Carlops, the Radiant Village
The day before leaving Drumoak, I had two sad funerals, one on the Isle of Arran, to officiate at the funeral of Mr Douglas Hamilton, the eminent artist in stained glass windows and the other, the funeral of Mrs Kemp, who was killed by a car on her way home from my farewell Communion Service. I had travelled long distances by road, rail and steamer, for seventy two hours, with only four hours' sleep.
When I saw Carlops Manse and church, for the first time, I phoned my wife.
'The manse is small, hidden in a jungle of trees, shrubs and wild growth. The back door is broken, with ivy growing into the kitchen, which has two boxed-in beds. At the back of the house, ashes are up to window level. Major joinery, painting and decorating is required. There is a big hole in the church roof, cracks in the ceiling, no heating, damp discoloured walls, the pews are in need of repair, there are many broken panes of glass, the church surrounds are filthy.' I heard my wife sigh, then her words, 'What do you think of the place?'
'It is a challenge, a fine opportunity to show what we can do. In nine months we can have everything in perfect order,' I replied. Such was my confidence.
We arrived in Carlops on 9th April 1959. We had to cut down bushes and lay down wooden planks for the removers to take in the furniture, most of which had to be stored in one room.
In my sketch book I had previously written, 'Cut down eight foot high towering hedge, uproot twenty overgrown trees and bushes, remove fifty tons of ashes at the back of house, build a retaining dry stone wall, modernize house.' I left the removal men and walked down to Church.
In the sketch book I wrote, 'Clean up pews, brush down walls, paper over cracks, scrub the floors, secure six bottles of liquid gas, six gas heaters, repair church steps, clean up church surrounds.'
My wife also had a notebook - she knew where everything had to go in the four habitable rooms. When I got back from the church, all four rooms were in order, curtains up and a meal prepared. The removal men had their lunch in the Alan Ramsay Hotel.
Events moved swiftly. Men with saws cut down the jungle, a farmer with his tractor pulled out roots and double ploughed the whole frontage of the manse. A young Edinburgh Minister (Rev George Jack) managed the bonfires, ash clearance and the tidying up of the outhouses. On our second day in Carlops, I had a conference with joiners, electricians, builders plumbers, plasterers and decorators. They were all concerned about down payments. I told them I had no money, only an abundance of faith. Everything would be squared up after my Induction on 15th April.
The chosen contractors started work that afternoon. Men seemed to pop in to help. A path was put down in front of the manse, stone chips were also laid. Plants we had brought from Drumoak were planted and before nightfall, a transformation had taken place. On 14th April, all the temporary work, in and around the church, was completed, including bottle gas convectors. The church was warm. The previous minister inducted at Carlops was fifty-five years ago.
On 15th of April, the day was crisp and clear for my Induction. There was a record turnout of the Dalkeith Presbytery, of local ministers and three ministerial colleagues who were to speak at my social. The church was full. It was a happy event. Later, in the village hall, Carlops ladies had a fine tea for members of the Presbytery. In reply to the Moderator's fine words, I said, 'Gentlemen, I hope you will return before the end of the year, when you will see a beautiful church, fully furnished, electrically heated, the surrounds of the church neat and tidy, also the manse and the gardens, a pleasure to look at. This is my dedication.'
One or two ministers smiled, others questioned my vision. One man said, 'What about the money?' I had only one Elder and thirty-six members - half of them up in years but I knew God was on my side.
The church social, on the evening of the Induction, was an outstanding success, a fine meal, fine speakers and fine music.
In my address, I said, 'It is my intention to have Elders and Deacons appointed within one month, organizations functioning and a modernized church, operational by mid-October, 1959.'
Dr John Kellas, Presbytery Clerk, pulled at my sleeve- 'Tut, tut, Caseby, you are making a promise you can never fulfill; the Presbytery takes nearly one year to pass plans.'
I just laughed, remarking that Lord Asquith once said, 'Wait and see.'
As minister, I had access to all records, bank books and Communion Roll. It was lambing season, so I found joy in going around the hills with shepherds, nine in all, also visiting the farms and crofts. The parish was well scattered, there were many lovely homes, so, too, Carlops village. I got around all the homes, a welcome in each.
By the end of April, I had visited each home, had plans for church and manse complete and on the first Sunday in May, elders and deacons appointed. The Bottle Gas Company allowed me a free use of the convectors until summer, so we had a cosy church for our Sunday services. We had fine congregations and without asking, money came in for all my projects.
