EXPERIENCES OF AN ELDER
One Wednesday evening back in I965 I returned home from a football match at Muirton Park to find that I had missed a visit from the Minister, the Rev Thomas K Potts who had officiated at our wedding. He had indicated that he would call again when I was at home. The reason for his visit was to invite me to become a member of the Kirk Session. After giving the matter some serious consideration I accepted the invitation not realising what I had let myself in for. About that time Will Monteith had decided to stand down as an active Elder and I was allocated his district which included several houses on Newburgh Road plus the area down to the border with Fife. Will’s final task was to introduce me to the members in the district. On our first excursion after two or three calls he looked at his watch and said “That’s enough for tonight — we’ll head back to Thornbank for a cup of tea”. On our return to Thornbank (which has now changed its name) we were greeted by an array of Mrs Monteith’s home baking. By the time we had covered the entire district I guess I had put on several pounds.
I learned a lesson early on when delivering cards for the November Communion service. No one seemed to be at home but if they were they were reluctant to answer the door. The penny dropped when I encountered a group of guisers - it was Halloween. With a bit of initiative I might well have returned home with a supply of sweets and a pocketful of loose change.
During my time I served on several Vacancy Committees as they were then called. One involved a visit to Stewarton in Ayrshire. We had some difficulty finding the place being rather worried at one stage seeing signs to Moscow but we got there in the end. On the return journey heading towards the outskirts of Glasgow I was being closely followed by a carload driven by another Elder who shall be nameless. Seeing traffic lights ahead l decelerated and braked as the lights changed to red. A loud bang confirmed that my colleague had been following a bit too closely. Fortunately the damage was slight and we carried on our merry way. Despite my attempts to lose him coming through Glasgow we all arrived safely home.
Back in the days when we had a Communion Service in the morning, another in the afternoon and a thanksgiving service in the evening I was up and down the road to Church like a yo-yo. There would be just over I00 in the morning and over 50 in the afternoon and that was just Abernethy and Dron. How things have changed. When I became Session Clerk my involvement as Secretary of the Perth Hunt Pony Club led to problems as events often took place on a Sunday. On one such occasion which clashed with Communion Jane and Anne were competing in a One day event at Craigie farm near Leuchars. I had an old Volvo which towed the horse box and set off early with Jane following in the Escort. I returned in the Escort to carry out my Communion duties and then drove back with Isabel to the event. Jane was elated with a second place and headed home in the Escort leaving me to bring the horses home. Not an easy task with the keys for the Volvo in Jane’s pocket. No mobile phones then but we contacted a family we knew as they were leaving with instructions to phone our home. After a long lonely wait a somewhat shamefaced daughter came to our rescue.
At one time when I was Session Clerk the Treasurer was Andrew (Bunt) Morrison and the Clerk to the Congregational Board was Andy Kaye — all of us working with General Accident in Perth. One former G.A. slogan was "Service that Excels” A slight change to "Services that Excel" could perhaps be adopted by the Church.
When Joyce Buist from Kintillo was our organist there was a rota of Elders to collect her and take her home again after the service. Call offs were not uncommon and I would end up collecting her. On one spring morning when the clocks had changed I received a panic call from the chauffeur for the day who had forgotten to change his clock. I had to make an emergency dash to collect Joyce but needless to say arrived late to the service. Guess who got the blame? Fortunately Joyce eventually acquired a car and that particular problem was solved.
On one of the rare occasions when our Church Officer George Gardner missed a service due to a family baptism elsewhere someone had to ring the bells to summon the faithful to worship. There was not a rush of volunteers and guess who was landed with the task. A brief coaching session from George and I reckoned I was up to it. Just a matter of getting into a rhythm. Nae bother. Unfortunately when it came to the crunch my sense of rhythm deserted me. The sounds emanating from the Round Tower must have alarmed the village and another Elder arrived at my side to rescue me from my ordeal. Never again! Campanology was not for me.
During my spell representing the Kirk Session on Perth Presbytery I was due to attend a committee meeting on some subject or other which I cannot now recall. I duly turned up at the appointed time at the Manse at St Madoes only to find out that the meeting was taking place at the Aberdalgie Manse. I duly arrived somewhat late and slightly embarrassed.
My last district as an Elder covered Glenfoot including outposts such as Binn Farm, Pittuncarty and Tarflundie. In retrospect a petrol allowance would have been useful but that thought never crossed my mind. It was all part of our contribution to the Kirk.
Little did I know when I accepted the invitation from Mr Potts that forty plus years would elapse before Alec Wark phoned to say that I had been nominated for a role that would not involve any work on my part, “Session Clerk Emeritus”. The framed certificate now hangs proudly in our home. The least stressful jobI ever had. Looking back over the years I must admit that overall it was a rewarding experience.