A CHURCH of Scotland minister has tragically died in a hill walking accident in the Highlands.

Rev Johnny Paton, who led Kilninian and Kilmore linked with Salen, and Ulva linked with Tobermory linked with Torosay and Kinlochspelvie on the Isle of Mull, embarked on a solo expedition to An Teallach on Monday. (May 6)

The 60-year-old was an experienced hill walker and set off to an area nicknamed the “Great Wilderness” at 1.30pm, estimating that his trip would take 7-8 hours.

When he failed to return to Ullapool where he was holidaying with his wife Cathy, she raised the alarm at 10.30pm after being unable to make contact with him.

A Scottish Mountain Rescue team launched a helicopter search of the mountain, which lies to the southwest of Dundonnell and overlooks Little Loch Broom, and later found the minister’s body.

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Stewart Shaw, clerk to the Presbytery of Argyll, said: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden loss of a distinguished minister and kindly friend, Rev Johnny Paton, minister on the Isle of Mull.

“We extend our sympathies and condolences to his wife, Cathy and his family.

“We hold them and his congregations in our thoughts and prayers at this tragic time.”

HeraldScotland:

Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team (stock pic)

Mr Shaw said the minister was an experienced hill walker.

Mr Paton, who was a “Munro bagger”, took up his post on the Isle of Mull  in 2013 and held a variety of positions within the Presbytery of Argyll.

Mr Paton studied alongside Rt Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly, at New College in Edinburgh.

She said: "I am so sorry to hear of Johnny's death and Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, convener of the World Mission Council, who is with me in Rome joins me in offering our sympathy and our prayers, to his wife Cathy, his family and friends and to his church family in the north of Mull.

"I have fond memories of Johnny from our days at New College. A man always quick to smile.

“So kind, compassionate and quietly diligent and faithful."

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Craig Renton, depute secretary of the Ministries Council of the Church of Scotland, said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Rev Johnny Paton.

“We are grateful for his ministry and pray God’s blessing and light be upon his family, friends and congregation during these difficult days.”

HeraldScotland:

Rev Dr Roderick Campbell, Moderator of the Presbytery of Argyll, will conduct worship at Salen Church on Sunday at 11am.

He will pay tribute to Mr Paton and offer support to his family, family and the congregation.

Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team was joined by the HM Coastguard helicopter in searching for the Minister.

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Sergeant Alasdair Goskirk said: “Our thoughts are with the man’s friends and family at this very sad time.

“There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in due course.

“I would take the opportunity to thank the crew of the HM Coastguard helicopter and the volunteers at Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team for their assistance with this incident.”