New Direction and a History Lesson!

For those who follow this blog, you will know of our regular travels around Scotland’s many beauty spots. When we leave our home here our preference would normally be to travel North, or West or sometimes East. Recently we took the notion to try a new direction and go South, and we were so impressed by our first trip that we followed it up with a second, just a few weeks later.

We started by heading for the small town of Strathaven and then took the B743 signposted for Muirkirk. We had been out this road once or twice before, but just as far as the Dungavel Holding Centre for Refugees, people who have been refused permission to remain, and were awaiting repatriation.

It’s a beautiful winding country road and we pulled over for a coffee and stretch of legs at a parking spot overlooking the forest and river. There Muriel spotted a ‘Wayside Pulpit’ with the words ‘Be Strong in the Lord‘, these ‘pulpits’ were very common in Scotland at one time, but rarely seen now-a-days. We continued on to the lovely little town of Muirkirk set amongts the rolling hills of the Borders. There we turned left onto the A70 and headed for the heritage village of Glenbuck, a place we had never visited before. It was once famous for its Iron Ore Mill and Coal Mine, but is now remembered especially as the birth place of a certain ‘Mr Bill Shankly’, dear to the hearts of all Liverpool football supporters!

The Village dates back to the Bronze age, and between 1786 – 1813 was a source of iron, coal and limestone. It reached its peak in 1900 with the opening of new mines, and then the population reached 1700 persons and the village thrived and bustled with all kinds of sports activities. It also had a Co-operative store, a school, village hall and church.

THE SHANKLY’S – The story of the ‘Glenbuck Cherry Pickers’ football team, and the Shankly family and their huge impact on the world of football is now legendary. That such a small village should be home to men of this fame is in itself quite extraordinary. I’ll let you enlarge the above photos so that you can read the story for yourself. It was good to meet a few Liverpool supporters during our visit.

We then enjoyed a beautiful evening drive along the A70 until we joined the M74 for our return to Glasgow.

There is another memorial stone at Glenbuck commemorating another hero of an earlier time. You probably have never heard of him but here is the memorial plaque to John Brown Richard Cameron

This man from Glenbuck was among countless others, both men and women, who in the late 1600’s were part of ‘the Covenanters’ who fought for freedom of religion in Scotland, rejecting all interference from the King and Government in relation to belief, proclamation and practice. A freedom still enjoyed today, but one many consider to be under threat, in our growing secular society.

SECOND TRIP TO MUIRKIRK – On our next visit to Muirkirk we visited the cemetery and the ‘Heritage Lay-by’ for some more interesting facts about this Scottish village and its history. You can read the boards below by enlarging the photos.

We made our way home driving west on the A70 in glorious sunshine passing through the village of Sorn and the town of Galston, on almost empty country roads. It’s amazing what you learn when you get out and about! 🙂

ON REFLECTION I was thinking not so much about our change of direction, but of the dramatic change of direction enforced on all the refugees and asylum seekers who have passed through ‘Dungavel Holding Centre’ that we saw from the road, of their shattered hopes and dreams of happiness and prosperity. But who knows what that dramatic change would teach them or where it will take them. Who would have thought that the Shankly boys from the wee village of Glenbuck would find that their change of direction into football, would bring them fame and fortune? Lots of people have found that the Covid 19 pandemic has brought a dramatic change of direction into their lives. The question so many troubled and anxious people are asking today is ‘where do I/we go from here‘?

I personally have found that life has many challenges and disappointments, that have forced me to change direction. But I love the story Jesus told which rings true down through the generations. It’s about the man who leaves his Father’s home with his inheritance and big ideas of fun, fame and fortune. After sometime he hits the skids, his friends desert him, and he finds himself ‘in a field feeding the pigs’. When he comes to his senses, he decides to go back home, apolgise to his dad and ask if he could employ him just as a servant. So what does he find? A Father pointing a finger and yelling? No, a Father running to meet him with arms outstretched – and while the son splutters out his confession, the father is planning a celebration! So if you gave up on God thinking ‘I’ll manage fine on my own thankyou’ Just remember that your Heavenly Father is waiting for you to come to your senses and come home! You can read the full story in the Bible – Luke 15:11-32

It is possible to know God personally, I can testify to that. He offers forgiveness for sin, because of what His Son, Jesus, has done for us on the cross, He brings peace in life’s storms and promises never to leave us, and to take us safely to our heavenly home! That is such good news, that’s why it’s called the Gospel! All we have to do is come to our senses and make up our mind to come home. It is possible as the wayside pulpit said ‘To be strong in the Lord’.

God bless – Matthew


Staycation, Staycation!

The Highlands of Scotland – some history, landscapes and seascapes

Summer was ending and we had decided not to bother with a holiday away this year, but when we spotted a break in the weather coming up, we changed our minds. After trying a few places we managed to find accommodation at Inverness, so headed there for a short 5 night break.

It’s a 3 .5 hours drive from Glasgow on the A9, but since we were in no hurry we enjoyed a days drive, visiting and stopping at a number of places along the way.

We had not been in this area for a number of years so visited again the ‘Black Isle’ where we once acted as leaders at a Christian Youth Centre camp for a 100+ teenagers at Fortrose / Rosemarkie. Here you can visit the remains of an ancient Cathedral dating back to the 1200s. We enjoyed a walk around the ground. This area was, and perhaps still is, a stronghold for the MacKenzie clan.

We then drove to Cromarty and Nigg bay, home to many redundant North Sea oil rigs, before joining the A9 and crossing the Cromarty Firth for a drive to the beautiful village of Dornoch. and a walk and picnic on one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches.

Our hotel was very near to the Culloden battlefield so on another morning we visited there. Here the Jacobite uprising of 1745 was finally crushed on the 16 April 1746. It is a very emotive place to visit. Many of my ancestors from the clans Cameron, McLachlan and McKinnon fought and died in this bloody and ferocious battle, which brought to an end not only the Jacobite cause, but also saw the beginning of the end of the clan system. Retribution was fierce, even the wearing of the kilt was banned, and it seems inevitable that the Highland clearances were to follow. Thankfully this was the last battle to take place on the UK mainland.

We also managed a forage along the Moray Coast visiting many places where we had spent holidays in the past. Here is a selection of some of them.

We travelled home on the single track road from Daviot to Whitebridge and then on to Fort Agustus, before reaching Fort William. The last leg took us through Glen Coe, down past Loch Lomond and then to Glasgow. There were many photo opportunities along the way.

There were certainly more people around at the main tourist attractions, especially for this time of year, due to folks having a ‘staycation’ this year , but you could not say the place was busy!

REFLECTION: It was great to be away even just for a few days, and switch off (literally) from the continual bombardment of bad news, and the potential bad news diet, fed to us daily by the media. It’s true however, that there is lots of bad news around! Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis, education crisis, health service crisis, business crisis, refugee crisis, racism incidents, wars and rumours of wars, ‘super powers’ vying for supremacy, arms build up, environment crisis ……….. Do you ever feel like saying, ‘stop the bus, I want to get off‘? Sadly even our trip around the beauties of Scotland, with its memories of Culloden, and its many war memorials and broken down cottages from ‘the clearances’ etc. reminds us that the ‘falleness of humankind’ is an ongoing problem. Even although most people would relate to the Psalmist who said ‘Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.’ Psalm 120:6-7.

But isn’t it true that within our hearts we long for the day when the world and it’s people will at last be at peace and their will be justice and equity.

As a Christian I believe that day is coming. The prophet Isaiah envisages such a day after the return of Jesus Christ. He says:

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD. Isaiah 2:1-5

‘Let us walk in the Light of the Lord‘, now if only we could all learn to do that!

