Elder statesman Tom takes on key Kirk role

Tom Fairbairn Melrose and Peebles Presbytery Moderator
Tom Fairbairn Melrose and Peebles Presbytery Moderator

MELROSE and Peebles Presbytery has a new moderator – and Tom Fairbairn is looking forward to the challenges facing the Kirk, writes Andrew Keddie.

The member of Peebles Old Parish Church follows in the footsteps of many illustrious men and women who have fulfilled the role in the past, including Grahame Henderson, Rosemary Hall, who died earlier this year, and the most recent incumbent, the Reverend Samuel Siroky, of Ettrick and Yarrow parishes.

At the age of 73, Mr Fairbairn’s experience will doubtless be to the fore as the Kirk copes with a range of controversial issues, including the argument over gay ministers, the amalgamation of presbyteries and how to win young people back into the church.

“Basically, though, I will chair meetings of the local presbytery and I see this as a huge challenge,” he told us.

Mr Fairbairn was installed at a special communion service in his own church, which is linked with Eddleston, although the presbytery normally meets in Innerleithen Church.

Part of his congregation for 56 years and an elder since 1966, Mr Fairbairn is a member of Quode Omnia, the body that looks after the fabric and finance of the Old Parish and deals with all financial and spiritual aspects of his church.

He will also take part in the induction and ordination of ministers. “There are a few in the pipeline,” he said.

Looking to the future, he added: “We hope to continue discussions with presbyteries on the possibility of amalgamation, even joining with Annandale and Eskdale. There was talk of such ‘super presbyteries’ at the General Assembly.

“This will be a very important role and a great honour for me, and I hope that I can follow well in the footsteps of my predecessors.

“We have been in the situation before on the lack of young members. Age profile is a concern and one of the problems that we have to deal with.”

Tom, who attended Peebles High School and was head teacher at Hawthornden after graduating at Edinburgh University, was also president for two years of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland and has been convener of three presbytery committees.

He told us: “This is like a step into the unknown, but I am relishing the challenge.”