Gazette Letters 4.12.14

Easy to resolve

I do not know what kind of Doctor the SNP’s new press officer is but he is going to have his work cut out for the next six months if his appointed role is as spin-doctor to Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil has been MP for nine years during all of which time the question of the interconnector has been the biggest economic issue facing the Western Isles. In that context, the evidence of activity which the Doctor offers is thin gruel indeed, in line with Mr MacNeil’s silence on his own behalf.

Fortunately, there is an easy way of resolving this. Mr MacNeil has repeatedly been asked to open his files on the subject so that constituents can form their own judgement - the correspondence, the meetings, the lobbying, the Parliamentary activity. All of this is in the public domain so there can be no question of confidentiality involved.

Mr MacNeil surely does not need to speak through a medium on such an important matter. He can either defend his own record with solid evidence or be judged accordingly.

Alasdair Morrison

Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Scottish Labour Party


Isle of Lewis

Will of the people

I tire of the bleatings of professional Unionists pouring scorn on attempts to promote further referenda on the National Issue because they see No vote as a forever decision.

But it isn’t. Whilst you wouldn’t want to have one every week, referenda and elections are merely iterations of the democratic process.

After all, if Scotland had voted for and obtained independence, it would have been perfectly reasonable for dissenters to call for and obtain further referenda in future years to ascertain whether or not the people of Scotland wanted to re-enter a Union with the UK (who would of course supposedly have us back in the blink of an eye).

Or should the result of the next Westminster or Holyrood election be considered as the settled will of the people and the result ossified in perpetuity?

John Hein


Womens Hospitals

I hope many of your readers managed to catch the recent TV documentaries on BBC Alba and BBC 2 about the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Foreign Service in the Great War of 1914-19. I found the programmes very interesting and they encouraged me to try to find out a little more about their adventures.

I knew that my cousin Dr Lillian Ann (Laila) Muncaster (Stornoway born and bred) served with the SWHFS in Serbia and Salonika in 1915. I accordingly trawled through the loyal Lewis Roll of Honour but can only find one other Lewiswoman mentioned, Helen Macfarqhuar, MB, Habost, who served with that unit, operating its mobile X-ray unit. I may of course have overlooked others.

I have also checked briefly with the SWHFS’ archives in Glasgow but cannot see any with a Lewis connection recorded there - not even the two mentioned above - but I wonder if there were any others who (like my cousin) were working on the mainland and gave their then current address when signing up and are not readily identifiable as having an island connection and may thus have been missed out of our local records.

Numerous island girls did serve in various medical and nursing capacities during the Great War in France, Italy and Egypt and no doubt elsewhere but I would be surprised if there were no others who opted for service specifically with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Service.

All the doctors and nurses who served with the SWHFS experienced great hardship and very considerable danger during their time there. They were women of great personality and tremendous energy who raised considerable sums of money from all over the world to equip and staff field hospitals in their several war theatres as well as carrying out their primary functions under almost impossible conditions.

They were not by any means the downtrodden mice some may think many of the women of that era to have been and thought they had been told by the British government of the day (when they offered them their services) to go home and sit quietly! They refused to be discouraged and promptly offered their services to the French who took them up with alacrity.

Thereafter they excelled themselves in France and on the Salonika front and Serbia - a part of the war almost forgotten about in the UK nowadays as it was really a French show - but their help has not been forgotten by the Serbs.

Those women did an enormous amount of work at or near the front line for the wounded servicemen in the conflict. Incidentally it was also in Salonika that the local lads with the Ross Mountain Battery who had survived Gallipoli again proved their worth and I wonder if they ever made contact with SWHFS while there. Although I remember Laila’s mother (Jessie Mackenzie or Muncaster, my Great-Grand-Aunt on my Mackenzie grandmother’s side) as she came to stay with us for a period during World War II, I do not remember Laila herself as she was killed in a road traffic accident in Durban SA in 1933, which was slightly before my time.

The Muncaster branch of the family, though numerous enough in Stornoway pre-1914 is probably all but forgotten on the island and is now spread out all over the world (mostly in Canada).

Laila is mentioned several times in Leah Lemman’s 1993 book “In the Service of Life” but not much detail is given.

If any of your readers know of other Lewis (or indeed Eilean Siar) - connected medics or nurses who might have served with the SWHFS during the Great War, I would be grateful if they could contact me as I would like to try to record their adventures appropriately, if possible in writing somewhere.

Colin Scott Mackenzie


Eternal life

It never ceases to amaze me how Mr. Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (Letter 20 November) uses the words of either counterfeit clergymen or the problems of the church, some factual, some imagined, to fuel the flames of his secular agenda. He has to be pitied.

In fact all secularists and humanists have to be pitied because of the way they arrogantly try to undermine and dismiss all that is sacred.

They vainly imagine they have nothing to live for and nothing to die for. Yes, sadly, the Christian church in Scotland is not the glowing example it should be to them, or anyone else, and shame on her for not living up to the glorious name that she bears.

I am the first to acknowledge, with great heaviness, that deep heart-felt repentance is desperately needed within the heart of the Scottish church if the blessing of repentance is to flow like a mighty river across our spiritually barren nation.

The Bible assures us that blessing will follow when the church repents of her sin:

Nevertheless there is a great gulf between all that is secular and all that is sacred, from a Biblical perspective. In stark contrast to secularism, which says, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die,” stands Christianity, which says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Christianity speaks of something more than the here and now.

While secularism takes the short view, Christianity takes the long view.

While secularists talk about the here and now, Christians speak of an eternal life beyond the grave.

While secularism, which teaches man is the product of evolution, validates narcissism, hedonism, materialism, and pluralism, Christianity, which teaches man is created in the image of God, refutes all man-made isms with the admonition.

Man of course, in his arrogant pride, does not want to do what God wants him to do.

As a result man attempts to suppress the truth about God in unrighteousness.

Why? Because if man can be persuaded to believe the lie that there is no Sovereign God who lives in eternity, then he can be comfortable involving himself in all sorts of uncleanness, ungodliness and sinfulness.

Secularism, of course, is the perfect vehicle for such unbelief and unbelief is the greatest sin on earth.

If I can remind Mr. Alistair McBay of what Jean Bon Andre said to a minister during the French revolution: “I will pull down all of your churches, your steeples, your places of worship that you may no longer have any object to remind you of your religious superstitions.” “But,” replied the minister, “You cannot pull down the sun, the moon, and the stars; these all declare the glory of God.

If every house of prayer be destroyed, if every preacher be forced to keep silent, if every choir be no human voice again pronounce the name of God, the heavens above will forever declare His glory—the birds will sing His praise and the wind and waves will say, ‘OUR GOD REIGNS!’” And He does, Halleluiah.

Mr Donald J Morrison