Town’s ministers oppose arrival of women elders

Eskbank Road, Dalkeith, with the spires of West Church and St John's Church in view. Photo courtesy of Midlothian Council Local Studies
Eskbank Road, Dalkeith, with the spires of West Church and St John's Church in view. Photo courtesy of Midlothian Council Local Studies

In November, there were a number of church-related stories, writes Alan Mason.

The Dalkeith Presbytery meeting discussed a proposal that women elders be allowed in the church. The ministers voted 20-14 against, despite having voted for the proposal the previous year.

At the same meeting, the Rev Samuel Eaton of Newton Church, reported on the work of the Temperance and Morals Committee of the Presbytery, and it was agreed to remind their Kirk Sessions that the General Assembly viewed the increase in gambling with concern – this was just before betting shops were made legal. The General Assembly said that football pools, raffles and housey-housey should not be used to raise church funds.

Willie Merrilees, the Chief Constable, was of the same opinion. In his annual report, he criticised “drunk drivers and housey-housey addicts”. Although there had been a lessening of numbers attending this type of entertainment, he said “I still feel strongly in regard to this and my experience over the last few years has supplied no evidence to recommend it to me”.

So housey-housey (bingo) was obviously a problem. Goodness knows how he and the ministers would feel about today’s betting shops, bingo halls and 24 hour on-line gambling.

On November 6, 800 people attended the re-dedication service in St John’s and King’s Park Church. Earlier, dry rot had been discovered and the congregation had worked hard to raise the £2,500 needed for repairs. The church had closed in May to allow the work to be done. Richardson and Starling from Leith had treated the dry rot, John Dennis & Co. of White Hart Street did the masonry, joinery and plaster work, Wm. Falconer & Son of Buccleuch did the electrics, David Thomson of Buccleuch Street did the heating and Robert Hoy & Son of Elmfield Place did the painter work.

The service was led by the St John’s minister, the Rev Duncan Bruce. Sadly, the Rev George Galbraith, who had been minister of the church for 27 years before, during and after the War, had died two days before the service.

At the end of the month, the Rev John Rodger was installed as priest-in-charge of St Mary’s Episcopal Church, succeeding the Rev K.S.S. Jamal, who left in rather mysterious circumstances. Back in May, the Rev Jamal felt the need to put an advert in the Advertiser headed “WARNING” and went on to say “I am regretfully aware that St Mary’s, my wife and myself have been the subject of malicious slander. This slander emanates from people connected with St Mary’s, lending credence to their falsehood. I hereby give warning that I will prosecute anyone engaging in these libellous activities”.

Obviously, he had been the target of some sort of hate campaign.

On a lighter note, a two-year-old bullock was reported missing to Dalkeith police “and it may be wandering anywhere in the county”. Happily, the following week the bullock had returned home, none the worse for his adventures!

There was a bit of a row at the Town Council meeting when the Burgh Development Committee suggested that the council sell the Corn Exchange, which was still being used as the Empress Ballroom.

The Development Committee consisted of councillors and local businessmen who had been trying to attract new industries to Dalkeith.

They had recently published a brochure extolling the virtues of the town –

○ It had good road and rail links

○ It was close to Edinburgh and Leith Docks

○ It had a number of sites for sale or for rent

○ It had a well-educated work force

The Committee now suggested that the Corn Exchange could be advertised for sale to a suitable industry. I will continue with this story next month!

Finally, it was announced that Dr J.M. Stagg had retired as Director of the Met. Office. James Stagg was the son of a Dalkeith plumber and during the war he was General Eisenhower’s chief weather adviser. He was the man who predicted the weather would allow the D-Day landings to go ahead.

The number one spot in October was held by Roy Orbison with “Only the Lonely”. Who was there in November?