From Tiree to ‘Skerryvore’ – Scotland”s Tallest Lighthouse!

Skerryvore looking forboding on a cloudy day – Photo by Susie Gamble

Our holiday this year took us again back to the Island of Tiree. One thing I had in mind before arriving was to visit the Skerryvore Lighthouse, situated some 12 miles south west of the Island, right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. We had previously visited the Skerryvore Museum on the island, at Hynish, and had been fascinated by the story it told. So we registered our interest with Tiree Sea Tours shortly after arrival, and in the intervening period made another visit along to the Museum where there is an extensive collection of memorabilia and many information boards, from which much information has been gleaned for this blog.

During the period 1786 to 1938 the Stevenson family were responsible for the desisgn and building of 156 lighthouses around the coast of Scotland, including the lamps and optics, the engine room, the buildings, buoys and beacons, the radios and piers. The need was great, during the survey period and the building stage from 1790 until Skerryvore’s completion in 1844, more than thirty vessels had floundered on and around this reef! The toll of ships lost down the years must have been very considerable. Allan Stevenson, uncle of the well known writer and poet Robert Louis Stevenson, was the engineer in charge, and Skerryvore took three years to complete. The left hand side of the map below shows its exact location. His nephew descsribed Skerryvore as ‘the noblest of all extant deep- sea lights’ and considered by many to be the world’s most elegant and perfect lighthouse!

Well it seemed as if the weather would prevent us from achieving our goal to visit, but on the last day of our holiday we received news that the 2.5 hours return trip was on. The sea was fairly calm as we left Scarinish and followed the coastline along to Hynish to view the Museum from the sea. We then headed out towards the lighthouse and encountered a small pod of dolphins who swam alongside, which was so amazing to see. Later as we approached Skerryvore we enclountered a heavy sea swell, which prevented us getting as close to the lighthouse as we would have liked. Somehow this seemed to add to the trip, as we experienced the wildness and isolation of the place, and witnessed the changing sea conditions. It also let us see just how difficult it must have been on many occasions to change the lighthouse keepers at the end of their tour of duty.

We now have company as a pod of dolphins join us!

Approaching Skerryvore we encounter a large sea swell, but there it was – SKERRYVORE !

Reflection: The lighthouse has now been in use for 179 years on one of the most dangerous and exposed reefs to be found anywhere in the world, and one can only marvel at the skill, ingenuity and bravery of the men who designed and built it, and it is said, ‘with no loss of life‘! Four thousand three hundred blocks of rose coloured granite were used in its construction, it stands 156 ft tall with a diameter of 42 feet at the base and 16 feet at the top and weights 4,377 tonnes! This light has undoutedly saved many many lives, and we ‘take off our hats‘, to its designers, builders, and to the lighthouse keepers and maintenance engineers down through the years.

I bought this model of the lighthouse from ‘Tiree Sea Tours’ as a reminder of our exciting and memorable trip, and it currently has ‘pride of place’ on our mantlepiece. 🙂

The model also reminds me of another model lighthouse that I had many years ago. When I was in my twenties and thirties I was often asked to convey the Christian message to groups of children and young people, and it was always good to have an ‘object lesson’. So I had a cool 18″ tall lighthouse that lit up, that was very popular, and which I often used. Becoming a Jesus follower you see is all about heeding a warning light sent from heaven, telling us that humanity is in the dark and in great danger, and needs to steer a different course if they are to land safely on heaven’s shore, and avoid the wreckage of sin that the Bible names hell!

The warning LIGHT from heaven of course was JESUS. The Gospel of John starts with these words – ‘In the beginning was the Word, (Jesus) 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. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.……. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world

Jesus said of Himself “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Yes there is a light that shines into the darkness of our all our hearts, (The true light that gives light to everyone) warning us to steer a different course, and it is the light of Christ. Remember, His name Jesus means Saviour, and no matter how undeserving we are or lost we might feel, if we come to Him he guarantees to save us from the consequences of our sin, made possible because of His substituitonary death on our behalf at Calvary, followed by His resurrection and ascension.

Skerryvore is the perfect illustration of that other light shining in the darkness – Jesus. He is the firm foundation on which we can build our lives, a rock sure and steadfast. When we come to Him His Word becomes a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Why not come?

Here is a video of that trip we made to Skerryvore, which I hope you enjoy

A Sea Trip to Skerryvore Lighthouse

Have a great summer if you are here in Europe, but be blessed wherever you are, and remember Jesus, the Light of the World!


Gardening, Local Beauty Spots and …….?

The Clyde Estuary from Skelmorlie

In my last blog I was speaking about a change of plan, which led to us visiting Scotland’s most ‘Southerly Point’. However we did manage to reinstate the planned visit with the family at Skelmorlie, and were blessed by amazing weather. So before I share about the garden here are a few photographs.

The hills of Clyde, the wonderful Clyde’

For the past few weeks however I have spent some time in the garden and greenhouse. The grass was cut and strimmed, the patio power washed and paths weeded. It’s been good to have the help of my grandson and my long forbearing wife! We have enjoyed the Spring flowers and the tulips in particular have been beautiful.

