Rev John’s vocation saw him persevere with Leith

John Tait
John Tait
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The Reverend John Tait has retired after 27 years as a Church of Scotland minister in Leith.

Born in Kirkcaldy, Rev Tait moved to Edinburgh with his family shortly before he was due to start secondary school. His father was a fruit wholesaler, working at Chesser. His mother had worked in a fruit shop in Kirkcaldy before getting married.

The family belonged not to the Church of Scotland but to the Church of Christ – now part of the United Reformed Church – and worshipped at a church in the Pleasance.

John spent a few weeks at Morningside Primary before going to Boroughmuir High School and from there to Heriot-Watt, where he embarked in 1964 on a BSc degree in applied chemistry.

He then worked in the chemical industry at Grangemouth for 12 years, first at ICI from 1969 until being made redundant in 1972, and then in the plastics division at Borg-Warner.

He was called to the ministry in 1980 and studied at New College for the next three years to gain a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He served a probationery year at Falkirk Old Parish Church, working with the minister the Rev Leith Fisher.

Rev Tait became minister of Leith St Paul’s Church in Lorne Street in 1985 and was there for 14 years until it merged with Pilrig and Dalmeny Street Church in 1999, when he became minister of the new united congregation, Pilrig St Paul’s, and carried on for a further 13 years until his retirement. “I had no intention of staying so long,” he said. “But there was always something new coming along or some situation that needed my attention.”

Rev Tait said much of his time before the two churches merged was taken up with trying to redevelop the St Paul’s site by demolishing the church and building a new one along with affordable housing.

As well as looking after his congregation, Rev Tait was chaplain to Lorne Primary School for all 27 years of his ministry in the area. He also served as a hospital chaplain, at the Royal Victoria for a while and later at the Eastern General.

In the past four years at Pilrig St Paul’s he also helped develop a Mission through Music programme, which has seen two young people’s choirs and one community adult choir build important links between the church and the community.

Rev Tait and his wife, Marlyn, married in 1973 at Granton Parish Church, where she was a member. They have two sons, now in their 30s, one in the hospitality industry, based in Canada but currently working in Beijing; the other a PE teacher in the west of Scotland, who is married with a three-year-old daughter.

A farewell for Rev Tait was held at the church on October 27 and he took his final service as minister the following day.

Rev and Mrs Tait plan to continue living in Edinburgh.