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 All money raised goes to charity

“Archibald Maclachlan the Peacemaker”

This week our day trip from Glasgow took us to Lachlan Castle on the edge of Loch Fyne, it’s one of our favourite trips. It’s a circular tour so can be done in any direction. We left home around 12 noon and headed up the side of Loch Lomond, before turning over to Arrochar at the head of Loch Long. We then stopped at the top of the ‘Rest and be Thankful Pass’ for a picnic lunch. After lunch we continued over the pass and along the glen until we came to the sign for Dunoon, and turned left. We followed the road through beautiful St Catherine’s before reaching Strachur, where we turned right. Just a few miles outside Strachur we turned right again onto a single track road signposted for ‘Lachlan Castle’. This road runs for 15 miles down the lochside to Otter Ferry. It’s the most picturesque little road imaginable, with lots of twists and turns, so you have to drive with care.

At Otter Ferry we had afternoon tea from our flask along with some home baking, and then headed a further twenty miles down the Cowal peninsula following the signs for Tighnabruaich. There the hillside was covered in Rhododendron bushes in full bloom, absolutely gorgeous. We stopped at Tighnabruaich for a seat by the sea, looking over to the Isle of Bute; the wind had dropped away and it was just lovely to sit in the peace and quiet. Later we headed for Dunoon, on the way catching views over the Kyles of Bute, before boarding the Dunoon to Gourock ferry (circa. £22.00 for car + 2 pasengers) . We then drove to Greenock where we joined the M8 motorway for the drive back to Glasgow, and were home for 7pm. You can see the pictures attached.

My middle name is McLachlan (Son of Lachlan), which I got from my mother’s side of the Family, so it’s always good to visit a part of the ancestral homeland! 🙂

I was fascinated to read on the information board at Otter Ferry the short story of Archibald Maclachlan who lived back in the 1760’s, and to see that he was known as the ‘Peacemaker’. I thought of Sunday’s sermon at Greenview Church when our Pastor Colin Adams was pointing out how counter cultural Christianity is, as it calls for reconciliation within families and communities and between peoples and nations, and ultimately which offers reconciliation between God and man. (Sermon link below) On the other hand todays thinking widely circulated on social media suggests a very different approach as the picture below shows.

A slide from Sunday’s sermon! – Jesus said – Blessed are the Peacemakers -Matthew 5:9

As later in bed I thought of our day, the words of Francis of Assisi, which we often sing, came to mind, and this son of Lachlan thought, how good it would be to be known like Archibald as a ‘peacemaker’.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying that we are born to eternal life! – Francis of Assisi

A Steam Train to the ‘End of the Line.’

The ‘Jacobite, from Fort William to Mallaig

In early May we went on a steam train from Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland to Mallaig on the West Coast, which is right at the end of the line.  The train was called the ‘Jacobite’. Well named, as it was in this area at Glenfinnan, on the top end of Loch Shiel, that Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 raised his Standard and called the Scottish Clans to join him in his last but futile attempt to regain the British Monarchy for the Stuart Dynasty. There is a fitting monument to mark this, the start of the last rebellion on mainland Britain.

It is a beautiful area of Scotland, with amazing views of lochs and mountains, with a few snow capped peaks still to be seen here and there. Bluebells could be  seen in abundance from the train, and sheep with their lambs in the fields at the lochs edges. The train passes over a spectacular viaduct on the approaches to Glenfinnan (see video below), from where you can look down to the ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ monument. Large groups of train and ‘Harry Potter’ enthusiasts climb the hill behind the viaduct to photograph the train as it crosses the viaduct.

The thought occurred to me when we reached Mallaig that it was not only the end of the line for our train journey, but also here in this area, it was the end of the line for the Stuart dynasty, and for the dream of a young prince who dreamt of power and glory. Just a few miles further west, we later visited another monument at the spot where this same prince was secretly taken on-board a French sailing vessel, to make his ignominious escape from those who were hunting him down.

Of course it’s true for most of us that sometimes in our life, our hopes and dreams come unexpectedly and quickly to a disappointing end. So if that’s currently true for you, and like our train you think you have come to ‘the end of the line’, remember that there is a God who loves and cares for YOU!  This quote from Saul the Jesus sceptic, who became Paul the believer, says it all.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose …..  If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, (Jesus) but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Trust in God, thank Jesus for dying for your sin and failure, and like Saul ask Him, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ 

Here’s the video of the train journey!

