A LIFETIME of service to the church and community came to a close with the passing of Catherine Marie Duncan McFarlane on Thursday, December 30.
Though Cathie’s family on her father’s side belonged to Bute, Cathie was born in Welwyn in Herefordshire on January 6, 1925, the eldest of John and Emily McFarlane’s three children.
When aged five, Cathie came to Bute and thus began what was to be a long connection with Kingarth School. While a pupil at Rothesay Academy, Cathie won a scholarship which enabled her to go to the University of Glasgow in 1941, and from there she graduated with a Master of Arts degree in history, French and German.
Following a period of teacher training at Jordanhill, Cathie commenced her career in Lamlash on Arran. But she returned to Bute, and to Kingarth School, in December 1946, and remained there until the school closed in 1981, also teaching in Rothesay Primary School for a short time thereafter.
Cathie had a lifelong interest in education. She enjoyed teaching, and brought to her task many gifts and interests which benefitted the pupils entrusted to her care over the years.
She was also an incredibly intelligent individual. In 1962 Cathie became a member of Mensa, her score being “higher than 99 per cent of the population would achieve on this test”.
Cathie McFarlane was a most public spirited person, and took a real interest in the welfare of the community and its people. She served on the Kilchattan Bay Community Council; she was a member of the Kilchattan Bay Improvements Committee; she was a member and former president of the Rural; she was a member of the Natural History Society and of Rothesay Horticultural Society; she was a friend of the Museum and of Rothesay Castle and, in earlier years, she was also a member of the Red Cross.
I used to wonder when Cathie found time to sleep, but it was being so active that kept her going and in all her activities she found real fulfilment and satisfaction.
When I think of Cathie, I automatically think of the Church. What a true servant of Jesus Christ she was, and how well she served Him throughout her earthly pilgrimage.
Cathie was appointed clerk to the congregational board of Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay Church in 1956. Uniquely, she became Session Clerk in 1982, but was not ordained to the eldership until 1986. Cathie had a remarkable knowledge of the Church and its people, and she was the obvious person to ask to contribute to a booklet which marked the centenary of the beautiful Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay Church in 1995.
Cathie was also a member and past president of what was then called the Women’s Guild, and she served as an additional elder in the former Presbytery of Dunoon. I was only 25 when I became minister of Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay and The High Kirk, and as such I still had much to learn, but in Cathie I had a true friend who supported me throughout - and as I look back on my very happy years on Bute I do so with a deep sense of gratitude to God that I had by my side Cathie McFarlane. No minister could have asked for a kinder or more devoted or loyal session clerk.
Jesus said: “I have come that you might live and enjoy life to the full.” That is exactly what Cathie did. Her faith permeated her whole being, she enjoyed company, and unlike many, she was the type who always saw the best in others, while her varied interests enriched her life and made her a most interesting person to know.
As well as reading and doing crosswords, Cathie loved gardening, and I remember being amazed at the number of plants she knew by their Latin name. I used to nod my head when she spoke about them, but I didn’t have a clue what plants she was talking about!
Family was, of course, important to Cathie, and in her extended family she found great happiness. She was a dear sister to Betty and sister-in-law to Margaret. She was a loving aunt, great-aunt and great-great-aunt, the children readily taking to Cathie and amusing her as she watched them grow and develop.
Cathie McFarlane will be much missed on this island, and in the Church, but we thank God for every loving thought and remembrance of a good life that truly was well lived. Of this we can be certain: for Cathie the trumpets of heaven will have sounded and the voice of the Master been heard. “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy and rest of your Lord.”