cannot take them seriously? Or is it that they scorn to make mercenary profit of such a donum divum? Wordsworth said: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting”, but also “dying is but another way of being born into another world”. These words came out haphazard in an address to children on “Consider the lilies, how they grow”. Pointing out the wonder of resurrection in the Spring after Autumn’s funeral rites, how where a violet dies a violet came again and where primroses faded primroses come again, daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses never lose their personality, with nothing to show for this continuity but roots and bulbs, as unlike the flowers as could be. Let not biology rob us of the wonder of creation! I told the story of Miriam’s flowers and of a modern Miriam’s dream, ending in the moral which our Lord drew from the text: “Don’t worry about your soul, take no thought for your life”, meaning that God could clothe us with more glorious bodies than the flowers, in this great spring-time of resurrection after the winter time of waiting in the soil. Then came the words that I quoted at the head of this paragraph. Just another and simpler way of saying, mors jauna vitae [death is the gate of life (Routledge Dict. of Latin Quot’ns.)]. Another version of this trite old truth I found cut into an old flat tombstone (1662) in the old churchyard of Tarbat Parish Church, thus: “Death is no loss, but rather gain, for we by dying life attain.” And the daisies in the grass surrounding the tombstone coming up afresh every Eastertide, whisper softly of truth, not a great Perhaps but an exultant and indefeasible CERTAINTY.

June 24: A sad and cynical pre-judgement of the approaching Disarmament Conference at Washington is the “pressing reason”, gravely published by the Admiralty, for hastening the fixing of contracts for four new battle-cruisers, namely that the First Lord has shortly to go to Washington as a delegate!

June 25: The reason why “the beauty of holiness” is such an empty phrase to us is that people cannot see above their own level, and that we have not tried to realise  its complimentary truth, the holiness of beauty. All beauty is sacred; only its abuse or disease is evil. The real personal equation is that people cannot see above their own level. They cannot be expected to attribute to others motives which are above themselves. They judge other people by the only norm of conduct or of ideals, possible to them, and so sadly misjudge or sadly misunderstand them at times. But do they give more generous judgement to their inferiors? I fear not.

Thus rather abruptly does this diary end. At that point, at the end of June 1921, I was visited by a former 51st Division colonel, telling me that because of the strike in the Scottish pits, and the fear or danger of the men attacking the pits and machinery, that a Defence Force had been formed of ex-service men to man the pits, especially in Fife, and prevent any serious damage. He asked if any former commissioned service men were available. I could only think of the schoolmaster, who could not get away from his school, and then he asked me if I could leave my parish for a week or two, I agreed and spent six leisurely weeks in Fife, talking to the miners at the pit-heads and playing cards to pass the time. No harm was done to anything, and I returned to Tarbat, to be called some years later to the same Fife district as minister of Cowdenbeath Parish Church..


A note of the dates of the main events in the life of the Rev. James MacMorland.

On the basis of information derived from the notes that he left, official documents  and from various family sources it is possible to construct the following life history for him.

He was born at the Straiton Schoolhouse on 8 Jun. 1886.

He attended his father’s school there till he was seventeen and went from the village school directly to Glasgow University where he studied divinity.

He graduated with an M.A. in1906 and with a B.D. in 1909. In

1910 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Ayr and became Assistant at Larbert and Dunipace from 1911 to 1913.

He was ordained and induced to St. Margaret’s, Tollsross, Glasgow by the Presbytery of Glasgow in Aug. 1913.

He was called to serve at Kirkmaiden Parish Church on 11 Mar. 1915 and was inducted in April.

On 18 June 1915 he married Bethia Dickson.

He joined the army on 10 Dec. of the same year.

His first daughter Marion was born 6 May 1916 and he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a private rising to lance corporal at Aldershot in June 1916 and was sent out to Salonica, Greece in Jul./Aug. 1916 and was invalided home with malaria in Apr. 1917.

He was appointed a chaplain in the army on 1 Jun. 1917 and served in France with the 51st Highland Division form Oct. to Nov. 1917 and was home again from Dec. 1917 to Jun. 1918.

He went back to France from Jun. to Nov. 1918 and was mentioned in dispatches in Jul. 1918.

He was demobilised on 27 Mar. 1919 and returned to Kirkmaiden Parish where in all he spent six years.

From there he was called to Tarbat Parish Church on 13 Sep. 1920 and translated in Oct.

His second daughter, Agnes was born on 14 July 1923.

He moved to Cowdenbeath in Mar. 1927 and from there was called to St. John’s, Glasgow on 18 May 1930.

He visited Czechoslovakia in 1928 and Geneva in 1938.

His daughter, Marion, died on 13 November 1962 and his wife Bethia on 16 October 1965.

He retired from St. John’s in 1968 and moved to live with Agnes in Crawley where he died on 16 Apr. 1975 aged three months short of 89.

His body was cremated and the ashes buried in Straiton Cemetry.


The box of papers that I inherited from Agnes and Beth contained more than the notes that have been transcribed into this document. Below is a list of all the papers contained in it with a description of their contents.

A type written sheet of 10 items which looks like a first attempt at an index. It seems to show that there were originally more pages of notes than were passed on to me – probably second copies.

