An apology….but it wasn’t my fault!

A couple of posts ago I intimated that your TV screen would be graced by my image on the last three Songs of Praise programmes which were based in the West of Scotland, and the Cathedral I attend, St Mary’s in Glasgow.

Well, I have to admit that I didn’t have any kind of starring role, because the cameras, with all the opportunities they had, steadfastly managed to avoid the rear pew where I was seated. I even thought of waving to them to let them know I was available at no charge, but still they kept looking for the lovely young ladies!

I did appear at a distance quite a few times in the wonderful high shots from the front… I don’t feel too bad!

However, the stars of the shows were the wonderful architecture of the Cathedral, the superb performances of the musicians, and of course, the supreme beauty of the west of Scotland….but you should come up and see it all for yourself!

Irishpisky’s on Television!

Yes, it’s official, I shall be on television for the next three Sundays….well perhaps you might catch some brief glimpses of me!

The next few editions of Songs of Praise, hosted by Sally Magnusson,  involve the beautiful west if Scotland, and some of the singing comes from my own Church, St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.  Recording was done over two evenings; the first to do the sound recording and the second to superimpose the camera work with the previously-recorded music….quite tricky, I should imagine!

So on Sunday, at 5pm, watch out for a tall, grey-haired bloke with glasses and a beard near the back of the cathedral, singing lustily with an Irish accent. If I am able to record it and put a bit into the blog, I shall do so.

Listen Here!


I was on Radio 4 this morning….maybe you didn’t notice!

I must be honest, it was more a case of my croaky voice, and cough!

Our Cathedral is convenient for the BBC Studios in Glasgow, and the Morning Service was live from there from 8.10 am. That meant we had to be seated by 7.45!  The Choir of 40 was its usual wonderful self with some unusual pieces (including one from a Salvation Army book), and the readings and Sermon were all about the dawning of the new day.

The uniquitous cold/cough which I brought into the Cathedral had to be stifled several times, and even my singing of the hymns had to be done with caution. I had two microphones quite close to where I was sitting, and I am sure that at least  one cough may now be in the BBC archives. If you are a desperately-sad case, and want to see if you can spot it, then click on the link below…at least for about a week, and then the BBC will probably decide to edit it out after numerous complaints!

For a wonderful piece of music listen to the anthem …..which comes just after the Sermon….’The Quiet Heart….’  (words by James Morgan, and music by June Collin)….superb!

Remember, remember…..

Recently, we have had the local noises of fireworks, as people, for some strange reason, let off excessive numbers of fireworks. Is it to ward-off evil spirits, or just some kind of ‘last-fling’ at the end of Spring?  Why should we want to remember the Fifth of November, anyway?

This morning, at the Cathedral, we remembered the fallen, in a very gentle way, with no blazing trumpets, but a simple selection of hymns, Peter Maxwell-Davies’ moving ‘Farewell to Stromness’ played on the piano, and Frikki Walker’s ‘Prayer for Peace’.

This afternoon, with the foul weather, we started to clear out some old photographs. No easy task! We thought we would get rid of a lot, but it feels rather uncomfortable to destroy images of ones we knew, and maybe even more so, those we didn’t know, as they were before our time. So we compromise by getting some destroyed, some scanned-into the computer, and others to be sent-off to relations who might not have copies, and would welcome them, and even more to be passed on to the Glasgow’s People Palace. This is because the Lady’s forebears were famous in the Glasgow East-End Ministry, and were great supporters of the working people of the area. 

And so we have had a period of recalling those who at various times have passed-on. And what memories will we leave behind, and how will people sum-up our attitude to life and others (as they will)? Happy, pleasant, annoying, snobby, short-tempered, truthful, reliable, patient?

So it behoves us to remember this whenever we interact with someone we love, or someone we have just met for the first time…because we are laying down how we will be remembered long after we are gone. How would you like to be remembered? …..maybe I will just go down as a long-winder old blogger!!

Bishop Gene’s at our Cathedral!

