The late Murdoch Nicolson, Elder, Edinburgh
MURDOCH Nicolson was born in the Island of Raasay in February 1921 and attended the local public school. He was converted in early manhood and became a communicant in 1946.
During the war he was unable to serve in the forces due to poor eyesight, but was employed in Stornoway and other places. Murdo, as he was commonly known, informed the writer that while he was working in Stornoway, and enjoying the church services there, to his great sorrow the minister, the highly regarded Rev. Malcolm Gillies, died somewhat unexpectedly. Murdo remarked that his grief was compounded by the disparaging remarks about his late minister made by an unsympathetic landlady with whom he lodged at the time and who belonged to another denomination.
Later on he pursued a nursing career in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other places. After his marriage to Miss Effie MacLean, also a nurse, they settled in Edinburgh where, in April 1968, Murdo was ordained and inducted as elder of our congregation there. In November 1972 he was appointed Session Clerk, in which office he served for almost 20 years. He was a spiritually minded man of prayer, and a lover of Gods Word, His house and His people. He was deeply attached to the testimony of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
His home was renowned for its hospitality, and many people, old and young, have abiding, pleasant memories of the Christian kindness shown by himself and his like-minded wife. On both Sabbath and weekday, over many years, they were especially kind to the numerous students connected with the Church, who were lodging in the city and attending institutes of higher learning. At Communion seasons also their house was filled with guests, many of whom came from the Churchs congregations abroad.
He had a high regard for his minister, the late Rev. Donald Campbell, whose preaching he enjoyed, and whose hands he strengthened by a whole-hearted commitment to the work of the congregation.
Murdo deserves to be remembered especially for the stand he made on behalf of the principles of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland during the events of 1988 and 1989, and which culminated in the then minister of the congregation, the Rev. Angus Morrison, with a section of the congregation and the other office-bearers, departing to the Associated Presbyterian Churches.
He had many difficulties to endure in connection with that separation. For example, in November 1988, the Edinburgh Kirk Session decided to appeal to the Synod of the Church against the judgement of the Southern Presbytery against one of the Edinburgh elders for having attended a Roman Catholic requiem mass. Murdoch Nicolson intimated that he wished to dissociate himself from that Appeal to Synod, and therefore would not be a party to it. He asked that this fact be recorded in the Kirk Session records, and stated that he had grave reservations and much searching of heart about the matter. He also said that after reading and carefully perusing the Roman Catholic missal for the service of the Mass, he could not approve in any way of that which he considered to be against the mind of Christ, was blasphemous to His substitutionary sacrifice on Calvarys Cross, and impinged on his ordination vows as an elder.
At the next meeting of the Kirk Session, in February 1989, when the minute of the previous meeting came up for approval, there was a heated discussion because Murdoch Nicolson, as Clerk, had recorded his dissent in that minute, which he believed was the right and proper thing to do. The Kirk Session thought otherwise, was reluctant to approve the minute, and appeared to be acting against the laws of the Church in trying to deny their Clerk his right to natural justice. Murdoch Nicolson insisted that to record other than his dissent would be an attack on his honesty and integrity, and that if the matter was not quickly resolved, he would have no option but to bring the matter under the review of the Presbytery. The Kirk Session immediately approved the minute.
Murdo was given grace to stand firm and it is very largely due to his efforts that there is still a Free Presbyterian congregation in Edinburgh, although much reduced in size. He continued to do everything he possibly could to ensure the welfare of the diminished congregation, especially by helping to arrange services and organise supply.
He soldiered on for the next two years before he took a stroke which severely incapacitated him. After many months he made a partial recovery but he and his wife were forced to leave Edinburgh and settle in Inverness. On the death of his devoted wife, on 21 March 1995, he went to reside at Ballifeary Residential Care Home where he was well cared for during the last two and a half years of his life. When the writer visited him in the Home two months before his death, Murdo showed him with pleasure a presentation Bible that had been given to him by the Edinburgh congregation and was signed by their late minister, the Rev. D. B. MacLeod.
On 20 August 1997, while conversing with his brother-in-law, he suddenly passed away. We believe that for him sudden death was sudden glory, and that he departed to be with Christ which is far better.
“Help, Lord, because the godly man
doth daily fade away;
And from among the sons of men
the faithful do decay” (Psalm 12:1, metrical).
A. M. M.