Stay safe, save lives, and God bless.



Green Grows the Garden – but how green?

Summer is almost over for another year and the garden is starting to show the signs. The heather is out and the apples are ripening on the apple trees, just in time for the apple and bramble jelly, and the flowers are just past their best.

This year we spent more time in the garden due to the virus pandemic, and as always we derived much pleasure in watching everything grow and flourish. The weather was mostly dry and sunny from mid March to mid June, but then reverted to a typical Scottish mix of rain, followed by sunshine and showers, and at times blustery winds.

Here are some of the flowers and plants that we grew this summer.

This seemed to be ‘the year of the Gerainiums’ as they have been flowereing profusely in pots throughout the summer. My ‘Cosmos’ were rightly called ‘Sensation’ as they grew over five feet tall and were like bushes. Still the bees loved them. A new plant for me was Gaillardia, and they seemed to take forever to flower! Some are very beautiful, some quite dramatic and others seemed a bit odd! Ive got mixed feelings about them, so they are on the ‘maybe ‘ list for next year!

The greenhouse was also in full production as floweres were mostly grown from seed, along with three types of tomato (Shirley F1, Tigerella and Sweet Success) and four or five types of peppers. (Golden Bell, Antohi Romanian, Frigitello, Red Cherry and Hungarian Hot Wax)

All the plants produced well, and we have been eating the fruit from the beginning of June, now the small cherry tomato plant is the last one which is still cropping, well named – ‘Sweet Success’.

It was good to have some visits from our grand-children and great grand-children as the lockdown was eased, they are always keen to help ‘GG’ in his garden 🙂

I hope my fellow gardeners have been encouraged in their gardens, its been good to see photographs from other friends and bloggers.

This year our visits to National Trust gardens and properties have been curtailed, but we may manage to squeeze in a vist even yet!


PS: Talking about ‘brambles’ we got these today from ‘God’s Wild Garden’ free of charge, and just across the fence!


Missed Destinations!

Missed destinations, and the ultimate destination not to be missed!

Since as long as I can remember I have gone somewhere on holiday every year during summer. As a child I was brought up in a working class family living in Glasgow, but my mother and father always managed to save enough money to take the children to the ‘seaside’ every year. And what happy memories I have of these holidays. Even after I got married it was always the talk around the table at the turn of each New Year ‘where will we go on holiday’? 

This year we planned a holiday in Oban and Tiree, made all the arrangements, booked hotels and ferry, only for it all to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic. So like countless thousands of others we were disappointed. The Isle of Tiree on the West Coast of Scotland was our ancestral home, so we were particularly keen to revisit the island after many years. I’ve been reading T C Smout’s book ‘A Century of the Scottish People – 1830 – 1950′ in which he describes the potato famine of 1846 which devastated and decimated the people of the Western Isles and Ireland, and which brought our branch of the McKinnon clan over to Glasgow in search of work. Potato was the staple diet of the people, and Smout records the story of the little boy being asked, what he had to eat for his three meals each day? to which he replied ‘mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes’, when pressed further by the enquirer, and with what else? He replied with great artlessness and surprise – ‘a spoon’. We were hoping to get something more with the potatoes when we revisited, but it looks like we will have to forego this destination in 2020, and will just need to hope for another opportunity to arise!

One other destination in life that I missed, which I always look back on with some disappointment was a visit to Machu Picchu in Peru. I was a Sugar Engineer, and back in 1980 I was asked by my company to spend some months in Peru assessing the equipment needs of the nationalised sugar factories in Peru. Since I was going to be there for sometime I had set my heart on visiting this famous world heritage site. 

Machu Picchu is the remains of an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains above the Urubamba river valley at a height of 2430 metres. At the last minute my trip was cancelled, and I was sent to another destination in the opposite side of the world. But last year my great nephew Joe Mackinnon set off from Scotland on a tour of Central and South America, and, yes you guessed it, he got to visit Machu Picchu! He arrived by train from Ollantaytambo, and then followed part of a traditional trade walking route between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, before visiting the village of Zurite near Ancascocha. He got some really interesting angles of the site and surrounding area. With his permission you can see some of them below. Well I guess this is a destination that I will now need to write out of my ‘bucket list,’ but how good to see it tho’, through the eyes of a family member – Thanks Joe, great pics!

There are many routes to the worlds destinations, and its great if we have time and opportunity to explore them. When it comes to our final destination it’s a different story. We are told there are over 2300 religions in the world and 2500 gods to go with them, not to mention the faith of the new atheists and humanists, so humanity is treading many different roads, some like to think they all reach the same destination.

One Destination NOT to be missed: As a Christian I am ultimately looking forward to a heavenly destination. Jesus said to His followers ‘I go to prepare a place for you‘ and He also said that He alone is the Way to heaven! Now that reduces the options! But why else would God send His Son to die for our sins if there were many other ways?

So to finish, may all your dreams of travel and visits around this amazing world come true, and be sure not to miss the way to the final heavenly destination, as alternative routes Jesus warns will lead to eternal disaster!  (The Gospel of John – Chapter 14 verses 1-6)

If you know this Jesus, we surely will get the opportunity one day to review the way He led us to our heavenly home – it’s going to be an ‘out of this world’ destination, with the ultimate host!



It’s the Glasgow Fair!

‘for most of us, holidays overseas have been put ‘on hold’ this year’

In Glasgow the last two weeks in July have been traditionally known as ‘the Glasgow Fair fortnight.’ In the past shipyards, engineering works, factories and businesses all over the city closed for the annual holiday, with only a few ‘skeleton staff’ being kept on to deal with any urgent phone calls or business. It was ‘lockdown time’ while the populace at large went off on holiday, mostly to venues along the Firth of Clyde coast. That tradition has changed over the last thirty years with the introduction of the ‘package holiday.’ Holidays at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, have given way to venues in Spain and around Europe, where people fly off in search of sun and adventure. And so holiday times now have become much more flexible.

But for most of us, holidays overseas have been put ‘on hold’ this year, so many are returning to nearer home destinations. For us, the ‘Glasgow fair’ holds many memories of happy holidays all around Scotland, and in fact my wife and I met at a Christian Youth Camp (CYC) during ‘the Fair’, and we got engaged to be married on ‘Fair Monday’!

So this past weekend we celebrated with a couple of special day trips, to some of our old haunts on the Clyde Coast. Our first trip was on Saturday, when we visited Cove, a little village on the edge of Loch Long, just where it reaches the Clyde estuary. We drove from Glasgow, crossed the river Clyde at the Erskine bridge, and down through Dumbarton and Helensburgh to Gareloch (home to the UK’s nuclear submarine base). Then we turned along the southside of Gareloch and over the hill to Cove. About and hour and fifteen minutes from Glasgow depending on road conditions. It was a warm day with a fresh breeze and intermittent showers. You never tire of the beauty of the Scottish scenery and when we reached Cove the place was, …. quiet! We came home via Glen Fruin and Loch Lomond.

‘Fair Monday’ was another showery day, but armed with the proverbial picnic lunch we headed in the other direction, keeping on the southside of the Clyde Estuary and headed for the small village of Dunure. The council there had recently upgraded the toilet block and park entrance, but had not bargained for the onset of the Corona virus! Park entrance fee and entrance to the toilets called for cash, with no facility for paying by card. Since few people had cash we were graciously allowed entrance without paying, enough to warm a Scotsman’s heart! 🙂 Dunure is beautifully situated with a pretty harbour and spectacular castle, home to the Kennedy clan.

