One Fifty at One Seventy | 6. The Post-War Era

The country had emerged from the war virtually bankrupt and the years following 1945 are remembered as the Austerity Era. However, by the late 1940s the United States provided massive loans which helped to ease the economic situation in the United Kingdom.

In May 1947, Mr Scott intimated to the Kirk Session that, after nearly a decade at Queen’s Park West, he had accepted the call to serve at May Street Presbyterian Church in Belfast. So, from September of that year, the church at 170 Queen’s Drive was again looking for a minister. The vacancy, however, did not last very long. In March 1948, the Rev William Steven, at the time minister at St Margaret’s in Dunfermline, accepted the call. Mr Steven had entered the ministry after having worked in the business world for 12 years. After training, he spent several years in Merseyside as minister of a Presbyterian congregation in Wallasey before spending ten years serving at St Margaret’s. He was to be the sixth minister to occupy the pulpit at 170 Queen’s Drive, and with his induction we enter a period well within the memory of many in the congregation today.

At the time of the induction of Mr Steven in April 1948, the country was entering the post-war period. There was, of course, still rationing of food, clothing and much else, and many wartime restrictions continued well into the 1950s. But there was a general feeling that the worst was over and that there was hope of a better future. Mr Steven made an excellent impression from the very start, and is still remembered today with great affection.

MR STEVEN

D. P. Thomson later said of the Rev William (or ‘Willie’) Steven, ‘He was one of the friendliest and most understanding of men, warm hearted and easy to approach and very quickly revealing preaching gifts which were distinctively his own and found a ready response from the congregation.’ Another ministerial colleague wrote that Mr Steven ‘was a useful preacher. While not a theologian and not displaying any “fancy work” he was a plain straightforward practical preacher and he was easy to listen to.’ It is certainly true that his preaching left a lasting impression on many who are still with us today, some of them in leadership roles in the congregation.

Mr Steven’s ministry, which lasted only sixteen years, was one of the most eventful times in the history of the congregation at 170 Queen’s Drive. Within a fortnight of his arrival, the two beautiful stained-glass windows in the vestibule, ‘service’ and ‘sacrifice’, were unveiled by the Minister Emeritus, Mr Craig, in memory of Jane Haining. Mr Craig was able to speak movingly of his memories of Jane. Of the windows, he said that they should be an inspiration through which we may catch ‘something of the sacred fire that burned and glowed in the soul of an heroic Christian woman whose life was dedicated so completely to the service of the One who gave his life as ransom for many.’[1]

Also in 1948, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Second World War was dedicated on 30 October. This took the form of an oak table below the plaque for the Great War, together with an oak lantern shedding light on both memorials. It was especially fitting that the sermon that day was delivered by the wartime minister, Mr Scott, who had come across from Belfast for the occasion.

After the war, congregational life at 170 Queen’s Drive was flourishing. A Boys’ Brigade company had been formed during the vacancy, and both a Young Person’s Fellowship and a Drama Club were established. There had been much discussion of how Mr Steven could more easily get about his large parish and finally, in January 1951, it was decided to buy him a car. A sensation at the time, taken for granted today.

In January 1951, Mr Steven gave a series of Family Prayers on the radio. He was found to be a ‘natural’ at the microphone and for the rest of his ministry he broadcast frequently. The advent of television found him equally at home with that medium. It was around this time he found time to write a very well received book called Heroes of the Faith: Short Studies in Christian Biography, as well as two Bible class handbooks for the Boys’ Brigade, a study of the prophet Amos and a short history of his first church in Wallasey.

It is important to note that as time moved on elsewhere in our church family tree, Govanhill South and Govanhill West united to form Govanhill Parish Church in 1952. This new church was led by the Rev Murdo M. MacSween. A Hebridean, born and raised in Scalpay, Harris, he had been serving at Govanhill West in Daisy Street since 1951, following the long and fruitful ministry of Mr Barclay, who died while in post the previous year. Mr MacSween’s ministry was noted as one of great ‘warmth, friendliness, compassion and understanding.’[2] With this new union, came a new church constitution. The Board of Management at Govanhill West became known as the Congregational Board, and it was within this body that, for the first time, women were elected to serve. Along with these institutional changes came the incorporation of the beautiful stained-glass windows from Govanhill South into the east-facing window of the sanctuary at Daisy Street. In accordance with the trend of the UP Church of the late nineteenth century, the original east-facing window at Daisy Street was plain glass. So while the stained-glass windows provided a tangible link with the previous Govanhill South, they also added aesthetic flair to the sanctuary.

