Minister eyeing retirement after 40 years' loyal service

Howard Haslett, a long-serving, popular and charismatic church minister who has worked tirelessly across the Lothians for four decades, is to retire on Easter Sunday.

The Reverend Howard Haslett, 65, has served the community of Traprain, in East Lothian, for the last ten years, but may be better known to most people for his 30-year connection with Edinburgh Academy.

He said: "I am eternally grateful to the people of Traprain who called on me to be their minister – when they talk about you as their minister, they become your people."

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Mr Haslett was born in Belfast on 4 October, 1944 and educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and then at Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied English and French.

Although he was awarded a scholarship to read theology at Westminster College, Cambridge, a group of Edinburgh rugby players he met at university persuaded him their city would be a better choice.

His team were playing Scotland's oldest rugby club, Edinburgh Academical Football Club, in the mid-1960s when he was told he should come over to visit.

He said: "One term became another and then two years went by. After that, I had lost the other half of my ticket to get back."

Around the time of his first charge as assistant minister at St Giles' Cathedral – where he worked from 1971 to 1973 – he married Alix Adams, a theatre nurse from Ballymena, who moved to be with him in Edinburgh, where the couple went on to have three children, Patrick, Mark and Emma. Mr Haslett's connection with Edinburgh Academy began in the late 1960s when he took a year off his post-graduate studies to teach English and divinity at the school.

He was asked to return as chaplain and served in the role from 1973 to 1999, living and teaching in his family home in the school in Henderson Row.

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He has married countless numbers of former pupils, baptised their children and buried their loved ones.

In 2000, after leaving the post, he was called by the people of Traprain to become their minister.

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Since his arrival in the Lothians 40 years ago, Mr Haslett has continued his love of rugby, having been an established referee at a top level. He is also a distinguished and sought-after public speaker who has travelled the world to make after dinner speeches.

He said: "I will have a lump in my throat on Sunday, but I have to move on. Whoever takes my place will get stuck in and do things their way. Before too long, it will be a case of 'whatever happened to that Irishman?' – and that's how it should be."