MARGARET MacPhie, for this was her maiden name, was born in the city of Glasgow on 4th August 1905, the third child of Peter and Mary MacPhie. Peter MacPhie was a Skyeman, while his wife Mary Nicolson came from Raasay.
Peter MacPhie was a highly respected police sergeant in the Marine Division, Glasgow. He died in January 1910, when Margaret was only four and a half years old. Her mother was left a widow with five children, the youngest, Angus, being only fourteen months old. To support her family, Mrs MacPhie took in lodgers from the Highlands. As her father belonged to the Free Church, Margaret was baptised in the Hope Street Free Church.
In her young days Margaret spent her summer holidays in Raasay with a Betsy MacSween, her mother’s aunt, who was a godly woman. She lived in Balachuirn, a picturesque district of the island. Margaret helped at many communion seasons there, when they sometimes fed fifty people in relays, those awaiting their turn staying outside the house. Margaret had a very high regard for this lady, and often spoke of her.
When Margaret left school she worked for a time as a clerkess for the Country Gentleman’s Association. Then, after taking a course in shorthand and typing, she was employed in the Royal Exchange for many years. She was much in demand for her skills as a shorthand typist. Indeed, she and her like-minded friend, Miss Eliza MacKenzie, Inverness, acted as shorthand typists at a number of annual Synods of the Church. In 1942 she married Mr Neil Anderson Tallach, a widower with two daughters. One of these step-daughters, Mrs C. Chapman, was to prove a real help and a daughter indeed to Mrs Tallach, over the years. From this union there were two sons, Andrew and David, who are left to mourn the loss of their mother. Mr Tallach, who was an elder in the St. Jude’s Congregation, Glasgow, passed away to his eternal rest in December 1961.
My first recollection of seeing Margaret were when I was a lad of fifteen. She and her mother sat in the gallery in the old St. Jude’s Church, in front of our family pew, the better to hear the minister, the Rev. Neil Cameron, whose voice was then becoming weaker. It was only later on that I came to know her personally.
Although she saw true godliness on her visits to Raasay, and had the privilege of hearing the full-orbed gospel preached by Mr Cameron, she continued for years quite unconcerned about the welfare of her soul. When the Lord’s time came, however, there was a change. Under a sermon preached by Mr Cameron on the text “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:20), the Holy Spirit awoke Margaret’s conscience to realise that she was not saved, and that she needed salvation above everything else. For a time she went about to establish her own righteousness, and to seek salvation on her own terms. She could not see how a sinner, such as she had discovered herself to be, could possibly be saved. She was delivered from these unbelieving thoughts through another sermon preached by Mr Cameron on the words: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). When speaking of her experience under this sermon she said, “Mr Cameron laid great emphasis on the word ‘sinners’, and it was then that my soul came to rest in Christ for salvation.”
During Margaret’s young days, the method of collecting Church funds was by personal visitation to the homes of the congregation, by collectors. As Margaret was one of these, and as her minister’s name was on her list to be visited, she met him in his manse from time to time. When she came before the Kirk Session, with a strong, but trembling desire, to sit at the Lord’s Table for the first time, Mr. Cameron dealt with her in a very kindly way. She was then placed on the Communion Roll, and sat at the Lord’s Table for the first time in November 1927. With her death in December 1998, she completed 71 years as a follower of the Lamb, being kept by the power of God to have the garments of her profession clean, to the end of her life’s journey.
Margaret Tallach was a very intelligent and well-informed Christian. She had a very retentive memory, and could recall with amazing accuracy, sermons she had heard. A prominent feature of her Christian character was her obvious relish for the preached word. She naturally had a very high regard for the preaching of the Rev. Neil Cameron. Shortly before her death, she told of a Harvest Thanksgiving sermon, preached in the St. Jude’s Church hall by Mr Cameron on the text, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Psl. 63:5). As I heard her tell of this time, when she had such a feast of the Gospel, my mind went back to the year 1938, when I was in Miss Isabella Morton’s house and listened to her telling me about that very same sermon. It is evident the gospel was preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, that night in the St. Jude’s congregation. It is pleasant to think of the souls of these two godly women, with the soul of their beloved pastor, enjoying in its fulness what they then tasted in a measure in the tabernacles of God’s grace in the world. They no longer need a pastor to lead them by the inward grace of the Holy Spirit, into the rich pastures of the Word of God, “for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters” (Rev. 7:17).
