'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012

Friday, 2 April 2021

Easter and The Half Hearted or In a Time of Churches

Between the years 1958 and 1972 I loved to hear the St John's Church bell ringing out to the parish of Oxgangs to celebrate Easter Sunday. 

Easter was always a very special time. 

Back in the 1960s my sister Anne, brother Iain and I would join the Blades (6/6) on some Easter Sundays at the former Oxgangs Evangelical Church. 

Paul Forbes and I also attended Charlotte Chapel too, through the influence of Fifi and Liz Blades. And when we were very young children we were taken along by Father to Belford Church. And yet despite all this we weren't religious at all. It was something which we just did. I guess we were just stumbling along on life's journey. In a half-hearted way. Without any formal analysis. And like other young people we were searching for our path in life.

But I enjoyed going along to each of the churches. I liked the sense of occasion. I instinctively realised the importance of Sundays being different to the other days in the week. I liked seeing people going along to church dressed in their Sunday best. With the church bell ringing out I enjoyed looking out our sitting room window seeing families walking together up Oxgangs Road North to attend church, either St John's or Oxgangs Evangelical. Outside the front of the house we could similarly see people going in to St Hilda's Episcopal Church.

And from The Stair I would hear or see the Duffy family from 6/8 heading off along the Avenue with other scattered groups walking to St Mark's Church whilst the Swansons from next door at 6/1 went off very smartly dressed to celebrate Easter at Colinton Mains Parish Church.

Looking back we were surrounded by churches. 

Whatever your religious or non-religious views one could argue we were better for that. 

I liked seeing the minister interact with and embrace members of the congregation. 

I liked seeing old spinsters or widows feel part of a larger family. 

I liked the sense of fellowship. 

I liked being part of a group - a community - an extended family. 

But I also felt uncomfortable with it too. I wanted to be a part of it. But I wanted to remain apart from it too. A conflicted position. And on reflection perhaps an ongoing personal characteristic too. An un-comfortableness with being subject to the mores of the group instead preferring to have my own voice and take on the world. And yet recognising how we all thrive within a community. Thus, not independence - not dependence - but inter-dependence.

But as long as I didn't get too fidgety - pass the pan-drops grandfather! - I enjoyed the service - the biblical stories - the sermons - and many of the values promulgated. I liked the sense of occasion and the mix of formality; history; tradition; and warmth. 

Most individuals enjoy and naturally feel more secure with such structures in the worries and uncertainties of their day to day lives. 

Somehow people generally felt better for Sundays. 

It didn't make things perfect but somehow the world felt a better place. During the church service I found myself, even as a young and occasionally rebellious teenager, enjoying those moments of quiet reflection. And yet I was never religious. I was never a believer.

Arthur Blessit

When the charismatic Reverend Derek Prime invited the equally charismatic Arthur Blessit to preach at Charlotte Chapel and 'hypnotise' half the congregation, I was most concerned about Paul joining many others to 'Come on down if you've felt the spirit!'

Despite never being well off as a family, Anne, Iain and I were well looked after at Easter by our mother and our grandparents. 

On Good Friday we received an attractive little mug with a cartoon figure emblazoned on it; sitting on top was a simple milk chocolate egg. These were inexpensive items yet we set great store by them because this was our personal cup for the rest of the year, from which we enjoyed our morning and evening cuppa of tea, milk and two sugars. 

Come the Saturday our grandfather (Gaga) brought each of us a large Cadbury's Milk Tray chocolate egg or similar with individual chocolates arrayed along the bottom.

We knew how lucky we were because outwith Norman Stewart at 6/3, compared to our pals in The Stair we did pretty well. 

On Easter Sunday we would be collected by our grandfather and driven down to Durham Road, Portobello enjoying the novelty of being in the car rather than on a bus. I loved the route, in particular seeing the women and gentlemen dressed up in their lovely coats and hats walking happily to Easter church services at Greenbank; Morningside; the Grange; and Duddingston Village. We would hear the sound of the ages - the peal of the church bells ringing out calling the followers to worship. 

