Friday, April 6, 2018



I grew up in the same hometown as my friend Billy Scobie, (a.k.a. Alexander Tait, author of Whisky in the Jar, The Cup, Mightier Than the Sword, Upon This Rock). The town, the Vale of Leven, is located just north of Glasgow, where the River Leven flows out of Loch Lomond and into the River Clyde at Dumbarton Rock.

Billy posted the following on his Facebook page:


Every day I look across the river and see the (apparently now derelict) Dalmonach Hall.

Those distinctive church-like windows remind me that, although originally built as a schoolhouse, it was in the Victorian era used as a Sunday School and Church Hall. I get to thinking about all these well-meaning generations of folk who tried to raise children to live Christian lives. I find myself wondering if their endeavours really made the world a better place. I am almost surprised to conclude that, all said and done, they probably did.

W. Scobie

The following is some of the thoughts Billy’s Facebook post inspired me to write:

Billy, (I’ll try to be brief as I know you’re not a fan of long-winded comments), but it is patently obvious that “all these well-meaning generations of folk who tried to raise children to live Christian lives … really made the world a better place.” (See what I did there?) 
The world is a better place because of Christ and the influence of Christianity, i.e., Christian (as in Christ’s) teachings. It’s as Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33. Sure, there’s a big difference between someone being influenced by Christianity and someone being converted to Christianity. However, either way, both make for a better society. Whether the butcher, the baker, or the candlestick-maker, all strive to deal honestly and fairly with each other because they have been taught that selfishness is bad for self and for society and “loving your neighbour as yourself’ is good.

The secret for social governance is in self-governance. The influence of Christianity meant that we as individuals, and society as a whole, were all on the same (Bible) page. We were all singing from the same hymnbook. This is what we mean by freedom, both personal and public.

On a deeper level, the internal law that rules my heart matches the external law that rules society. (Both of which are based on a correct understanding of the Ten Commandments, justice and mercy etc., (i.e., the law of His Kingdom). Social cohesion and all of that.  However, social morals, (like the buildings in your picture above), whether obeyed in gratitude to God’s mercy or obeyed in fear of civil or criminal punishment or eternal, have been neglected and have become rundown, even dilapidated. However, the good news is that one can still make out “those distinctive church-like windows”, the ones through which we can see an encouraging past as well as a glorious future – if society moves in the right direction.

Like the Maid of the Loch paddling full-steam ahead towards Balloch Pier after an excursion up the loch, would suddenly stop those great paddlewheels and slam them into reverse, yet the boat still moved forward, so Vale society, (and indeed Western society) is still drifting forwards towards its destination. But society’s engines have slowed things down and the great paddles have churned the water into the foam and froth of social confusion.

I’m an optimist, a Biblical optimist! Though the Maid of the Loch has been out of commission for so many decades collecting rust, she will sail again. People cannot stand standing
idly by and watching our great heritage, the things that made us great and the envy of others, sink into oblivion. They will rally together. They will donate their cash and their time. They will advertise. They will refurbish. The will join with each other and form a community of hope. The community will expand, growing into a great tree from a tiny mustard seed.

God bless the Maid of the Loch and all who sail in her! And God bless His Kingdom and all who enter in – till the shadows flee, till all is leavened, the Vale, the whole world.

Just as individuals on social media brought to my attention (here in Australia) the sorry state and plight of the Maid of the Loch (– which now looks like it has been revived to the point of present and future happy days), so individuals, such as yourself, by your postings (such as the one above), may serve to revive a great interest in our Christian heritage.

May God be pleased to use you mightily in this endeavour.

Addendum: Neil, Thank you most sincerely for that wonderfully uplifting piece of spiritual writing ... It really has done me good to read it. I liked your use of the Maid of the Loch. Not only did I serve as assistant purser aboard her (season 1970), but she was launched the year I was born (1953), so I have a special feeling for that wee steamer. What seeds you sow with your words!

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