A Sketch of Captain Kenneth K. Macleod
Rev. Malcolm Gillies1
Abridged from an obituary by Mr Gillies in The Free Presbyterian Magazine, volume 39, and edited. Captain K. K. Macleod was one of those who survived the First World War, which came to an end 80 years ago at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Despite his severe disabilities due to being wounded during that awful time, he was most useful thereafter to the cause of Christ in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
KENNETH K. Macleod was born in Kershader, Lochs, Lewis, in the year 1873. His mother was an eminently pious woman who, having been widowed early, was left with the cares of a young family. Finding that the Lord is indeed the Father of the fatherless and the Husband of the widow, she sought to foster in the minds of her children a reverence and fear for His great and holy name.
Kenneth came to Stornoway in his early teens and apprenticed himself to a leading carpenter. There he learned so much of that craft as to be able to make good use of it on a large scale in his retirement.
But it was not the will of Him who over-rules all things for His own glory that Kenneth Kennedy Macleod should pass his life as an artisan in Stornoway. While yet a young lad, he joined the Seaforth Highlanders Regiment and spent about 30 years of his life serving his king and country in many lands, both in peace and in war. By sheer integrity of character, superior intelligence, and whole-hearted diligence in duty, he rose rapidly through the ranks and was promoted to Captain.
In 1900, he returned from service in India to become Army Recruiting Officer in Stornoway, and he remained in the town for some years. Lewis, like many other places, was at that time in the throes of ecclesiastical contention. The Free Church had been broken up into fragments during his absence in India. Among all the separate sections which claimed to be the true Free Church he could not recognise the Church to which his mother used to lead him by the hand. Kenneth Macleod, who had been accustomed to another kind of warfare, was at a loss where to find the gospel of peace amid the din of wordy conflict. He thought for a time that the Established Church of Scotland seemed to be the only sanctuary for noncombatants, and he decided he would worship within her pale. But one day, hearing the officiating minister give expression to a flippant, unseemly and irreverent phrase, he rose up, walked out of the church, and never crossed her threshold again.
There is no doubt that the Lord directed him to our Stornoway Congregation of which Rev. Neil Macintyre was then minister. No sooner did Kenneth Macleod understand the reasons for our separate position as a Church, than he cast in his lot with us wholeheartedly, and there was none among us who held more firmly than he did, that we represented in the fullest sense the Church of the Reformation in Scotland.
It was during this period of his residence in Stornoway, and of his connection with our Church there, that he passed through the change of which the Saviour spoke so solemnly to Nicodemus. To Kenneth Macleod, the requirement, “Ye must be born again,” became the all-absorbing matter which harassed his soul for months on end. In a certain house in Bayhead Street, Stornoway, he was confronted with this portion of God’s Word: “And the door was shut,” which seemed to be to him to be his spiritual death warrant. But it was no death warrant; it was the truth applied by the Holy Spirit to bring our friend to a true sense of his utterly ruined and lost condition and his need of Christ, whose name is the one name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved. He used to tell how the peace of God took possession of all his faculties in the very house where the sorrows of death had compassed him about. The passage of Scripture through which Kenneth Macleod entered by faith into the grace wherein he stood was: “Let not your heart be troubled. . . In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Although he had temptations and trials thereafter, the peace which entered his heart that morning in Stornoway enabled him to possess his soul in patience to the end of his life.
With the outbreak of war in 1914, Captain Macleod was thrust, with many others, into the midst of that terrible conflict. At the Battle of Loos2 next year he received a serious wound by being struck by a bullet. When hit, and before he became unconscious, these words cheered him: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me,” Micah 7:8. There was another Scripture, among many, which indicated to Captain Macleod that he would recover in measure from his severe injury. This was Isaiah 38:5, “I will add unto thy days fifteen years.”