On 2nd August (with the approval of Presbytery), the church was closed for modernization and the reconsecration of the church and dedication of furnishings was to take place on 11th October. We worshipped in the church hall. All tradesmen worked hard. The roof was stripped and relined with felt and new slates. Free gifts were offered from many quarters:
Communion Table, Minister's Chair, Elders Chairs, twelve Choir Chairs, Praise Boards, Baptismal Font, Collection Stand, Individual Communion Service for 120, four Bread Platters, money donations towards carpeting, lino, pulpit fall, curtains, lecturn, Bibles, hymn books, piano, organ, electric shades and pulpit heater.
On the appointed day, 11th October 1959, the West Linton policeman had to direct traffic.
The church bell tolled again after fifty years silence. People streamed into church, it was a magnificent sight, extra seats had to be brought in, the service was impressive.
1. Rededication of Church; 2. Dedication of Furnishings, Installation of Stained Glass Windows, Prayer, Lesson, Praise, Prayer, Sermon, Praise, Benediction.
I gifted an autograph book, listing every gift; many signed it. It was open day for church and manse; many members and visitors accepted the invitation. All marvelled at what had been accomplished in so short a time. My vision and vow had come to pass and all accounts were settled.
On 18th October, Holy Communion Services were held, a memorable occasion; it was most moving and many wept with delight. From that day the church was open every day during daylight hours.
I had a notice outside the church 'Carlops Church is always open for Quiet, Rest, Mediation and Prayer'. Many people took advantage of the offer and some were very revealing.
An American, on a world tour, landed at Edinburgh Airport. Having three hours to spare, he took a taxi, telling the driver to take him into some pretty country; the driver took him to Carlops. The church door was open, the American walked in, saw the open Bible on the Lectern; he read, 'If you love Me, keep My commandments'. (St John 14: 15), my text the previous Sunday.
As I walked into the church, the man told me, 'I have been in nearly forty countries, in as many days, seen the sights of the world, yet this is the only moment I have found peace and been brought to my senses, by God's Holy Word. Tell me what the text means.'
He listened in profound silence for five minutes. I said a short prayer. Tears were in his eyes.
'To think I have missed so much down the years.' He put £1 in the church box.
On leaving he read aloud, 'Carlops Church is always open, for Quiet, Rest, Meditation and Prayers. Tonight I have experienced all four.' I often wondered how his life progressed.
Carlops is neatly tucked amid the Pentland Hills. The houses are mostly white, all very beautiful, about thirty in number. Areas around have sweet-sounding names - Kittleknowe; Pyet-Hall; The Latch; Harbour Craig; Fairliehope; Fairslachs; Paties Hill; Habbies Howe; Nine Mile Burn; Spital; The Carpet; Maybie Hill and Marfield, to mention a few. Harbour Craig is a series of rocks, many caves are cut out of soft stone. Nearby is a huge outcrop of stone called The Pulpit Rock. During the Covenanting times, hundreds gathered under the Pulpit Rock to hear the word of God preached. I held open air services at Harbour Craig. The poet Allan Ramsay, known as the 'Gentle Shepherd' and remembered with a statue that stands by the famous Floral Clock in Princes Street, Edinburgh, lived at Newhall in the eighteenth century.
Carlops was the birthplace of many other famous people. The scientist who invented the Cloud Chamber which made a breakthrough in atomic physics and won a Nobel Prize, Professor C.T.R. Wilson, was a member of my church. When he died, at ninety, scientists from all over the world attended his funeral. They wore their multi-coloured robes. It was a most moving experience for me to speak to such a learned company about the son of a shepherd and shepherdess who was proud of his roots and never denied the faith he learned at his mother knee. He detected God's hand clearly in all his research and wondered at the beauty and order he found. His love of art and nature also came from his parents who were accomplished in many skills such as carving and water-colour painting.
Only on four occasions did I have to ask for money for the church. Only once in Carlops. Yet money came in, in small change, at one service nearly £200.
At the end of my first year as minister in Carlops, all the money, except for a small loan, was raised to pay off all tradesmen's bills, for work on the church and on the manse.
Dalkeith Presbytery Members came to visit the church and manse. They were all amazed and those who doubted my word were now my firm friends. They had tried for years to get things done in their parishes and failed. What was my secret? It was simple: getting to know everyone in the parish, telling them to become involved, to bring another to church and at times, explaining in simple language, the wonderful Gospel stories and the majesty of the Holy Bible. It may sound easy, but it involved hard work, careful planning and at every point, showing interest and appreciation of all work.
One church, interested in our progress, offered me cushions for every pew in the church; also to my wife, for the Woman's Guild, a set of china with the W.G. crest. It came to the point when I had to say, all we require now are two brass vases for the Communion Table and silver-plated clips for holding Communion linen in place on the pews. They were donated, after which money gifts were accepted.
This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993. All rights reserved. Used here by express permission.