From there we drove on to Maidens, passing the ‘electric brae’ and Culzean Castle on the way. The weather was continuing to improve as we moved along the coast, and at Maidens we had a lovely stroll to the end of the long pier.

Maidens village and harbour!

Lastly, we continued south west to the town of Girvan, passing on the way Turnberry lighthouse and Mr Trump’s famous golf course and hotel. The sun was now shining bright and the place was displayed in all it’s splendour, just as I remembered it as a child. Girvan has an amazing beach against the backdrop of the Byne Hill. Here the beach was again, …. very quiet!

After finishing the remains of our picnic, we had a lovely walk on the beach, then drove the 60 miles home, hugging the coastline for the first 21 miles, with spectacular views across the firth. It was a great way to finish the day as we celebrated 63 years since our engagement, and praised God for his faithfulness throughout the years!

Looking towards the isle of Arran from the Girvan to Ayr coastal route

I trust you are all keeping safe, and can find a quiet place to enjoy the beauties of God’s amazing creation. Matthew


Derbisaka the centre of the world, right?

Thank you – Google Earth Map

Well for the people who live there that is certainly true, and our home patch is usually the centre of our world also! But Derbisaka is somewhat special, because if someone was asked to stick a pin in the fulcrum point of a map of the African continent, the chances are that they would stick it on the map on or very near to Derbisaka! ‘So?’ I hear you ask!

Well for someone who has always been used to travelling I have found this ‘lockdown’ in Scotland getting to me recently. But then my mind turned to some of the lonely and isolated places I have been in the world in the course of life and work, and I thought – Derbisaka! Most people there have never been more that a few miles from their village!

*On 9th June 1992 my wife and I travelled there for a week long visit to a Christian nurse who had gone to help set up a Community Health Programme at a place called Rafai, in a remote region of Central African Republic. She had been there 3.5 years, but for the previous nine months had been working without any expatriate support. With little communication with the outside world, we went to encourage and support her, and to assess the local situation. You’ll catch the picture when I say that the plane we were flying in was bringing her some mail from the previous December / February period!

Getting to Rafai is no easy business even from Nairobi in Kenya from where we were travelling. We left Wilson Airport in Nairobi early in the morning flying in a small Africa Inland Mission 5 seater Cessna aircraft to Bunia in what was then Zaire, where we stopped for toilets and refuelling. This was a 780 Km long stretch in a cramped noisy aircraft, flying over the northern tip of Lake Victoria and then over Lake Albert to Bunia. Then we were off again flying over the jungles of Zaire hour after hour looking down on the occasional hamlet and jungle river, and skirting around a tropical storm, we eventually reached Zemio in C.A.R. just before dark. The following morning we were off early again on the 100 mile stretch to Rafai, where our friend warmly welcomed us to her home in this Afica Inland Mission Station.

Flying around a tropical storm.

It was then that we had the surprise announcement, that we were leaving immediately on a vacination safari to Derbisaka some 220 Km from Rafai. ‘Don’t worry, all the camp beds, sleeping bags and mosquito nets and drinks have already been packed so we are all set to go’. So off we went in the Toyota Hilux, three in the front and two local helpers in the back, down to the river, across on the ferry and on with the vacination safari. The main road was like a ‘Forestry Commission’ road for the first 60+ kilometres, then near Dembia we turned left onto a track which was almost indecernable, with grass taller than the vehicle and branches blocking our way at times. These were quickly dispensed with by our panga yielding helpers who travelled with us. All day we stopped at various villages to weigh and vacinate children and before dark we reached the village of Kossa where we were to spend the night.

The Rafai and Zemio region of C.A.R. showing Derbisaka – Google Earth Maps

The villagers were amazing, extremely friendly and kind. We were allocated an empty round African hut, and were given assistance to put up our camp beds and mosquito nets. A large fire was burning in the village square where we sat and chatted with those who were gathered around. The women of the village then asked Muriel if she would like a shower, as they had built a shower cubicle with some poles and banana leaves at the edge of the forest. Muriel was about to turn down the kind offer, but when they said you can take your husband with you, she readily agreed. At the edge of the forest, there was the three sided cubicle, banana leaves also on the floor, and two basins of hot water. How long does it take a woman to shower? This one was over and done in no time at all, and mine was just as short! We didn’t need any rocking to sleep, but when we woke in the morning we discovered we were sharing the hut with a hen and a brood of newborn chicks!

We spent the next day on the bumpy track to Derbisaka continuing with clinics along the way. We were blessed and encouraged to see the love and concern shown to so many women and children, and to meet some of the village health workers and church leaders. We marvelled at the courage and tenacity of our nursing friend, who worked in this isolated and remote place, and praised God for the grace that sustained her. We then returned to Kossa for the night.

Before bed some of the villagers gave us a lesson on how to catch termites, as we were told they were ready to leave their large hill nest! A large basin sized hole was dug near to the termite hill, and we all gathered round. Then they lit a kerosene soaked rag on a stick, and held it over the hole. The termites (about 1 inch long with a wingspan of 2.5 inches) then came in their droves, some flying and others walking straight into the hole, where one of the mamas stirred them with her hand to knock the wings off, until the hole was filled. A ‘termite pate’ we were told would be prepared in the morning, which was considered to be a local delicacy.

It was humbling that night just lying there in the silence and darkness of an African hut, praying and recalling the experiences of the last few days. Thinking of the lifestyle of the villagers, some who were our brothers and sisters in Christ, and of our friend who served them all in the name of Jesus. I knew that in the morning we would be up and off again, on the journey back to Rafai. But for them, this was their life, so dramatically different to ours in almost every aspect. But in the morning as we prepared to depart we were greeted by a line of happy, singing, grateful mamas thanking us for our visit and presenting us with gifts of mangos, a live chicken and other local produce, but fortunately no ‘termite pate’!

On Sunday we were at Church in Rafai and the place was packed with about 500 worshippers, evenly split between men and women. During the service there was a medical emergency and our friend was called away. The surgeon was a local pastor who had no formal training but had worked for years with the missionary doctor and took over from him when he retired. He evidently had a good reputation among the people. The following week we were off on another vacination safari to Banima some 75Km in the other direction. By mid week we flew home via Nyankunde hospital in Zaire where we had a water engineer working, but that’s another story.

It’s good to recall such experiences when life is not going the way you want it. I do know the war in Sudan was to lead to thousands crossing the border to refugee camps in C.A.R., and then of course there was the civil war there recently, so I don’t think life will have become any more stable for the folks there.

In comparison we are blessed beyond measure, which should make us truly grateful, and mindful of those in far flung places who need our help financially and prayerfully, and the pilots of these small planes who continually take their lives in their hands to serve others. So I’ve been singing an old children’s song this week ‘Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done‘. I trust you too feel encouraged this week.


*Compiled from a report sent to Tearfund HQ on 22 June 1992

Note: The film ‘Mama Luka comes Home’ is freely available on Amazon Prime, and illustrates the flying and logistic conditions prevailing in the region at that time. The amazing story of Dr Helen Rosevear and her work in the Congo near to the C.A.R border, and her earlier capture and brutalisation by the Simba rebels, is another story of faith and endurance well worth watching.


Turn on the sun!

It’s been the sunniest May on record here in Scotland, which has been a blessing during lockdown. It’s also been encouraging in the last few days to hear the announcements regarding a gradual release from lockdown, as slowly the number of casualties and infections from the corona virus decrease.

