Obituary: The Right Rev Alastair Haggart

Alastair Iain Macdonald Haggart, priest: born 10 October 1915; ordained deacon 1941, priest 1942; Provost, St Paul's Cathedral, Dundee 1959-71; Principal and Pantonian Professor, Episcopal Theological College, Edinburgh 1971-75; Canon, St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh 1971-75; Bishop of Edinburgh 1975-85; Primus of the Episcopal Church in Scotland 1977- 85; married 1945 Margaret Trundle (died 1979; two daughters), 1983 Mary Scholes; died Edinburgh 11 January 1998.

In Scotland a bishop is elected by the clergy and lay representatives of the diocese, a democratic process which can frequently lead to a stalemate when the clergy and the laity back different candidates. When Alastair Haggart was put forward as a candidate for the Edinburgh diocese, there was no such wrangle. He was the first and obvious choice of clergy and laity, and the election process was one of the shortest.

In an age of religious doubt Haggart stood out as someone whose confidence in the faith was unshaken - not because doubts did not exist, but because he had thought them through and had reached firm conclusions.

Slightly magisterial, in preaching, he recognised that the Christian faith could exist at various levels. For some a simple faith as learnt in childhood remained adequate, while for others it required intellectual wrestling and a search for deeper meaning and justification. Haggart would on occasion preach to both elements in the congregation, making it clear when those already satisfied could switch off. With anyone struggling with the faith he would happily listen and argue, not thrusting forward his own views, but modestly meeting arguments put forward. He inspired not only respect, but a great affection, and his kindness and sense of humour won him many friends.

Although he was not brought up in the Episcopalian Church but in the Free Presbyterian Church, his clerical career was very much along traditional lines. Trained at Edinburgh Theological College with a degree from Durham University, he served his curacy at St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, then held a brief charge at St Mary's, Hendon, before returning to Scotland in 1948.

From Perth he went west again to be Rector of St Oswald's, King's Park, Glasgow, and eight years later was instituted Provost of St Paul's Cathedral, Dundee, for 12 years. Then, after a period as Principal of the Theological College in Edinburgh, he was elected Bishop of Edinburgh in 1975. To no one's surprise he was chosen by his fellow bishops as Primus of the Episcopal Church in 1977, the equivalent of an Archbishop in England; as junior bishop he was thus preferred to the office which normally was filled by the most senior.

He had shown how sensitively he could handle the situation in Dundee where his predecessor as provost had become the bishop of the diocese. Changes and reorganisation would, he knew, be carefully watched, but he made his changes tactfully and renewed the life of the cathedral. At the Theological College at a time when clergy vocations were booming, he inspired the ordinands and modernised their training. His ability was apparent, as his tenure as Primus confirmed, and as did his subsequent appointment to organise many of the arrangements of the Lambeth Conference.

Alastair Haggart was a leader, and one of his first steps as primus was to reorganise the government of the Scottish Church. Finance and doctrine were determined by different bodies, the Representative Church Council and the Provincial Synod. In the council every charge was represented by both its rector and its lay representative; it decided all financial matters, while the Synod debated doctrine and liturgy.

Haggart pushed through the amalgamation of the two bodies into the General Synod, an omni-purpose gathering, reduced in number but increased in power. Traditionalists resisted, but he knew that in the course of every debate there comes a time when impatience, and even boredom, induce tractability and a better decision-making body was created and the expense of convening it reduced.

In his few spare moments his interests were walking, reading and listening to music; to these he added in his Who's Who entry - and one can imagine his smile as he did so - "asking questions". That he failed to wait for the answer, or gave it himself, was an accepted characteristic. Happily, to the end his intellectual vigour and this quest for knowledge never failed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us