Springtime in Scotland

If you are visiting Scotland from abroad then late Spring is a good time to consider. The weather is on the cold side, but we usually get some beautiful sunny days. 

A Day Out from Glasgow– Yesterday was such a day, so we put off the tasks needing done in our garden to take a one hour drive from our home in Glasgow to the Ayrshire Coast on the Firth of Clyde. 

The long sandy beach at Ayr was quiet, with a few hardy souls being tempted to go into the sea to ‘paddle’ their feet, and there were a number of folks walking their dogs. We were heading to the south end of Ayr as we had in mind a visit to Greenan Castle, which as you will notice from the photographs sits precariously on the edge of a cliff! It’s a lovely walk from the car park along the beach to the castle, or if it is high tide there is a rough footpath amid the sand dunes. The castle has an intriguing history going back to the mid 16th century, with stories of betrayal and murder. The wind was fresh, the sand was firm for walking and I felt really invigorated when I returned to the car.

We next headed a few miles south along the coast to the village of Dunure. It’s a picturesque drive with lambs in the fields and views across the sea to the Isle of Arran. Dunure is a quaint village with a harbour, and we sat there to have our picnic lunch. Sitting at the harbour in the quietness with the sun shimmering on the water, and watching a local creel fisherman preparing his boat was a joy after some bleak winter days. And then of course there is Dunure Castle, the ancient seat of the Kennedy family, which dates back to the 14th century, although an earlier castle prior to the 13th century is said to have stood on the same site. 

Lastly we headed for the village of Maidens, along past ‘the electric brae’ and the famous ‘Culzean Castle’ estate run by the National Trust for Scotland. No time today to investigate its beautiful castle and grounds, but we did have time for a walk out the pier at Maidens. This sits just next to Turnberry golf course and hotel, now owned by a certain US President -Mr Donald Trump! Then there was a drive home in time to water the garden pot plants, after a few days without rain and lots of sunshine! 

This then is a glimpse of what a day out from Glasgow can look like. We are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to places of beauty to visit. Maybe it’s time to pay Scotland a visit?

I wish all my readers a very Happy Easter! If you missed my last blog, you can see my Easter video here:

‘’The word ‘CRISIS’ – In Chinese is composed of two characters, one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity”

This quotation – by John Fitzgerald Kennedy came up in my reading recently, and if it is true, it seems that there are plenty of opportunities around in the world at present!

Our news bulletins give us a non-stop stream of crises, some real, and some which may or may not occur in the future. There are even now some conspiracy theorists who suggest that it is all part of a brain-washing plan contrived by government to keep the populace pliable and open to manipulation and change. One thing is for sure, that real local, national and international CRISES impact the lives of countless thousands around the globe, to their severe detriment.

In Europe everyone speaks of CRISIS as the UK’s ‘Brexit’ negotiations stall. And we could talk of Assyria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Morocco, Yemen, Iran and Iraq, Venezuela, Ukraine, Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic etc. etc. not to mention the CRISIS of a new ‘Cold War’,  ‘nuclear arms’ expansion, global warming and environmental pollution.

One CRISIS nearer to home, which really got me thinking, was the mental health CRISIS in Scottish Schools. The Scottish Government is committed to spending £60,000,000 on mental health counselling for young people to tackle growing levels of anxiety and depression. More than 8,000 children with severe mental health problems were waiting to see a specialist at the end of June 2018. These statistics are staggering to me, as a child brought up during the last world war in Glasgow. I cannot remember any children in my class being stressed out.   Some are suggesting that the cause is too much social media, mobile phone and ‘internet game’ use. Others suggest that marriage breakdown and ‘partners’ splitting up leave many children feeling stressed and filled with anxiety, all this culminating in various side effects. 


Personally I haven’t always found it easy in the CRISES of life, to see the situations I faced as opportunities. But as I look back, I can see that God used them to speak into my life. I remember at one point of CRISIS someone quoting a verse from the Bible to me, which didn’t impress me until I stopped to think. It was from Jeremiah 6.16 and here is what it said.  ‘This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’  I subsequently found this advice to be invaluable and true.  There are so many basics here for a time of crisis.

