From The Gargunnock Quarterly Autumn 1988
BY REV. W.TURNER
When I was invited to write a “piece” for the Quarterly, I decided that I should use the occasion to try to convey to those who have recently come to live amongst us something of the traditions of the place which is now their home.
Before I become minister here in 1934, I had lived, studied, and served my assistantships in the City of Glasgow, which was then a great seaport and a centre of shipbuilding and heavy engineering as well as having world-wide commercial interests. In those days, most
Glasgow churches were well-attended, where adequately staffed by voluntary administrators and other workers, and had flourishing organisations. Their membership was usually locally derived, and so reflected, more or less, one social stratum, On arriving here, I inevitably found that everything was on a smaller scale (although we had more children in Sunday School than there were pupils in the school, which took children up to the school leaving age of fourteen). More importantly, I found that the membership was at once more diverse and more cohesive than anything I had known in the City. Almost all the people not only lived in the parish but also worked (or had worked) in it; and there was a common recognition (dangerously obscured In many large conurbations) that we all depend upon one another.
This sense of belonging showed itself in many ways. As I visited every home In the parish, I found myself quite naturally going from mansion to cottage to farm, and being equally welcome everywhere. And, why not? Our outward circumstances may be different; but our human needs and hopes and fears are the same.
At church, there was still observable the ancient tradition of each of the galleries being occupied by one of the lairds and his family, his tenant farmers and their men, and his estate and household staff, while the main body of the kirk was occupied by the people of the actual village. We worked together; we lived together; we worshipped together.
It is worthy of mention that there was amongst us an amazing reservoir of aptitudes and skills, so that, in an emergency of any kind, one know to whom one should go for help which would be instantly and freely given. When electric power arrived in 1938/9, I myself helped some of our older folk to adjust to this new source of light and power, even, on occasion, effecting repairs -executed expertly, of course.
All this came together when, in 1935, we celebrated the Semi-Jubilee of King George V. There were sports and games and a party for the children in the afternoon, an open-air dance in the evening, and a bonfire (with a runaway blazing tyre!) at night. At the end of the day, one could truthfully use the phrase then beloved of our local papers – A good time was had by all. I still recall the glow that was In my heart that night, when I remembered that all these happy souls were my people, and that I was the living symbol of their unity, the person in when they were all gathered together, or, as our English friends would express it, the parson, that is, the “persona” of the parish.
In these former days, the Harvest Thanksgiving Service (not held until in reality all was safely gathered in) was personally significant for everyone. The harvest involved not only the farmers, their men, and their families but as many as were able and willing to help. Several of the first incomers to the parish (“incomer” is what you are if you were not born here or have lived here less than fifty years!) used to rush home from their offices, make a quick change into something old and indestructible, and join the hard working but jolly company in some harvest field, ending the long day at a loaded supper table in the farm kitchen. Nowadays thanks to modern machinery having taken over from manual workers, harvesting is almost a private affair, involving only the farmer and a co operating neighbour or one or two men.
On the material side, the outstanding events of my ministry were, firstly, the radical repairs and refurbishing of the church plus the vestry gifted by the late Mr. Ross Anderson of Boquhan and Mrs Ross Anderson (now living in Helensburgh), and, Secondly, the building of the church hall. I write “building”, since, although the original structure on the site was the former Free Church (still in use when I came), only three outside walls were sound enough to be incorporated in the new building. The church hall fund was started by the late Miss Stark, daughter of the late Rev. John Stark. Minister here from 1844 to 1888. But this major enterprise was really made possible by a most generous gift from the late Rev. Dr. Roberts Stevenson, Minister here from 1888 to 1927, and the late Mrs. Stevenson. Their generosity encouraged us all to contribute as we were able. It is worthy of note that the church’s effort to build a church hall was supported even by those who would have preferred a public hall. This was an outstanding example of the ability of our people to arrive at a consensus of opinion leading to a truly combined effort. Subsequently, it was our continuing proud boast that, although It was a hall built, maintained, and managed by the church, no local society or charitable organisation was ever excluded from it. Indeed, the hall, opened only a week after the outbreak of war in 1939, was instrumental in gathering thousands of pounds for war and other charities through the many functions and meetings held there.
For most of my ministry, the whole life of the parish was centred upon the church. The first non-church organisation to be established was the Women’s Rural Institute. Occasionally, in a country parish, the “Rural” and the Woman’s Guild entered into rivalry; but not so here. Not only the “Rural” but other non-church organisations, as they came into being, co-operated in a most understanding manner with the church and with one another with regard to times of meetings, use c* accommodation, fund-raising appeals. I trust that it is still so.
When I retired in 1970. the village was just beginning to develop. However, even before I retired, the first of the new residents, when I called upon them, declared, greatly to my joy, that they had already found Gargunnock a very friendly place. Almost eighteen years later, that Is, only a month or so ago, my bell rang, and I went to the door expecting a welcome visitor. Alas! it was only a collector, too busy to accept my invitation to come in. However, at my door, this very pleasant lady asked me, whether I was happy living here. I replied (with a saving twinkle in my eye) that I had at least survived fifty-three years in the place. “How long have you been here”, I asked. She replied, “We have been here only eight weeks; but we’ve already found everyone so very friendly and helpful.” In saying this, she rejoiced my heart. Perhaps the next time, she will be able to give me her company for a few minutes, when, I trust, she will tell me more about how she and her family and all our new neighbours are happy to have their homes in my dear old parish.