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Rev Campbell Gillon

Minister who conducted prayers in Congress after 9/11

Minister who conducted prayers in Congress after 9/11

Born: February 28, 1927; Died: May 13, 2014

REV Campbell Gillon, who has died aged 87, was a Scottish minister who became an important figure in the First Presbyterian Church, Georgetown, Washington in the United States. Following the events of September 11th, he led prayers in the House of Representatives and he was chaplain of the St Andrews Society of Washington.

He was born in Edinburgh, near Greyfriars' Bobby, and was named Charles Colin Campbell Gillon after both grandfathers: Charles Gillon, who was precentor to the Church of Scotland at the time of the Union General Assembly of 1929, and Colin Campbell, a photographer who had a photographic studio on Princes Street during the First World War.

His father, James Gillon had been a sniper in that war and was a divinity student at the time of his birth, and his mother Margaret had been a colour retoucher in her father's studio. His younger brother James, called Ranza within the family, was in the photographic business for many years.

Always known as Campbell, he grew up and was educated in Bellshill ­Academy gaining prizes in Greek and Latin. Having completed the first year of his MA degree, he was called up, serving in the Education Corps. He refused a commission, thinking it would release him from the army quicker. He then returned to Glasgow University to complete his arts degree, followed by his three year divinity qualification.

At the age of 19, during a short leave, he met Audrey Fairway, the 16 year old daughter of Rev Ralph Fairway, whose manse was in the same street as that of one of his uncles, all of whom were ministers. He proposed. They married a week after her 20th birthday, and this year they would have celebrated 65 years of happy marriage.

They went on to have three daughters - Rev Wendy Drake and Rev Sheila Blount, and Mrs Carol Lea, an elder in the URC. They had seven grandchildren, one great grandchild and two more on the way.

His first church was Buittle, near Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, where worship dates back to the 13th century. In his lively and enthusiastic ministry, he installed electricity in the church and organised buses to bring the rural congregation to services at a time where there were few cars.

In 1958, Milton St Stephens Church in Glasgow called him to be their minister and he brought together a new union in Garnethill. The Glasgow School of Art was in his parish. He organised three parish visitations comprising thousands of homes. The congregation and its organisations were outgrowing its buildings. He discovered Glasgow's plans to build the M8 when seeking planning permission for a new hall. This they built, with the minister digging foundations too. The sign outside read: "Built by Voluntary Labour to further Church Work".

In 1964 he took his congregation to unite with Renfield Street Church. Upon selling that building to BHS, they bought the Church which is now Renfield St Stephen's and the neighbouring tenements, which were demolished and rebuilt as the Renfield Centre.

His imagination and forward thinking saw the inclusion of a restaurant, side chapel, gymnasium, concert hall and the Presbytery Offices. His aim had been to make the church accessible to all throughout the week. The King's Theatre opposite often used the premises as rehearsal space. Opened in 1970, The Renfield Centre was the first of its kind in Scotland.

In 1973, he was called to Cathcart Old, and while there the Church celebrated its 800th Anniversary.

Then in 1980, after a previous summer exchange, he was called to Georgetown Presbyterian Church, Washington DC, where his preaching and personality were immensely appreciated. With no family in the USA, he and Audrey emigrated in their 50s, following his lifetime habit of rejoicing in new challenges, and America became their home. The Lockerbie disaster saw him rise to prominence on TV. With a book of aerial photographs of Scotland, he was able to show ­something of the area and tell the Americans where Lockerbie was, not far from his first church in the Scottish Borders.

A man who did not possess a kilt until he went to live in the USA, he was for 15 years the Chaplain to the St Andrew's Society and preached several times in Washington Cathedral. After 28 years ministry in Scotland and a further 22 in Georgetown, Campbell was honoured in retirement as Pastor Emeritus and in the Citation in the Congressional Record of the USA. He had conducted prayers in Congress on several occasions including a few days after 9/11.

A man of enormous enthusiasm, a great organiser and a fine preacher, he was a published author, accomplished artist, composer and poet. He is survived by his wife, daughters and grandchildren.

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