From Kilsyth to Cape Town and back!

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He has spent more than half his life in South Africa but a clergyman has come back to his home town to serve its flock.

The return of the Reverend James Patrick from Cape Town means that Kilsyth Burns and Old Parish Church now has a part-time locum minister following the departure of the Rev Stuart Steell earlier this year.

The unmarried 69-year-old who has lost not a scrap of his accent first heard that the post was becoming available when he returned to the town earlier this year to celebrate the golden wedding of his sister Helen Cleland and brother-in-law Sandy.

Fast forward several months and Mr Patrick is living with them in Dovecot Wood.

So far, 2015 has been quite a year for the former Kilsyth Academy pupil and Glasgow University Graduate whose studies continued for ten years before he decided to apply for an overseas post.

Mr Patrick who emigrated in the mid 1970s said: “I retired earlier this year in Cape Town and I’ve done a bit of travelling since then, having spent a month in Paris and touring the Southern States of America and here I am back in Kilsyth!

When asked how he thought the town had changed since his departure, Mr Patrick said: “There are so many cars on the road, the Main Street just seems much emptier now and the town seems to be growing so fast at every angle with new housing.

He feels that his stint in the town is helping him to remain engaged with his ministry while allowing him to reconnect with his roots.

“I have met so many people I was at school with and I feel really relaxed here.”

However, one occasion he won’t be spending with the congregation is Christmas as he is jetting off to Sydney to spend the holiday with friends.

He blames “the cheek of youth” for applying for an overseas post in the first place but it has rewarded him with some fantastic memories in the most ‘European’ of South Africa’s cities.

“The white people I met were not the wicked racists I had been led to believe they were as they gave true Christian witness in the time of apartheid.

“I also believe Afrikaners are very like the Scots in so many ways. They can even sound like them.

“So I have always loved South Africa but it’s wonderful to be back.”