In 1953, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II had the nation agog. The event was televised for the first time, but television sets were still few and far between. A generous gift by a member of Queen’s Park West enabled a large number of members to see the coronation in the church hall – in grainy black and white. Some five years later, the hall itself was extended thanks to a substantial legacy from a life-long member, Jane Urquhart McKean.

Every Wednesday evening, Mr Steven, accompanied by Mrs Steven and the corresponding district elders, visited members of his flock, getting to know them all exceptionally well. In Keith Steven’s Centenary History, he claims that his father probably visited about 1,100 parishioners in this way every year. However, this by no means prevented him from playing a full part in the life of the wider church, as all ministers promise to do at their ordination.

Throughout his career, Mr Steven had two particular interests, shortly to be brought to the attention of the wider church. The first of these was church extension, so important in the post-war period, and the second, the Christian education of young people. He had, of course, served on committees within Glasgow Presbytery, but his talents were soon noticed more widely, and before long he found himself Vice Convener of the National Committee on Church Extension of the Church of Scotland, which involved a large commitment of time and energy.

There was more. In 1956, a committee of Christian laymen was established to make a special appeal to industry and commerce on behalf of Church Extension and Mr Steven, as Vice Convener, was chosen as secretary. More importantly, he asked the congregation to be released from his duties as minister for a period of nine months in order to undertake the work, which involved travelling the length and breadth of Scotland. He later wrote, ‘With its accustomed generosity, Queen’s Park West agreed to my release, while two of my members put up the money to meet the entire expenses of the appeal (anonymously) – a magnificent gesture which enhanced the reputation of Queen’s Park West in the eyes of the whole church.’

During Mr Steven’s lengthy absence, the pulpit was occupied by no less a person than the Very Rev Dr George Johnstone Jeffrey, an old friend of the congregation and a former Moderator of the General Assembly. He was regarded as one of the finest preachers of the time, so the congregation was very well served on a Sunday morning. A member of the congregation, the Rev John Russell, undertook the pastoral duties throughout the week.

At Daisy Street, the late 1950s saw a number of fabric improvements. In 1957, the pipe organ was given a complete overhaul and two years later, the heating in the building was improved with the installation of a new boiler and the extension of central heating to the halls and offices. Other improvements were supported by funds raised through the Jumble Sale Ladies. Over the coming decades, jumble sales at Daisy Street would contribute thousands of pounds to improvements. But the joy of the congregation at Govanhill took a serious blow when Mr MacSween died in 1960 after a short illness. The minister had indeed endeared himself to his congregation, remembered as ‘their well-beloved minister’. As a testimony to the high regard in which Mr MacSween was held, one member, Linda Hunter recalls, ‘[At his funeral,] every street in Govanhill was lined with people – it was quite a sight!’

Queen’s Park West was greeted with happier circumstances that same year as news came that Mr Steven had been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD) by his alma mater, the University of Aberdeen. The Kirk Session arranged a special social to mark the occasion, chaired by Dr Jeffrey. Many guests from beyond Queen’s Park West attended and Dr Jeffrey read out several letters of good wishes. During the social Mr Steven was presented with the colourful gown and hood of the DD degree. Nor was Mrs Steven forgotten, receiving a silver tea service – certainly a sign of the times!

In September of that same year, Mr Steven told the Kirk Session that he had been entrusted by the General Assembly with the convenorship of the Committee on the Religious Instruction of Youth, his other great interest. As he said at the time, ‘after all, youth work was my first love… Life would be much easier if one could turn a deaf ear to the call of the wider church, but Christ does not call a man to an easier life.’ However, all this activity was taking its toll of his health. His last year, 1964, began with a broadcast service on 5 January. The text he chose for his sermon was ‘I pray that you may enjoy good health and that it may go well with you.’ Shortly afterwards, Mr Steven asked the Kirk Session to grant him a short spell of rest from work. In May, on the advice of his doctor, he was granted leave of absence until September. The diagnosis was leukaemia, for which there was no cure, and sadly he died in the Victoria Infirmary on 31 August, aged just 63.

