The Manse

A Church of Scotland Manse house

Gideon Mack’s description of his childhood home in Ochtermill clearly links to the themes of Religion and Family Relationships.


The influence of religion on the character of the Manse is clear to see. The strict conservatism and austerity of Scottish Calvinism is reflected in the dour, modest and old-fashioned furnishings and the almost complete lack of modernity.

Frugal and dull

Mack suggests the Church of Scotland is very frugal. This is demonstrated by the poor electrical wiring and lack of:

central heating or any other fripperies

The house is dull, dreary and traditional - an unchanging remnant of the past and the ministers who have occupied it before.

Family relationships

The atmosphere of the Manse is also a symptom of Gideon’s unaffectionate relationship with his parents. We are told that:

the manse was a place, overwhelmingly, of silence

This reflects the fact that Gideon rarely spoke to his parents and they rarely spoke to each other. Growing up, Gideon didn’t receive attention from his parents and was expected to play or read quietly and on his own.

Strict and distant

Overall, the atmosphere and character of the sterile manse where Gideon grew up emphasises that Gideon’s home life was drained of life and joy by a strict view of Protestantism and a distant and uncommunicative relationship with his parents.