Its Springtime in the Garden!

With the Greenhouse now up and running, some seeds have been sown in the propagators, and some are already being repotted. ‘Plug plants’ bought locally are also being brouught-on, and will soon be ready for planting out once the threat of frost has past. This year I’ve reduced the number of tomato plants to four, but I’m still planning to grow the usual peppers, corn, chives, parsley and lettuce, and three bags of potatoes amd one bucket of carrots! I have also installed some new shelves (see below) in the greenhouse and plan to grow some house plants just for fun and a change. Plans are one thing, but I’ll wait and pray, to see how the season progresses. Here are some pics.

The Greenhouse at the beginning of the season 2023

April of course brings us into ‘Summertime’ and clock settings have moved on one hour, so its great to note that the sun is not setting now until 8.40pm. This allows us to have a short drive to some of the local beauty spots, in the evenings, as an alternative to the afternoons. Here’s some pics of local beauty spots visited this month!


Gardening in Scotland is always tricky business as the weather fluctuates so quickly. Today the sun was shining as I worked in the greenhouse, but as we went shopping in late afternoon, the sky was dark and we had heavy hailstones. Tonight the greenhouse will definitely require the heater as the temperature is due to drop below freezing again. So we need to keep on guard as things change quite rapidly.

Below is the poem which is carved in the plaque above ‘the Bonnie wee well‘, on the Gleniffer Braes, which we visited the other night. I remember the first time my mother took me there for a drink as a wee boy when we were walking on the hills. It seems a shame to see it looking rather dilapidated now, with the well dried up. The larks, which as children we watched on the moor, now also seem to be few and far between. Great memories however of this place.

“The bonnie wee well on the briest o’ the brae, where the hare steals to drink in the gloamin’ sae’ gray, Where the wild moorland birds dip their nebs and tak wing and the Lark weets its whistle ere mountain to sing”. Hugh Macdonald – 1817-1860

Springtime is my favourite season of the year, as everything is bursting into life again after the wet and dreary weather, which we had for much of this past winter.

And of course, Springtime always includes Easter, and at our Church we had a special weekend remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. First a meal together then Communion on the Friday night, followed by a service in the park on Sunday morning, with ‘an egg hunt’ for the kids. The main Easter Service brought the Church together for a great celebration, when we joined with Christians from around the world proclaiming, and celebrating the fact that ‘Christ is Risen’! Then on Easter Monday there was a picnic at ‘The Kelpies’ near Falkirk to cap a great weekend. You can listen to the Sunday sermon here, well worth a listen!

I did say in my last blog that I would tell of other places we visited when down in the Mull of Galloway, but I decided to make a short video instead, which you can see here. (A six minute watch) I hope you enjoy it.

Trust you are well wherever you are! I wish you successful gardening, and God’s blessing.


South to Scotland’s Most Southerly Point!

We had planned to be on the Ayrshire Coast for the weekend, but due to unforseen circumstances we ended up in the town of Stranraer instead. Stranraer is considered the main gateway to Northern Ireland, and is famous for its ‘P&O’ and ‘Stena’ ferry terminals nearby. That has been our reasons for visiting the town in the past, but this time we had other ideas!

We found accommodation at the ‘Neptune Rest Guest House’, which was next to the shoreline and ideally suited for a gentle stroll along the promenade. We received a typically warm Scottish welcome, and found the place to be comfortable, clean and we enjoyed a more than ample breakfast. The location was also perfect for our plan to visit the Logan Botanical Garden and the Mull of Galloway!

Logan Botanical Garden

We arrived at the garden early in the day and enjoyed the peace and quiet of this ever so beautiful place, with its walled and wooded gardens and conservatory. So few people around at this time, and so the birds and fowl were easily spotted and kept up their song thoughout our stay. Far too many photos to show but here is a selection.

Logan Botanical Garden

The conservatory was smaller than expected but still well worth a visit. >

Logan Conservatory

We so loved this Garden, and wonder why we took so long to discover it? But soon it was time to move on through various picturesque villages to a wilder and more rugged country at the most southerly tip of the Mull, and indeed Scotland!

Drumore and the Most Southerly Point of Scotland

As we made our way back to Stranraer in late afternoon I made a quick stop to see the Kirkmadrine Stones, whilst Muriel relaxed in the car. This was a quiet, deserted, dramatic and atmospheric place. Let these few pictures tell their own story.

Visiting the Kirkmadrine Stones

Reflections: We visited a few more places during our visit but, all being well, these will form part of a later blog. Sometimes when you have to change plans quickly you feel a bit apprehensive, but on this occasion it all turned out better than we had imagined.

The beauty, and peace and quiet of the gardens contrasted so sharply with the wild landscape and the rugged coastline, the waves surging against the steep cliffs and the majestic views across the Irish Sea. And then the visit to the Kirkmadrine Stones just seemed to perfectly finish the day.

