Skip to content

Orthodox in Edinburgh

2013 April 17
by Gordon Reid

The Archimandrite John Maitland Moir has died at a ripe old age and, though I have not seen him for decades, he never failed to send me the smallest Christmas cards I have ever received. They were always tiny 2″x 1″ Eastern icons, with a short greeting on the back in Fr John’s writing.

He was a Scottish Episcopal priest in the 1960s when we first met, but even then he looked like an Orthodox priest, with a wispy beard and a Sarum cassock. No Roman buttons down the front for him. He gave lectures on Patristics at Edinburgh Theological College and showed his deep love of the Eastern Church and the Greek Fathers. Eventually, inevitably, he swam not the Tiber but the Hellespont and was ordained a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in Great Britain.

In the 1970s, when I was Rector of St Michael & All Saints Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, I gave the use of one of our side chapels to Fr John Sotnikov, a Russian Orthodox priest   who had a little congregation in Edinburgh. They had their Liturgy between our 8 and 11 o’clock Masses, and believe me, it took them all their time to cram it in, even though Fr Sotnikov began muttering the preparatory prayers long before my 8 o’clock was over!

When Fr Sotnikov died, Fr Maitland Moir took over the chapel and the congregation. He was fluent in Greek, of course, but in everything else he was a home-grown son of a staid Presbyterian  Edinburgh doctor. He became a “weel-kent” figure riding a heavy iron bicycle around Tollcross and the Meadows. He used to have one meal a day only, and that was for years provided by Mrs Pinhorne, a member of St M & All Ss, whom I eventually buried at the age of 102. He was very strict about his Orthodox diet, and I remember Mrs Pinhorne’s maid, Jean, lamenting to me one day in Lent “Father, there’s a limit to the number of ways you can cook lentils”!

Because I gave over the chapel in St M & All Ss to the Russians, I was invited to dinner by a Russian lady, the widow of Sir Edward Reid, and who was therefore Lady Reid (no relation). Just before she died she enrolled me as a life-member of the Clan Donnachiadh Society, the clan of (mainly) Reids and Robertsons. So I  suppose I am still a member, though I have never done a thing about it.

Anyway, to dinner I went, and the two other guests were Fr Sotnikov and Fr Maitland Moir. The course that sticks in my memory was the one where a vast silver bowl of Beluga caviare was placed in the centre of the table, sitting on a bed of ice, accompanied by lots of hot toast and a large bottle of Russian vodka. Lady Reid, Fr Sotnikov and I tucked in merrily, and got even merrier as the vodka glasses were replenished several times. But Fr Maitland Moir took only the tiniest bit of caviare and one piece of toast, and made a sort of suppressed groan as he tasted the vodka. He was not tea-total, but I’m sure he would rather have had a glass of sherry and a water biscuit.

He was a faithful parish priest, a good friend and mentor to many, and I am sure he will be waking up to hear his Lord’s welcome: “Well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.



5 Responses leave one →
  1. Dr. Athanasos N. Papthanasiou permalink
    April 17, 2013

    God may hold Fr John in his eternal love, together with all his beloved children who dedicated their life in the humble service of their brothers. Fr. John will celebrate the Easter in the heavenly altar, in the bright foretaste of Resurrection.

    Athansios and Eleni Papathanasiou
    Athens, Greece

  2. Dr A.Pletsas permalink
    April 20, 2013

    Fr John will greatly be missed from all our family.Whenever he was visiting Athens,he was staying in our house..he had plenty of visits everyday..people loved him very much and always wanted to have his blessings..have a nice trip to paradise fr John..we will never forget you!
    Dr A.Pletsas and family

  3. Cornelius Badger permalink
    April 29, 2013

    Fr. Reid; you should write a book filled with these anecdotes, inspiring remembrances of scripture and ecclesiastical events, as well as some of your homilies. Sandra Day O’Connor, Madeleine Korbel Albright, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and even Clive Staples Lewis have all shown us the way.

    Share more of your treasure trove of memories in this way. I can’t think of a greater gift.

    Yours sincerely,

    (C. A. Badger, Jr.)

  4. Αlexandros Kakavoulis permalink
    May 4, 2013

    Father John, for me and my wife Dimitra (who is in Heaven from 17/1/2003), was a great Orthodox Priest who helped us and many others to know more of what is orthodox Christian spirituality and life and what should be an orthodox priest and a member of the Orthodox Church. We met him in 1995 when we went to Edinburg for postgraduate studies and since then we were related to him with a strong spiritual friendship. We met him almost every timee he visited Greece and we exchanged letters quite often. We hope his work in the Orthodox Community in Edinburg will be continued after his way.

  5. Owen Smith permalink
    May 17, 2013

    While he was in Inverness, Father John was a hospital chaplain.

    I am sure my wife was not the only patient who, on seeing him looking down on her as she woke from a delerious sleep, thought she was in heaven.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

Facebook Auto Publish Powered By :