Johnshaven Church 150th anniversary

Opened on Sunday, November 4, 1860 as the place of worship for the United Presbyterian Church, the congregation of Mearns Coastal Parish celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Johnshaven church on Castle Street with a delightful family service on Sunday morning.

The service got off to a lively start with both young and old happily joining in with the actions to the hymn, “I am the church…!” and continued in traditional manner before the minister, the Rev Colin Dempster, in his sermon, spoke of the many schisms in the Church in Scotland and wondered whether it had been one of those which had also been the reason for the building of the church in which they were all now sitting.

Indeed, although to some extent it had been, it was more the healing of a rift which led to its presence on the site of two former cottages as Clark Simpson then went on to explain. In a brief narrative of the history of the church, he said that it was a union of the Secession Church and the Relief Church, both earlier breakaways from the Church of Scotland, to form the United Presbyterian Church, which accounted for the building of the church in 1860. Later it became the place of worship for the United Free Church when the U.P. Church and the Free Church merged at the start of the 20th century. Not until 1947, however, when, some years after the United Free Church rejoined the Church of Scotland, did the congregation of the Parish of Benholm meet in the Castle Street church, by then known as St John’s Church.

The Rev Dempster then concluded his sermon by stressing that it was much better for people to work together so that the word of God should prosper through his son Jesus Christ.

The service concluded with the praise band leading the congregation in singing the rousing hymn, “Lord, the light of your love is shining”, followed by the benediction.

Now, despite all the vagaries of time and tide, some things never change. The opening of the church on Sunday, November 4 was followed by a soiree the next day. So it was last Sunday, as the congregation then made its way down to the Village Hall for a soup and sweet lunch and, during the time of fellowship which followed, there was an opportunity for the congregation to recognize Robin Beattie’s almost 10 years as organist. Mrs Jean Cook explained how she had persuaded the then 14 year-old Robin to stand in one morning; Session Clerk, Marshall Halliday, expressed the thanks of the congregation and Treasurer, Mrs Elizabeth Thomson presented Robin with a cheque in appreciation of all his good work . In thanking the congregation , Robin said he had greatly enjoyed playing the organ for Mearns Coastal Parish Church and how much he had benefited from the experience, wryly adding that he would soon be back amongst them - standing in this Sunday as he had done first time round!

Life was very different back in 1860 but the events of Sunday ended, no doubt as they had done 150 years ago with the minister thanking all who had contributed to such a memorable occasion and especially the ladies who had been responsible for the excellent catering.

This Sunday’s services will be held at the usual times of 10 a.m. in St Cyrus Church and 11.30 a.m. in Johnshaven Church. The following Sunday, November 14, Services of Remembrance will be held at the usual times in both St Cyrus and Johnshaven Churches followed by wreath laying services at the respective War Memorials.

A reminder that the closing date for the Blythswood Christmas Shoebox appeal is this Sunday, November 7. Mearns Coastal’s co-ordinator is Mrs Heather Jenkins (01674850533) and the boxes may be left in either church.

“Nearly Lear”

Shakespeare’s tragic tale of King Lear and his three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia might not have been overly familiar to every one of the 70-strong audience who filled the Village Hall on Saturday night to marvel at Susanna Hamnett’s stunning one-woman “Nearly Lear”, a mischievous but moving retelling of the playwright’s great work.

It didn’t really matter, though, because, as the court jester, a Scottish Norris, actually Noreen disguised as a boy, Susanna set the scene brilliantly and then had the audience in the palm of her hand for the next hour and a half as she played all the principals in the tragedy with a dazzling range of expressions and voices as, with breathtaking energy, she switched with astonishing ease from one character to another as the gripping tale of greed, treachery and betrayal reached its climax with the ultimately sad and cruel deaths of Lear and his three daughters.

One of the notable characteristics of all the drama productions that have taken place in the hall has been the responsiveness of the audiences and Saturday’s was no exception. From the outset it was clear that everyone was captivated by Susanna Hamnett and when she moved among the seats, firstly handing out tissues in advance of inevitable tears and then spraying water everywhere in the “worst storm in English literature.” “Nearly Lear” was brought to the Village Hall by North East Arts Touring (NEAT) supported by Creative Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council and the local co-ordinator, Mrs Karelia Wright, said that both she and the production company were delighted both by the numbers who had turned out and their positive reactions to the performance.

Live theatre will next come to the Village Hall on Saturday, December 11 with a Strangeface adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas ghost story, “A Christmas Carol”, described as “a heady cocktail of eccentric masks, wild puppets and live music” and suitable for all but the very young.

Primary School

In her first newsletter since being appointed Head Teacher of Johnshaven Primary School, Mrs Jackie Fernandez outlines some of the school’s achievements since the beginning of the new session.

With regard to the curriculum in general the whole school has worked successfully on an interdisciplinary topic called “Minibeasts” while the P5-7 pupils have worked very hard on their individual presentations which they have been sharing with their Head Teacher.

Several assemblies have been held in which the pupils signed up for different responsibilities such as the “Health and Wellbeing” Group or the “Eco-Schools” Group and all the pupils enjoyed an “Eco Day” event held in the grounds of Lathallan School where they were able to see a log cutting machine in action, the Eco Bus, the Animal Safety Police and participate in a number of exciting activities.

On the sporting front Katy Townsend was congratulated on having reached the semi-finals of the Aberdeenshire Primary Schools badminton girls singles championships, as have the young footballers on their current run of successes. The school participated in the recent Mini Highland Games at Lathallan School where the youngsters did really well in all events, especially in the tug-of-war, and a big thank you has gone to all the parents who went along to help.

The Rev Dempster has been welcomed into the school on several occasions and the pupils have enjoyed his lessons and on the last day of term the whole school turned out in pink to raise money for the Breast Cancer Charity, some of the older boys, apparently being quite unrecognisable in their pink tutus!

However, perhaps the most important happening since the pupils went off for their summer holidays has been the reroofing of the school and, although there are still some jobs to finish off, the good news is that the whole roof has been totally upgraded.

Mearns Coastal Guild

President, Mrs Jean Cook, welcomed an excellent turnout of members to the fortnightly meeting of the Guild in the Church Hall on Monday afternoon and introduced Mr John Gillespie from Inverbervie who gave a very interesting and enlightening talk and slide show on the Oberamergau Passion Play of 2010.

He was thanked by Mrs Wilma Armatage and the Bible reading was given by Mrs Christine Murray.

The next meeting of the Guild will be the leisure hour in the Church Hall on Monday, November 15 at 2.30 p.m. when the speaker will be Mr Raymond Sutton from Montrose.

Bowling Club

Once again the rink of Meggie Hann, Brian Hann, Alan Black and Alan Robbie played quite well in their recent match in the Kincardineshire League at Stonehaven, this time against Newtonhill B.C., and although they won six ends they were only by single shots and not enough to prevent another defeat by 17 shots to 6. Better luck next time, perhaps.

Community Council

The next meeting of the Community Council will be held in the Village Hall (small) on Wednesday, November 10 at 7 p.m.