On reflection I thought that the day for many of us, was like a metaphor of life itself. The garden representing carefree years full of life, excitement, plans and expectations, and the wild and exposed headland and surging waves representing years that see storms, tragedies and dangers coming from unexpected directions, and then the Kirkmadrine Stones representing us fading into old age and eventually to life’s end.

However as I stood quietly on top of that small hill and looked and read these ancient stones (some dating back to 500-600 AD) I thought of those who had lived, and worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ in that little Church building, and who died and were buried there. Then my eye caught the inscription on the tall stone shown above. It was a quotation from the book of Revelation, spoken by Jesus after His resurrection. it reads “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” These words of Jesus transformed the scene before my eyes. For the truth of the words promised to his followers in John 11.25,26 have been demonstrated not only in the resurrection of Lazarus, but ultimately vindicated in Jesus’ own resurrection.

Christians all around the world celebrate Easter, and we do as well. We humble ourselves to consider Christ’s death on a cruel cross, his burial in a borrowed tomb, sealed with a heavy stone, and greatly rejoice at his amazing resurrection. We then apply that truth again to ourselves just as countless millions have done down the years, the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me’!

I was reminded of that as I turned to come down the hill and took a last look back at the cross. Yes, in spite of indifference, and opposition to the good news of Jesus ‘the Cross is still there after all these years‘ and Jesus still invites us to come for forgiveness and to find new life through repentence and faith in His finished work. It took us a longtime to discover the wonder of the Logan Botanic Garden, and it takes some folks a longtime to discover the unsurpassable beauty of Jesus and His love. But it’s still not too late, so why not come this Easter?

Wherever you are, I wish you God’s blessing this Easter


PS: If you think Easter is too good to be true try listening to Pastor Colin Adams on the subject – it’s just 5.50 minutes in length.

A tribute to my sister Mary Jarvie Macfarlane (nee McKinnon)

6th June 1928 – 16th February 2023

Mary was the first child of Alex and Mary McKinnon and was born into a room and kitchen in McLellan Street in Ibrox, on the southside of Glasgow. She had five siblings, a sister Margaret and four brothers Alex, Martin, Andrew and (me) Matthew. The family lived through the years of the great depression 1929-1939, infamous for its mass unemployment, striking workers, poverty, soup kitchens and deprivation. In spite of the hardships of the day however, it was a very happy family, and our parents’ faith in God gave them strength and faith for the challenges of the day and hope for the future.

When the family moved to Shawlands in 1941 we joined Greenview Gospel Hall (now Greenview Church) and there Mary made many friends. She wrote ‘I became a Christian at 10 and was baptised at Greenview Hall aged 14.  This decision to be a Christian has shaped my life’. It certainly did, as she soon became involved in all the works of the Church, later serving in various church committees and was always at the centre of things.

Mary left school at 14 years of age and worked in a local bakery as a shop assistant for 14 years. When mum became terminally ill she left her work, which she loved, to look after her, and to become mother and housekeeper for all of the family. That sense of care for others typified the whole of her life.

Mary later started work in Rolls Royce as a clerkess after my mother’s homecall in 1957, and in due time met John Macfarlane. She had spoken to him about her Christian faith and his need of salvation. This led John to look again at what Christianity was all about, and in time came to accept the truth of the Gospel. John then became a Christian by repentance, and faith in Jesus. Soon their relationship flourished and they were married in Queen’s Park Baptist Church in 1974. They spent many happy years together, while serving the Lord in the church. Sadly John died in the early nineties from angina.

The family all loved and appreciated Mary, and whilst having no children of her own, she supported all of her siblings and their spouses, and her sixteen neices and nephews and their children too!.

For the last two decades and more, Mary was devoted to work amongst asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow, serving at Queen’s Park Baptist Church’s ‘Drop in Centre’. There she met people from many different countries and social and religious backgrounds. She at times spoke and wrote letters on their behalf, visited them in their homes and became their friend. That friendship was reciprocated as seen in recent years, as so many came to visit her with gifts of food and flowers during the pandemic. Far too many to mention by name but, the Lord knows who you are. The photos above are just a few downloaded from her iPad.

For many years Mary and her sister Margaret spent much time together after the home call of their respective husbands, and when Margaret died in 2011, Muriel and I had Mary almost every Saturday. When she was well into her eighties she surprised me one Saturday by announcing that she had decided to adapt to the 21st Century and could I please buy her one of these tablet things! So that Autumn and Winter she would arrive with her tablet and notepad, and with a load of questions. How does this work, how can I do this etc etc. She would practice all week and come back the following week to tell us how she had managed, and so it continued.

Mary was a very organised person, she seldom went to bed without knowing what her plan was for tomorrow. She meticulously wrote up her diary  every day, who phoned, who called, what food she ate, and how the birds were getting on in the nest outside her window! Her daily Bible Reading and Prayer times were a priority for Mary. In a recent blog I was sharing a quote that said ‘ We are all worshippers of someone or something‘. Mary worshipped the God of the Bible, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in singing and action. Always asking the Lord to tell her what He wanted her to do. She was great on Zoom and loved participating in Church services on Sundays, and logging on to the Women’s Prayer Fellowship on a Tuesday afternoon with her friend Lena’s group. All this right up until the weekend before she was called home.

