I often feel inadequate, as a non Gaelic speaker, to be Interim Moderator of St Columba's Church. So it excites me greatly to find even the most tenuous link with Gaeldom. In fact, although I don't speak Gaelic, my wife who comes from Skye, regards it as her first language. Perhaps that is why Glasgow Presbytery in its desperation appointed me to the post, thinking that at least I had access to an interpreter!
My wife has occasionally recalled the only Minister she knows about in her family. Her late mother remembered him personally, as he was her mother's great uncle. It was only with the advent of the internet, and my interest in researching our family tree that I eventually found out more about him. He was the Reverend Donald John Robertson, born in 1870 at Breakish, in the Parish of Strath, Skye. His brother Charles was my wife's great grandfather, and for many years Charles was Session Clerk of Strath. Evidently he was a man of traditional views, for the church had to wait until he died before they could install an organ! Donald John meanwhile entered the Ministry and was called to Jura, his only charge, in 1903. Apart from his date of death, the 16th July 1947, that was just about all I could find out about him. Until now.
Quite by chance, or perhaps Divine assistance, I was looking through some old Gaelic Supplements and found one from 2013, with an article showing a photograph of Jura Church of Scotland. Gaelic readers can read the story for themselves. However for us poor English speakers, I have added a translation:
"This is the church at Craighouse in the island of Jura where the population has been worshipping since 1776. The church has a simple beauty and there is a room upstairs where there is a collection of wonderful pictures of the island. Illustrations are divided into topics, particularly the villages in Jura. There are illustrations related to the church, including a poignant portrait of the minister, Rev. Donald John Robertson, from Skye, who is leading a word of prayer with a group of men from the island who are preparing to go off to the First World War."
"Seo an eaglais ann an Taigh na Creige ann an eilean Dhiùraigh far a bheil an sluagh air a bhith ag adhradh o 1776. Tha an eaglais sìmplidh grinn ’na broinn agus tha rùm gu h-àrd far a bheil cruinneachadh mìorbhaileach de dhealbhannan a bhuineas don eilean. Tha na dealbhannan air an roinn ann an cuspairean, gu h-àraidh na bailtean ann an Diùraigh. Tha dealbhannan ann co-cheangailte ris an eaglais, ’nam measg sealladh tiamhaidh den ministear, an t-Urr. Dòmhnall Iain Robasdan, às an Eilean Sgitheanach, a’ dol air ceann facal ùrnaigh agus buidheann de dh’fhir as an eilean ag ullachadh airson a bhith a’ dol don Cheud Chogadh."
We hope some day we can make a trip to Jura to see if the picture of our Minister ancestor is still in the church.