Rev John R Callen

WITH the death of the Rev John Robertson Callen on August 18, a remarkable ministry in the Presbytery of South Argyll, and in the parish of Lochgilphead, came to an end. John Callen was born in the former steel town of Glengarnock in 1935, and something of that steel entered his bloodstream at an early age, for a steely determination was to stay with him all his life.

At the age of 15 he knew he was called to the ministry, and was determined to fulfil that call, despite limited financial resources. After graduating MA and BD from Glasgow University, he became gravely ill and had several near death experiences, but he was determined to get better.

Called to the parish of Lochgilphead in 1962, he was determined to be as fine a parish minister as one could be. And so he was. He pounded the pad from early morning till late at night, all the time giving of himself to his people.

A couple of stories illustrate the quality of his dedication. As a young man he was interested in football, and played for his school, BB company, and college. But when he realised that many young folk were being denied the opportunity to play due to lack of referees, he went on a 10-week SFA referee course, got his badge, and became an official referee in order to make sure that week by week, 22 young people were able to get a game that they might not otherwise get.

The other story may or may not be apocryphal, but it has the ring of truth to it, to anyone who knew the man. The story goes that one day after hospital visiting in Glasgow, he got back to Lochgilphead to discover that someone else was in hospital in the city, that he had not known of. So instantly, he got back into his car for another round trip of 170 miles, so that he did not fail in the pursuit of his ministry. In 1995, ill health forced him to retire after a ministry of over 33 years in the same parish.

A remarkable man, with interests in sport, friendship, caring, scholarship, and much else, but ultimately he was a born and true parish minister.


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Page last updated: 22nd March 2020 12:15 AM