The last words written in Mary’s diary a few weeks before she died said ‘Thanks be to God’, and when she was found in the morning after she died, it was in a kneeling position beside her bed with head resting on her hands. That just seemed so appropriate to all of us who knew and loved Mary.


  The the book of Genesis in the Bible says ‘And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.‘ Gen 5.24 – I smile at the story told of a Sunday School Teacher as she explained this text to her children. She reputedly said ‘Well you see, Enoch walked and talked with God every day. One day the time was getting late, so God said to Enoch we’ve walked a long distance together, so why don’t you just come awa’ hame wi’ me’! At Ninety four, Mary was a woman who had walked a long way with the God she loved, since that day as a ten year old when she had asked for her sins to be forgiven and had committed her life to Jesus Christ! So that’s why we can confidently say ‘She’s gone home to be with the Lord‘ just as he promised.

So much more could be said, but in the meantime I, the last of the siblings, and many others will greatly miss Mary, she has been my sister and friend for all of my life, but with others I will treasure her memory until we meet again. And Mary would want me to add ‘Have you considered walking the rest of your life with the God who loves you’?


Parks and Walks close to Home! Home?

Glasgow Botanical Gardens – Kibble’s Palace

This month I had lots of things happening in my life, so we tended to stay close to home. The weather was mostly dry, but still very cold, but we visited a number of parks for some excercise and had a special visit to the Botanical Gardens. Usually we come here later in the year when all the Spring flowers are on display, but we enjoyed this winter visit none-the-less.

The Gardens have a long history going back more than 200 years, and currently have a collection of over 9,000 different plants, with most growing in the temperate and tropical greenhouses. Entrance is free, and its lovely to go there out of the cold in the winter. Just inside the entrance to the park there is a mobile kitchen selling a variety of hot and cold food and drinks at a reasonable price. Parking meters are on the streets surrounding the park, and we have always managed to park on Great Western Road just a few hundred yards from the park entrance.

The Orchid House

We always like to start in the ‘orchid house’, which has a large variety of plants some in glass cases, others in the central and side stalls, and some hanging from the ceiling. There is also a tropical pond here. The smell of the plants in the warm humid atmosphere is something to be enjoyed.

The Cactus House

The next glasshouse couldn’t be more different with its Cactus and arid loving plants. This always brings back memories of times spent working and travelling abroad

The Tropics and Jungle House

Now we did feel as if we were in the tropics as we viewed the beautiful selection of ferns, palms and other large tropical plants. I even spotted some sugar cane, which played a major role in my working life.

The Begonia House

Then to the ‘Begonia House’ where we enjoyed the display of this amazing plant in all its varieties. I enjoy growing them in the garden as they seem to keep flowering all summer.

Kibble’s Palace

Then we went to the beautiful ‘Kibble’s Palace’ and sat in the quietness with a cup of tea and a sandwich from the mobile kitchen, and soaked in the atmosphere of the place. Here you are surrounded by amazing plants, and sculptures, mostly with a Biblical theme. We are indebted to the men and women who work behind the scenes to make this facility available to us.

A few other places and parks where we walked in February.

Reflections: When I review my photographs for the months of February and early March, I realise how blessed we are having so many beautiful places to visit so close to home, and in fact so blessed to have a home where we can find warmth and shelter, food and water, and have neighbours, family and friends around us.

This weekend Gary Lineker’s tweet has again brought to the fore the pliight of countless thousands of migrants and refugees, many ordinary people like us, who are desperately seeking just such a place to call ‘home’. Meantime governments in the wealthy nations search for ways to control the influx, so as to be able to choose who can gain entry, and how they can contribute to the economy and pay towards healthcare and social services. The figures are staggering! According to the UN 89.3 million people worldwide are displaced – 27.1 million refugees (about half under the age of 18) – 53.2 million internally displaced – 4.6 million asylum seekers. 1 in every 88 people in the world have been forced to flee. All this as a result of wars, civil unrest and violence. Since then, we have also had the earthquakes in Turkey, where an estimated 1.5 million were made homeless.

Meantime the nations of the world continue to increase their military expenditure by billions of dollars. Does that help the problem or exasperate it? Figures from the internet for 2023 are staggering. The top ten nations for military expenditure are shown here.

CountryMilitary Expenditure $ in billions
The United States778
India 72.8
United Kingdom59.2
Saudi Arabia57.5 (estimated)
Germay 52.8
South Korea45.7
Total1,481. billion
Add all the other nations military expenditure and we are talking about an annual expenditure approaching $2 trillion.
Military Expenditure 2023

I can certainly recommend Tearfund, and if you would like to give to help the displaced of the world you can log-on here:

For many I guess these are just some rather sad but necessary statistics, but this weekend I was reminded of one visit I made to a camp for displaced peope in Sudan, when I worked with Tearfund in Africa. Seeing children dying of malnutrition, and watching a mother’s tears as she tells how she lost two of her children on her journey to the camp, are scenes one never forgets. I’m sure many of you have heard such stories first hand.

