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'Tartan Pimpernel's' Cross Back on Display in Paris

Friday March 29 2019



Left: The Rev Dr Donald Caskie (picture: Church of Scotland). Right: the cross in its new location in Scots Kirk, Paris

A large wooden cross gifted to a war hero Church of Scotland minister by an Edinburgh school has been rehung in his former church in Paris after languishing in a cellar for nearly 20 years.

The cross was presented to the Rev Dr Donald Caskie, minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris, in 1959 by pupils from George Watson’s College.

Dr Caskie – known as ‘the Tartan Pimpernel’ after he helped save more than 2000 allied personnel during the Second World War – played a key role looking after pupils from Watson’s who took part in an exchange programme with Lycée Henri IV in Paris in the 1950s. The cross was given in gratitude by the pupils, who paid for it themselves, each donating three pence.

The 8ftx5ft cross hung behind the chancel in the Scots Kirk for around 40 years until the building was torn down and it was put into storage.

The church was rebuilt in 2002 but the cross remained tucked away in a cellar and largely forgotten about until a former pupil questioned its whereabouts.

Edinburgh born Andrew Brown, who was a Watson’s pupil from 1952-63 and raised money for its purchase, felt it should be on prominent public display.

He led discussions with the school, St Andrew’s Church in Brussels and the Scots Kirk, which led to a decision to keep the cross in Paris.

It now has pride of place above a stairwell which leads to the sanctuary.

Rev Jan Steyn, who has been the minister at the Scots Kirk on Rue Bayard since 2017, said he was 'delighted' that cross is now back on public display.

“The cross was donated to the Scots Kirk during the time of Donald Caskie and it is part of the congregation’s beautiful story,” he said.

“For 20 years it was stacked away in the church's cellar after the existing church was built.

“Our friend Andrew Brown, a member of the St Andrew’s Church in Brussels, made us aware of the cross again and we were inspired to put it up.

“It tells the story of ‘paying it forward’ - giving something small which unknowingly influences the future.

“It reminds us of our Christian roots and belief and is something of an anchor and a compass.”

The cross is to be rededicated at worship on Sunday April 7, on the same day a permanent exhibition dedicated to Dr Caskie will be officially opened.

The exhibition features photographs, documents and some of his personal possessions including his Gaelic Bible, which was gifted to the church by the minister’s nephew Tom Caskie.

Some of his relatives are expected to attend the service along with Melvyn Roffe, principal of George Watson’s College and representatives of the Watsonian Clubs of Paris and Brussels and Lycée Henri IV.

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stan Blacklock - Monday, April 22nd, 2019

“I first visited the new Scots Kirk in 1957/58 while serving in the RAMC at the British Hospital in Lavellois Paris and got to Know Dr Caskie well and am proud to still be a member of the congregation. It gives me great pleasure to see this history being brought back to life, I am sure Donald, although a humble man, would have been very proud to have been remembered in this way. I always admired his great faith, and can recommend reading his life story written by himself Tartan Pimpernel.”

FREDERICK CAMERON WILSON - Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

“My mother was Elizabeth Cameron Wilson (nee Gordon) of Kilwinning, Ayrshire, who was a volunteer in the Penrith Cumbria Oxfam shop. One day she brought home a small red book. It was The Tartan Pimpernel. Her mother was Margaret McIntosh of Bowmore, lslay. My mum told me that she used to look after the nephews or nieces of Donald Caskie, l think it was his brother's family. This is how l came to find out about this brave Islay Scot. Truly a very brave Scot. Also l do know Stan Blacklock well here in Penrith.”

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