Rev Dr Ian B Doyle, former Parish Minister and Secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Home Board, died on 26 May at the age of 97. He was parish minister at Eastwood Parish Church in Glasgow before moving to Palmerston Place Church in Edinburgh as the Pastoral Associate.
Ian Bruce Doyle, who has died aged 97, was a distinguished parish minister, one of a group of ministers who had a significant evangelical impact on the church’s role over more than a generation, and a much admired General Secretary of the Home Board of the Church of Scotland.
He was born in Aberhill in Fife, his father a First World War veteran, decorated with a DCM, who died when Ian was aged four. Raised, along with his two younger sisters, by a widowed mother, he showed great promise at Buckhaven High School, winning the dux medal in 1939 and a bursary to St Andrews University. He distinguished himself as a student and played football for the University, often cycling home to Aberhill, on a Friday night, and back to play football on the Saturday. Professional football was a possibility but a knee injury ruled this out.
He studied for a BD at Edinburgh University, gaining a distinction in Ecclesiastical History, and subsequently, after taking up the parish ministry, a PhD. He might have gained an academic appointment but this was not to his taste.
He was one of the group of pastors who did service with the “Huts and Canteens”, working with allied servicemen stationed in Europe after the end of the Second World War.
Ian married Anne, a native of Leven, in 1946, and there were 64 years of devoted married life and mutual support in his ministry. David and Alastair are accomplished sons of the manse and Ian and Anne were always supportive and proud of them and their wives, the grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Ian was called to St Mary’s Parish Church in Motherwell in 1946 where someone found him playing the piano and asked ‘the boy’ if he had seen the new minister. Ian admitted to being the one! At his funeral service in St Mary’s, where a generation later his son, David became minister, some elderly parishioners were misty-eyed at his memory.
It had been in 1946, on a preaching mission in the Borders, led by DP Thomson, the distinguished Church of Scotland evangelist, that Ian Doyle first met Tom Allan whose special gifts he quickly recognised, and with whom he established an enduring friendship, working closely with him in the influential “Tell Scotland” movement of the 1950s. When the invitation was made to Billy Graham, the American evangelist, to conduct an All Scotland Crusade in 1955, Ian Doyle was party to this decision and supportive of the venture. Yet he always maintained that the most effective base for the mission of the church was the local congregation; equally he was convinced that one could be evangelical and intellectually respectable. These were hallmarks of his work in the parish ministry and, in later years, in the Home Board.
As a boy, Ian enjoyed the seaside mission gatherings on the beach at Leven, with their combination of games, singing of choruses and fun in performing parable plays. He said that the leaders, who included Divinity students, pictured the faith in action as lively and helped lead him to a Christian commitment. Subsequently, as a parish minister, each summer, he took teams, mostly of young people, to various seaside towns around the country for a fortnight’s mission. At one point he was the longest serving leader in this role. The enrichment of the summer mission experience helped make these members significant contributors to the life and work of their home parishes.
In 1960 he moved to the historic parish of Eastwood on the south side of Glasgow, where he served again for around 15 years. As at St Mary’s, he was found to be outstanding in all aspects of ministry: the conduct of worship (recordings of his sermons would have made excellent exemplars for Divinity students), of church business, pastoral care, parish visitation, leading of the Sunday School and work with young people generally. As at Motherwell, a number of young men in the congregation chose to train for the ministry through his inspiration.
In 1974 he was appointed Convener of the Home Board, and in 1977 he left Eastwood to become its General Secretary, where his tact and humour and knowledge of the Church’s structures made him very suited to the job he held until 1991. He had responsibility for national programmes with a local focus, drawing together various strands of ‘mission’. At the same time he was also pastor to staff, which meant travel, for instance, to the Highlands and Islands, often with Anne, supporting those in far-flung posts. To those in the Church offices he was often a listening ear and a wise counsellor. He has been called ‘the last of the mandarins’ at 121 George Street, although the term suggests self-importance when in fact humility was one of his striking characteristics.
Ian became Pastoral Associate in Palmerston Place Church in Edinburgh between 1991 and 2006, where his visitation of the elderly, the sick and the hospitalised was much appreciated. In retirement he continued to preach; his last sermon was delivered at the baptism of Brodie, his youngest great grandchild, in St Mary’s in 2010. He was delighted to be involved in the centenary celebrations in St Mary’s in 2014.
He attended faithfully and lovingly to Anne in her later infirmity, both at home and in the nursing home. He worshipped in Craigmillar Park Church where Anne’s funeral service took place in 2010. He was able to stay in his own home, with support, until just five months ago. He never thought of himself as unwell, simply aged. He moved to Lornebank Care Home, in Hamilton, just a month before he died, his passing ‘gentle’ and peaceful. There was an uplifting quality and atmosphere in the funeral service in St Mary’s with a fine tribute from Rev John Campbell. Interment was at Scoonie Cemetery in Leven, in the Kingdom of Fife, which he was always happy to visit and where he felt proudly at home.
Ian’s character was on the face of it quiet and understated, yet with a clear self-assurance, strength and energy. His mind was sharp and organised. He read avidly. His Greek New Testament was usually nearby. His publications were few but significant, including compiling the Church of Scotland’s ‘Hymns for Special Services’, whose introduction is a model of self-effacement. Musical compositions included an anthem for ‘Tell Scotland’, dedicated to Tom Allan, and choruses for children’s services. He had an impish sense of humour and a fund of stories. Indeed, at the meal after his funeral we were invited to recollect some of his stories which brought a smile to our faces.
His faith was well grounded, yet he said that, as he got older he felt sure about fewer things but he held these things more and more firmly. Presbyterianism he thought was creaking. Many would say that he was the finest minister never to be Moderator of the General Assembly.