With fellow workers we sometimes talked and dreamed of the possibilities, if military budgets around the world could be suspended for just one year, and funds re directed instead to the needs of the poor and destitute, to provide food, water, shelter, education, healthcare …. but sadly that’s still just a dream!

But in the midst of that vista of gloom and darkness we were surprised one night when a group of young people came to visit us at our tented camp. We were sitting around an open fire in the field and they had come to sing to us. They sang with such joy and enthusiasm, and the theme of their song? well, actually they were singing about their hope and trust in Jesus! That was back in the nineties, and Africa’s development has come a long way since then. However, it is still true today, that in all of life’s circumstances having a personal faith and trust in Jesus as your Saviour and friend is a life transforming experience, which can give you peace and hope no matter what life throws at you.

I’ll finish with Psalm 84, which we were reading with our church friends last night. The psalmist speaks of his longing to be in the presence of God and in His house, and finishes by saying ‘blessed is the one who trusts in you‘. Here it is presented by the Dornoch Free Church Praise band, from the North East of Scotland. Enjoy.

PS: The first plug plants are in the greenhouse, so praying the temperature will soon start to rise. Have a great Spring!


Out and about in Winter

The weather here in the Central belt of Scotland during winter is a mixture of wind and rain, snow and frost with some dreich days in between! The temperature hovers around freezing, and the days are short, but if you watch the forecast you can always spot a good day coming up, which enables you to get out and about, if the diary is free! In January we managed two days away which we really enjoyed, so here are some photos of our trips.

On the 16th January we headed for Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire Coast on a cold sunny and windy day. On reaching the park we walked in the woods rather than along the coastal path to avoid the worst of the wind. But it was a beautiful walk!

The Swan Pond – Culzean Castle

It’s great to see the ducks, swans and gannets that frequent the pond area and also to spot the many robins that also call this place home. Oh, and there was the monster!

We next made our way to the Visitors’ Centre where we enjoyed some views of the castle and a lovely lunch in the restaurant.

Culzean Castle on a winter’s afternoon

We then made our way home along the coastal road through Dunure, and were home just before dark around 4.30pm

Coastal route home via Dunure

Ten days later we managed another of our favourite trips from Glasgow to Dunoon, via Loch Lomond, the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ pass, Hell’s Glen, Strachur on Loch Fyne, and Ardentinny on Loch Long, before catching the ferry from Dunoon to Gourock. It was an amazing drive! We then had a bite to eat at Nardini’s restaurant in Largs before driving home.

At Strachur you can continue on the direct route to Dunoon or take the long route via Glendaruel. That day we chose the direct Dunoon route, but then took the detour to Ardentinny and Loch Long.

The shores of Loch Long and the Dunoon ferry

Reflection: It’s tempting as you get older to just sit at home in these cold winter days, but its better for your health and wellbeing if you can get up and walk around, and if possible get out and about. If not on a trip we sometimes go to a large shopping complex near our home and enjoy a walk up and down the mall which is nicely heated, and then have a seat in the areas provided. Of course we can also look in the shop windows at all the things we don’t need! 🙂

Sitting at the fireplace with a cup of tea and a good book on a winters night however is a great blessing. I mostly enjoy reading from my ‘Kindle App’ on my ipad as I can adjust the print size, and the brightness of my screen with a click of a button. Most of all I love the ability on Kindle to highlight passages that I find of particular interest, as these are automatically saved. This allows me at anytime to review them at will and reflect on what I’ve read, which is great. Here’s a few of the books I’ve enjoyed, which I would recommend irrespective of whether it is a hard copy or a digital version.

All being well, soon we will be into Spring, and it will be time for garden and greenhouse. I have some new ideas for this year, so lets see if they materialise!

Best wishes from Glasgow


PS: I guess my subscribers are wondering why I didn’t recommend the world’s best selling book the Bible in my ‘book recommendations’, as it is a book I truly love. However I would like to recommend that you listen to the British actor Sir David Suchet reading Mark’s Gospel. It truly is inspiring and if you are like me, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!

‘Let’s talk Turkey’, or Turkiye!

One of my favourite photos from our holidays in Turkey

In my thinking and readings of late, I have been reminded of our visits to this land of sunshine, friendly people, great hotels, and interesting places. Turkey also has a fascinating history, and is blessed by a beautiful coastline along the north- eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Hence this blog!

The Republic of Turkey (or Turkiye) is a land that sits astride two continents, the largest area by far being in Asia and a much smaller part being in Europe. This year, on the 29th October, the nation will celebrate its 100th Anniversary since the national declaration of the Republic of Turkey. A nation frequently in the news, and a main player in what seems like the never ending wars and conflicts besetting the Middle-East. For many ordinaray folks, however, the national name Turkey, brings to memory the name of a great place to enjoy a holiday!

