Every parish church was a challenge to my wife and me working as a team, a job we put our hearts into to bring spiritual energy to people starving for the Word. The manse was very large, the huge garden walled in and the extensive Glebe on the banks of the River Dee, some eleven miles from Aberdeen city. The church was half a mile distant, on high ground, of perpendicular Gothic style built in 1835. It was built to replace the very ancient Kirk of Dalmaik, on the river bank. Dalmaik was built in 997 AD but it was a site of worship long before then. There was a third church under my charge, the former UF West Church at Park Village.
During my ministry, the West Church was acquired by the community as a public hall in 1957. The place of worship was the handsome Drumoak Kirk. In Newmills (Fife) and Black-ridge (West Lothian) I had fine church choirs. At my Induction I was delighted to find there was a large enthusiastic choir.
It was late in February, 1954, when we settled in. The weather was sunny and warm, like a summer's day. The day before my first Sunday service, a blizzard blew up. Snow swirled everywhere and it was very dark. All Saturday night the storm was at its height. Sunday morning was quiet, but huge drifts surrounded the manse. To add to the discomfort the phone was out of order. At breakfast, we heard voices outside. Farmers with tractor snowploughs were out. They had cleared paths to the church and to my joy, there was a fine congregation at the eleven o'clock service and a bigger one when I preached at six the same evening. In my first sermon, I said it was my intention to take the church to every home in the parish. In this crusade, I would be accompanied by an elder. To all sick and aged, there would be regular visits, especially to those in hospitals.
Our youngest son, Ronnie, in a plaster cast, was removed by special ambulance from Bangour to Drumoak and a month later, to Strachathro Hospital, near Brechin. For seven months he was the ideal patient, full of fun, a studious reader and continued his correspondence classes to university level.
Within a month of my Induction, all the organizations of the church were visited and grounded on sure foundations. To my intense satisfaction I had a group of fine young teenagers with keen interest. They co-operated in my projects.
I enjoyed my visits to farm houses, farm cottages, small holdings, distant hamlets, Park Village, the school, Linn Moor Home for Children and to the Oakbank Approved School for Boys. The farms had pleasing names: Quartains, Quiddies Mill, Rashenlochie, Candieglearech, Drum, Dalmik Park, Belskevie, Newhall, Tersets, Kinclunie and Rosehall, to mention only a few.
There were quite a number of aged people between ninety and ninety-nine. The latter prayed every day, 'Lord preserve me until I am one hundred.'
She died before she had reached one hundred and was buried in Old Dalmaik Kirk Yard, the last to be buried there.
On searching old church records, I found the old lady was actually in her 10 1st year when she died.
The ancient Kirk of Dalmaik interested me. I had the inside of the ruins with its crumbling memorials tidied up and each year I had an open air service within the ruins to commemorate the faithful ministers and people who had worshipped there for over nine hundred years. People came from far distances to attend the services at which psalms were sung.
Eddie Bichan, a farmer, sent a tractor plough and three men into the deserted walled manse garden. Our own boys joined in the clearance operation. A mason repaired the steps between the upper and lower gardens. It took ten days to clear up the overgrown shrubs, nettles, thistles and giant hemlocks. We had three spectacular bonfires. The neglected top lawn was raked and reseeded. Borders were refashioned. In three months what was wilderness became a place of order, growth and beauty. By the end of July 1954, we invited the Church Office-bearers and their ladies to a picnic on the lawn. They just looked and looked. A riot of colour in flowers and in the lower vegetable garden, all kinds of crops.
All our life it has been our pleasure to turn jungles into places of beauty.
On 7th August, 1954, HM The Queen and her husband were due to pass the top of the Manse Avenue. With my wife and daughter, Margaret, I waited in the cool afternoon air. A truck of royal luggage passed, followed by a police car and not far behind, the royal car. As the car approached, cows rushed on to the road. The royal car halted, I rushed on to the road and herded the animals down the avenue. My reward, as the car accelerated, was a charming smile and a bow from the Queen.
Later that evening, a police officer called at the manse and thanked me for my alertness.
I have spent many hours with dying people. One old man, Charlie Davie, a life-long member of Drumoak Church and for over sixty years, an office bearer, comes to mind.
One evening he was very low, his two sisters and son around his bed. I held a short service after which Charlie said in a weak voice, 'Mr Caseby, I am waiting inwardly for the Master's call!' He raised his feeble arm and took hold of my hand and in a surprising strong voice he recited the twenty-four lines of a poem he had composed and written that day. He handed me an old large envelope. 'I had to write, I had to speak,' he said. 'This is my faith, my testimony. These words have been my trust and my hope, all my days. Use them to bring others to Christ's side.'
We, who gathered to assure the old man God's peace and Christ's comfort, found radiant assurance and comfort ourselves. Yes, we, who had come to pray for Charlie Davie, realized he had pointed out the illuminated way to us. We looked upon a very feeble helpless body, but in its shell, a glorious triumphant faith. He gave me the old envelope and slipped back on his pillow. He had spoken his last words on earth.
Drumoak Church was packed for the funeral service, at which I read the poem, part of which reads:
Lord and King of glory
Lord and King of glory
Lord, we cry to Thee,
Eighty-six year old Charlie Davie died as he had lived, loyal to Christ.
This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993. All rights reserved. Used here by express permission.