Thought for the day 22 September

22 September Autumn Equinox

The beginning of Autumn, and news full of warnings about tighter restrictions as Covid case numbers rise. How will we respond? Will we become gloomy and focus on what we can’t do, on shorter, colder, wetter days? Or will we accept the restrictions and look forward to Autumn colours, smells and light? Have we memories of the smells of jam and chutney being made, or maybe Granny’s apple pie? Can we remember rhymes we learned to go guising, or costumes that we wore? What about our friends, family and neighbours, how are they feeling? What can we do to help them? Often in doing something to help someone else we help ourselves, and realise how much we are needed


Lord, Autumn can bring glorious colours, or grab, wet, grey. All are part of the rich tapestry of this world that we live in, and the beautiful scenery around us. Help us to cope with the hard times. Help us not to sit around moping, but think outside and beyond ourselves, to friends, family and neighbours and see what we can do to support them


Wallace & Bruce 1297-1329: Alexander’s son, Alexander III, died in 1286, plunging the country into crisis. His only direct heir was his grand-daughter Margaret of Norway. She died on her way to Scotland. Leading families competed for the crown, and appealed to Edward of England to adjudicate. He saw an opportunity to assert his authority in Scotland, and did it heavy-handedly. William Wallace led the Scots opposed to English rule. He defeated the English at Stirling Bridge, but was defeated at Falkirk. He was captured, imprisoned (at Dumbarton?), taken to London and executed. Bruce changed sides several times before being crowned king in 1306. Through guerrilla warfare and open battles Bruce defeated the English and the anti-Bruce Scots culminating in the Battle of Bannockburn. He died at his manor of Cardross in 1329. His internal organs were buried in St Serf’s Church.


Thought for the day 21 September

21 World Alzheimers Day

Most people know someone who has dementia, or families living with dementia, and many have experienced it at close hand in a friend or loved one. It is a cruel illness that robs someone’s personality – sometimes changing it as well as taking away treasured traits. Many of us have a niggling fear in the backs of our minds that maybe we too could succumb to it. Today is a day to remember those who have it, celebrating what they still have, and what they once had; to remember families and friends coping with all the challenges (often 24/7), their ‘long letting go’, the pain of still loving and caring for someone who hasn’t the personality that once they had; to remember those who provide support and respite for people with dementia and their families; to remember those working to find a treatment or cure


Lord, dementia is such a cruel illness. Sometimes those with it are content ‘in their own wee world’, sometimes they are deeply distressed. It wears down family and friends coping 24/7. We give thanks for their commitment and the support that social care staff and charities give. We pray for all who are living with it/ trying to cope with it, for those trying to find treatments and cures, and that governments will focus on providing the necessary framework and finance for effective support and care


Royal Burgh founded 1222: In 1098 King Edgar of Scotland conceded that the Norwegian king had sovereignty over the Western Isles, Kintyre and the Clyde islands. The powerful Lords of the Isles, with clan support, were always ready to raid or attack the West Coast mainland, and make alliances with the Scottish kings’ enemies (internal enemies or the English kings). The Scottish kings tried hard to counter the threat, and King Alexander II (1214-49) planned to take the fight to the Western Isles. With that in mind he fortified the Castle at Dumbarton, and founded the Royal Burgh in 1222, intending it to be his naval base, and a bulwark against attack


Thought for the day 19 September

19 West Dunbartonshire Doors Open Day

Today should have been West Dunbartonshire’s Open Doors Day. But like all other similar events this September, and many other events over the last 6 months, it isn’t happening this year. We do have a spell of dry and sunny weather at the moment, so even if we can’t go and appreciate the heritage around us from the inside, we can appreciate it from the outside. Many of us have to watch where we are putting our feet, so that we don’t trip, but it is often fascinating to look up at a building’s upper stories or roofline. And if you look up, you might see hills, or trees, or birds flying, or someone’s face, or eyes, or smile..


Lord, we cannot ignore where we put our feet, or we’re liable to trip up. But if we only ever look at our feet, there is so much that we can miss, and so much that we can give – our smile could mean so much to a person on their own. Help us to appreciate the world around us, and give thanks for what we have instead of dwelling on what we can’t do


Viking siege and sacking 871: From the late 8th century Vikings from Denmark and Norway regularly attacked sites across Great Britain and Ireland (including Iona), looking for treasure and slaves. They established various settlements in the Western Isles and Argyll, and major bases in Ireland (especially Dublin). In 870-1, while a large Danish army was rampaging around England, two Dublin-based commanders, Ivarr the Boneless and Olaf the White, led a siege on Dumbarton. Because of (unusually) dry weather the fort on the Rock had to surrender. It is said that the Vikings took away 200 longships of loot.


PS Next week we embark on a Three Lochs Tour – Lomond, Katrine and Leven

Thought for the day 17 September

17 Start of British Food Fortnight

Q1 What is your favourite British/ Scottish food? Q2 What is your favourite cafĂ© or restaurant selling British/ Scottish food? Sometimes it is hard to say what our ‘favourite’ is as there are a number of possible answers. There may not be fairs or markets to showcase British or locally grown produce this year, but we can express appreciation for the things we like, and remember those growing or preparing foodstuffs, and those in the hospitality sector facing great challenges


Lord, we give thanks for all our favourite British/ Scottish foodstuffs. We pray for those who grow or prepare them, who may be facing financial pressures this year. Similarly, as we give thanks for our favourite ‘eating venues’, we remember those in the hospitality sector facing challenges too


Many legends grew up around St Serf, but there is no real evidence about his life or work. He is usually associated with areas around Fife – Culross, Loch Leven and Dunning in Perthshire. Some traditions say that he was of Mediterranean/ Arab origin. Some link him with St Thenew (St Enoch) and St Mungo – making him foster-father of Glasgow’s patron saint. Usually churches dedicated to St Serf are found around the Forth, but the Mediaeval Cardross Parish Church (in Levengrove Park) was dedicated to him.


