They Thought was a Long Time Dead
Davie's case was perhaps unique amongst the ones I helped with at Carlops. He was a
vagrant for many years. For a time he lived in a disused lime-kiln, then in a farm
out-house, doing odd jobs for the farmer. The big-hearted farmer bought a second-hand
caravan, made it comfortable and saw to it that Willie got meals.
day he took ill and was removed to hospital. In conversation, I could never get to know
Willie's background. He was tight-lipped when I mentioned the earlier part of his life.
The evening he was taken away, I phoned the hospital and spoke to a doctor. He was glad I
called. They could get nothing out of Willie and asked me to come in and have a go, as he
required surgical treatment soon.
forenoon the screens were put round Willie's bed. I was soon jotting down what he told me.
I was at first suspicious as his story seemed so far fetched. It began:
don't know where my six sons are. When the youngest was born my wife turned insane and she
was taken to an asylum. The boys were taken from me and put in a home. That's more than
thirty years ago. I left Edinburgh and took to the roads, wandering all over the country.
Some years ago, I heard that a lad Davie had married a Fife girl. Her father was a
cemetery keeper and lived in a lodge with white gates.' Willie concluded, 'My wife's name
was Christina Cox.'
reaching home, I phoned Cupar County Council and asked to be put in touch with the
Superintendent of Fife cemeteries. I gave him the slender evidence. Fife police were
helpful, so were the police in the Midlands and Southampton. Old Willie rallied for a
short time after his operation. He was removed to East Fortune Hospital. There was a happy
ending as far as the family was concerned. They all met - also two grandchildren - around
old Willie's bed. The family had thought him long dead.
last time Willie had seen his youngest son was when he was three weeks old. Next time the
family met was around their father's grave at Athelstaneford Cemetery on 22nd December
1960. The sons called on me later at the manse to express their thanks for my kindness to
by month, God's glorious work quietly proceeded at Carlops. It was a joy to be set in the
midst of such Christ-loving people. There were many fatal road accidents, hill-climbing
deaths, maiming accidents and severe illnesses. My heart went out to all. It became
evident my own health was failing, my wife was always at my side to help.
the day came when I was rushed to hospital very ill. My faith was not weakened, other
patients came to my bedside for help, which was greatly appreciated. Retire! retire!
retire! seemed to come from all quarters. I laughed them off, hobbled about on crutches,
then two walking sticks; in the end, I threw them away and was back in my pulpit,
preaching to my well-beloved people. Alas, something new came into my life, major surgery.
I faced the operation with the faith that had governed my life for sixty-seven years. The
operation demanded retiral in 1965 and saying goodbye to the active Ministry.
knew differently for He had other plans for me which were as exciting as any that had gone
before, but that is another story!
Appendix 9, Part 6, 'Beggars of today,' recalls some of the problems an active minister
has to deal with.