  • ‘Listen’ for the voice of God – ask Him for help, what should I do?
  • ‘Stand’ – take time to think, sometimes we rush into decisions which we subsequently regret
  • ‘Ask’, what sustained our parents and grandparents in times of trouble? – Words like these? ‘Oh God our help in ages past our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home ……’!
  • ‘Consider’ the options – do what is right, irrespective of what others have done
  • ‘Walk’ forward with confidence with your trust firmly in God
  • You will be at peace and find rest for your soul

Unfortunately, the verse finishes with these words ‘But you said, ‘We will not walk in it’.  So often we choose our own way, not God’s way, and wonder why it didn’t work out. May God help us all to choose wisely, for we all face a CRISIS at some point in our life!

Looking back I can see in retrospect that God did use the crises of life to move me on to new opportunities!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4v6

Struggling with issues of Faith? Watch Pastor Colin Adams gives a five-minute talk on ‘the Resurrection’ a key factor of the Christian Faith.

Scotland and Sugar!

This week my wife and I drove from the centre of Glasgow to the Clyde Estuary, stopping off at ‘Lyle Hill’ in Greenock. There I read one of the placards, giving a synopsis of the history of Greenock. It was interesting to read that it had the nickname ‘sugatown’! It’s not hard to understand why, for at the beginning of the last century 400 ships per year were bringing raw cane sugar from the West Indies and Central American sugar plantations into the port, to be refined in one of Greenock’s fourteen sugar refineries.  Mr Lyle was a local entrepreneur who invested heavily in sugar, and eventually joined with Mr Tate to form the world famous ‘Tate and Lyle’ sugar business.

All that brought memories flooding back to mind as I served my engineering apprenticeship in a heavy engineering works in Glasgow called Watson Laidlaw & Co Ltd who specialised in the manufacture of centrifugal machines for the Sugar Industry. I would later spend 20+ years working with A & W Smith & Co Ltd. (part of the Tate & Lyle group) who were manufacturers of all kind of equipment for the sugar industry, and were involved in the construction of complete Sugar Factories in some of the world’s remotest places.  

Glasgow and the Clyde basin actually became the key hub for the world manufacture of sugar machinery. The photographs of nine company adverts show the companies that were all operating in and around Glasgow when I was an apprentice.

Sadly Tate & Lyle closed its last Greenock refinery in 1997, and today not one refinery is operating in Greenock. Likewise not one engineering company is producing sugar machinery in Scotland, not since A & W Smith (which became Smith Mirrlees) closed its doors in the late 1980’s, the last survivor of Scotland’s sugar engineering companies.

I guess for most this story is just symbolic of the general demise of heavy engineering in the UK, which reached its peak during the Margaret Thatcher era. 

For me it is much more than that, because I invested half of my working life in the Sugar business, and it was a career that I really enjoyed, as the work was so varied and interesting. I first worked as a ‘hands-on’ engineering apprentice, then as a draughtsman, an estimator, chief estimator, and company buyer. This work took me to Mexico for a year with my family when we built the Tambaca Sugar Factory, and then to the northeast of Brazil (x 2), and to Thailand for a year with my wife and daughter, and on other shorter visit to factories at home and abroad.  

It spite of everyone’s best efforts however, the tide was turning against the Scottish industry, as more and more sugar producing countries set up their own engineering establishments. Shipping charges too had also soared in price, and competition became increasingly fierce. The refining side of the business took a great hit when we joined the European Union, as there already existed a sugar mountain in Europe, as farmers there were growers of sugar beet. So quotas were set, restricting the amount of raw cane sugar that could be imported. 

So slowly but surely, companies closed, and thousands of workers were made redundant including the undersigned.   It was great while it lasted, but I’m happy to say, that in retrospect God was leading me into a different sphere of work in the Christian Mission sector, which proved even more rewarding and fulfilling than my time in engineering. 

None-the-less I still keep a wee stash of items I can’t bring myself to throw out, as can be seen in the photographs. I guess they are of no interest to anyone else in this day of calculators and computers, but I enjoy taking a glance at them from time to time! My drawing instruments, notebooks, rulers and slide rulers, logarithm tables, ‘ready reckoners’, steam tables etc.  My wife says I’m a hoarder, and she is right, but to me they are an important memento to a big part of my life.

If you are interested to read more about the Sugar Industry in Scotland you can find more details here:

Now as a Christian I keep pressing forward as best I can with a number of activities, and like to keep in mind the words of Paul the Apostle, (who also dramatically changed course mid way through his life) when he said ‘I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ Phil. 3.14