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Digital Subscriptions > Life and Work > July 2018 > The Piping Padre

The Piping Padre

Andrew G Ralston reflects on the life of a Church of Scotland minister and former Moderator of the General Assembly who served as a First World War padre.


ON Christmas Eve 1914 the troopship SS City of Benares set sail from Southampton to Le Havre. Embarking alongside the crowds of good-natured Tommies from London was a Church of Scotland minister, the Rev Lauchlan MacLean Watt (1867– 1957). He already enjoyed a considerable reputation as a preacher, lecturer, poet, novelist and literary critic – ‘words seem to come from him as if from a magician’ said one admiring (and possibly rather envious) clerical colleague – but it was the two books he wrote about his wartime experiences and his subsequent public addresses that would make him a household name on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in 1867, MacLean Watt was the only son of a Schools Inspector. His mother came from Skye and passed on to her son a lifelong passion for all things Celtic. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh and ordained to the charge of Turriff in 1897, moving four years later to Alloa and, in 1901, to St Stephen’s, Edinburgh, a congregation which sent nearly 900 men on active service during the First World War. He was later called to Glasgow Cathedral and his career culminated in his appointment as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1933.

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About Life and Work

Inside this month's issue CARING FOR THE WHOLE PERSON - Celebrating 70 years of the NHS ‘SPIRITUAL CARE SPEAKS A LANGUAGE OF MEANING AND PURPOSE’ - The Church of Scotland chaplain at the heart of Scotland’s health care ASSEMBLY 2018 - Ten page focus on this year’s annual gathering plus much more....