Enjoyed a good fight

in the way some people

enjoy bad health.

-- Ronald Ferguson

Triumph of vision and commitment over adversity . . .

-- Thomas Winning

IT gives me the very greatest pleasure to contribute to this special

Weekender symposium on one of the greatest ministers I have ever known

-- George MacLeod. We first met when my husband, Walter Elliot, was

Secretary of State for Scotland in 1936 and 1937. George was then the

minister in Govan and -- if my memory is right -- already famous for his


This was before his great work on Iona started. I can remember going

to see the abbey, which was a stately ruin. I was one of the first

people to join the Iona Community, and I have belonged to it ever since.

It was in 1956 and 1957 that my husband Walter was High Commissioner

to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and our two

Moderators of the Assembly were Mr Scott from St Columba's Church in

London, and then George MacLeod. Preaching in St Giles' Cathedral,

George held the congregation utterly spellbound -- such a wonderful

voice, and such words. I have never forgotten that.

It was some years later that George came into the House of Lords. I

had been a member since 1958, and I was simply delighted when he was

introduced -- the first Church of Scotland minister to be made a Peer.

He made a great impression on all the members of the Lords, and we were

all very sad when his hearing made it impossible for him to take any

further part in our work.

George MacLeod will never be forgotten.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood, of Rulewater in Roxburgh, DBE, LLD, is one

of Scotland's most distinguished Peers. She is a former UK delegate to

the UN General Assembly.

I RECALL wandering around the streets of Govan as a wee boy. On Sunday

nights we always used to go to Govan Cross, where there was a sort of

speakers' corner. George MacLeod was always there, talking about the

yards and campaigning for better conditions. He used to get hundreds of

people listening.

The first time I heard him I went home and asked my father who this

man was. He said: ''That's the minister, son.'' And that impressed me:

that the minister should be out there, talking to the people. The man

had a huge impact on Govan, and he was a great campaigner. I never

actually met him, but I'm sure that if I had been older I'd have been

grasped by him: he had that kind of power.

Even as a small boy, though I could not really understand what he was

saying, I was impressed that here was this minister, reaching out beyond

his church and his pulpit, reaching out to the people.

Alex Ferguson, OBE, was born and bred in Govan. He played football

for, among others, Rangers and Dunfermline. His distinguised managerial

career has taken him from East Stirling to Manchester United, via St

Mirren and Aberdeen.

GEORGE MACLEOD is a towering figure in the Kirk, a Scottish Christian

leader of international standing. It's no wonder that he is up there

with Mother Teresa and Solzhenitsyn in winning the Templeton

International Prize.

He is a big man. Big in his vision, big in his capacities, big in his

flaws. Whether you are for him or against him you cannot easily give him

the ''bodyswerve''. He confronts you, and demands an answer.

He is a mass of contradictions -- conservative, radical, aristocratic,

socialist, belligerent, pacifist, traditional, iconoclastic,

hard-headed, romantic. In my time as leader of the Iona Community I had

to stand up to him in order not to be swallowed up by him: I soon

understood that he enjoyed a good fight in the way some people enjoy bad


Above all he is a visionary who puts his body where his mouth is, a

prophet who sees into the heart of things. His passionate belief that

the spiritual and the material must not be separated has made him an

uncompromising crusader against injustice wherever he finds it.

Everything he does is informed by a passionate love for God. As a

preacher and orator he has had few equals in twentieth-century Scotland;

the Celtic poetry of his prayers has lifted countless people in the

direction of heaven. To be led in worship by MacLeod in Iona Abbey is to

be moved unforgettably, to be changed.

George MacLeod has inspired countless people. Like many others, I love

the man, even when he is at his most maddening. He is not a saint in the

conventional sense (though he is in the sense that Columba was -- an

outrageous, volative adventurer, taking God at his word).

No, not a saint. Just a hero.

The Rev. Ron Ferguson is a former leader of the Iona Community. His

forthcoming biography of George MacLeod is his fifth book.

TWO hundred words on MacLeod? Deduct saint (as in the Bible, not the

Calendar), prophet, gentleman, and political maverick.

That leaves 195, of which one must be orator. As a boy, I was taken to

hear him at his most exasperating, a pacifist in the war that had to be

fought, remembered for gallantry in the one that should have been

avoided. I wished (and still wish) I could speak like that. Of those

I've heard,

only Violet Bonham-Carter and Churchill approached him.

Years later he dazzled me in an Assembly speech about the Lord Jesus

holding Kruschev in the hollow of his hand. Yet when I first met him (in

a BBC studio) he was spouting about the EC as a Popish plot, matched

only for nonsense value by his later eccentric blend of CND with

conspiracy theories about capitalism and the Cold War. Occasionally he

was fooled by the Soviet-run ''peace movement'', though he backed Keston

College when organised ecumenism concealed the truth about persecution.