Mr Steven’s funeral service was held on 3 September. His son, Keith wrote that it ‘was a calm and sunny day – and who, of those present will ever forget the solemnity of that hushed church, filled with the great concourse of people—friends, colleagues and acquaintances—gathered from all over Scotland to pay a last tribute to their departed friend and Minister.’ In the summer before his death, Mr Steven had spent some time in his beloved home county of Caithness, where his ashes would be interred in the kirkyard at Watten in November.

This sad news was met with many beautiful tributes. In the Glasgow Herald, J. M. Reid, wrote,

William Steven was one of that band of devoted ministers without whom the Church of Scotland could not live… he brought out the best in men and women because he saw what was best in them… Pastoral work on his pattern can do more than fill any man’s week, but beyond this William Steven put constant effort into the courts and schemes of the Church as a whole… Perhaps the Church asks more from men like this than any other profession would dare to demand, yet he loved (and contrived) to find time for talk and books, for his family and his friends.[3]

Ministers

S. C. Still, W. Steven, G. J. Jeffrey and N. S. Boyd Scott in the original Craig Chapel, 1953.

His friend of many years, the Rev Prof William Barclay, described him as ‘the man with the greatest gift of all… I never knew a man to whom it was easier to talk, to whom it was natural to go in time of trouble, to whom one could so freely open one’s mind and unburden one’s heart.’ Another old friend the Rev Murdo Ewen MacDonald of St George’s West in Edinburgh added, ‘He was the most friendly and accessible of mortals, the smile that lit up his countenance made everyone feel he was glad to see them.’

ANOTHER CENTURY OF MINISTRY AT 170

The passing of their minister was an enormous blow for the congregation of Queen’s Park West, the pain of which would linger for many years. But as life in all parishes continues, a Vacancy Committee was given the task of finding a successor to Mr Steven. A number of noted preachers helped during the vacancy, among whom were Rev Prof Barclay and Mr Thomson. However, in March the Vacancy Committee brought the name of the Rev Stewart M. Macpherson of St Kentigern’s, Lanark to the Kirk Session as Sole Nominee. Mr Macpherson preached on 11 March and afterwards was unanimously adopted as the new minister. His induction took place on Wednesday 23 June 1965. Mr Macpherson’s ministry in Queen’s Park West was to prove short—only four years—but those short years saw several significant events in the life of the congregation.

The General Assembly of 1964 had decided that, for churches operating under a Model Deed of Constitution (that is, governed by two bodies: a Deacons’ Court over ‘temporal’ matters and a Kirk Session over ‘spiritual’ matters), Deacons’ Courts be discontinued and replaced by a Congregational Board composed both of existing deacons and elected members of the congregation. As seen earlier, similar changes had already been enacted at Govanhill after the union between Govanhill South and Govanhill West in 1952. This ‘Amended Model Deed of Constitutions’ paved the way for women to be elected to Congregational Boards. For the first time, women were given a voice in the governance of the Kirk. At a special meeting of the Kirk Session of Queen’s Park West on 6 October, it was agreed to recommend adoption of this Amended Model Deed to the congregation. At a congregational meeting on 28 November, the Amended Model Deed was agreed by 166 votes to three. By March 1966, six women were elected to the Congregational Board:

  • Mrs W. Brown
  • Mrs A. L. Hamilton
  • Miss M. Henderson
  • Mrs M. McGhie
  • Miss A. McIntosh
  • Miss M. B. Stitt

Although this move to grant women rights within the governing courts of the church took many years to come to fruition, by the 1960s matters were moving along more quickly. In 1966, the General Assembly agreed to the election of women elders and, in 1969, approved the ordination of women to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. In Queen’s Park West, however, the Kirk Session was more cautious and it was several years yet before any women were admitted as elders.

1967 marked the centenary of the congregation at 170 Queen’s Drive. Several special events were held to mark the milestone. On 30 April the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Right Rev Dr R. Leonard Small preached at the morning service. This was recorded by the BBC and it was broadcast on 7 May. Keith Steven also produced A Centenary History, which traced the life and growth of the congregation since 1867.

