Making History


Bishop Nigel's recent article in the Courier, a widely read daily Scottish newspaper printed in Dundee.

Where do the passing years disappear to? Recently I revisited a place I was last at 42 years ago, as an Edinburgh University undergraduate studying history. The Burn is a wonderful eighteenth century house and estate near Edzell in Angus, used principally for educational and conference purposes. This month our diocesan clergy were there on retreat and my stay there brought back many happy youthful memories.

Of course if I had known then what I know now, in particular how my life was to turn out, I might have been sceptical or shocked even, but then the young rarely look so far ahead because the foreseeable future is exciting enough. The 21st century world changes so rapidly it’s just as well that we humans are an adaptive species. I heard recently that young people setting out nowadays are likely to have half a dozen different career phases during their working lives.

Inevitably it’s towards the end of life that we finally gain an overview of our personal biographies. They say you know when you are getting old when we start reading the obituaries in newspapers. Listening to tributes at funerals we appreciate the life stories and achievements of others.

The truth is time rarely stands still although, anticipating European Union controversies, the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 led to the ‘loss’ of eleven days which troubled some folk and gave rise to considerable satire in the press.

Rather, history is forever in the making by individuals and events and learning about past times is a popular pursuit these days – world history, local history and family history. We want to get a better idea of who we are by knowing more about our forebears. Photographs capture moments and memorabilia are collectable but they never quite tell the whole story of their subjects.

Looking back, anniversaries in 2014 include the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the start of World War 1 and the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s epic trans-Antarctic expedition which overcame disaster through his leadership skills. In years to come 2014 will hopefully be remembered for the end of a six year economic recession and the historic Scottish Referendum.  

Maybe we should anticipate each day as a gift and an opportunity - so that we can look back, not just at our triumphs and regrets but our overall contribution to our families, occupations and the lives of others.  On a personal note, our daughter Jennifer died aged seventeen when cerebral palsy and illness finally caught up with her. Our family life and her education revolved around including Jennifer in everything. We experienced that life in all its fullness – a fullness of life which Jesus spoke of.  Her life, though limited, undoubtedly enriched others. We are perhaps best remembered not so much for what we achieve but for who we are and how we shape the lives of others.


This article appeared in the Courier on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 under "Experiencing life in all its fullness"

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