Born: December 25, 1928;

Died: August 28, 2019

THE Reverend Angus Smith, who has died aged 90, attracted national attention when, in 1965, he fronted the protests against the Skye ferries sailing on the Sabbath. It was a grand gesture and Smith and the protest became a major news story. Photographs of him sitting down on the slipway by the docks at Kyleakin to prevent cars coming off the first Sunday ferry from Kyle of Lochalsh went worldwide. Unfortunately, the police arrived and (literally) carried Smith to the station. The newspapers christened him the ‘Ferry Reverend’.

Smith was a prominent member of the Free Church of Scotland ministry in Lewis, never afraid to court controversy and speak his mind. He campaigned to maintain the traditional values of the Outer Isles and opposed the increasing encroachment of a materialistic culture. His stance against the commercialisation of the Sabbath – as typified in the campaign against the opening of the ferry crossings – was a life-long passion.

Smith was a minister in the fundamentalist branch of the church and he was not without support. In the previous year there had been many meetings and heated discussions throughout the Isle of Skye about the rights of a ferry service on a Sunday.

There was a petition sponsored by the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland which was signed by half the population of Skye which declared that the ferry service was a “desecration of the Biblical Sabbath”.

So, on a sunny June morning Smith and another minister along with many locals had a Gaelic prayer meeting in the Kyleakin harbour. The police politely asked him to move but Smith and his followers stood firm and then promptly lay down in front of the first car to come off the ferry.

As this was going on the entire ‘congregation’ held an open-air Gaelic prayer meeting and sang the 40th Psalm. In all, fourteen of the demonstrators, Smith included, were hauled away and charged with breach of the peace.

The media was out in force and had a field day. The Glasgow Herald’s front-page report the following morning said the 14 men “offered no resistance as they were escorted or carried to a waiting-room on the quay, which was used as an improvised police headquarters ... [the Rev Smith had] called for 200 volunteers to help him but his appeal was answered by only about 50 islanders.”

The controversy was furthered when the Rev Archibald MacVicar described the event as “the most massive breach of the Lord’s Day that Skye has ever known”, while a Free Church elder accused the demonstrators of making an “exhibition of themselves and the island.”

Undaunted and with an uncompromising strength of conviction, Smith remained one of the most vocal and consistent campaigners against the increasingly secular society which he abhorred. He voiced critical opinions against the royal family, politicians and, particularly, television soaps which he said, “portray an immoral culture involving drink and drugs.” But he is still remembered, with some admiration, for his campaign to maintain the traditions of the Sabbath on the islands. It was, he considered, “an erosion of spiritual values.”

Angus Smith was born in Govan to his Gaelic-speaking parents, who were originally from Lewis. He was educated locally and after a few years teaching in Airdrie he studied for the ministry at the Free Church College in Edinburgh.

He was ordained and inducted in 1958 at the Snizort Free Church on Skye’s western coast of Trotternish. In 1968 Smith was appointed minister of Cross Free Church, Ness, a strongly Gaelic speaking congregation. In 1986 he was appointed Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly.

He retired from the ministry in 1997 but remained active within the church and community and continued to preach at the Free Presbyterian Church until 1999.

In another high-profile event in 1996, Smith was named as one of the accusers in a case of sexual assault against Professor Donald MacLeod (professor of systematic theology at the Free Church College in Edinburgh) and Smith’s brother-in-law. Macleod was cleared of all charges but it was a murky and convoluted affair.

Smith was respected by many in the Skye community which he served with great diligence for many years.

The Rev. James Tallach, a close friend of some years has said of him: “Angus was a very remarkable man – mentally and physically. He was very willing – you only had to ask him to do something and he would be half way out the door before you finished. He was certainly very well loved and will be greatly missed.”

Smith and his wife Johan recently celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary. He was diagnosed with cancer a number of weeks ago and died in Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway. He is survived by his wife and their four children.