One thing this unprecedented period has taught me, is to open my eyes and ears to the beauties of God’s creation, to be seen and heard all around us. We have blackbirds in our hedge that seem to be singing non stop, and we have blue tits and coal tits, sparrows, ring necked doves, crows and the ‘not so loved magpies’ all coming to our garden’s bird bath. I have not photographed them or recorded them, but here are some photographs I did take of the land and hedgerows within a few hundred yards from our home

Then of course we have the garden, which is always a delight at this time of year, even although it does now and then remind you of your age! 🙂 Having breakfast outside is unusual for this time of year.

Now that we can travel 5 miles from home, we have also enjoyed driving again on the network of small single track roads not too far from our house, in the southside of Glasgow. We even took the flask and some biscuits for a picnic one afternoon!

Turn on the Moon!

With all these cloudless skies in the past months I couldn’t resist pointing my camera upwards as well, it’s always good to look up! So here are some pictures of God’s creation looking heavenward!

It’s easy to become despondent in times like these, especially when heartache and sorrow touch us, or those that we love. We so often ask the ‘Why’ question, why me? But Jesus invites us in our despair to turn to him, he knew what it was to suffer, it was said of him ‘he was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief‘ but still he pressed on to Jerusalem and Calvary to die on a cross to purchase our freedom! Freedom from sin and despair and to give us new life and a hope of heaven, where there will be no more suffering and tears and sorrow. If we come to Him as he invites us, we can then slowly start to move on to ask not the ‘why me?’ but the ‘what now?’ question. Here is the last photograph for today. If you are weary may you find your rest in Jesus. Matthew

As always, I am happy to hear from you, or to try and answer any questions you may have. matthewmuriel@aol.com


Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Well, we are still on lockdown, and like others I have been looking back on some of life’s adventures. 

Many years ago my wife and I and young daughter were returning home from a one year engineering contract that I had been working on in Thailand, and we decided to stop off in Israel for a holiday. It was a visit we had often talked about, and since we were ‘passing by their door’ as it were, it seemed the right time to do it.

We stayed at ‘St Andrew’s Guest House’ near to the Jaffa Gate of the old city. It was early March and we expected warm weather, but in Jerusalem the sleet was blowing across the Judaean hills and it was freezing cold.  We had ten days to tour Jerusalem and Israel, and thankfully the weather warmed up. Below are some of our photos of places we visited on this trip.

Prior to arriving I had read an article about ‘Hezekiah’s Tunnel’ and so was determined to see it. Hezekiah was an ancient King of Judah who reigned approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ. In the Bible, 2 Kings 20:20 we read of his reign – ‘’As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?’. (see also 2 Chronicles 32.30) 

So we walked down to the ancient city of Jerusalem, outside the old city walls, and were directed to the location and entrance to the tunnel by a guide. Down a steep set of stairs and soon we could hear the water running, still coming from the Gihon spring, mentioned so may times in the Bible. The water was running about 10 inches deep at the narrowest parts of the tunnel. UNFORTUNATELY THERE WAS ONLY ONE TORCH! It was impossible for the ones at the back to see properly and the rock beneath your feet was uneven so my wife and daughter thought it safer to go back. The entrance to the tunnel was low and narrow at places, and I just followed the guide through this chiselled rock, hewn by Hezekiah’s men 2700 years ago! The height and width of the tunnel vary as you walk through, and the water is running quite fast. The tunnel was dug through the rock from both ends, one starting at the Pool of Siloam and the other from the Gihon spring. Towards the southern end where the two teams met there is now a replicate plaque on the wall, copied from the original that is in a museum in Istanbul.  It reads:

When there were still 3 cubits to be excavated, there were the sounds of a man calling to his companion. On the day of the (completed) excavation, the stone-hewers struck out, each toward his opposite number, pick toward pick.”

The tunnel is about 600 metres long and takes 20 minutes or so to navigate. As you approach the pool of Siloam it was good to see ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. And there waiting for me was my wife and daughter. Wow, that was for me a great adventure – the Bible text certainly is seen in living reality with a visit to Israel.

Hezekiah had ordered the tunnel to be built because Jerusalem’s water supply was outside the city wall and the people would be in grave danger in the event of an enemy attack or siege. In actual fact the city was later besieged by the Assyrian Army and the water tunnel was hugely significant in their survival. They were on lockdown, but lives were saved by Hezekiah’s foresight.

Sometimes we like to blame our politicians for their lack of foresight, perhaps justifiably at times, but this Corona virus lockdown shows that we too need to think ahead. So many of the things that we took for granted are now on hold and life seems somewhat frightening, uncertain and confusing. Figuratively, the pools that we drank from, for our security, pleasure and satisfaction have dried up! It reminds me of Jesus’ words to a woman at a well one day – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) Eternal life? That sounds like an offer worth serious consideration, as we cope with lockdown and read of the growing fatalities of the Corona virus!

On another occasion Jesus standing in the temple court on a Jewish Feast Day, cried in a loud voice ‘If any one is thirsty let him come to me and drink.’  He wasn’t speaking of physical thirst, but of a thirst for meaning and purpose in life, indeed for God Himself! I came to Jesus many years ago, I can’t imagine life now without Him – He said, ‘I have come that ye might have life in all its fulness’ and I have proved that to be true -‘a well of water springing up to everlasting life’ is a great description.

He invites us all to come – so will you come? You could use the words of this hymn, which came to mind this morning as your prayer

Stay safe, God bless -Matthew

Fancy a walk through the tunnel? Click here:


Curtailed, but not Contained!

Sadly we had to cancel our planned visit to Oban and the isle of Tiree, which we were very much looking forward to during the next month or so. Caledonian MacBrayne have promised to refund our ferry charges, and also the cost of a day trip we had booked with them to Mull and Fingal’s Cave, but we may need to wait sometime for that to happen. Hopefully we can re-arrange the trip later.

Here in Scotland we have been experiencing an unusual spell of dry sunny weather for almost the whole month of April, so for those of us with gardens it has been a great blessing during this time of lockdown. The greenhouse is always busy in Springtime and there is never enough room for all the plants that are growing. Soon it will be time to replace the daffodils and tulips with other summer flowers, and of course there are a variety of tomatoes, lettuce and different types of peppers growing as well. Today my grandson Lewis arrived and helped by finishing off the power washing of our drive and patio he started last week, for which we were very grateful. Here are a few pictures.

Recent Travel: Some of you will be aware of the fact that my wife and I try and get away regularly for a day trip to some of Scotland’s beauty spots, but that has not been possible since mid March, so much more time has been in the garden. One trip that we did make just prior to the lockdown was to Killin in Perthshire, and Balquidder in Stirlingshire, on a rather cold and at times wet / snowy day, but none the less we did see something of Scotland’s beauties in spite of the weather.

We stopped at The Falls of Falloch just north of Loch Lomond and before Crainlarich for a coffee.
At Crainlarich we turned right and headed towards Lochearnhead, and watcched out for the Killin turn off sign on the left.
The village of Killin and the Falls of Dochart – Killin is at the western end of Loch Tay.
Inchbuie Island on the river Dochart – and the MacNab ancient burial ground!
We stopped here for lunch, unfortunately the Long House was not yet open!
Balquidder Church and churchyard, where Rob Roy MacGregor was buried and also David Carnegie
Balquider Churchyard – the cross and snowdrops speak of new life!
Muriel at Rob Roy MacGregor’s grave.

We travelled home via Calander and Aberfoyle enjoying some magnificent scenery along the way. Total distance travelled approx. 140 miles. We left Glasgow around 12 noon and were home for dinner by 6pm!