If you have never been to Turkey, I guess that you will have heard stories from others who have spent a holiday or business trip there! To start with, here are a few of my favourite photographs which illustrate the attraction of Turkey as a holiday resort. Oh, and if you come home without having bought a leather jacket or handbag, or a ‘real fake’ designer ‘T shirt” you have missed a ‘bargain’! 🙂

Much to see and do and for all tastes!

Our days of holidays on the beach with the children have long gone, but we do love visiting many places of historical interest, and as I’ve said, Turkey abounds with such places. The Bible’s New Testament, records not only the historical facts surrounding the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, but the establishment and spread of the Christian Church. Initially this was throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, including Galatia – which is now very much a part of Turkey. On our last visit there, we joined a tour group, visiting the locations of seven particular churches to whom Jesus wrote, and delivered his letters by the Apostle John in the last book of the Bible. Their names? Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. You can locate them from the map shown below.

* map from the 2nd edition of IVP’s New Bible Dictionary

John the Apostle sent these letters to the seven churches around AD 95. You can read the story for yourself in Revelation Chapters 1-3. It was a fascinating trip, and brought to us an understanding of the geographical locations and also the significance of these letters. Here are some photos of the seven places we visited, home to these churches, with the briefest of descriptions.

To the Church in Ephesus – ‘I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.... but….

Ephesus our first tour stop – This city we are told dates back to 1000BC, before coming under the control of the Romans in 129BC. It features very much in the New Testament during the travels of the Apostle Paul, and in fact the NT also records another letter from Paul, written to the church here. The ruins of Ephesus are absolutely astounding, and a wonder to behold. I’ve got to say that the library building in design and ambience, is a work of art and somewhat out-classes our local library today! Rev.2:1

Smyrna – (now Izmir) is a very large city sitting on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, and an excellent shipping port. Unfortunately we did not see any ancient church ruins here, but we were able to buy a rug from this friendly lady. And on our first visit to Turkey we did attend a 21st century Church here in Izmir! Rev.2:8>

Pergamum – Travelling approximately 15 miles inland we came to what was once a rich and powerful Greek city in Mysia. It was one of the most spectacular sites we visited as you can see, with a very steep amphitheatre, and the remains of the temple of Zeus on top of the hill. Rev:2:12

To the Church in Thyatira – ‘I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance‘ …

Thyatira – Continuing on our loop around the churches we came to Thyatira. Paul the Apostle met at Phillipi a business woman from here, who was a seller of purple cloth. It has been said that perhaps she was the very first convert to Christianity in Europe! There was not a lot to see at this site now, situated in a suburb of Akhisar, but it was good to sit among the remains of this ancient church, and to consider the men and women and children who at one time worshipped here, and to contemplate the letter they received. Rev.2:18>

To the church in Sardis – ‘I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.‘….

Sardis – Then in the Manisa Province we came to Sardis, once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It is in such a beautiful location, situated in the Hermus valley with Mount Tmolus towering above it. The Gymnasium was spectacular, and the ancient ruins of temple, synagogue and church were fascinating to see and consider.

To the Church in Philadelphia – ‘I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut ….’ Rev.3:7 >

Philadelphia – is now called Alasehir, it was here in the middle of the town we saw the ruins of what was once a very substantial church building. The letter to this Church was perhaps the most encouraging of all the seven letters. Not a lot to see here apart from the Church building ruins.

To the Church in Laodicea – ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either one or the other! ……‘ Rev.3:14>

Laodicea – Last of the seven was Laodicea situated in what was once the ancient province of Phrygia, now called Denzil Province. It was another site we found of great interest. Here the Church’s assessment of themselves was – ‘we are rich, wealthy and in need of nothing‘. Jesus assessment of them was – ‘you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’! Now that is a sobering thought!

Reflection: Of necessity this blog has been a bit of a whistle stop tour, and I realise that the seven letters to the Churches, may be quite unfamiliar to many who read my blog. The seven letters to seven specifice churches in what was then ‘Galatia’ are brief, dictated by Jesus and written by John who was at that time imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos. Some Bible scholars have seen these letters as prophetic, referring to seven eras of Church history. Most however see them as applying to Churches worldwide, at all times and in every place, including our Churches today. A reading of the letters also shows they are applicable to individual Christians, so they are of extreme importance to all who claim to be followers of Jesus.

The letters certainly speak frankly to these churches, commending the good with promised reward, and strongly condemming the poor spiritual and moral behaviour, and poor performance, within some of the Churches. Words that keep being repeated in each letter are the words “I know‘, ‘I know’. Jesus sees the Church collectively and its members individually. The New Testament refers to those who believe as God’s children whon he loves. In these letters he says ‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline, repent,’ (just as any good parent would do) and then follows these well known words:- ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ An invitation still open to all people, in all places, at this time! I love this song, which in many ways encapsulates the call of the seven letters. Have a listen

Due to unforseen circumstances this is my first blog of 2023, so I wish everyone every blessing for the rest of the year – Matthew

Note: The use of the idiom of ‘Talking Turkey‘ has a number of suggestions as to its origin, none of which refers to the nation of Turkey! It’s said to mean lets talk about something pleasant, or lets speak frankly together. It’s something I try to do in my blog, and today I’ve used the expression to write about our experience in visiting the Republc of Turkey.

