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The present Church on Edzell Muir dates

from 1818, although Christian worship has been practised in the area, since the 9th century. Various factors and events have determined the present, including the Reformation, the development of the

planned town of Edzell, the Disruption which promoted the establishment of the Free Church. And, the union of Free Church and Church of Scotland. As well as the demise of smaller local Churches.

Copyright: Dundee Central Library 2003

Edzell Church Bi-Centenary

(18/11/18 )   Anniversary Reflection By

Rev. John Forbes 

It was with enormous thanks that I accepted this invitation from your Minister Wayne with a note from your Session Clerk Andy to come and join you on such an important occasion, the 200thAnniversary  of the opening of this fine Kirk.   


I was given one guide why I was chosen to say this piece, my being the oldest living minister amongst other good minister friends here.   One of them I was first to meet was when the Angus Presbytery Youth Group came to share a service here.   A very friendly, supportive, and committed social worker who was the leader and has since become a good friend, Alan Watt, later to become your minister.


Hence my remit is to fill in a few memories between 1982 and the Millennium, when largely under the leadership of your Elder Judith Hay and a good team behind her, you opened that splendid hall at the North end of this Kirk.  I was to retire at Easter in 1999 in the hope that with the new Millennium you would find new life and new insight in the Faith.   I am sure that every Minister when he comes has something new and something hopefully essential, different in the way of emphasis to his predecessor.     But my leaving put you in a quandary… a poem written by somebody in that Easter Magazine to quote.


The meenester is leaving, He’s put us in a swither, fur we cannot aa agree. On the wey tae choose anither.        Some say that wi a bachelor, attendances wid double-. But lassies fechting o’er him, wid cause a load of trouble.   There’s a rumour gaun aboot that we’ll maybe get a wumman- , But half of us will leave, if its yin of them that’s a comin.      Masel ah,m for a young man wha’ll bring the Kirk to life,  an veesit aa the auld folk- but he’ll need to hae a wife.   Ye ken there aya has been a wife,  Tae rin the Guild an aa-   And really change in any form, We canny thole at aa!   And really change in any form we canna thole ava.      I remember as an Interim Moderator at Fyvie before coming to Edzell, an old farmer there and Elder telling me …”Mr Forbes there has been many changes since I have become an elder and I have been agin the lot!   Over to you with that and you have done very well.


A great boost to my particular ministry during those 18 years was the support I got from the session with Allan White, David Myles as Session Clerks, John Tulloch as Treasurer:  Bob Ingles, Alec De Costa and Travers Legge as property conveners never forgetting up the Glen Jim Caithness and Andy Scott a great character. It was Alec De Costa’s expertise with electronics that got the sound reinforcement into this Church.   Maybe it was too perfect because one elderly and very deaf lady who had been a regular attendant at the Kirk, who was not seen again when she could hear exactly what was being said.   But it is amazing how we managed to agree to anything, David Myles, Travers Legge, John Tulloch and myself.    All of us bar John were pretty deaf and may have had some surprise when the agenda came out at the Kirk session meeting, to read what we had apparently all agreed in the manse at this agenda meeting.  


Incidentally you may remember Mitzi the dog one of our most regular attenders and Matthias, a German Doctor who sang in the choir, who used to bring his horse and tie it up to a tree.   you will remember the American Navy and Marines across the Northesk…how close we all were.


 The chaplain at the base always shared in our Christmas Eve service and the Nativity scene, is it still being used?... was gifted by the US Navy and rumour has it that it crossed the Atlantic in the first place in a nuclear submarine to reach Faslane.   We were invited to their early Easter Service at their Loch ‘Wee,’ with breakfast to follow at their cook house.