In spite of the lovely weather and garden however, our thoughts are never far away from those on the NHS front line, doctors, nurses and carers, ambulance drivers and so many others, who are battling this virus. Perhaps especially our prayers are with those who grieve the loss of one they loved. Some of our friends are in these categories and perhaps your friends are too. At this time of trouble, I love the verse of an old hymn that says,

‘Have we trials and temptations? is there trouble anywhere
we should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorry share
Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.’

Take care, and God bless


Thanksgiving and Reflections during the Corona pandemic

My wife and I are self isolating like so many others during the Corona Virus  pandemic. We are grateful to God for a home, and garden in which to rest and exercise and for family and friends who look after us. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who today are struggling with the virus, those who mourn for friends and loved ones, our NHS staff, for carers, for police and all on the front line. Also the poor and needy around the world with no medical help.

It’s also a good time to read and reflect. The book of psalms is one of my favourites and I invariably turn to it in times of crisis for quietness and reflection. It was written over a period of approximately 1000 years and was compiled around 530 BC.  Psalm 90, is said to be the oldest psalm, and was written by Moses almost 3500 years ago!   I find that I so often relate to the writers as they express their wonder at God’s creation, rejoice in the good things of life, and mourn and complain to God about the seeming injustices of life, and the sorrow and anguish that besets them.

Psalm 23 has been read and memorised by people down through the generations, and there are few adults who have not attended a special event or funeral where it was not read or sung. It is said to be ‘Scotland’s most loved psalm’, sung by small groups and large.

It’s obvious as we read it, that the main person in the Psalm is God, the Shepherd, and that we as humans are likened to the sheep. David, who wrote it was himself a shepherd, and speaks elsewhere about having saved his sheep from the lion and the bear, although they were probably unaware of it! I wonder, if God has done the same for me when I was in danger?

David realises his need for a shepherd in his own life. One who will give guidance, safety, protection, provision and hope, which he so beautifully expresses in this poem. In fact he describes all our deepest hopes and longings, not just for ourselves and those we love, but for the world at large. Which of us would not like to see a world where people lacked nothing, and lay down in peace?

All the things that our politicians and political systems of all persuasions have consistently failed to adequately provide. Today in the midst of the ‘Corona Virus’ pandemic, when people are scared and petrified, and our health services are struggling to cope with the numbers, and where stock markets and world economies are collapsing, we tend to forget the chaos in so many other departments of our world!

Just think of this for a moment:

  • Tonight 850 million people will go to bed hungry
  • 2.1 billion people in the world have no access to clean water
  • According to WHO 400 million people have no access to adequate health care
  • Around 56 million babies are aborted worldwide every year
  • 53,000 people died in armed conflicts in 2018

Then consider this: 

  • Total world military expenditure rose to $1,822 billion in 2018 
  • Global government space budgets totalled $70.9 billion in 2018
  • The porn industry’s net worth in February 2017 was said to be $97 billion.
  • Alcohol and Drug abuse in 2018 cost the UK economy £36 billion, in the USA $274 billion (2016)
  • We could mention the refugee/displaced people crisis, the pandemic of violence against women, the mental health crisis, the suicide rates …. etc etc.

Do you get the feeling that something’s wrong with the world? In response to that question asked in a newspaper article some years ago, G. K. Chesterton the famous writer, scholar and philosopher responded by saying,  ‘Dear Sir, I am’. And that is why I too need a shepherd. The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 of his prophecy these words, sung so magnificently in ‘Handels Messiah’,  ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way;’

I guess we all know that’s true, for on too many occasions in our lives we have ‘gone astray’, you know it, and I know it. No need really to think about wars in far flung places, what about the war in our minds, our homes, or in our supermarkets over toilet rolls and hand sanitiser? Enough to make you smile if it was not so serious.  The Bible simply but profoundly says ‘for all have sinned’.

As we approach Easter, we are reminded that Psalm 23 points forward to Jesus. He is the one who said, ‘I am the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep’ and at His birth his mother was told, ‘call His name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sin’.

The story is told of the Shakespearean actor who would on occasions finish his performance by reciting Psalms 23 to rapturous applause.  One night he asked his young  ‘stand-in’ to recite the psalm. He read it quietly and slowly. When he finished there was no applause, but some handkerchiefs could be seen as people wiped their eyes and the occasional sound of someone weeping.  The actor was amazed at the effect the young ‘stand-in’ had had on the audience, and asked, how did you manage that? He replied, Sir, the thing is, you know the psalm, but I know the shepherd. You see, if you are to know all the blessings of which this psalm speaks, you have to know the shepherd. The story Jesus told in the book of Luke chapter 15 of the lost sheep, tells us that this shepherd Jesus, is looking for YOU and for me!

As the corona virus runs rampant in our world it’s so important to know the shepherd, as we, or someone we love could die! And don’t we want to know God’s presence in the valley, and don’t we all want to dwell in His presence? And of course we all expect to die one day.  How do I get to know this Shepherd? This prayer can be prayed earnestly from the heart.  

Dear Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that you are the Son of God, The Good Shepherd who came into the world to find sheep that were lost. I know that I have gone astray many times! I am truly sorry for my sin, please forgive me. Thank you for giving your life for me, and dying in my place, so that I may be forgiven. I want you to be my shepherd, I welcome you into my life and promise to follow you as my Lord for the rest of my days. Thank you – Amen

Prayed the prayer? Now read the psalm again, rest your head on the pillow tonight and sleep in peace, the shepherd, the Lord of Heaven and Earth is watching over you. He said, I give to my sheep eternal life and they shall never perish! 

Happy Easter – Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed!


the tomb is empty

NB: If you prayed the prayer, and /or need further help please feel free to contact me. matthewmuriel@aol.com.

Pray with us for an end to the pandemic and for healing and peace for all whose lives have been affected.


Is My Life Significant or Completely Insignificant?

There is one day in February that everyone remembers – St Valentine’s Day! A day when traditionally men and women express their love and loyalty to that one special person in their life. I think it’s a good tradition in a world of constant wars and hostility, internationally, locally and sadly often at a personal level. Someone special saying, ‘I love you’ does help us feel some sense of warmth, value, worth and significance.

This month I have also gone back to working on my family tree. A pursuit which engages countless thousands around the globe. There is a sense of significance in knowing where you and your family fit into the great story of humankind, where your ancestors originated from, and some of the things they did, or did not achieve. ‘It’s one of life’s great thrills to have the sense of belonging to a goodly company and a goodly fellowship.’ So said Eric Linklater as he thought of the men in his company who lived and died with him during WW1 (quoted by the late William Barclay) Our branch of ‘the McKinnons’ came from Tiree, and with the help of others I am pleased to have traced the McKinnons back in time to a Flory McKinnon who lived in Tiree in 1742. How significant is that 🙂

The Tiree Connection goes a long way back!

In contrast, another event took place on the 14 February this year, which seems to convey a completely opposing message, suggesting in fact that we are completely insignificant. I refer to NASA’s publishing of an enhanced version of ‘the pale blue dot’ picture taken from ‘Voyager 1’ on 14 February 1990. Surely it must rank amongst the greatest and most iconic photographs of all time! I love this photograph, I marvel at the technology and ingenuity of man that allowed it to be taken some 4 billion miles away from our sun, as Voyager 1 headed out into interstellar space.

The Pale Blue Dot – Can you spot it?

