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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable