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My Houses (Part One)

2012 September 12
by Gordon Reid

I have lived in the most amazing variety of houses and loved their diversity. I suppose this is true of almost everybody, but it must be even more so for the clergy.

I was born during the Second World  War in a small Scottish town in the Borders (the south of Scotland between Edinburgh and the English border). Our first home was “Braemar”, a solid stone house near the gates of Hawick’s public gardens, which must rank among the most beautiful in the country. But because of the war, this was requisitioned (I think) and we moved to a tiny prefabricated house (the now treasured “prefabs”) with just two bedrooms.

Then we moved, because of my father’s job in tweed manufacturing, to another Borders town, Galashiels, where for a few months we lived in a spacious basement flat and then  in what was to be my parents’ home for a decade or two, “Ashwood Cottage”, a picture postcard house with a big orchard on one side, full of apple, plum and pear trees, and on the other side a vast walled garden liberally planted by the previous owner with fruit bushes, raspberries, gooseberries (which I can’t find in the States!), black currants and red currants. It was right by the railway station; so the huge steam trains from Edinburgh to London via Leeds would sit refuelling with water right outside my bedroom window.

I then moved to Edinburgh University and lived in a student residence in George Square, which then was complete, with all four sides fine Georgian and early Victorian tenements. Now it is a mess, with just one side left. There I had just one room, but about twenty of us ate dinner together daily  in a fine old dining room.

Next was a small room in Coates Hall, the Scottish Baronial building which was the seminary of the Scottish Episcopal Church. We still had open fires in every bed-sitting room, fueled by coke (which is not a drink, but a form of coal!). The building is now the music school attached to St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral.

Then I moved to Oxford and, because my college, Keble, was bursting at the seams,  lived for two years in  Pusey House, a great institution built like a small Oxford College round a quadrangle of lawns and flower beds onto which my rooms looked.The Pusey House chapel is a gorgeous example of the work of Sir Ninian Comper, and it was there that I went to Mass most days, when  I was not going to St Mary Mag’s, a few hundred yards away. They must be the two most Anglo-Catholic churches in Oxford.

After Oxford, I completed my seminary training at Cuddesdon College, which is set in a village on the top of a gently rising hill six miles outside Oxford, where I had a very spacious room in the Victorian Gothic college. The Principal was Robert Runcie, later Archbishop of Canterbury.

Then it was back to Edinburgh to be ordained first Deacon and then Priest by the Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church. My first parish was St Salvador’s, a 1930′s gem in a poor area of the city, and there I had a bed-sitiing-room in the house of one of the widowed ladies of the parish. She had had several curates before me, one of whom told me he had never eaten better in his life than when he lived there. He was right!

After three years in Edinburgh, I was offered the job of Lecturer and Chaplain of Salisbury Theological College in the South-West of England, and so I found myself with a beautiful little apartment in the college, which was built by Butterfield in the 19th century. This looked out towards what some believe to be the most beautiful Cathedral in England (though, believe me, the competition is still). There the boys’ and men’s choir sang Evensong every day at 4 p.m. to  a dozen of us up in the choir stalls. it was there that I saw the Verger using his “verge”. the rod he carries ceremonially, as it was meant to be used, to part the crowd of tourists as he went in front of me, so that I could get to one of the side altars to say a Mass.

My next residence was to be mine for twelve years, and it was one of the most attractive apartments which looked out over The Meadows, a spacious, tree-filled park in Edinburgh. It was the Rectory of St Michael & All Saints (no, that’s not a mistake for St Michael & All Angels – it was a church called All Saints, which had been merged with St Michael’s when the latter closed). The distinction between the two churches had been that All Saints was English-speaking Anglo-Catholic, and St Michael’s had been Latin-speaking – so in the combined church we did everything!

The residences that followed my twelve years in Edinburgh got grander and grander, but also ever more eccentric. So I’ll leave them for a Part Two.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. bill kutrzyba permalink
    September 12, 2012

    It was so interesting reading of Scotland which is totally unfamiliar. Hope to hearmore.

  2. Stacey permalink
    September 23, 2012

    Interesting! Quite different than Philly. Looking forward to reading the rest.

  3. Sebastian Morris permalink
    September 29, 2012

    I enjoyed this so very much and am anxiously awaiting part two.

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