  1. A cylinder containing rolled up pages with lists of people inviting J.M. to be their pastor. These may be of genealogical interest to people living in the parishes to which they relate. The invitations came from the following parishes on the dates noted:
  • Margaret’s Chapel, Tollcross, Glasgow, 3 Aug. 1913;
  • Kirk maiden, 11 March 1915;
  • Tarbat, 17 Aug. 1920;
  • John’s, Glasgow, 18 May 1930.
  1. A diary for 1921 which appears to have been mostly used as a notebook expressing some of his views of politics and religious belief. Much of this he copied into document 31, section 7 listed below.
  2. A collection of more than 14 loose pages on various subjects. I have put these together in an envelope and given it the title ‘Loose pages’.
  • About 14 small sheets concerning the genealogy of his own family plus some other miscellaneous notes;
  • A sailor’s version of the 23rd. psalm;
  • An official army form recommending that he be awarded the Military Cross but refused because on some occasion he was caught in a town ‘improperly dressed’.
  • A collection of 6+28 pages of miscellaneous type-written notes (Queen’s Velum note-pad);
  • A poem ‘The Beadle’s Lament’ by Hamish Henry;
  • A poem ‘The Call’ by J. M’M.
  • A short story ‘A Summer Walk in Sussex’ written when he was living with Agnes in Leigh House.
  1. A collection of about twenty odd pages in long-hand entitled ‘The Faith of Robert Burns’. This appears to be a lecture that he gave at various places (listed) between 1913 and 1922.
  2. An envelope entitled ‘Czecho-Slovakia, 1928’ containing two sheaves of type-written notes:
  • Some odd things noted on a trip to Czecho-Slovakia July – August 1928;
  • A note about Jan Hus.
  1. Another envelope entitled ‘Grandpa’s story of his life’ (In Agness’s or Beth’s hand-writing) containing six sheets typed on both sides and headed ‘The Houses I have Lived in’.
  2. A notebook with his name on it and the date 11 November 1919 containing his transcriptions of poems mostly in Scots .
  3. An envelope entitled ‘Comments on the General Strike’. These appear to be BBC- authorised news sheets providing information about what was happening at he time of the General Strike in 1930.
  4. Another envelope entitled ‘A Month in Geneva – Travelogue’. This is a 29 page type-written account of a visit to Geneva in August 1938 with his wife.
  5. A collection of nine or ten pages with a yellow sticker entitled ‘Sermon – Trinity Sunday’.
  6. Another collection of pages with a sticker: ‘A new reformation in Scotland’. He appears to be advocating a ‘more fundamental and scientific examination’ into orthodox views of Christianity.
  7. Ditto: ‘Spiritualism from the outside’. This is a type-written note of some sixteen or so pages about his view of Spiritualism partly inspired by discussions with his brother Arthur who was a Spiritualist and a lecture by J. Arthur Finlay. He appears to be interested but not convinced.
  8. Ditto; ‘The Divine Comedy – an appraisal’. Twenty three pages of type-script on the three sections of Dante Aighieri’s (1265-1321) ‘La Divina Commedia’.
  9. Ditto: ‘Essays on Burns’. About twenty pages of type-script about Burns’ religious views.
  10. An envelope with some pages and entitled:

(a) Memories of Maidenkirk;

(b) Legends and Legislation from the Mull of Galloway;

(c) Kirkmaiden – Address to the Glasgow Galloway Association;

(d) ‘A day at school’ (This seems to be missing although listed in the front of the envelope);

(e) Presentation? (a list of subscribers) from Kirkmaiden on leaving for Tarbat, Ross-shire.

(f) A newspaper cutting dated 1930 with an article entitled ‘Cowdenbeath Minister’s Striking Address’ (not listed on the front of the envelope).

  1. A poem: ‘A man who couldn’t say No’.
  2. Various other poems and writings on six collections of pages.
  3. An article entitled; ‘Edward Irving, deposed 13 March 1833’. This appears to be a defense of a man whom JM. appears to believe was wrongly deposed from the Church of Scotland.
  4. An article entitled: ‘On public speaking’. This is an address to some unidentified Rotary Club.
  5. An envelope containing ‘The Story of St John’s (1st copy)’. This consists of about 120 small pages of type-script. At one point he expressed the view that it should form part of the ‘Story of His Life’. My own view is that it is sufficiently substantial on its own account and is probably of interest to a different audience from the rest that it should be published separately if at all.
  6. An envelope entitled ‘Miscellaneous’. Memorabilia mostly.
  7. ‘The faith of Robert Burns’. This is a repeat of his notes of the same title see 5 above.
  8. A lecture on ‘The Reformation’. The title describes this as an ‘Opening lecture on “The Reformation” (first delivered in Larbert Church in 1913 and later revised and delivered in Tarbat Parish Church, Ross-shire, 1925). It consists of eight type-written pages aimed at a lay audience of local parishioners.
  9. ‘The Church of Scotland – A few historical corrections’. This consists of three type-written pages recounting the story of St. Ninian of the fourth century from his visit to the Pope in Rome to his evangelical travels from Galloway to the northern parts of Scotland.
  10. ‘Martin Luther’. This consists of six pages of notes on Martin Luther
  11. ‘Erasmus’. Consists of fifteen pages of type-written notes.
  12. What appears to be the last part of a letter signed ‘Paddy’. It appears to be a letter from JM to his family in the South (Marion and/or Agnes) written about Christmas time. He refers to the quincentenary of Glasgow University starting in the coming new year and to the pinching of the Stone of Destiny from the House of Commons – both of which should fix the date. There is nothing of any particular note in the letter.
  13. ‘The Monkey and Mankind’. A humorous poem in support of Darwin’s theory of evolution by ‘Poet’s name forgotten’.
  14. ‘Foreword and other sections entitle: “A Padre with the Highland Division”’. This runs to 23 pages and is incorporated into the main document.
  15. His life’s story starting with a page written in the form of a letter to himself. Dated 21 Sept. 1968 at Leigh House, Crawley, Sussex. This is in a separate folder with a note in, I think Agnes’s hand writing thus: ‘For Peter McWhirter, Spare copy’. This part runs to more than two hundred pages of sometimes photocopied type-script often with handwritten corrections. It forms the basis of the transcription for the main document.