Obituary: The Rev Bill Gardiner-Scott

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The Independent Culture
LIKE THOUSANDS of Scots, as a young man visiting Jerusalem for the first time (in 1956) I received the warmest of welcomes at the St Andrew's Hospice. The welcome came from Bill Gardiner-Scott, who gave his life to serving the Scots Church in Jerusalem.

I was staying in Haifa with Dr and Mrs Bruno, the parents of my student friend Michael Bruno, later Governor of the Bank of Israel. Dr Bruno, a discriminating German Jew, hearing that I was going to see Gardiner- Scott in Jerusalem, said: "The Christian churches could not have a better representative in the Holy City. His example does more than any amount of talk in the cause of reconciliation between Britain and Israel after the 1948 troubles."

Gardiner-Scott was born in Bo'ness on the shores of the Firth of Forth. His father was an engine driver. His mother kept a restaurant in the Grange Pans area of Bo'ness and it was fitting that after his education at the Grange School and Edinburgh University young William should go into the catering business.

After four years he received the call and entered Edinburgh's theological New College. He was, as he put it later, "all the better for having grown up in the real world and not having gone straight from university to the priesthood". In 1936 he won a prize which was to mark a turning-point in his career - a travelling scholarship to Palestine. After the expiry of his grant he went as a ship's steward to America and to India, which strengthened a lifelong belief in Christian obligation to poor countries.

Ordained as a minister of the Church of Scotland two months before the Second World War broke out, he became an army chaplain in the Eighth Army in the Western Desert. He developed a community centre at the Gunners depot in Cairo, a welcome place for all of us troops in Sir Claude Auchinleck's army.

He was the driving force behind a weekly Scots newspaper, the Clachan Crack, which lifted morale out of all proportion to the somewhat sketchy print it was. When General Montgomery relieved Auchinleck in 1942 Gardiner- Scott founded Montgomery House in Alexandria as a community centre for all ranks and Allied troops. He won the greatest respect of Montgomery's chief of staff General Sir Francis de Guingand, who whenever he came to the Parliamentary Labour Party defence group would ask after Gardiner- Scott.

At the end of the war he served as Church of Scotland Chaplain for Galilee and District during a time of enormous sensitivity. On returning home he became a senior chaplain at Scottish Command in Edinburgh and then warden of the student movement house in London. However he felt the call of serving the Church abroad and in 1950 accepted the position of Chaplain at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, where he remained for four years. When I asked him why he didn't stay longer he said that he felt guilty about having too cushy a job.

From 1955, with the exception of seven years in Abernethy parish in Perthshire, he gave his life to the Scottish Hospice.

William Gardiner-Scott, minister of the church: born Bo'ness, West Lothian 23 February 1906; ordained to Ministry of Church of Scotland 1939; Warden of the Scots Church of St Andrew and Hospice Jerusalem 1955-60, 1966-73; OBE 1974; married 1938 Darinka Glogovac (one daughter); died Jerusalem 27 May 1998.

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