TIME flies > a photographic review of 2022.

It’s always difficult to choose which photographs to include in a yearly review! Should they be included because you think of them technically better than others? or because of the subject matter being photographed? or simply because they invoke memories of a specific day or event, which was extraordinarily special for you? For my opening photograph I’ve chosen the latter. Life had been a bit hectic in Glasgow, but after a surprise phone call we arrived on the Isle of Tiree just two days later. It was late April, and the weather was still cool but beautifully sunny. The first day there, our friend took us to an isolated beach, and left us to walk in the sunshine and quietness, with a gentle but cool wind blowing! Yep, that is a day to be remembered!

The Caolas beach in Tiree

Camera wise, time flies too! The first camera I used was the family Kodak Brownie Junior which I was allowed to commandeer for my first youth camp to Whitehills in Morayshire. I still have a photo that I took with it. Unfortunately the ‘light got in’ as I opened it to remove the film 🙂 which was a common problem with the Brownie. Actually the picture of my brother Martin has been improved considerably, because it is a photo of the original photo and digitally improved! Was it really that long ago?Time > flies!

Here’s this year’s selection then, which I enjoyed puting together, so hope you enjoy them too!

January to March 2022

April to June 2022

July to September

October to December 2022

Reflection: It takes just a few minutes of time to review with photographs the year that has now almost gone. It was a year not without its cares, challenges and difficulties, for family and friends and for ourselves. I guess that will also be true for many who read this blog in countries around the world. We don’t tend to photograph these kind of episodes in life’s journey, but we remember well the reality of them!

As we look now towards 2023 and beyond I wonder what your hopes and fears are for the times ahead? for the future? Sherman Barnes* points out that ‘between 1300 and 1700 many movements arose which claimed that human reason and creative power promised progress to a better world‘!  Other questions however arose, Is there progress in knowledge but not in morality? In political life? In wealth or is there progress in human nature? By 1914 and onward such dreams of man creating a ‘heaven on earth’ have in fact faded fast, both in the secular and religious world. Recent history surely bears that out? 

Christianity however in contrast to the gloom and doom of our news bulletins is a great message full of hope, whether in life or in death! It clains that time itself will in fact be brought to a summation by the God of history at the return of Jesus Christ, the appointed judge of all the earth. Meantime as Christians we are daily invited to walk with Him and wait expectantly for His coming! At what time, you ask? I’ll quote the supreme authority on the subject – Jesus said, You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” It’s good to be ready!

Paul the Apostle also says, ‘according to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

A prayer for 2023: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’


  • *A Lion Handbook – The History of Christianity

It is Summertime, in My Heart!

When I looked out our bedroom window this morning my phone was registering a temperature of minus 7 degrees centigrade, so it was tempting to stay in bed. The resident robin however was looking in the window, just to remind me that the seed box needed topping up! It was certainly a Christmas Card setting, lovely to look at, but how thankful we were that the central heating is still fuctioning well. And the garden looks somewhat different too in winter, take a look!

The weather changes so quickly here in Scotland and it has often been said ‘that here you can have all four seasons of weather in one day’. Just shortly before this cold snap set in, we had spent a lovely weekend with family at Skelmorlie on the Clyde Coast. It’s winter, so the days are short, but one advantage is that the place is quiet and it’s easy to find a place to park. We visited the Isle of Cumbrae on the Saturday, and it seemed as if we had the island to ourselves.

By 3.30pm we were headed back for the ferry just before dark, after stopping off at the Ritz cafe for something to eat and a hot drink and to play the Juke Box! 🙂

Soon we were back home to the family’s place at Skelmorlie. There is nothing quite like sitting toasting your feet at a warm fire on a winter’s night, after your evening meal, and enjoying some good conversation. Then its off to bed!

Reflection: You’ll have noticed the strange heading of this blog ‘It’s summertime in my heart‘? I know summertime is not actually reflected very much in the story or photographs. These however were the words of an old song that came to mind as I looked out of the window this morning. We sang them at our Youth Camps many years ago and still they come to mind.

Summertime In My Heart
It is summertime, in my heart
It is summertime, in my heart
Since Jesus saved me
New Life He gave me
Ev’n in wintertime, it’s summer in my heart.

I wonder what your reflections are when you think back to summer days in your childhood? For me I remember sunny days and going out to play with my pals in the ‘bluebell woods’ just a couple of hundred yards from where we stayed. Time was spent having our picnic, building dens, playing cops and robbers, and best at falling, and climbing the trees. Then there were family holidays by the seaside ….

