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Friday March 22 2019

Looking Back: The Beadle

Written in 1949, a brief tribute to 'the old type of Scots Beadle'

The Beadle


THE interesting comment on Augustus Muir’s book, Scottish Portrait, in a recent issue turned my thoughts towards the passing of the old type of Scots Beadle. He was frequently a “character” and usually the stoutest defender of his own particular kirk. Woe betide the man who dared to criticise “my minister or my kirk.” A host of stories has been told of his caustic native wit.

In the country parish where I was reared and my father served among his fellow bearded elders, the beadle was more commonly known as “The Minister’s Man,” for besides being sexton he was gardener and coachman and farmed the glebe.

The minister’s cows were apt to stray towards some uncultivated land adjoining a cart road, and one day, when out on parish visitation, the minister and man, driving along in the old phaeton, saw two cows quietly grazing  on this land, which was claimed by an adjoining farmer. Said the minister slowly: “These are two fine cows, Sandy.” “Aye, sir” Sandy replied, “they are fine cows; they are our cows.”

I can also vouch for the essence of the truth of a story from another parish. The church was vacant and a young divine on the short leet came to preach one Sunday morning. As summer suns were glowing on that particular morning some fine stained glass was gloriously illuminated. After the service he had returned from the vestry and was standing in mute admiration when the beadle approached. The minister awakened from his reverie and remarked: “I am just admiring your lovely church,” to be met with the reply: “Aye, tak’ ye a good look o’ it, sir, for it’s nae likely ye will ever see it again.”

It has been truthfully said that Christianity is an Honours course and not a pass examination. Early in this century probably no beadle had ever passed educationally beyond the fourth standard, but as Christians many of them took Honours. The church of to-day is poorer of the generation of such men who served the cause of the Master in deed, word and spirit.


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