News of the Lambeth Conference has been plastered all over the media. Even those who have no real interest in Church affairs must be aware that Anglical/Episcopal Bishops have been meeting at Canterbury, from all over the world. A considerable number decided to stay away, either because many have felt it is irrelevant or they have other reasons (almost 200 did not attend).

One Bishop, specifically, was forbidden to attend (actually…. he was not invited, which in this instance, is the same thing). He still came over to the UK, and was around at Canterbury, but was forbidden from actively taking part in Communion Services anywhere in England. His name is Bishop Gene Robinson from New Hampshire, and he is openly gay, in a same-sex relationship.

Whatever your opinion, if one you have, about such relationships, and how they could and should be viewed, there is a general feeling around that perhaps too much valuable time and tabloid inches have been taken up with the sexuality question regarding Priests and Bishops, whilst matters of much larger importance affecting our world have been pushed to one side.

He was invited to preach and Preside over our Communion Service today at Glasgow’s St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. This was only possible because the Scottish Episcopal Church is independent from the Church of England, and Archbishop Rowan Williams has no jurisdiction here.

The Cathedral is normally quite well filled, with an increasing congregation, and today it was packed, as was expected. There were natural worries about might happen, should those who disagree with his position decide to make a vociferous point during the service. The banners and a few (albeit sincere) protesters outside the cathedral at the beginning of the Service were the only evidence.

In the event it was a wonderful service, with an excellent extempore sermon (not from the Pulpit but at the level of the congregation) from the Bishop, in which the theme was about inclusion.

But should freedom of the ‘Pulpit’ be given to someone who has views at odds with much of the Chuch heirarchy (and perhaps congregational members)? Freedom of expression is enshrined in most democracies, but it obviously must be balanced and positive, and lead us towards the greater good. Minority attitudes are part and parcel of the human condition and as such should be valued, if not necessarily accepted.

On balance, and without infringing on people’s right to object to the man himself, I must say I was impressed with how he handled himself….a quiet gentle person, who must have had an effect on a considerable number of people. Open-mindedness as a principle is necessary if we are to develop our thought processes, and whilst one Sermon rarely makes a convert, I’m sure many others were persuaded that the attitude of the Archbishop of Canterbury in not inviting him to the discusssions was more of a misjudgement than a sensible intentional decision.

I think Gene Robinson is not going away!

Any comments from our American friends who might know more of him?

A Little Gem!

No it’s not a type of lettuce, but a small island called Lismore, north-west of the town of Oban, in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland. It can be approached by the large CalMac car-carrying boat from Oban.

But if you do not want to be part of the herd, and can do without your car for a short time, then drive up over the Connel Bridge and head for the lovely little area called Port Appin. It is a famous bit of country-side, and may even be known to many who have read Kidnapped, or know of Rob Roy McGregor in Scottish History.

You then take the 10 minute journey on a tiny boat (which only seats about 12 people and numerous bikes) across to the north end of Lismore. One great thing is that you get to hear all the local gossip in that short time, from the locals….and you may have to reciprocate by letting folk know why you are going over!

Because of the narrow single-track roads, cars can only go along at a leisurely pace, and this has the advantage of being relatively-safe for walkers or cyclists…if everyone takes care!

Our reason for going over again was the ancient Church of Scotland building (which at various times has been Catholic and Episcopal). St Moluag had come from Ireland (you see a lot of good people come from that country!) in about 561 and set-up his own monastic centre. He also travelled widely over Scotland, the Isle of Man, and even Iceland, rivalling St Columba, who set-up the more-famous Iona Abbey.

The building you see in the photo is only the Choir area of what at one time had been a Cathedral, built in about 1300 (+- 50 years). There is evidence of the original Chancel, but inside the church looks happily self-contained. It is maintained with pride by the present members, and is always clean and fresh.

A relatively modern innovation on the island is the Heritage Centre, which was opened just over a year ago, to preserve and display the island, is what can only be described as an eco-friendly building, which does not intrude on the landscape but looks as if it has just risen from the ground……and the coffee is good!Well-worth a visit….ask for the key to go into the re-constructed old farmhouse, alongside, with many artifacts from a past era.