When you consider the minuteness of our planet and solar system buried in the outer edges of our ‘Milky Way’ galaxy with its billion stars, amongst another billion galaxies in the universe, it surely raises the question, how significant are we? Is our life a sad, meaningless journey from nothing to nothing? A blob of carbon floating from one meaningless existence to another as Bertrand Russell put it? Or is ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more’? As in ‘Macbeth’

Scientific research in my lifetime has been phenomenal, and it seems the more science reveals the more we  come to appreciate not only the need for God, but see the evidence for God, and wonder at His awesome greatness. The fine tuning of the Universe at one end of the scale, and the intrinsic detail of the human cell with its DNA, at the other end testify to Him.  Anthony Flew the great atheistic scientist, philosopher and writer of the last century published his final book entitled ‘There is a God’. It makes for an interesting read. What changed his mind? He followed the advice of Socrates, and stated ‘I have followed the argument where it has led me. And it has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.’

This God I believe has revealed Himself to us, not only in creation, but in His Son Jesus Christ. Those who knew Him personally,  listened to His words, saw His miracles, witnessed His life and death, rejoiced at His resurrection and ascension, and put their experiences in writing so that we too might know Him. The disciple John in his book starts speaking about Jesus by sayingIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’ He finishes his book by saying, ’Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’

So as a follower of Jesus my ultimate significance comes not from my ancestry or from any other source, but from God Himself. Paul the Apostle says, ‘I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ No wonder Paul goes on to say ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ‘!

When it comes to the big questions of life, sadly, as David Robertson* has noted, there are far too many people who are agnostic and just do their best to avoid thinking. But as Blaise Pascal said, ‘there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.’ 

I’ve enjoyed thinking through this question of life’s significance, it’s good to consider if you are building on a sure foundation.

If you are interested in reading further I recommend:

  • John’s Gospel
  • The Magnificent Obsession – David Robertson*
  • The Atheist who Didn’t Exist – Andy Bannister
  • The Devil’s Delusion – Atheism and its scientific pretensions. – David Berlinski

Hurrah! The Picnic Season has started!

Well now that the busy period over Christmas and New Year has passed, we have the opportuniity to once again think of getting out of town. We love the outdoors! Glasgow is the perfect base for moving around as it has a great road and transport network, and is in close proximity to hills and mountains, seas and lochs, rivers and gardens.

Last week, spotting a break in the rather ‘driech’ weather, we prepared the sandwiches and flask, and at 12.15pm headed north towards Loch Lomond. We had no definite plan, but just intended to see if the weather would work out as the forecasters had suggested. It turned out to be the most perfect afternoon!

Leaving the little village of Arrochar at the top of Loch Long we proceeded to the top of the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ pass, where we turned left and headed down ‘Hell’s Glen’ on the steep single track road. We stopped to watch a sky diver floating in the blue sky amongst the snow capped peaks and enjoyed the beauty of God’s amazing creation. Right at the bottom of the hill we found a stranded motorist looking for someone with ‘jump leads’. Unfortunately we did not have any, and the driver did not belong to a motoring organisation, but after flagging down a few drivers we fortunately found someone who could help him.

The road led us on to Loch Fyne (once famous for its herring) and passing through Saint Catherine’s and Strachur we headed for the ferry terminal at Dunoon. We enjoyed endless photo opportunities along the way, and arrived at the terminal just in time to catch the ferry to Gourock, before heading home to Glasgow by 5.15pm. What a perfect day!

This week was so different, but also very enjoyable. We are only half and hour from the Ayrshire Coast, so with flask and sandwiches, we headed for our favourite reading spot at Irvine harbour. The tide was really high, the wind was howling and the sea was roaring, but the scene was spectacular! Just a few cars in the car park, so we were able to sit at the front and enjoy the spectacle.

I wonder, if like me, a song, a poem or hymn comes to mind when you are out walking or sightseeing? A hymn that I haven’t heard for years, but which we sang many times in our male voice choir came rushing back to mind. I wish I could still sing it 🙂 but the lyrics go like this:

Tho' the angry surges roll,                                                                                                               on my tempest riven soul,                                                                                                                   I am peaceful for I know,                                                                                                             loudly tho' the winds may blow,                                                                                                  I've an anchor safe and sure,                                                                                                     that shall evermore endure.                                                                                                    Chorus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And it holds, my anchor holds:
Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
   On my barque so small and frail;
By His grace I shall not fail,
              For my anchor holds, my anchor holds.                                                                                                                                                                                   -o-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         NB. The anchor in the song, you may have guessed is Jesus!                                       


One picture per month from 2019 reflecting the beauty and joys of life

As we come to the end of the year, it’s nice to look back and review the year in pictures! I have selected one of my pictures from each month of the year, not an easy task when you are a compulsive photographer!! It might just have been easier choosing 12 of my favourite pictures. It does remind us however of the many blessings we have enjoyed throughout 2019.

JANUARY 2019 – This country lane just a few miles from our house is a favourite drive in winter!

FEBRUARY 2019 – ‘The Lonely Planet’ a visit to St Abb’s Head and Eyemouth in winter!
MARCH 2019 – Beautiful Inversnaid on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond
APRIL 2019 – A walk to Greenan Castle on the Ayrshire Coast on a sunny Spring day!
MAY 2019 – Glen Nevis at the foot of the Ben – a place of quiet serenity!
JUNE 2019 – Lachlan Castle on the edge of Loch Fyne, and a baby Loch Ness monster?
JULY 2019 – Irvine on the Clyde – always good for a paddle!
AUGUST 2019 – Ah, how I love my garden! Flowers in August!
OCTOBER 2019 – Two of our great-grandchildren reaching new heights!
NOVEMBER 2019 – A walk on the local Golf Course on a frosty Morning!

As we look forward to a new year and a new decade, I wish you all a Happy New Year, and God’s help and blessing in a very uncertain world. I like to follow the advice given to me by my father many moons ago. ‘Trust God from the bottom of your heart; dont try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track’. Proverbs 3:5-6


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

As Christmas approaches again we are all, it seems, inevitably caught up in the hype and hysteria as our ‘inboxes’ are bombarded by ‘Black Friday’ special offers from a multitude of retailers, plus the advertisements on TV, in newspapers and bill-boards. Then follows the rush to buy a ‘unique’ present for the lengthening list of recipients, not to mention Christmas cards, Christmas tree, Christmas lights and decorations. And of course there is the turkey, frozen or fresh?  The vegetables, brussel sprouts or cauliflower? The sweet, profiteroles or black forest gateau? fresh cream or ice cream? and on and on ….. 

My ‘man’ approach to all this is, set a budget, make a list of ‘who’ and ‘what’ for cards and presents, then decide what decorations, food, and drinks are required, drive to the nearest shopping centre and buy them! But, I’m married, so my better half thinks we must first go around the shops to see what they have, and then choose! Guess who wins? 😉 The late Derick Bingham in his excellent little book ‘When the Storks Flew South’ starts by stating that ‘a recent study concluded that all of us face between 300 – 17,000 decisions every day’, and I think that in our house we are approaching the top end of the scale right now!

Bingham in his book looks at some of the major decisions made by men and women down through the centuries that changed the course of history! And here in the UK we are being told that as a nation we are facing such a choice as we approach the 12 December election. So what will the nation decide? Who should lead the nation? and in what direction? Should we have Brexit or no Brexit? a ‘Hard’ or a ‘Soft’ Brexit?  Then there is the ‘trust’ question, who can we believe as we are promised an end to austerity and a huge surge in spending in everything from the NHS to police, from education to infrastructure, and from wages to pensions? Not to mention questions on Global warming, Scottish and Welsh Independence and the intractable question of the Irish border and Stormont? 

If you are like me, I confess that I am not impressed with the options when it comes to proposed leaders, and I have some serious questions about some of their proposals, so for the first time ever I find myself in the ‘undecided’ camp!

But are any of these questions of ultimate importance? I video recorded my friend Andy Hunter giving a different slant on Christmas recently, and you can click on the link below to hear what he says, when it comes to ultimate questions.  