Our grandmother had made hard boiled eggs for each of us which she had attractively painted. We would go out into the warm spring sunshine in the back garden and roll the eggs until the shells broke. I'm unsure whether we quite realised the significance of this, although I'm sure it would have been explained to us. 

It’s been interesting hearing of how others on the Oxgangs Facebook page spent Easter and their distinct memories there-of, particularly from the ladies who have different memories to me featuring new dresses and the prospect of summer.

Jackie Hamilton I recall us going to Braidburn Valley and rolling our painted hard boiled eggs down the grassy steps. We had two large blossom trees at the front of our house on Oxgangs Drive – one white one pink which were planted in 1965 and we watched them grow every year until my late Mum moved to Redford Road in 2007. I often wonder if they are still there.

Susan Logan I miss the Smarties eggs - they were the best. If Easter Sunday was at the end of the school holidays we had half an egg each day for our play piece.

Catherine Hayes; Susan Cooper; Sheila Henderson and Jaqueline Gollogly on a trip to Iona with the
St John's Bible Class circa 1966

Marlyn Noble Going to Iona with St John’s Church bible class. It was great fun long before there were any hotels on the island – the pure white sand, turquoise water and seeing lambs being born in the fields. Happy days. The only reason I went to bible class was so I could go to Iona. I think I went two years running. It was great fun.

Anne Matthews I went to Iona several times with the Bible Class - it was the perfect place for early spring and great fun.

Margaret Aitchison We moved to Oxgangs in 1957 and going to church on Easter Sunday meant a new summer outfit including hat and gloves! This was when the church was in the wooden hut. I went to Iona in 1962 with Anne Lawson, Christine Haddow and the late Joan Dickson. What a wonderful time we had. Anne and I also went in 1963 representing the Girls’ Guildry at the 1400th anniversary of the foundation of Iona abbey.

Caroline Cairney Smith For me it was rolling our Easter eggs down the grassy steps at Braidburn Valley and then in for a paddle; also the new Clarks sandals for Easter and a new dress. Happy days.

Marion Hogg We rolled our eggs at the Braidburn Valley but we weren’t allowed to paddle. We got our new Clarks sandals as well and white gym shoes for playing in. Sunday school was at Central Halls Tollcross with our straw hats, new dress, sandals, white socks and white gloves and we prayed it was warm. Oh happy days.

Linda Robson Easter was always the start of summer. There was a new summer dress and new sandals and white knee length socks to look smart for Easter! There were lots and lots of Easter eggs from my aunties and uncles inevitably leading to feeling hugely sick after stuffing your face with chocolate all day!

Lesley Wells I remember going to the Braidburn Valley and rolling my eggs down the grassy steps . After the Easter egg rolling and joining up with other pals, we would lie down and roll down the hill; we would join together holding hand and do a double act. A distant memory, but great fun Oh and the new ‘frock’ and of course the Easter bonnet.  I still have my perfect attendance bible from Sunday school. I wrote my name on it with joiny up writing . I must have been a BIG girl 

William Anderson I used to play the church organ at St John’s  for the dawn service. After that I went with the Reverend Jack Orr to the Princess Margaret Rose Hospital where he'd do a short service in a few wards and I would play the piano for the hymns.

Lesley Wells Does anybody remember having a concert in St John’s hall . I have a vivid memory of a group of us, perhaps the Brownies: we were all singing ‘She wore an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny , yellow polka dot bikini’. The chorus quite often comes in to my head.

Although we can't enjoy the peal of the St John's Church bell ring out today, fortunately I've captured it for posterity. 

And in these very strange times with Coronavirus and another Lockdown, wherever you are, have a lovely and Happy Easter. 

And if you get a moment to pause for reflection, enjoy that too. 

P.S. The Half Hearted is a very early less well known, but enjoyable novel by a young John Buchan - worth a read.

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