Funeral for Kirk minister who supported Glasgow in dark days

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The Rev Dr Laurence AB Whitley at the opening of a fund-raising exhibition for Mary’s Meals at House for an Art Lover in Glasgow. Picture by Bill Heaney

Tributes have been paid to a “gifted and inspirational” Church of Scotland minister who has died after serving with distinction for more than 40 years.

Rev Dr Laurence AB Whitley, who was 69, is remembered by many for encapsulating the grief of people in Glasgow after the disasters at the Clutha Vaults bar and on Queen Street. He was also a distinguished patron of Artists and Musicians for Mary’s Meals.

His funeral is being held at Glasgow Cathedral, the congregation which he led until his retirement last year, at 1.30pm today (November 12).

Church of Scotland minister and academic, Very Rev Prof Sir Iain Torrance, said: “I knew Laurence all his life.

“We began at the Edinburgh Academy aged 5.

“He was the most gifted and inspirational user of language in worship and one of our most imaginative and creative and gentle ministers.

“It was he who aptly summed up the grief of the City of Glasgow after the disasters at the Clutha Vaults bar and with the incident on Queen Street.”

Dr Whitley studied Divinity at St Andrews University and served his probationary year at St Andrew’s Church Dundee before being inducted to the linked charges of Busby West and Busby East in East Renfrewshire.

His next charge was Montrose Old (now Old and St Andrews) in Angus where he spent 22 years.

Dr Whitley became minister of Glasgow Cathedral in 2007 and was also a police chaplain.

At the time of the tragedies at Clutha Vaults and George Square he was on the scene supporting those directly affected and also the emergency crews.

Later he took services in the Cathedral to bring people together and give a voice to shared experience.

At the Clutha service, Dr Whitley said: “We do not end this day in pain and loss.

“We stand defiant, and in our great and vibrant and irrepressible city we stand hand in hand to go forward into the light.”

The City of Glasgow recognised Dr Whitley’s outstanding service in 2014 when Lord Provost, Sadie Docherty, presented him with the one of the city’s highest accolades, the Loving Cup.

The award is reserved for a person or group who has brought distinction or honour to Glasgow.

Dr Whitley was honoured for pastoral service to the city and presiding at civic events such as Remembrance Sunday.

He was also praised for the comfort he gave to those directly caught up in the Clutha disaster.

For his quiet leadership day to day in his parish and to the wider city at times of high tension, Glasgow Caledonian University awarded Dr Whitley an honorary degree in 2015.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies said: “Dr Laurence Whitley was an exceptionally kind and supportive man with a sparkling intellect and infinite capacity for empathy.

“He absolutely dedicated himself to serving others whether in his parish or not and from all walks of life across our City of Glasgow.

“It was a privilege to know Laurence and to be present to hear his uplifting and truly inspirational speech to our graduating students when he was created an Honorary Doctor of Letters of the University.  He will be sorely missed.”

Dr Whitley is survived by his wife Catherine, children Edward and Hilary, his brother Michael and sisters Elizabeth and Mary.

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