Winter of course was different, foggy days, ice and snow, wind and rain, scurvy legs and Snowfire, a hot salt sock round your neck for a sore throat, cod liver oil and malt, and your chest rubbed with Vick! 🙂 Games nights at home, table tennis, Ludo, Halma and Snakes and ladders, and push-h’apenny!

Two very different seasons!

Life of course has its changing seasons too! I think in the good times we could say ‘its summer in my heart’, and in times of difficulty ‘it is winter in my heart’. The childhood song above tells how Jesus makes a difference even in the winter times, which come to us all throughout life. At Christmas time we remember His Name was Jesus because he came to be a Saviour, and still is. He gives new life to all who will open their hearts to Him. He saves from our sin and its consequences, He stays beside us as our comforter and guide, and leads us safely home.

Jesus calls, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’

I’m so glad I opened the door of my heart to Him, he has been the light of summer and of winter in my journey thus far through life. JESUS is God’s unspeakable gift at Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all my followers and fellow bloggers!


A Tribute to Daddy!

Well, not many children today use the term ‘daddy’, but back in the nineteen thirties and forties me and my siblings, and all my pals called their Mother – ‘mammy’, and their Father, ‘daddy’. Today is the anniversary of his death in 1978, so I was looking at some old photos, and recalling many happy childhood and life memories.

Dad was born at Wolesley Street in Glasgow in 1895; these were the days of horse drawn trams, and stage coaches, and when ‘horse and carts’ were the main means of transporting goods as the photo below illustrates. The family moved to the Ibrox area of Glasgow when he was still a child, and there he attended the ‘Band of Hope’, a child’s club at the local church. One night they taught the children a new song, ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’. On arriving back home he found the house empty as his mammy was at a neighbour’s house and daddy was out. So he tells how he knelt at the black fire grate and prayed “Jesus if you want me for a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for you‘. You might think that a bit crazy, childish and simplistic, but Jesus loves the children as the Gospels tell us, and the truth is my daddy spent the rest of his 83 years as an ardent follower of Jesus, and always put that down to his early childhood prayer!

With countless others he lived through two world wars and the great depresssion. He had trained and worked as an engineer, but during ‘the great depression’ he managed to get some work as a welding company van driver. These were the days of community ‘soup kitchens’ and great hardship, but somehow by the grace of God, there was always food on the table. He was an inspector at Rolls Royce during much of my lifetime and worked long hours Monday to Saturday in aid ot the war effort during WWII. He had met Mary Smiith at the Bethel Mission in Kinning Park and they married in 1927. They had a family of six children. The youngest one in the pram, is not named ‘Boris’ but Matthew 🙂

Most of my earliest memories were after we moved from Ibrox to a new council flat in Shawlands. There we were enrolled in due time at the local schools and at Church Sunday school. The boys also joined the local Boys Brigade, and were regulars at our own church in Pollokshaws, who held a weekly Children’s hour packed to the door with kids. No TV in these days!! History in someways repeated itself, as just after one such children’s hour, where they were serialising the story of John Bunyon’s best selling book ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ accompanied by ‘Lantern Slides’, we arrived back home and our daddy was asked, how can you be sure you will go to heaven when you die? He explaianed to us in childlike terms, the amazing story of God’s love for us, and how Jesus died in our place, and rose from the dead, so we can be forgiven. Then me and my three brothers prayed the ‘Sorry’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’ prayer to Jesus. Sorry for my sin, thank you for dying in my place, please come into my life and be my Saviour and friend. So that’s when and how our life as Christians began.

We were a family with a love for the great outdoors, and before the days of cars, we walked for miles on Saturday afternoons after daddy came home from work. Our parents always managed to take us on holiday at the ‘Glasgow Fair’ each year, usually to a place on the Clyde Coast but occasionally further afield. Here are some photos.

My Father gave us all lots of good advice throughout life, and led by example in key areas of honesty, integrity, consistency and commitment to his word. He was a man of sincere faith and prayer, with many down to earth examples on practical living in the home and workplace, and also in love and faithfulness within marriage. One piece of advice he gave me that stands out above the rest, and has stood the test of time, was from the book of Proverbs chapter 3:5,6. It reads

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

I know of course that not everyone has good memories of their father, which is very sad. Of course no earthly father is perfect, and neither was mine, but we do have a Heavenly Father who is, and who loves us beyond measure, and we can come to Him in complete confidence and trust. He already knows all about us, our mistakes, our troubles, joys and sorrows, so we can speak openly and honestly to Him in the Name of Jesus. Perhaps a simple Sorry, Please, and Thankyou prayer to start with?

‘Mammy and Daddy’

Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam – Children’s hymn lyrics

  1. Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, To shine for him each day; In ev’ry way try to please him, At home, at school, at play.
  2. Chorus: A sunbeam, a sunbeam, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. A sunbeam, a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for him.
  3. Jesus wants me to be loving, And kind to all I see, Showing how pleasant and happy His little one can be.

Blessings as you prepare to celebrate Christmas.