The Kirk Session minutes show that the life of the congregation at 170 Queen’s Drive was very busy during these years. We read of Young Mothers’ Group, who agreed to look after a crèche on Sundays; Bible Class and Young Peoples’ Fellowship; of a twice yearly social for new members, and of involvement in the Christian Aid collection within the parish. However, not everything ran smoothly. There were frequent appeals from the choir for additional members, and the very lively Sunday School was constantly looking for more teachers.

At times, it was also difficult to find leaders for the uniformed organisations. The Boys’ Brigade numbered over 50 boys at the various stages. A complaint at a Kirk Session meeting spoke of lack of discipline and control, so a small deputation was sent to speak to the captain and keep a close eye on things for a period of time. Later reports to the Session spoke of a marked and continuing improvement in the work of the BB. Indeed, so pleased was the Kirk Session with the work of Captain Allan and his team that it resolved to send him a congratulatory letter at the end of the 1967/68 season!

For the Guides, the recruitment of leaders was more of a problem, since very few of those involved were members of the church. Nevertheless, the company seems to have been able to continue – the Brownies in particular being very successful in attracting young girls.

Around this time, at the other end of the parish, two branches within our family tree came together. Polmadie Parish Church, which was established by Govanhill UP Church as the Polmadie Mission in 1882, merged with the congregation of Candlish Memorial Parish Church. This resulted with the establishing of Candlish Polmadie Parish Church in 1968.

The following year, at the Kirk Session meeting of Queen’s Park West on 7 May 1969, Mr Macpherson told the members that he was accepting a call from Dunfermline Abbey. He had been suffering from serious lung problems and in October 1968, on medical advice, he had been urged to leave Glasgow where the damp air and occasional smog would only worsen his condition. (This was before smokeless zone legislation came into being.) Mr Macpherson preached as sole nominee at Dunfermline on 25 May and the call was sustained by Glasgow Presbytery on 10 June, with the Rev Andrew Gray of Pollokshields Titwood selected as Interim Moderator of Queen’s Park West. Once again, a Vacancy Committee had to be formed and the search for a new minister begun. The Committee was elected at a congregational meeting on 1 March 1970 and consisted of 19 people representing all groups within the congregation.

By 28 June 1970, the Vacancy Committee was able to bring the name of a sole nominee to the Kirk Session, in the person of the Rev Archibald Robertson. At the time, Mr Robertson was employed as a teacher of Religious Education at Oban High School, with experience of parish ministry earlier on in his career. He duly preached as sole nominee on 28 June and was elected unanimously. The induction took place on 1 October 1970, with a congregational social the following evening.

In 1971, Mr Robertson began a programme of visiting all members in their own homes. At first, he was accompanied by a district elder, but some members disliked this. After some time, it was decided that Mr Robertson should conduct these visits alone. Since the roll of members numbered 675, he was taking on a daunting task. At about the same time, a group of volunteers were occupied in knocking doors as part of a ‘Good Neighbours’ scheme organised by the Church of Scotland. The minutes speak of literature and pamphlets provided from Edinburgh.

In January 1972, Mr Robert Graham resigned as Session Clerk. Mr Robert J. S. Leitch was elected as his successor. With his customary modesty, Mr Leitch described his appointment as a great honour and that he would perform his duties to the best of his ability. He highlighted that his family had an association with Queen’s Park West going back over seventy years. At the same meeting of Session, it was announced that the preacher on 13 February would be Sister Lexa Boyle, recently home on furlough from a hospital in Yemen. Throughout his ministry in Queen’s Park West, Mr Robertson used pulpit exchanges to introduce numerous ministers from other places to our congregation. The only exchange which did not take place was with a minister in the United States in the summer of 1974, for reasons to be explained later.

The following year, the matter of women elders at Queen’s Park West was again raised within the Kirk Session. In October 1973, it was decided that Mr Robertson should discreetly ‘sound out’ the feeling about the matter among the women of the congregation. It appears that he did so, but when it came back to the Kirk Session in January 1974, it was reported that ‘the ladies had no desire for change at the present time.’ Other voices in the Kirk Session reminded everyone of the position taken by the Church of Scotland in the previous decade, so it was decided to record that the Session would accept women elders ‘in principle’.

