Former Kintyre minister dies on hillwalking trip

The Reverend Johnny Paton.

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Kintyre was shocked this week to learn of the death of one of the area’s longest serving and most well-respected ministers.

The Reverend Johnny Paton, 60, was the full-time minister at Killean and Kilkenzie, known as A’Chleit Church, for 23 years, moving to St Michael’s Church in Linlithgow in 2006.

The Church of Scotland reported on Tuesday that Mr Paton, who has led congregations on the Isle of Mull for the past five years, died after a solo expedition to An Teallach, an area near Ullapool known as ‘the great wilderness’, on Monday.

An experienced hillwalker, Mr Paton set off at 1.30pm, estimating that his trip would take seven to eight hours.

When he failed to return to Ullapool where he was holidaying with his wife, Cathy, she raised the alarm after she could not reach him.

Searches were carried out by Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team and an HM Coastguard helicopter and his body was found at 8.45am on Tuesday.

He is remembered by many in west Kintyre not only as the church minister but also as chaplain to the surrounding primary schools. His fun approach to teaching, featuring action songs including He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands and Give Me Oil in My Lamp, proved popular with generations of pupils.

The mission convener of the Presbytery of Argyll and lay worship leader at A’Chleit Church, Marilyn Shedden, paid tribute to Mr Paton, a man she described as ‘a dear friend’.

Ms Shedden said: ‘Johnny was a man of the people. He didn’t just listen to the story of your journey, for in good times and bad, Johnny was by your side every step of the way on that journey.

‘Funny, thoughtful, competitive, compassionate, committed, dedicated, Johnny Paton was deeply loved and respected throughout Argyll and beyond.

‘His preaching was often spellbinding and his pastoral care legendary. Johnny’s passion for everything he did was renowned – from ministry to golf, from climbing, to singing with the Gaelic choir, from chess to badminton, he gave it his all.

‘He will never be forgotten because his stories will be told in homes and churches throughout the land for years to come.

‘Johnny’s legacy will be love – love for people and love for his God.

‘Johnny Paton’s name will be on many lips and in many hearts at this desperately sad time and our hearts and our love go out to Cathy and the people of Mull.

‘Johnny loved the hills of Mull and, while it is tragic, he died living his life in all its fullness right up to his last heartbeat.’

The moderator of the Presbytery of Argyll, Rev Dr Roderick Campbell, will conduct worship at Salen Church on Mull on Sunday at 11am, paying tribute to Mr Paton and offering support to his family, friends and the congregation.