Sunsets at Fogo are among the most memorable moments of the Reverend Alan Cartwright’s four decades as a minister in Berwickshire, he says, and now the sun is setting on his career in the church too.
Mr Cartwright was ordained into the Church of Scotland back in August 1976 and has been minister for Fogo, Ladykirk, Leitholm, Swinton and Whitsome since then.
Now, however, at the age of 69, the father of three, also moderator for Duns Presbytery and chaplain for Berwick Rangers, has decided the time is right to call it a day.
He and his wife of 46 years, Mary, have come to love Berwickshire so much over the last four decades that they won’t be moving too far afield, only seven miles away from Swinton’s manse to Edrom.
“I was ordained and inducted on August 19, 1976, and said then that it was possible that I would serve for 40 years as I believe that the people of the rural areas like, and need, stability in their positions of trust or authority – for example, teachers, lawyers, doctors, politicians and ministers.
“I have been privileged and proud to serve the church and the people of the parishes of Fogo, Ladykirk, Leitholm, Swinton and Whitsome over all these years.
“I believe that I have been in just about every house in the parishes over the years as minister.
“I have visited people for happy reasons such as baptisms and weddings and at difficult times.
“I have tried to help people just by listening to them and made no distinction between folk who came to church and who did not as I was the minister of all the people in the parishes.
“Mary and I have been privileged to live in this lovely part of the world, but even more so to have had the privilege of meeting so many very nice people, and that is the main reason that we have decided to retire in Berwickshire, but not in an area of which I was minister.
“I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of people and am, I must admit, very grateful and quite emotional.
“I could have gone on for a while age-wise, but I wanted to go at what would be the right time for the church rather than just for me.”
The lengthiness of the list of retirement gifts lavished upon the Glasgow-born former computer programmer and statistician over recent weeks is an indication of the esteem he has come to be held in, and they include a quaich, clock, garden store vouchers, garden swing and painting of Fogo Kirk.
“All our gifts will be greatly admired and enjoyed in our new home and garden,” said the grandfather of nine.
Among his happiest moments as a minister, he says, were conducting the weddings of his two daughters, Margaret, a GP in Aberdeen, and Rosemary, a pharmacist in Lauder.
“I’ve enjoyed most of it, to be honest, but especially marrying people and baptising children,” he added.
“I enjoy meeting people and getting to know people as people, and I enjoy a laugh.”
Among the most memorable moments he could recall of his time as minister, he said, were reading the Laurence Binyon poem For the Fallen at remembrance services at Fogo for those killed during the First World War.
“To say those lines ‘at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them’ as the sun is sinking is quite something. It’s very poignant,” he said.
Mr Cartwright says he intends spending more time gardening now he is retired and will also continue turning out to support Berwick Rangers.
“I was brought up not far from Hampden Park, and that’s the home of Queen’s Park, and I’ve supported them ever since, but since coming to Berwickshire I’ve supported two teams.”