A list of church organisations at Queen’s Park West in the early 1970s highlights a diverse church life:

  • Badminton
  • Boys’ Brigade
  • Brownies
  • Choir
  • Country Dancing
  • Girl Guides
  • The Guild
  • Junior Bible Class
  • Magazine Committee
  • Men’s Association
  • Senior Bible Class
  • Sunday School
  • Young Mothers Group
  • Young Peoples’ Fellowship

The Choir was capable of very ambitious productions, such as small cantatas at Easter. It also joined with the choir of Battlefield East Parish Church to put on a production of Handel’s ‘Messiah’. Continuing with the musical theme, in March 1973, the BB intimated that it was about to form a pipe band.

The Magazine Committee, which produced the monthly Record, was a source of occasional controversy. It was printed elsewhere in the city and there were regular complaints of late delivery of issues. From time to time some people complained about the content of articles which appeared. One in particular, about ‘talking in church’ raised many hackles. The committee saw its job as being to keep tabs on the editor and to censor articles if necessary. Almost every month the minister wrote tributes to members who had passed on and some of these, reproduced in the Kirk Session minutes, were of exceptionally high quality.

Further down Queen’s Drive, membership at Queen’s Park High Parish Church was beginning to drop off. This was due in part to the transformation of surrounding area. Many family homes were being converted into hotels, offices and flats, which attracted a more transient population. Despite these changes, the remaining members of the congregation responded with a renewed sense of practicality and loyalty. Church givings increased, but the potential need for a union was being considered by the church leadership. On 8 May 1972, a joint meeting of the Kirk Session and the Congregation Board addressed a Basis of Union document submitted by Glasgow Presbytery. It was proposed that Queen’s Park High and Crosshill Victoria unite and its acceptance was agreed by both congregations. The first minister of the united Crosshill Queen’s Park Parish Church was the Rev Ian Robertson, who had been serving as Queen’s Park High’s minister since 1965. After the union in September 1972, both the Dixon Avenue and Queen’s Drive buildings remained in use for two years. In 1974, Mr Robertson accepted the call to the linked charge of Colvend and Southwick. The vacancy was exceptionally short, as the Rev William Marsh was invited to preach as sole nominee, was accepted unanimously and was inducted on 27 December 1974.

During the early 1970s, the Sunday School at Queen’s Park West flourished under its superintendent, A. N. Moss. In March 1973, on a Saturday, the Sunday School ran a festival which won great praise from all who attended. When Mr Moss stepped down in 1974, it was generally agreed that he had left an excellent system for his successor. That same year it had been announced that Mr Robertson would no longer be taking the Minister’s Bible Class. This caused considerable disquiet in the Kirk Session, but Mr Moss was able to produce the names of nine young people who would be willing to attend, and on that basis the class continued.

Relations between Queen’s Park West and neighbouring churches were generally very good. During Holy Week 1973, for example, five churches (Queen’s Park West, Camphill Queen’s Park, Strathbungo, Crosshill Queen’s Park and Queen’s Park Baptist) hosted a service on each evening in turn, with a communion service on Maundy Thursday. For a good number of years, it had been the custom for Queen’s Park West to hold united services with Camphill Queen’s Park in the summer months: in Queen’s Park West in July and Camphill in August. The latter suggested on more than one occasion that a combined evening service be held at least once each month, but after some discussion Queen’s Park West opted to have no evening services during the summer months. By 1976, Strathbungo expressed a desire to become involved in the summer services, and a joint communion service was celebrated at Strathbungo on 20 June with another joint service there on the following Sunday. In 1976, Camphill Queen’s Park was celebrating its centenary and on 24 October, the Right Rev Prof Thomas F. Torrance, the Moderator of the General Assembly, visited the three local churches with a joint service being held in Camphill in the evening.

As older readers of this history may remember well, the winter of 1973/74 was plagued by industrial disputes. The one which really mattered for the church was a strike of oil tanker drivers. Deliveries of oil became erratic and unreliable. At a special meeting held after the morning service on Sunday, 9 December 1973, it was decided to suspend evening services for the duration of the strike, and to hold the morning services in the church hall. Some organisations had decided that to save fuel they would meet in private houses in the meantime. These restrictions continued for several weeks and were only fully relaxed in February. An unexpected casualty of the crisis was the aforementioned proposed pulpit exchange between Mr Robertson and a minister from the United States. The uncertainty led him to decide to withdraw from the arrangement. Another unforeseen consequence of worshipping in the Hall was the dangerous congestion in the exits, and this gave raise to concerns for safety. Happily, the end of the crisis came in time to allay fears.

