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Christmas Day, 1959

This is a story from 55 years ago – the 25th December 1959, Christmas Day,  when I was 12 years of age (I’m 67 now – for those of you who arithmetically challenged!)

We weren’t what would be called a “comfortably-off” family in those days.  Financially, it was sometimes a bit of a struggle

 And for that particular Christmas, I wasn’t holding out much hope for anything particularly lavish

 OK – to our story.  It must have been about five in the morning when I got up in the freezing cold. And, boy, was it cold!  We didn’t have central heating in those days – and fires were only set in the bedroom when one was sick and confined to bed.

 There was a coal fire in the sitting room, but, being the early hour it was, last night’s cold ashes hadn’t yet been raked up, nor the day’s new fire assembled and lit.

In the dark, I crept downstairs and into the sitting-room.  By the fireplace was a selection of gifts.

 I have to say that it was with little enthusiasm that the wrapping paper was removed from each present.  A book, a selection box, some chocolate coins in gold foil, a pair of school socks (wow!).  And that seemed to be it.

 Oh, apart from a very small package which I left until last, considering it unworthy of my attention. It would be, no doubt, nothing very exciting.

 By this time, my Mother and Father had appeared from upstairs “Aren’t you going to open it?” Dad said, his breath visible in the chill air as he spoke.

 “I suppose so”, I replied… churlishly.  And the smallest, most insignificant-looking package was opened to reveal a wondrous miracle.  Inside a gold cardboard flip top box, was a pale green coloured Pye transistor radio.

 Oh, the surprise!  Oh, the delight!  Oh, the wonder of tuning in during those early hours of the morning to Radios Luxembourg, Athlone, Hilversum and a host of other exotic places.

What wonder!  To be able to hear over the still night airwaves songs of joy, carols of exultation, music of the angels played by far-off folk in strange-sounding places.

 The cold was forgotten, the gloom was dispersed, and there was laughter – joyful laughter on that beautiful morning.

 And to think that I had ignored what at first glance had seemed to be the most insignificant, the smallest and the least important gift on that Christmas morn

….but what would prove to be one of the most cherished, loved and valued possessions ever bestowed upon me

 ….given by the father who loved me and who had obviously sacrificed so much to bring such light and joy into my life that day.

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Christmas Eve 1974 (re-blogged)

Christmas Eve 1974

Murder in the Cathedral – well, getting duffed up on the steps of the kirk……..

I went to my first charge in June 1974 – a pleasantly quiet village where most of the excitement at Christmastide was going to look at the lights (green, amber, red, amber, green – hell , this was confusing – but exhilarating)

Anyhow, it was Christmas Eve and my first watch night service as a newly fledged meenister.

I got to the church just as the pub across the road was scaling out (whiff of the barmaid’s apron £1; sook of the spittoon £1.25; half-pint of dregs only £1.30. – I made that up)

Mind you, a few weeks before draped from the window of one of the flats above was a bed sheet with the message: “Happy 27th birthday, Granny”

OK – to our tale of woe: some of the punters from that pub decided that it would be a good idea to rough up our church officer who had asthma.

I managed to get those youths out of the building, but they started to smash up some of the diamond-shaped stained-glass windows.

So this daft wee meenister followed them outside to remonstrate; they then got stuck into me  and hit on the head with an object (at that point, unknown)

The Polis arrived very quickly, and, even though they knew who the miscreants were, were annoyed when I wouldn’t make a statement.

Our Session Clerk, the saintly Dr Tom Burnett (RIP) arrived at the same time as my heavily pregnant wife. Gossip started about a Christmas baby – Matthew was actually born at the beginning of February – but he was actually putting stitches in my head (without anesthetic!)

Then right on time, I stood in the pulpit and preached about peace and goodwill toward all men.

The next day – Christmas morning – I had a 10.30 service – and, before we stated, Davie the Beadle, went to the church safe, and dialed in the code (6-6-6) opened the door  and produced a dented can of Tennant’s lager (for my older friends, these were the heavier metal tins with the ‘Lovelies’ depicted thereon) – the one that had caused me to have three stitches put in my head.

I later enjoyed that can of beer – because it was ………….. Thirst after righteousness – boom boom!

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