Unfortunately we had to return to the other world of rush and noise, refreshed by our little trip to a relatively-unknown bit of Argyll.

As they say in the holiday ads for Montenegro…..get there before the crowds find it!

A German choir in Glasgow

Sunday morning was slightly strange. The normal red-robed choir at the Cathedral was replaced by the smaller, black-suited/dressed Egidienerchor Choir from Nurmburg. A small, slim female figure stood in front to conduct.

We had our ‘normal’ service with the wonderful choral bits sung in Latin and German to a setting by one of the famous Bach family (not the famous JS Bach).

The Provost preached on the subject of the Old Testament lesson, and proposed that ‘history is often written by the winners’. He of course made no references to present or recent conflict between our countries, ( he wasn’t even born when WW2 was on), and yet it was strange (at least to me) that  only 60 years ago, it would have been almost unthinkable that such an event could have taken place. Yet it did happen and people could forgive (if not forget) such a war.

Zimbabwe is different however….where we see a dictator prohibiting what we feel as a right….to be ruled by those we wish to rule us, as elected by a majority. What a situation to have…a rich country, with starving people; a vibrant people, suffocated by oppression and fear; a beautiful country, discouraging visitors.    And yet the world seems unable to do anything about it. Let’s hope they can come to some firm resolution without resort to the kind of bloodshed we have seen in  Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in a Cathedral in Glasgow, last Sunday, we saw yet another small healing touch on the wounds of Europe, which are slowly healing up.

Now if they had only brought over some of Nurmberg’s famous Lebkuchen cakes, I would have been an even-happier bunny!

A coincidence?

On Saturday, I went to the Isle of Arran, off Ayrshire, on an idyllic day of sunshine and warmth. I was visiting a local church briefly, whilst the Young Lady of the House, and Daughter went to the few local shops, and we got back to the boat slightly early.

Having a few minutes to spare, we visited a local Art Gallery. Speaking to the owner about churches and I mentioned that we went to St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow. His immediate reaction was that he had a print of an un-usual view of Kelvin Bridge and a large church, Lansdowne Ch of Scotland, and our Cathedral in the background. I immediately snapped it up, and it now has pride of place beside the print of the little Church in Bearsden which has played such a large part in our lives.

Isn’t life strange that I had to go so far away to find it!

I saw an angel on Good Friday!

Travelling south on Friday, on a miserably wet and snowy journey through Gateshead, on the way to York, Young Lady and I suddenly spotted through the gloom, the Angel of the North. I have given the Angel the benefit of capital initials as she is now very famous following 10 years of life on a wind-swept hill. On first glimpse, it looks a bit like a glider which has reversed in flight and landed with its tail embedded in the hillside, and nose pointing skyward!

We were not able to stop to have a closer look, as the inexorable traffic drove is on, and we could see no exit signs to let us go closer. I’ve read about it (on blogs and elsewhere)and seen the photos but was still not prepared for the size. I must be honest that on such a day I did not find it beautiful, but it is certainly startling, and perhaps the fact that it is not possible for a through-traveller to see it in detail is important. It is obviously very strong, but in some ways it is ephemoral, as it fades into the distance. The image of the outstretched arms was also not lost on me on Good Friday…was this intentional?

You can check it out on the gateshead website… …then follow the link, for a three-dimensional view. Maybe next time we will be able to get out and have a closer look.

Just a little tear….

If you do not know the beautiful lyrical choral piece ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ by John Rutter, see if you can find a copy. It is for a small choir with keyboard and oboe, and it is one of those pieces which transcends time. I did it with my choir many years ago, and it was an emotional event. We had it this morning at the Cathedral, and this, along with the Baptism of a lovely little girl (who gave us a huge grin), was again a moving time.

I find that as I get older, I am less worried about showing any emotion….and having spoken with some others of similar age, they also seem to have no problem. Maybe that is one of the few advantages of aging!