Thought for the day 16 September

16 September

The local Covid testing site seemed yesterday to be in the Burgh Hall car park, and seemed quiet. Getting access to tests and getting results back quickly has become a major source of frustration and debate around the country. I know of some folk in Cambridge who were told by the nursery to get a child with a high temperature tested, and the online system offered Inverness. There are obviously problems with the system and the communications. It is easy to use it for political point-scoring either way, but underneath there are a lot of individuals and families whose lives are being messed up by problems with the testing system, from patients waiting to go into hospital, to NHS and care staff, to teachers, to pupils and so on. As well as hoping and praying that the problems are fixed quickly, let’s remember those who are directly affected by issues with the system


Lord, help us to appreciate how fortunate we are to have a testing system. It needs to be better. Help all those working to improve it, and be with all those waiting for it to happen


St Columba was born in Donegal, part of a powerful royal family that ruled much of the North of Ireland.He trained as a monk and became a priest. He was an impressive figure, a scholar and able administrator. He founded a number of monastic communities which were places of worship, learning and mission – Derry, Kells, Durrow and Iona. He left Ireland in circumstances that are not entirely clear, and went to Dalriada (Argyll) where the (Irish) king granted him the island of Iona. It became a base for missions up and down the Western seaboard of Scotland, and beyond. He corresponded with the King based at Dumbarton. Legends about Columba grew up after his death, including the first recorded encounter with the Loch Ness Monster!


Item from West Dunbartonshire Council dated 15 September


To support town centres and ensure residents can continue to safely access local businesses while physical distancing, we are creating wider pedestrian footways across West Dunbartonshire.


To achieve this, fixed safety barriers will be placed on sections of the road Main Street, Alexandria and selected surrounding localities and High Street Dumbarton. Further locations will be implemented as the scheme evolves.


The temporary barriers are necessary to support areas where there is high pedestrian footfall in order to prevent congestion and ensure 2m physical distancing guidance can be followed.


They are expected to be in place beginning Wednesday 16 September and will remain in place until semi-permanent and permanent infrastructure changes – which could include the introduction of planters and parklets – are developed and put in place.


The work is being done using Spaces for People funding, which was introduced to make it safer for people who choose to walk, cycle or wheel for trips and exercise during Covid-19.


Local signage will be in place to direct motorists to the nearest available parking.


We thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to keep our town centres and communities safe.


If you want to discuss this in further detail, please contact WDC regeneration



Thought for the day 15 September

15 September Battle of Britain Day

After the fall of France in 22 June 1940, Hitler turned his attention on Britain, aiming to force it to negotiate peace by means of an air and sea blockade, to be followed if necessary by a sea-borne invasion. The air campaign climaxed on 15 September (80 years ago today) with the RAF Fighter Command ensuring that Hitler would not have control of the skies. Although the Blitz continued until May 1941, Hitler called off the planned sea borne invasion. The Fighter pilots (one of whom was a West Kirk elder) who saved Britain from defeat and invasion in late Summer/early Autumn 1940 are known as the ‘Few’. We express our gratitude to them, and remember current RAF personnel. For more information visit


Lord, had the Battle of Britain been lost in 1940 the world would have been a very different and much worse place. We appreciate the courage of those who participated. We pray for peace, for justice for everyone in our world today


St Patrick came from a Romanised, Christian, British (Welsh-speaking) family on the West Coast of Britain. The Clyde likes to claim he was born at Old Kilpatrick. He was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was freed (or escaped), made his way home, and became a priest. He may have had some training in Gaul (France) and Rome. He went back to Ireland and based himself at Armagh. His autobiography (Confessio) and Letter to the British king Coroticus have survived. Many legends subsequently grew up around Patrick. The Mediaeval Parish Church of Dumbarton, and the Chapel at the Castle, were both dedicated to St Patrick.


Thought for the day 14 September

14 September

New rules/ regulations/ guidelines (which category exactly are they?) come into effect across Great Britain today – though (apart from variations between the different nations) in some areas (like here) there are local, tighter ones. The aim is a simple, understandable set of rules – but whenever you devise a ‘rule’ someone will always come up with a situation that requires an exemption. Hence why we have libraries of case law and legal rulings (not to mention protracted negotiations with small children!) A number of people say ‘just use your common sense’, which seems reasonable – till you come across someone with a very different understanding of ‘common sense’ from your own. Maybe we need to keep in mind the second of the Great Commandments ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’: treat others with respect (so don’t put them in danger) and treat yourself with respect (so don’t put yourself in danger)


Lord, help us to remember always to be positive, helpful and constructive in attitudes and behaviour towards ourselves and others


PS It’s Open Doors/ Heritage Month so over this week and next we’ll share some short snippets about Dumbarton, its surroundings and its history


The Antonine Wall was built between 142 and 154 AD on the orders of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. It ran between Old Kilpatrick and Bo’ness. It was 39 miles long and had 16 forts. It was 3-4m high and 5 m wide, built of turves or soil, with a wooden palisade on top. There was a wide ditch to the North and a military road to the South.

It was abandoned in 162AD, re-occupied in 208 by the Emperor Septimius Severus, and then abandoned a few years later. It has UNESCO World Heritage status.