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Cartoon, Bible text ..modern commentary and Jim's story. The same format for all 9 chapters
The funny tales of the late Rev James Caldwell.
‘ Gee whiz, you’re in where?........ Ullapool!’
Mark’s Gospel Chapter 6 vs 14-29
Time passed and John the Baptist still lay in chains in a dark dungeon. Soon after it was Herod’s birthday and he decided to have a party. Now when Herod had a party it was a big occasion. Many important people were invited and the food was plenty and delicious.
After the guests had eaten and drunk all they could, they lay back and were ready to be entertained.
Salome, Herod’s beautiful daughter came into the hall and offered to dance for the king and all his guests, by way of an evening’s amusement.
The audience was entranced by her performance and when at last the music died down and Salome sank gracefully at the king’s feet, wild clapping and shouts broke out. Now Herod had been absolutely delighted with his daughter and, well, was also full of wine and excitement.
‘Well done, you must have a reward for your dancing! Choose anything on earth that you want, and I swear to give it to you.’
Without a word, Salome slipped out of the room to speak to her mother, Herodias.
‘What should I ask for, Mum?’ she asked.
‘Ask for the head of John the Baptist,’ she ordered with a wicked grin and a nodding of her head.
Salome rushed back into the crowded party.
‘Please give me the head of John the Baptist on a dish – now, I want it now!’
Herod was horrified. He was afraid to kill such a good man. But he would feel a fool if he went back on his word when all his guests had heard him promise Salome for absolutely anything she wished.
Regretfully, he sent a soldier to John’s dungeon with the terrible order to behead him.
Herodias was satisfied now. She had succeeded in silencing the man who had spoiled her happiness by telling her of her wrongdoing.
John’s friends were very sad. Gently they took the body of John the Baptist to give it a reverential burial. Jesus was sad too. He had loved John dearly.
1 Don’t agree to anything you can’t afford.
2 If you make a Big Mistake, say sorry and promise never to do it again.
3 Don’t take revenge on someone you don’t like.
4 Note that too much drink impairs your judgement.
One of the perks of a Minister’s job is that he or she can take a month’s holiday in the summer, two weeks longer than many families. But of course there is a catch. First they must offer their manse in exchange for someone to live there while they are in another manse. And of course, they have to take four Sunday Services! Yes, you got it right, they take four old sermons with them so they can enjoy their holidays.
On one particular summer from the State of Texas, USA, came a Presbyterian minister to Shawlands’ Old Parish Church. The minister of Austin’s First Presbyterian Church, the Reverend Eugene Markham III and his wife Analise flew into Glasgow on a Wednesday afternoon. Waiting at the airport was their pre-booked limousine. It was one of those wide, and wide winged, petrol guzzling American Cadillacs.
The manse in Newlands had never seen such a vehicle and it was barely able to get through the gates and up the narrow drive. But there it was parked when the Session Clerk, Ronald Scott, came to welcome them. After showing Eugene and his wife the ropes, as it were, Ronald suggested to get used to driving on the left side of the road. They might like to see a bit of Scotland. He suggested a trip to Loch Lomond. There they could sail on the loch and see the start of the beautiful highlands.
‘Is it far?’ asked Eugene.
‘ Oh no’, reassured Ronald. ‘You can get there in just over the hour.’
‘Then a day around here to settle in and then, our trip on Friday. How does that sound, Honey?’
‘Can hardly wait,’ said Analise.
On Saturday morning, they set off to Loch Lomond. The roads were not nearly as busy as the Texan freeways but the roads were not so wide either. Eugene soon got the hang of driving in Scotland.
Now readers may well be thinking Jim took his family to Texas when the manse had been vacated. However with a grandmother in Fairlie on the Ayrshire coast, our summer month was spent there.
Austin Texas was not exactly lush. The greenness of the land around Loch Lomond thrilled our two Americans. They loved the views and the people they met.
‘Gee is Scotland like this in the north?’ asked Analise
‘Aw no, it’s fu’ o’ different views. It’s rugged in the far north and gye hilly aroon’ the whisky trail,’ replied a family man with his family by the water side.