The most iconic and unforgettable Christmas that I can remember here was that Christmas when the Iron curtain crumbled, that Christmas when listening to the news and watching that Berlin Wall fall and as one by one the satellite countries


threw off their Soviet masters, It was better than watching or reading a Frederick Forsythe thriller.    Much of the protest I seem to remember in the Eastern bloc came from the churches there and their brave witness to liberty.  We were so sorry to see the Americans leave, such generous neighbours who loved to get involved in our village life.


I was interested listening to your minister’s Sermon last week, Remembrance Sunday.   ‘Into the valley of the shadow of death’ a very moving Sermon.   At the start of the 1980’s, there was almost a feeling that Remembrance Day had had its day.   I seem to remember people started to think that the Service was simply an opportunity for sailors, soldiers and airman parading, simply sending a message that that we were seen to be glorifying war.   There was even a suggestion that we should buy a white poppy in protest.    That feeling died in 1982, glad to say, when the tragedy and lesson of the Falkland’s war hit us.   And we realised that Remembrance Day is too important to forget and too unfeeling for the victims of war who are there among us to this day… Iraq… Afghanistan not forgetting.   My son, Angus a Gurkha officer, told me from his camp in Khandahar, Afghanistan that he could see the hills where his great Uncle had been killed serving alongside the Gordon Highlanders.


In 1992 you may remember we had a letter from some relatives asking us if they might hold a memorial service for an aircrew killed in 1942 when their plane a Beaufort, crashed into the Wirren.   We included them in a service at which the Brechin Squadron of the Air Cadets formed a Guard of Honour.   I drove up the hill on the Wirren to inspect the wreckage of this Beaufort and was guided there by one of the farmers in Glen Lethnot.   When I came down he asked me if I had found part of the wreckage and I pointed out where I had been.   He sadly shook his head and said “I’m afraid what you saw was part of another Aircraft wreck.” 


 Tragically there are may wrecks up there and the most well known is the Wellington half way between the end of Lochlee and Glen Clova.   The Follow up Group of teenagers and Glenesk Youth Club passed it on one of our end of term midnight walks that we did each year to celebrate the start of the summer holidays.  


The Follow up Group led by Andy Turnbull were a tremendous fellowship who together with the Sunday School under Frances Urquhart brought a younger element that was sorely needed in our Kirk.   They kept us on our toes as the younger members always will.   Even if I can remember the question from Tarfside School that did somehow catch me by the surprise when at the end of a session on the Bible I asked as I am told all good teachers should do this… asked if there were any questions?    A pupil put up her hands and asked… “Mr Forbes, why is it that you wear a different coloured sock on your left foot to you right foot?  


The Cubs, Brownies, Scouts and Guides were always there at the big occasions, Harvest, Easter, Remembrance and our three schools nearly always shared an end of term service of thanksgiving together in this Church.   A chance I felt for them all to meet prior to the big step of heading to Brechin Academy.


My hope was that my Ministry would be shared by others and the old expectation that nothing happened unless the Minister or his wife was there, did seem to change and I hope for the better.    We had a visiting group to share the visits that were most needed,  a worship Group with Jill Reid …The Harvest team (Gael Davies)… then Sandra Johnston with others organising the flowers, a ministry in itself as people in their home felt valued, not forgotten.   We had a succession of wonderful organists, as you have now, Miss Craighead, Gordon Mitchell and Matthew with our Choir. The Reverend Ian MacLeod…Leo from Canada too, came to help when we had the fortune to become more closely linked with Fern, Careston and Menmuir… but of all my helpers, I would hold my Wife Rosemary closest to my heart who did much to encourage me, welcome the visitors to the Manse, answer the telephones when frequently I had to be away….  I felt our ministry here together, sharing good and difficult days was a real privilege.   Thank you all so much for that and I am sure, joined by my fellow Ministers here, I would say God bless you all in your fellowship and service to our Lord Jesus Christ as with your Minister Wayne beside you, you head with faith and courage into the next 200 years!

Edzell Lethnot Glenesk Parish Church is a constituent part of The Church of Scotland and is a registered Scottish Charity No. SCO 13105


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