WOMEN IN SERVICE

At a meeting of the Kirk Session of Queen’s Park West in January 1977, the Session Clerk, Mr Leitch tendered his resignation, effective from April. Mr William Weir was elected as his successor. Over the years, the congregation has been well served by a series of outstanding Session Clerks, and Mr Weir proved himself to be a worthy addition to that list.

Agnes Hoey, conductor of the Glasgow Youth Choir and a member of the congregation, received the signal honour in June of being chosen as joint ‘Scotswoman of the Year’ by the readers of the Evening Citizen. The Kirk Session sent her a message of congratulation.

That summer, quite unexpectedly and without warning, a Vacancy Committee from Eastwood Parish Church appeared at a morning service. At the end of the Service they insisted on speaking with Mr Robertson regarding their vacancy. This came as a complete surprise to Mr Robertson, who had not expressed any interest in the Eastwood vacancy and indeed declared himself quite content to continue as minister of Queen’s Park West. The unexpected approach did, however, unsettle him very much. As he turned it over in his mind he found himself asking whether the approach could be a call from God and in the end, he decided that he had to answer it. To the great disappointment of the Kirk Session at Queen’s Park West, he told them at the September meeting that he had agreed to preach as sole nominee at Eastwood, where he was duly inducted shortly thereafter.

However, before Mr Robertson left 170 Queen’s Drive, he had one last service to perform for the congregation. This was the ordination of the first women elders, something which had been hanging fire for ten years since the General Assembly’s decision to admit women to the eldership. The first six were:

  • Ms May Queen
  • Ms Moira Davidson
  • Mrs Queenie Linstrum
  • Mrs Jean McGhie
  • Ms Grace Potter
  • Ms Morag Reid

At the time of writing, three of these women are, happily, still serving the congregation in important ways. All were present at the September 1977 communion and a photograph of minister and Kirk Session was taken to mark the important milestone in the life of Queen’s Park West.

Communion 1977

Communion photograph at Queen’s Park West Parish Church, 1977.

At Daisy Street, women had played a large part in the leadership for a number of years. As mentioned before, the Jumble Sale Ladies were major contributors to the maintenance of the building and women were also admitted to the Congregational Board in the early 1950s, long before the urging of the General Assembly. But it was not until 1978 that women were admitted as elders.

Daisy Street 1980

Govanhill Parish Church office bearers, 1980.

Back at 170 Queen’s Drive, during the vacancy resulting from Mr Robertson’s move to Eastwood, the Rev Robert Fenton was appointed as locum, and the Rev Peter Neilson acted as Interim Moderator. At a meeting of the Kirk Session, notification was received that a service would be recorded in the church in December 1977, to include Agnes Hoey’s Glasgow Youth Choir. It would be broadcast on television on Christmas Day.

At the meeting of Glasgow Presbytery in June 1978, there was a motion that Queen’s Park West be permitted to call a minister, but only on a terminal appointment basis. However, that motion was defeated following an intervention from Mr Leitch and the congregation was given the right to call on an unrestricted basis. This proved invaluable for 170 Queen’s Drive, because on 22 October it was learned that the Rev Hugh Martin of Strathbungo Parish Church was about to demit office. A Basis of Union between Queen’s Park West and Strathbungo was approved at the same time, which meant that Strathbungo would close and a new congregation between the two would be formed.

 


[1] Keith M. Steven, Queen’s Park West Church of Scotland: A Centenary History (Glasgow: printed privately, 1967), 41-2.
[2] Richard Porter, Govanhill Church of Scotland: 1880-1980 (Alloa: Alloa Printing and Publishing Co Ltd., 1980), 28.
[3] K. Steven, 61.


Introduction
1. Our Early History
2. The Late 19th Century: a Period of Rapid Growth
3. Into the 20th Century
4. The Great War & its Aftermath
5. A Second World War
6. The Post-War Era
7. The Late 20th Century
8. The Millennium
9. Queen’s Park Govanhill
Conclusion: Beyond 150 at 170
Bibliography