Meantime I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas, and God’s blessing in the New Year, whatever the nation may decide on December 12th!



The Bookcase – it’s dangerous to go there!

I confess that looking in my bookcase is not something I do very often these days, as I now find it easier reading from my ‘Kindle’ due to print size, back lighting, and the ability to carry your whole library around with you. However I was searching in my bookcase yesterday for a particular book, and in the process was distracted by two other books that caught my eye! Books have power 🙂

One of the books I picked up and browsed was Tom Lennie’s ‘Land of Many Revivals’ – Scotland’s extraordinary Legacy of Christian revivals over four centuries 1527 – 1857, published in 2015.  What an amazing amount of research has gone into this book.  Many people will know, and have read of the Lewis Revival (1949-52) and perhaps have heard people speak about it at an event or on TV or You Tube.  But I guess most Scots are oblivious to the fact that this whole phenomena of Christian revival goes a long way back in Scottish history. 

Being a Glasgow boy I looked for ‘Glasgow’ in the index, and read with interest of George Whitefield’s visit in 1741 and of his subsequent visits. Even by 1751 Whitefield recorded that he was speaking to ten thousand souls every day, with people leaving their homes early in the morning to walk into the city to hear him. Countless numbers of people came to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, claiming Him to be their Saviour and Lord.

Pictures of Tiree

Since my ancestors came from the Isle of Tiree, that was where I next looked. I was interested to read that revival commenced there in the Congregational Church at the end of 1839, and spread to the Baptist Church. In the late 1830’s the Baptist pastor there, a Duncan MacDougal lamented – ‘sunk too much into formality, and we almost despair of prosperity’. By the end of 1840 MacDougal was exclaiming ’Our winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land’! There were frequent baptisms, one in April 1840 records 300-400 people on the edge of the loch witnessing the baptism of another six candidates. As I read that I wondered, was one of my ancestors among them? 

The other book that ‘caught my eye’ was ‘Covenanting Pilgrimages and Studies ‘ by A B Todd published in 1911. It was a kind of ‘Eureka’ moment when I put my hands on it. I had forgotten that I had it, and in recent months we have been visiting some of the many Covenanter monuments that are scattered around this area of East Renfrewshire, and throughout the South West of Scotland.  In fact I recently made a short video on this subject, (see below).         As an aside, the book is special because it originally was given to James Wands as a Bible Class prize in Glasgow. Jim Wands was one of my leaders as a teenager at our Christian Youth Centre, and later became my friend. I received the book from his library on his death.

Today it seems that in society at large, much of Scotland’s Christian heritage is ignored and set aside.  But it’s also encouraging to read of the many exciting things happening within churches of various denominations up and down the land, and the impact many are making in their communities.   My own Church is always packed out on a Sunday, and every day throughout the week a busy programme is in operation. 

Perhaps it is time to start praying again for ‘Revival’, as our nation and world seem in such chaos, and many individual lives are broken and in despair! May God again bless the people of Scotland!

And yes, I eventually found the book I was looking for!


Autumn’s Coming On!

It’s been another enjoyable year in the garden, but yes, ‘Autumn is Coming On’. The heather is out, and is still looking absolutely beautiful. The main apple tree has produced a very much reduced harvest this year, and the small apple tree produced no apples at all. I notice that my neighbour’s apple tree which is usually loaded with apples has none at all this year! Anyone know why? Maybe I need to get the ladder out and do some prunning! On the positive side our main tree has produced enough apples for some apple cakes, as the smell from the kitchen was telling me this afternoon. (See photo above)

Tomatoes plants on the other hand gave one of my best years ever. I picked the first tomatoes on 16 July and we have been picking them every week since. Photos above shows some still on the plants and others that I picked a couple of days ago. If the weather holds out we may get another few pounds yet, if not the chutney option will be implemented by my good wife.

Other things we do at this time of year is pick some local brambles, for our favourite bramble and apple jelly. This years crop gave us 8 lbs of jelly. It was quite difficult picking, as the wet weather had destroyed a lot of the brambles.

The flowers are now fading, apart from the dear old ‘Cosmos’ that are still attracting the bees, and I have started emptying the pots and refilling them with daffodil and tulip bulbs, but still have a long way to go on that. Soon the leaves will be falling and they will need to be vacuumed up. The grass will be given its last cut of the season, after which, I like to put down some ‘feed and weed’ before the winter, as it helps keep the moss at bay. In the greenhouse the hydrangea cuttings are ready for the Spring. And so ends another summer season, and the last of my garden reports for 2019.

At Church we always like to celebrate Harvest – and remind ourselves of the goodness of God. Paul says ‘He (God) has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy’ Acts 14.17 How true!

To all my fellow gardeners I hope you have had a great year, and are now studying the gardening catalogues, all being well, for Spring and Summer 2020 🙂


Magnificent Lake Maggiore – Italy

Earlier this month we embarked on a holiday to Lake Maggiore in Italy, along with our friends Dorothy and Iain. It was a part of Italy that we had never visited, and having read mixed reviews, we were excited to see how it would all turn out. We flew from Edinburgh to Milan, and as some comedian had remarked ‘it was sunny all the way’! We had some great views of the Alps, and their snow capped peaks as we approached Milan. On arrival there we were met by our tour guide and were driven by coach to our hotel at Baveno on the edge of the lake, passing many interesting towns and villages on the way. This would be our home for the next seven nights. We were pleased that the room we were allocated had a beautoful view out across the lake.

The itinerary that the tour company had arranged was excellent, in that it showed us a wide variety of places, and scenery, and we travelled by boat, rail and coach. We spent a day on the lake visiting the Barromean Islands with their variety of botanical gardens, palaces, exotic birds and flowers, and open air restaurants at the edge of the water. We had a visit to Lake Orta, and Orta ‘the Venice of the North’ the one time home of Francis of Assisi, we also had a visit to the island ‘Isola San Giulio’ home to an ancient chapel and convent. Our next official tour took us into the Alps at Macugnaga. The weather was favourable to us and the mountains with their snow capped peaks were absolutely amazing. The last official tour was to Locarno in Switzerland by means of coach and narrow gauge railway. It was incredible to think that we were still on the edge of Lake Maggiore when we arrived there, which highlighted the huge size of this lake.

Holidays like this give us an opportunity to meet people of different cultures and languages, to smile together and share in our common humanity. We might enjoy different foods, and dress styles, and have different colours of skin, but we share the same joys and sorrows, and the same hopes and fears for ourselves and our families. As a Christian I also like to think that we have a common need for a Saviour and friend, and that in Jesus Christ we have one who bridges all cultural and social barriers. There is a verse in the Bible that speaks of a day to come in heaven when we shall worship God together, it says ‘And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

On our free days we went exploring on our own, and if you would like to see more you can watch the video of the holiday by clicking on the link below.


NHS – Greater Glasgow and Clyde – Thank you!

My experience by Matthew McKinnon

 I had to wait nine and a half months, but just over two weeks ago I had my hernia operation. It was a day surgery job. I arrived at the hospital just before 8am, and exactly on time a nurse came to the waiting area and called out the names of four men, but not mine. I thought I was in for a wait, but no, a few minutes later another nurse called for another four, including me. We were quickly taken to the ward, given a bed, and I was told I would be second to go to theatre.

