Former Free Kirk Moderator;

Born December 26, 1932;

Died June 26, 2006.

ALEX Murdo Macleod, a former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and the honorary president of the Bethesda Nursing Home and Hospice, has died.

Alex was well-known throughout the Highlands and Islands as a gifted Gaelic preacher and an able theologian, but perhaps his unique contribution to the Western Isles, to which he devoted all of his long ministry, was the realisation of his vision to establish a non-denominational nursing home and hospice in Stornoway "for all who need its care regardless of race, creed or ability to pay" and which, since it was opened by the Princess Royal in 1992, has provided palliative care to the elderly.

By nature, he was quiet, gentle and unassuming. But he was a deep thinker with a vivid imagination, a combination of natural attributes that enabled him not only to see visions and dream dreams, but also to hold very deep convictions.

As a preacher, he exemplified one of the most distinctive traditions of the Highland Presbyterian pulpit, by combining conceptual and experimental theology.

He also had the gift of naturally sharing his faith with others in the course of normal conversation. As a pastor he was always a sympathetic listener as well as a wise counsellor, and had the ability to establish immediate and strong rapport with those who sought his help.

Sadly, Alex Murdo's mother died when he was still an infant and he and his baby brother were brought up by their grandmother. He attended the local primary school and the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway. At the age of 18 he joined the Fleet AirArm, and on completing his national service, he worked with British Aluminium in Kinlochleven and also in the hydro-electric construction works that were then taking place in the Highlands.

He enrolled in the West of Scotland College of Commerce to study economics, graduating BSc (London) and qualifying as an associate of the college. During that time he attended Partick Highland Free Church in Glasgow where, under the preaching of the Rev Malcolm Morrison, he professed his faith in Jesus Christ, and shortly afterwards felt called to the Christian ministry.

On completing his studies at the Free Church College in Edinburgh in 1963, Alex Murdo was called to the congregation of Kinloch in Lewis, which he served faithfully until his retirement in 1997. Early in his ministry he married Chrissie Mackenzie, a local school teacher. He served on the Education Committee of Comhairle nan Eilean and also on the Western Isles Health Board. He was chairman of the Bethesda Managing Committee for the first nine years of its existence. In 1994, he was elected Moderator and represented the Free Church at events in the United States and Australia.

Shortly after retiral, Alex - accompanied by Chrissie - spent three months lecturing in the Dumisani Theological Institute, King William's Town, South Africa. Sadly, as retirement progressed, he was struck with a rapid form Parkinson's disease which he bore with enormous fortitude, sustained by the loving care and loyalty of Chrissie and their family.

Although reserved by nature, Alex Murdo was a wonderful conversationalist and it was always an enriching experience to visit him in his home and listen to him expounding his insights into the religious life and Gaelic culture of the islands and to enjoy his keen sense of humour. The thousand plus people attending his funeral testified to the enormous esteem in which he was held.

He is survived by Chrissie, their four children and a grandson.