Born: October 19, 1927;

Died: January 8, 2022.

WITH the death of the Rev Bill Shackleton at the age of 94, the Church of Scotland has lost a unique and distinctive voice. Bill spoke with love, understanding, and humour about the East End of Glasgow, its life and its characters.

Bill was born in Glasgow, his parents both from Govan. His father served in an infantry unit throughout the First World War, and after the War, in a time of unemployment, he took work in Preston, where he and his wife brought up their three sons.

Bill left Preston Grammar School at 15 to become an apprentice printer. He attended the local Congregational Church where the minister, a future Bishop of Coventry, pointed Bill in the direction of the ministry. He left printing and a livelihood after three years to take up his studies. Fascinated by reading and especially by history, he gained entry to Edinburgh University where he studied History and Theology.

Set on becoming a minister in Scotland, in 1955 Bill joined the Iona Community in the dynamic days of the rebuilding of Iona Abbey. Inspired by the communal pattern of Iona’s life, he became assistant minister to the Rev. John Sim at St Francis-in-the-East in Glasgow’s Bridgeton. He lived in the flat at Church House, a pioneering centre of youth work under the supervision of the church. There he became deeply involved in the challenges of the young people who attended the youth club.

His five years at Church House bound him closely to the local community, and it was no surprise when in 1960 he was called to be the minister of St Francis-in-the-East. In 1963 he married Margaret Brown, who he had known through their shared engagement with the Iona Community. Bill took great pride in St Francis’s place in Bridgeton life, and his family life with Margaret and the children was woven into the life of the parish.

Through Church House and as chaplain to local schools, and through his pastoral care of people in the congregation and the community, he developed a key role in Bridgeton’s life. He became a member of the Bridgeton Business Club, and was sometime President of the Club. As a supporter of Rangers, he was delighted that the Business Club’s monthly lunch was held locally at Celtic’s Parkhead Stadium. He was a devotee of the work of Robert Burns, and was a member of the Bridgeton Burns Club. He was well-known as a speaker at Burns Suppers, where his speeches were both learned and hilarious.

While Bill had no interest in senior roles in Presbytery or the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, he was not shy of making his opinions publicly known. He was a prolific writer of letters to the Editor of The Herald on the widest range of topics. In such letters his humour was ever-present. He wrote articles for the church magazine, Life and Work, won praise for his short stories, and published three books which recounted stories of his life as a minister with both wit and compassion.

Bill always sought to involve working men in the spiritual dimension of discussion and action. To achieve this, he promoted the work of The Regnal League.

The Regnal League had its roots in the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War and was founded by the Rev Donald Standfast. He recognised that men who had shared those horrifying years might be looking for a way of life which attended to ‘body, mind, and spirit, with Christ at the Centre’. Bill founded several Regnal Circles in Scotland, including one in Bridgeton, which still meets today. Men found that it offered them a fellowship of equals, and a definite spiritual focus.

After 23 years at St Francis-in-the-East, Bill accepted a call to Wellpark West church in Greenock. In 13 years there he continued his focus on youth work through his youth fellowship, and fulfilled a committed pastoral ministry, including as chaplain to Greenock Prison, until his retirement. In retirement he was called to support the vacant parish of Toryglen Church and its people.

But even while focused on Greenock he retained his love for Bridgeton. He continued to take an interest in the Bridgeton Business Club, in the Burns Club, and in Church House. He supported the work of the Regnal League across the UK, and in 2020 the UK-wide League presented him with a silver salver, honouring his indispensable role over many years.

Anyone who met Bill remembers him. The parishes he served knew difficult times, and Bill was steadfast in his commitment to his parishioners and those in need. He also fulfilled the instruction given to him by the Beadle on his first Sunday at St Francis: "Keep it cheery, Bill; keep it cheery".

Bill is survived by his wife Margaret, with whom he shared 59 years of marriage, by their son the Rev Scott Shackleton, and their daughters Alison and Joy, and six grandchildren.