Farewell as popular Fort William minister retires
FORT William Free Church of Scotland minister, the Reverend Gordon Mair, has retired after 40 years.
Mr Mair enjoyed a retirement party on Saturday May 6 with friends and family to celebrate the end of an era.
The 65-year- old spent 17 years in Lochgilphead before coming to Fort William where he has been for the past 24 years.
After ‘ wrestling’ with the idea of retirement for some time, he said it was a difficult decision.
He said: ‘ The spiritual wellbeing of the people I have met was always my concern when trying to make my decision. I have built a bond with them which will always remain with me.
‘ It’s a decision I have been wrestling with for a long time, and I fought it for a while.
‘ I have been with the ministry for 40 years last October, so I could have left then, but I kept on pushing it and pushing it.
‘ I asked the Lord for guidance and once I had made my decision there was a surprising degree of peace because I had reconciled with it.’
Mr Mair is now preparing to move to his house in Tain, where he plans to spend his retirement.
He said: ‘ I may have retired but I will not stop preaching. There are quite a few churches in Tain who want preachers, so I think I will have plenty of invites coming my way.
‘Although the pastural aspect of my life has passed I certainly won’t be idle.’
When asked about some of the highlights of the past 24 years in Fort William, Mr Mair said: ‘ In 1999 it was my wife and my silver wedding anniversary and the congregation wanted to do something for us, but they kept what they were planning from us.
‘On the night in June, we went down to the house of someone in the congregation but we weren’t expecting anything.
‘ It was also my birthday, so when we walked through the first door there was a happy birthday sign, and then when we walked through the second there was the whole congregation in the house there to celebrate our anniversary.
‘ When the back door opened there was my mother, brother, sister, and mother-in-law who had all travelled a long way to surprise us. That has stuck with me, because people were always so careful and kind to us. I am not often stuck for words, but on that occasion I was.’
With a few things to tie up before he leaves, Mr Mair plans to stay on in Fort William until June.
‘ I am like a magpie – I hoard everything,’ he said. ‘ In 24 years of being in Fort William I have only parked my car in the garage once, because it’s so full. So a lot of people have been going on about clearing that out. We have asked if we can stay until mid- June to give us time to dispose of things and get packed up.
‘ It will be very sad and a wrench to go. I think when the van with our furniture goes and when we have to leave ourselves it will be very hard because that will be the final straw.’
But Mr Mair is leaving a legacy behind him. While the congregation of the Fort William Church is small, his sermons are heard all across the world.
He said: ‘ While we have always been quite a small congregation there is a tremendous amount of tourists here in the summer who we always welcome.
‘ We have sent 2,500 CDs of sermons to people all over the world, in Canada, New Zealand, Australasia and central Africa.
‘ We have a huge outreach and send the CDs to people who listen to them all over the world who can’t get out to church. They get a CD and the church comes to them. We have to keep preaching up to modern efforts.
‘ We accommodate the lonely, the old and the isolated which is why we do it this way.’
Gordon Mair and his wife Nancy at the retirement party with parishioners of his church.