Not many words left. Protestant has to be one. His life and work

affirm the priesthood of all believers. Leader is another. Postwar

generations only remember him as an old man; but what a word of command

he must have had in his prime, the evil age of the Fuhrer, the Duce, and

Comrade Stalin. Not his own word, but the Word that worked as a


Sometimes he is the day before yesterday's man, a great Victorian late

in time, his politics as dated as Columba's. He is also eternity's man

and Christ's man. If I believed in the mediation of saints I would

enlist his intercession. But his response would be: ''Don't follow me:

follow Him.''

R. D. Kernohan is editor of Life and Work and a leading commentator on

Kirk affairs.

IN the late sixties George MacLeod was Lord Rector of Glasgow

University. At a QM dinner a gauche young lady speaker remarked how glad

everyone was that ''our Rector Lord Reith was present''.

Aside from the fact that Reith by that time was dead, there is a

temptation to compare the two men, not simply because they were both

Rectors of Glasgow University. To look at, both were tall, stern

calvinists. But there the resemblance ends, for the vain, unhappy Reith

of close-up does not compare with the unforbidding and mischievous


The riotous bantering of a MacLeod family meal was hardly the stuff of

which tyrants are made, although had he chosen a career in politics he

might have been less harmless in his benign dictatorship of the Iona

community. But there was always the impish iconoclast within him.

He once complained to me that the New Club, Edinburgh's elite

establishment, was threatening to discipline him for having broken club

rules by discussing business with a guest over lunch. On making further

inquiries about this draconian treatment of an aged member, I discovered

that MacLeod had taken the enfant terrible of Festival Arts into the

ladies' retiring room for a chat.

The twinkle in the eye and love of acting contrary are as essential to

understanding his character as his military and upper-class upbringing.

A remark he was fond of making after recounting a remarkable happening

was: ''If you think that's a coincidence, I hope you have a very dull

life!'' I once told him I was proposing to use it in a book. Contrary to

the last, he replied: ''I've no idea who said it. Certainly it wasn't


Coincidences abounded for George MacLeod and he certainly did not have

a dull life . . . as Ron Ferguson's excellent book will demonstrate


The Rev. Stewart Lamont is the Glasgow Herald's religious affairs

correspondent. He is the author of several books, including Church and

State (Bodley Head).

TWO things really stand out about George MacLeod: his social

conscience, as reflected through his founding of the Iona Community, and

his deep commitment to the belief that the world must not be allowed to

destroy itself through nuclear weapons.

This man has had a profound influence on Scottish society in the

twentieth century. He has made an enormous contribution to maintaining

our egalitarian traditions and our compassionate attitudes, thus

allowing Scotland to resist the utilitarianism of Mrs Thatcher.

It must now be heartbreaking for George MacLeod, and all the thousands

who have followed him, to see not just the Government, but also the

alternative government, committed to nuclear weapons on the Clyde. But

this is most certainly not a failure on George MacLeod's part -- he has

taken the majority of the Scottish people with him.

He found in Govan in the 1930s a great stimulus for social action. He

found a substantial number of human beings living in poverty. Things are

now better than they were then, and much of the improvement is due to

him. But we must remember that people in Govan are still living on the

brink of poverty; and they are now prey to the moneylenders and the drug


Geroge MacLeod is a very great Scot.

Jim Sillars has represented Govan in the SNP interest since 1988, when

he won the seat from Labour in a spectacular by-election victory.

LENGTH of days may not be what makes age honourable, and a prophet may

seldom be recognised in his own land -- but Lord George MacLeod of

Fuinary has certainly confounded everyone on both counts.

He has testified consistently to his steadfast belief in the vitality

of the Gospel. It is truly Good News -- and it is for everyone.

A charismatic pacifist, whose place in the annals of Christianity in

Scotland is already assured, his appreciation of Gospel values led to a

Christian activism.

At no time was this more exemplified than among the unemployed of

Govan during the depressed 1930s. He lived the ''preferential option for

the poor'' long before the phrase was coined as a priority for today's


A man of vision, he has, however, been a child of his time.

Yet it is to his credit, and our good fortune, that his gift of

insight always overpowered that awesome tendency, which we all share, to

remain rooted in past -- or present -- prejudices.

Thus, his fears that the treaty of Rome, which saw the birth of the

European Economic Community, might be somewhat more than met the eye,

eventually gave way to an inspired dedication to ecumenical initiatives.

The Iona Community -- dare I say it: the nearest the Church of

Scotland has to a religious order -- the restoration of the abbey, the

centre named after him, the 1989 Templeton Prize, all bear eloquent

witness to the triumph of vision and commitment over adversity,

suspicion and human nature.

George MacLeod's pilgrimage through life has indeed blazed a trail for

others to follow. It is a path which leads to Jesus, who continues to

pray that we ''all may be one''.

That, for me, is also the predominant message of Lord MacLeod of

Fuinary. If he is indeed a prophet who is truly recognised and acclaimed

in his own time, and in his own land, then we Christians must make that

message our own -- and act on it.

Thomas J. Winning is Archbishop of Glasgow and chairman of the

Bishops' Conference of Scotland.