Captain Macleod’s recovery from his wound is one of the marvels of that awful time. That a bullet should have passed through one of his temples and out through the other, without causing instant death, can only be accounted for by the over-ruling hand of God who numbers the very hairs of our heads. The immediate effects of his wound were very serious, for he was left almost totally blind and deaf, but there was some restoration only partial of both his sight and hearing after treatment in hospital. No one, however, heard him complain. His scar, received on one of Britain’s bitterest days of carnage, was to him the most valuable of all his many military decorations.
Captain Macleod, who was due to be promoted to a higher rank, was now incapacitated for further active military service, but he engaged in greater service in what remained to him of his life. He would sometimes ask with regard to Isaiah 38:5, which spoke to him on the battlefield, “Is the number fifteen to be taken as an exact, or as a round number?” It pleased the Lord to give him fifteen years and a little more, which he spent in doing as much as he possibly could to advance the kingdom of Christ. He resided for some years in Inverness and was a great help to the congregation there. He delighted in preaching the Word both in Inverness and in the districts around. Afterwards he removed to Edinburgh and was very active in the congregation there as an office-bearer and in conducting services. There he remained until, because of his blindness, the bustle of that great city became too much for him to move about with a sense of safety.
Captain Macleod laboured for the last six years of his life to further the cause of Christ in his native island of Lewis. He took up his residence in the Achmore Mission House, and at once set about to get a church built there. He himself acted as architect, managing contractor and general collector for the necessary funds. Our people and some outside our Church responded nobly to his request for help, and when the church was opened it was practically free of debt. As long as he was spared, we had no anxiety about the maintaining of the Achmore church services. These he conducted on Sabbath and weekday for about five years, and at the same time he took a private and practical interest in all our congregations in the Island.
Wherever Kenneth K. Macleod went in Lewis, as elsewhere, he was always the Captain, who always led, and was respectfully obeyed by old and young. He was the one to break the way for the other men at the “question meeting” on the Friday of communion seasons, especially after the death of Malcolm Macleod, Ness, and Angus Maciver, Tolsta. In speaking at these meetings his illustrations from army life would fill many pages of the Magazine. One, the application of which we leave to the reader, must suffice here: “When we were in the Sudan we had no end of trouble with camels and mules. The mules, especially, made our lives miserable. We could not get them to move on they would dash from one side of the road to the other to snatch at every tuft of grass they could see. The only way to subdue them was to load them with a box of ammunition on one side and a great box of biscuits on the other. The mule would then understand that there was no getting rid of his burden till he would reach the end of the road, and that would make him walk so as to make the journey as short as possible.”
Captain Macleod bore very conspicuously the mark that he had passed from death to life, in that he loved the brethren. He was in his element when he had one or two choice ones of the Lord’s people with him. His mind, always exercised in the truth, was never without a topic, so that he was the heart and soul of the company in maintaining a lively, spiritual conversation.
His health was a matter of anxiety to himself and his family right through these years, but that did not mar his usefulness nor damp his spirit. He had many times of painful illness, but he was always on his watchtower. The messenger of death did not come upon him unawares. One Friday he paid a visit to Stornoway, and seemed to be in better health than he had been for years. He became ill about 4 o’clock next morning, Saturday 19th May, 1933, and passed away to his eternal rest at 5.30 a.m., at the age of 50.
He had already requested his family not to hurry to inform the War Office of his death, for he desired to be laid to rest in the family plot without any of the honours due to his rank. There was a large company from all over the Island in attendance at the funeral on the following Tuesday, when his mortal remains were laid to rest in Crossbost Cemetery. There they lie, awaiting the trumpet of the Great Day.
1. Rev. Malcolm Gillies, born in 1885, was minister of the Halkirk Free Presbyterian Congregation from 1921, and of the Stornoway Congregation from 1925 until his death in 1945.
2. The Battle of Loos, in the French province of Artois, lasted thirteen days, from Friday, 25th September until Saturday, 8th October, 1915. Total casualties were 165,00, of which 50,000 were British.