Tell us a little bit about yourself….
I grew up in Springburn, Glasgow with my mother, father and younger brother. We lived in a tenement, a room and kitchen with a shared toilet on the half landing on the stair, with three other families. In the last three and a half years I was at school I had a free school dinner ticket as my father was unable to work through ill health, but I was always sent out clean, smart and well fed. Breakfast was porridge or cereal and a fried piece, a slice of square loaf fried in lard, “real healthy eating”and yum yum.
I left school at fifteen with my three year leaving certificate in all subjects and began an apprenticeship. People speak about stereotypes, but how many know what a stereotype actually is? It is a duplicate printing plate. I did a six year apprenticeship to become a Stereotyper Electrotyper. I am also a skilled floor sweeper! Stereotyping was invented in round about 1814 by a man called Earl Stanhope, because of the growing demand for Bibles with the advent of the Bible societies. Up until that time the Bible was printed from the original type. That method had the disadvantage that the print run was limited to about 25,000 copies and the type had to be reset. That was expensive and time consuming. With stereotyping a papier mache mould was taken and you can take ten to fifteen casts of each mould. Making the process cheaper and quicker. An electrotype has a copper printing surface allowing for much greater print runs and detail. They were made by taking a vinyl mould of the type and growing a copper shell on the mould by electrolysis in a copper sulphate vat and then backing it up with molten lead, which distorted the shell and then from the back I hammered it flat.
I left my trade in 1974 and became a sales representative most of the time designing and selling business systems. From 1977 until 1985 I worked for a company called Kalamazoo and when you exceeded your sales quota you qualified to go on what they described as an incentive weekend and the last one my wife went on was a long weekend in Rome and we stayed in the Sheraton Roma hotel.
A year later things were very different, no company car and expenses replaced by a bus that never came or that’s what it felt like. What happened was my wife came in with papers in her hand in August 1983 and said “ If I did not try I would never know.” And what that was, I was to enroll for evening classes at Bishopbriggs High School to study for my English higher. I did and passed with a C. English was not my thing as you will realise as you read this. The next year I did History at Bishopbriggs and Economics at Anniesland College; I got A’s; they are more my thing. I applied to the Church and was accepted as a candidate for the ministry after a selection school in April 1985. With my highers I was accepted for a place at the University of Glasgow and there in the October exactly thirty years after I left school, and after four years graduated with a BD. I was licenced in Glasgow Cathedral by the Presbytery of Glasgow on the 3rd of July 1985 and I was ordained in Kilmore Church on the Isle of Skye April 1991. The rest as they say is history.
What do you miss about being a parish minister?
And What makes your heart sing?
I was asked “Did I miss the ministry?”. My answer is no. The last year I worked full time, I rested to be able to work. I found ministry very demanding. Now I have the garden, to say I am keen is an understatement. Two one hour spells in the morning, and the paper and puzzles in the afternoon.
I was asked what made my heart sing, easy, Rangers winning.