It seems that Eugene understood the bit about the whisky trail and Analise the rugged far north. So armed with these two insights, they headed north.
Being summer, the nights were short but the days long, unlike a summer in Texas. North they travelled and Analise looked at her map.
‘ Gee Eugene, we’re half way up Scotland already!’
‘ I wonder how many Scotlands you can fit into Texas, honey.’
‘ My guess would be...let me think...about twenty?’ suggested Analise.
‘ At least I’d say. Let’s get to the north and come down the other way back to Glasgow,’ said Eugene.
‘ Sounds a good idea to me. I think we should do it with a few hours to spare,’ said Analise.
One thing which it was not, was a good idea. After visiting the Whisky valley at Turriff, and purchasing a bottle of the real Mackay, they had High Tea, for them a quaint and filling late afternoon meal in Inverness. Then they set off to Thurso. Every now and then their progress was slowed by a flock of obliviously meandering sheep. At first this was seen as a mild and interesting diversion.
As they approached Thurso, they stopped and gazed at Orkney’s mist covered island in the distance.
‘Have we time to visit Orkney Honey?’
‘Make that next week,’ said Eugene.’
So far the road had been quite void of traffic and the scenery breathtaking. But the salt air in their Texan lungs was relished. There was more of it as the car hugged the extreme north road. A narrower road lay ahead and that meant a slower road. Then it came to a halt. It progressed slowly and again had to halt.
‘I guess there are more sheep in Scotland than people,’ said Eugene.
Their progress was laboured but made enjoyable by crossing The Kyle of Tongue and the inspirational Loch Hope cheered them no end. But their progress remained in doubt and began to concern the two.
‘How far to Glasgow now?’ asked Eugene.
Analise looked at the map.
‘Not too far, but I reckon it will be dark when we get to the manse.’
Laxford Bridge seemed shoogly causing them to slow down to walking pace. Kylestrome Ferry on the other hand, was another delay. It was on the far away beach when they arrived. It crossed back in only thirty minutes time, but they needed every minute.
Then Eugene had a brainwave.
‘Ullapool looks a fair sized town. Why don’t we spend the night there and get up early and set off to Glasgow?’
‘But you are preaching tomorrow morning, Eugene!’
‘I know, but the service is not till 11am.’
They enjoyed a hearty meal of rabbit stew, mashed potato, turnip and carrots followed by a plate of rhubarb and custard. That forced them to have an evening stroll around Ullapool before an early bed at 9pm. The air was fresh with the tang of the sea, the locals were intrigued by the Cadillac and our two Americans were thrilled with Loch Broom at its majestic best.
They slept like fallen firs until their alarm bell rang at 6.30am.
‘It’s an early breakfast you are wanting, especially for a Sunday? Did you think on the Sabbath we might be closed for everything?’ asked the Hotel Manager.
‘No, we’re working for the Lord. We’ve got a service to give this morning so we’d better get off to a good start,’ said Eugene.
‘That will be the church in Glencruitten Road, Oban, I suspect. There’s a vacancy there at the moment,’ said the Manager. ‘’
‘No, not Oban. Shawlands Old Parish Church in Glasgow is where we’re heading,’ said Rev Eugene Markham III.
‘Oh, no you are not. I’m afraid you’ll never get to Glasscoow by 11am especially in that motor mobile car of yours.’
‘But we thought Scotland was so small a country. We thought we could get there in time! Oh dear, Analise, what do you think I should do?’
‘Eugene, I think you should telephone the Session Clerk,’ said an anxious Analise.
‘Excellent idea, honey. I’d better do it now.’
‘Have you a telephone I could use, Bud?’
‘Aye, over here. There’s a bowl for a contribution.’
‘He may be sleeping, of course,’ suggested Analise.
Eugene hesitated for a moment as he fumbled for some small change. He realised the consequences would be significant for the Session Clerk. He rang. There was no answer for a full twenty seconds.
‘Hello, ....Ronald Scott speaking.’
‘Hi Bud. It’s Eugene Markham here.’
‘Oh yes, we’re all looking forward to your sermon this morning,’ he said.
‘Well that’s the problem.’ Then Eugene told Ronald where he was.
‘My goodness me. You are where?...Ullapool!’