Wartime pilot’s lifelong ministry

Reverend A J Brennan

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A Kintyre man of the cloth and son of the manse was remebered at a presbytery meeting in Dunkeld and Meigle.

Reverend A J Brennan made the following tribute to Kenneth MacVicar, the fifth of seven children of the minister of Southend, Angus John MacVicar and his wife Marjorie.

Rev Brennan said: I have to admit that I am at a severe disadvantage – Kenneth himself was one of the ablest communicators I have met, and could tell a story much better than I can.

‘I’m also presented with an impossible task – to summarise Kenneth’s 96 years of life and 67 years of ministry.

Kenneth was educated at Campbeltown Grammar, before studying pure science at Edinburgh, but by that time, war had broken out, and he joined the university air squadron.

Within a couple of years  he was awarded his wings, commissioned as an officer and posted to the Imphal front in Burma with the 28th army cooperation squadron.

He flew over India and Burma, earning the DFC and at one point having to evade capture behind the enemy lines.

When the war ended, he returned to Southend, where there was a dawning realisation, partly due to his war experiences, that he was being called to follow in his father’s footsteps.

In September 1946 he married Isobel Mackay, who had been an army nurse during the war, and they moved to St Andrews where Kenneth studied for an arts degree, and trained for the ministry.

After assisting Rev Strachan in Kinlochard, he preached in Weem for a minister who was interim moderator at Kenmore, and within a fortnight was  a candidate for the vacant charge.

In 1950 he was ordained though the induction to Kenmore had to be delayed a little till the manse was ready.

It was a parish on its own, and his visitations were by bicycle. Later, when Lawers was linked to Kenmore, someone provided a car for the extra travelling.

Just before his retirement, Kenmore and Lawers became a united parish, and linked with Fortingall and Glenlyon.

For much of his ministry, Kenneth preached three times on a Sunday – Kenmore, Acharn and Ardtalnaig, or Kenmore, Fearnan and Lawers, and on top of that was Sunday school at 10.30am and bible class in the evening.

During the week there were other activities – Boys Brigade, youth club, badminton and table tennis. Kenneth, a Celtic fan also enjoyed golf and was a member at Taymouth Castle.

Kenmore had a beadle at that time whose practice it was to escort the minister to the door. On the Sunday after an Old Firm match, if Celtic won, the beadle would bow to Kenneth, but if they lost, Kenneth would bow to the beadle, who was an avid Rangers fan.

Kenneth was well known and well respected as a pastor as well as a preacher.

Often when visiting people in many different places or at meeting, as soon as people realised that I came from Kenmore, the first question I would be asked was ’And how is Kenneth MacVicar?’ And I can testify to the affection with which he was held by those he had counselled, married, served beside, encountered in any way.

He was involved in the whole life of the parish, the coffee mornings, the sales of work, an irreplaceable commentator at Kenmore Highland games, he wrote plays and pantomimes and produced the church Christmas card.

In the wider church Kenneth convened the General Assembly’s committee on HM forces, was vice convenor of the Unions and Readjustments committee, became a Queen’s Chaplain, and served presbytery first as moderator, and then as clerk.

‘In addition to the church work, he served as an independent councillor on the Kenmore district council and on various committees.

He was an author, writing of his own early experiences in ‘On the Wings of the Morning’ and had a great interest in the history of the parish.’He contributed to the production of a booklet celebrating the 400th anniversary of the church and parish.’

Kenneth and Isobel had a partnership which sustained their ministry across the decades.

Isobel brought up their four children – Angus, Kenny, Cameron and Jean, but she also hosted garden parties in the Manse garden, was the long serving president, and honorary president of the Guild, made cups of tea, used her nursing skills and experience in pastoral situations  and provided love, moral support, and occasionally protection for her husband.

Later Kenneth and his son Kenny cared for Isobel through a long period of illness before her death.

Kenneth’s passing  leaves a huge hole in the family, and the parish. He was weel kent, weel lo’ed and weel respected.