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The Moderator’s Button

Ian Hamilton – Scottish Review

Whichever way the vote goes these are bright days for our country. Our dispute is about how it’s governed, not about its very existence. Many years ago it was not so.
Once I was at a formal dinner sitting next to the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He was in full dress including cuffs adorned with buttons. Each button bore the legend
E 11 R. I asked him why he wore buttons that were an affront to our history since, as he well knew, Elizabeth Windsor was the first of that name to reign over us. He told me somewhat stiffly that, ‘You have to wear these buttons to be a chaplain to her majesty’.
I said this was nonsense. That he didn’t have to wear them; that the queen could do without his chaplaincy; that his forefathers and mine had died to see she had no right to tell the Kirk what to do; that in Scotland the queen was not head of the Kirk but God’s silly vassal, and that he should be ashamed of himself. He then gave me the cold shoulder.
Some years later there was a sequel. I’m not a member of the Kirk so it came as a surprise when Jeannette and I were invited to lunch during a General Assembly by a new moderator. He took me aside and showed me he was wearing not E 11 R buttons but silver ones. He explained that my complaint had reached him. As a result he had consulted the Lord Lyon and together they had designed a silver button to be used by the moderator in all time coming. ‘The moderator’s button’.
Remembering the lad with the silver button from Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’ I said, ‘If you were Alan Breck Stewart you would take out your dirk and cut one of these off and give it to me’. He smiled and said, ‘There’s no need, Ian. The Lord Lyon and I had one specially cast for you’. He then put his hand in his pocket and gave me the moderator’s silver button.
It hangs on my living-room wall above the Great Seal of Scotland, cut from my Queen’s Counsel commission.
Ian Hamilton QC was one of the organisers of the National Covenant movement

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