I then became part of what seemed like an amazing ‘conveyor belt’ system.  I found the day incredibly impressive, as at all times I was treated with professional efficiency, kindness, empathy and discretion. My nurse Graeme introduced himself and told me he would be looking after me. He asked lots of questions to enable him to complete a composite form re past medical history, medicines etc. Then along the line came a visit from the anaesthetist doctor herself, more questions and a word of reassurance, followed by a visit from Mr Welsh the surgeon, who confirmed the procedure, what he planned and finally what the risks were. A signature on the consent form and I was all set. Now I could sit in the chair and read. I hadn’t bothered to bring a book, but since I had the Bible on my ‘iphone’ I read and reflected on psalm 103, which seemed appropriate.

At around 10 o’clock I was issued with my ‘paper outfit’ for theatre, which I wore under my dressing gown, and a porter wheeled my bed along to the theatre to be ready. Just before 10.30 two of the anaesthetist’s assistants arrived, they asked a few more questions and then walked with me to a small anti-room outside the theatre and there was my bed. I was ‘wired up’ for various safety instruments, and then the anaesthetist told me she was about to put me to sleep.  I woke in the ward just after 1pm, felt a bit ‘woozy’ for a few minutes and then my head started to clear. I was told by my nurse to lie still and rest for a little while, but felt no pain whatsoever.

Sometime later I was invited to sit up and was issued with a jug of water and asked to drink as much as I could. (Using the toilet being a requirement for getting discharged, I believe!) I was then able to choose sandwiches from the ‘trolley lady’ and given tea.  I was also told that when I felt like it, I could get dressed, and if I needed any assistance just to shout. After dressing myself, I was given some painkillers, wound dressings and general instructions, and told that the surgeon had indicated that ‘there was no need for any further consultation’. The nurse then telephoned my wife to say I was ready to be discharged, and I was back home by 4pm!

I am hugely thankful to ‘the day surgery team at the New Victoria’ for a highly efficient demonstration of professionalism, coupled with exemplary patient care, which I’m sure requires great patience at times. I am also very grateful to friends in my church house group for their prayers and support, and ultimately to God Himself who holds all of our lives in His hands.

I am under doctor’s orders to take things easy, and these ‘rules’ are being strictly enforced by my wife, but I still manage to look after the greenhouse, read, walk a bit, and work at my computer! 🙂

Sometimes ‘thank you’ seems quite inadequate, but a big THANK YOU to one and all, and let me present to you this bouquet of flowers from our garden! Matthew


How Green Grows our Garden

How does YOUR garden grow?

Well ours started with great promise in the Spring, but like most years it has had it successes and disappointments as the year has progressed. Never-the-less it always gives us great pleasure, and overall is looking very pleasing to the eye. Of course it also gives you a sore back and shoulders at times 🙂

First of this years tomatoes – picked 18 July

I was a bit late in getting started in the greenhouse this year, as I was trying to cut down on the heating costs. For my tomatoes I tried using some more expensive seeds that I had stored from last year, when they were a great success. They seemed to grow well initially but are currently looking not so good. It may be down to the watering system that I am re-using, which I had tried once before without a great amount of success. It supposedly allows the plants to draw water when / and what, they need, but I wonder if it draws too much water in the colder days and not enough when the plants are growing? I would appreciate comments from fellow gardeners.

I have also grown flowers for planting out. Nothing too exotic – Antirrhinums, Cosmos, Aubrietta, Narsturtiums, sun flower and geraniums, and as always had more seedlings than I knew what to do with!

One of the borders next to the hedge I’ve covered with cloth and stone chips, and re-arranged it with flower pots. I always felt that my plants there did not do too well because of the hedge, but I also am trying to reduce my garden maintenance now that I’m an octogeranian!

A special success was the planting out an acer tree, which had been in a pot for years, and I had to cut the root to get it out of the pot. I did not give it much chance of success, but amazingly it seems to be thriving now that it has been set free.

I trust your garden is giving you pleasure too, and if you don’t have one there are plenty of wonderfull gardens around to enjoy. We recently visited Kellie Castle Garden in Fife – wonderful!

Today I received ‘J Parkers Autumn’ catalogue encouraging me to plan for Spring! HaHa, oh well it is good to keep planning ahead!

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.


Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner?

You’d rather eat and be served, right?

I was in Ethiopia in August 1992.

I was there as Tearfund’s Manager for East African Affairs to represent them at a major Christian Conference, which was being held in the auditorium of Addis Ababa University; a major teaching centre for communism in the recent past!

The country was just recovering from seventeen years of what was known as ‘the red terror’ when an estimated 500,000 died under the communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. Thousands more were imprisoned and tortured. But the communist regime in Ethiopia was to go the way of so many other communist regimes back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Mengistu had lost the support of Russia and the civil war was going against him, so in 1991 he fled to Zimbabwe.  It is not surprising then, that his departure was greeted with great joy by the people, and no more so than by the Christian Church, as many believers and Church leaders had been gravely persecuted during that time.

So why am I telling you all this? Just because today the memories of it came flooding back when I met with my friend this morning to read a section of John’s gospel together. We were reading the gracious story that John tells, of how the Lord Jesus gets up from the table after the meal, puts on an apron and starts to wash the disciples’ feet.

You see, at the conference I attended, Ethiopian Pastor Alemu spoke from this very same passage. The auditorium was packed, everyone’s eyes were fixed on him as he addressed the audience. As he came to the end of his talk he went through the names of the twelve disciples – Jesus washed Peter’s feet, James’ feet, John’s feet, Matthew’s feet, … and then he concluded by saying, and Jesus washed J-u-d-a-s the betrayer’s feet. He then asked all those gathered, who would wash Mengistu’s feet? When he had finished he asked all those who would like to become involved in ‘feet washing ministry’ to stand, and the whole auditorium it seemed, stood as one person! I found that such a moving experience and the memory has stayed with me over the years!

The whole idea of Jesus the creator of all things bending to wash his disciples’ feet, is frankly amazing, absolutely extraordinary, and humbling, and has always inspired Christians to serve! And watching countless numbers of African brothers and sisters who had endured 17 years of ‘the red terror’ standing as they did when invited, I also found to be hugely challenging. But the Christian message has a very personal aspect to it, so when I think that Jesus came to wash me, not just my feet, but wash me from my guilt and sin, by his substitutionary death on the cross, I am often deeply moved in my heart and challenged with the words he spoke after this incident.  

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  John 13.14-15

I can still hear pastor Alemu say ‘please stand all those who are willing to be involved in ‘feet washing ministry’. So shall we stand?


  • Ethiopia ranks no.28 amongst the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution
  • You can download an e-copy of my life story ‘Matthew’s Memoirs’ -Mechanical Engineering to World Mission– 184 pages for £2.99 at Blurb.co.uk: All money raised goes to charity https://www.blurb.co.uk/ebooks/114019-mxatthew-s-memoirs

Welcome to my blog!

This is the post excerpt.

Other people shape our lives and thinking, and it has been a privilege to meet a wide range of people in my world travels over the years, from different social, cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Those closest to us however perhaps shape us most, so I’m particularly thankfulI to my dear wife Muriel, brother Martin and sister Mary with whom I have shared many of life’s joys and sorrows. Also friends and leaders in my own Church with whom I have served for more years now than I care to remember. There is one book that has altered the course of my life more than anyone or anything else, and that is The Bible. My Father introduced me to it at a young age and encouraged me to heed the instruction given in Proverbs chapter 3, verses 5-6. This advice surpassed all other advice he gave me, and I have proved the veracity of it over many years. 

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight’

Many of you will be familiar with my my engineering and ‘Christian relief and development’ activities throughout life, and also my hobbies and interests, but if not, you can read, if interested,  a synopsis on this blog in the ‘about’ section.

This is a picture of my wife Muriel and I at Pittenweem in Fife, where we got engaged in 1957