Mrs Tallach also had a very high opinion of Mr Cameron’s successor, the Rev. R. MacKenzie, and often spoke of his prayer-meeting addresses in particular. She was very grieved when he left the Church in 1945. The strong points in his sermons were his preaching of the law, his expounding the person and love of Christ, and the declaration of the free offer of the Gospel. At the same time he seemed to have a particular pleasure in prayer-meetings. As well as having two such meetings in Glasgow on Monday and Wednesday evenings, during the same week he held them in Dumbarton on Tuesdays, and in Clydebank on Thursdays. Mrs Tallach made good use of her shorthand skills in taking down some of these prayer-meeting addresses which she benefited from reading sometimes, when the frailties of old age prevented her from attending the public means, much as she would have loved to be there.
She was also fond of the preaching of the late Rev. Malcolm Gillies, Stornoway, and spoke warmly of the last sermon she heard him preach, when the text was: “For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death” (Psl. 48:14). She said the recollection of this sermon was a great comfort to her, as she herself was approaching the Jordan of death.
Mrs Tallach had a warm attachment to the island of Raasay. She had a small house there, where she spent a holiday every summer, making sure, if possible, to be present at the communion on the first Sabbath of July. She also had a warm place for Kames. In her younger days she saw many of the Lord’s people in her mother’s house there, especially at communion seasons. She was usually present at the communion in the Edinburgh congregation each year, and I met her there for the first time in 1935, in the hospitable home of Mr and Mrs Andrew Pottinger. Andrew was a Shetlander, brought into the Church through his marriage to Kate MacLeod, a daughter of Malcolm MacLeod, the eminent missionary in Ness, Lewis. The gospel was blessed to Andrew, and he became an elder, and was also an excellent precentor. He and his wife delighted in the fellowship of the Lord’s people in their home. There was much spiritual warmth, so the gatherings were not only pleasant but profitable. With the death of Mrs Tallach, nearly all who used to gather there are gone to their eternal rest.
Her interest in, and concern for, the work of the Church overseas, and perhaps especially for the Foreign Mission, was constant and unabated, and eminently prayerful, until the very end of her days. It brought real joy to her heart to hear of the gospel being blessed in any part of the world, bringing souls out of darkness into God’s marvellous light, and even in her old age it was wonderful to see how her mind was taken up with the affairs of the cause of Christ in the world.
She often remembered, too, her visit to Israel with the Church group, in May 1971. It made a great impression on her mind, to have seen some of the places referred to in Scripture, making everything so alive to her. She was always thankful to the Lord that the way was opened for her to make this visit, and the memory of it often gave her pleasant times of meditation.
Latterly, Mrs Tallach’s strong frame began to fail, partly due to the constant pain she suffered from arthritis. She was then not able to attend the means of grace as often as she would like, but a young man in the congregation took her to church on Sabbath mornings. Despite the effort it entailed, she often said how glad she was to have been there. Her strength was further weakened by an operation in July 1998. While in hospital again in December she suffered a severe stroke, and on Saturday, 12 December 1998, our dear and faithful friend passed away, we firmly believe to be with Christ, which is far better. We shall no longer have the privilege of visiting her and seeing her sweet smile of welcome, nor any longer hearing her voice praising the Lord for His goodness to her. Her place in the Church in this world is empty, but her place in the Father’s house of many mansions in now occupied by her soul made perfect in holiness, according to her Saviour’s promise, “I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). Our loss is great, but her gain is eternal. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10).
She was buried in her beloved Raasay, to await the glorious resurrection, when the glorified bodies and souls of the people of God will join together and “inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
To her two sons, her sister, and all others bound to Mrs Tallach with the tender bonds of flesh and blood, we extend our sincere sympathy. May this sad event, by which these tender ties were broken, be blessed to them, and may they all be given grace to say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
It may be remarked in conclusion that Mrs Tallach was the last of the communicants added to the communion roll of St. Jude’s congregation, in the days of the Rev. Neil Cameron.
(Rev.) Donald MacLean