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From St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, marking the 100th anniversary of Elsie Inglis, founder of the Scottish Women's Hospitals, which cared for thousands of soldiers during WWI.

"My good lady, go home and sit still".
From St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, marking the 100th anniversary of Elsie Inglis, founder of the Scottish Women's Hospitals
for Foreign Service, which cared for thousands of soldiers during WWI.
With the Minister, The Rev Calum MacLeod, and the Rev Helen Alexander.
Cathedral Choir directed by Michael Harris. Organist: Peter Backhouse.
Featuring two violins made in honour of WWI poets, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.
Hymns: Jesus calls us! O'er the tumult (Tune: St Andrew)
The King of Love my Shepherd Is (Tune: Dominus Regit Me)
For all the Saints (Tune: Sine Nomine)
Anthem: Give us the wings of faith (Bullock)
Producer: Mo McCullough.

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 26 Nov 2017 08:10


Choir:  O come let us sing to the Lord – Noel de Jongh


Scripture Sentences and Call to Worship

The Lord has become King, clothed with majesty; the Lord is robed, girded with might. (Psalm 93: 1)

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6: 21)

Good morning from the High Kirk of Edinburgh. 

As we approach St Andrew’s Day later this week, let us worship God.

Hymn:  Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult (Tune: St Andrew)


Welcome and Bidding                                  

We are in a season of Great War centenary commemorations. Edinburgh has many notable World War One connections and we reflect on two of the most extraordinary of these in our service this morning.

100 years ago today a remarkable Scotswoman died as she made her way back to her home in Edinburgh from the war in Central Europe. Dr Elsie Maud Inglis was the founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service which provided field hospitals to tend the wounds of injured soldiers during the First World War in Serbia, France and Greece, among other theatres of war.

She was a pioneer of women in medicine and had already made her mark in society before the war through her advocacy for, and provision of, medical care for the poor of Edinburgh. A public figure in promoting the rights of women, Elsie Inglis was prominent in the suffragist movement agitating for women to have the vote.

Wreaths will be laid at her grave in the Dean Cemetery here in the city this afternoon and on Wednesday at 2 p.m., one hundred years to the hour after her funeral in St. Giles, a service of thanksgiving for her life and the work of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals will take place here in the cathedral.

The second Edinburgh WW1 connection this morning is the friendship of the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen which started when they were both patients being treated, apparently for ‘shell shock,’ at the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. To mark the centenary of the war, violin maker Steve Burnett fashioned two violins from a pruned branch of a sycamore tree which still stands in the grounds of what was the hospital; the violins are named for Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon in the hope that they will be envoys for peace. We now hear Steve with Thoren Ferguson playing the Sassoon and Owen violins. The tune is Brother James’ Air.

Brother James’ Air:  Violins – Steve Burnett and Thoren Ferguson                    

REV HELEN ALEXANDER  Prayer                                                  

As we pray this morning, we bring before God the tragic suffering and loss of life in Egypt. 

Mighty and tender God, voice of the voiceless, power of the powerless, we pray for your sorrowing people, and we praise you for your vision of a community of wholeness, a realm of peace, in which all who hunger and thirst are nourished, in which the stranger is welcomed, the hurting are healed and the captive set free. Guide us by your truth and love until we and all people make manifest your reign of justice and compassion.

We pray in the name of your anointed one, our servant-king, to whom with you and the Spirit, one Holy God, be honour, glory and blessing this day and for ever.  Amen

Our Gospel reading by Craig Meek is from the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 25.


CRAIG MEEK  Reading Matthew 25: 31- 46         

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” 

On this Feast of Christ the King, we now sing ‘The King of Love my Shepherd is’.

Hymn:  The King of Love my Shepherd is   (Tune: Dominus Regit Me)


When they met at Craiglockhart Hospital, Owen and Sassoon formed a friendship in which the older Sassoon became a mentor to the younger poet. We know that Sassoon suggested amendments to Owen’s poem Anthem for Doomed Youth, which we hear now read by John Francis now, accompanied by the Owen and Sassoon violins playing the Gaelic tune ‘Taladh Chriosta’, ‘The Christ-Child Lullaby’.

Taladh Chriosta (The Christ-Child Lullaby): 

Violins – Steve Burnett and Thoren Ferguson

JOHN FRANCIS   Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen.  

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.

CALUM MACLEOD    Sermon           
The recitation of Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ with the accompaniment of the Owen and Sassoon violins in this ancient Cathedral brings front and centre the paradox of war. The horror experienced by those at the front 

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,— 
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; 

And yet here at St. Giles’, we are surrounded by memorial plaques bearing the names of the brave ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice in war, exhibiting courage and the best human values in the face of the tragedy of war.

In the Albany aisle at the west end of the cathedral is a memorial to The 16th Royal Scots who served during the Great War. ‘Edinburgh’s Finest’, they called them – Scotland’s ‘Sporting Battalion’ and the first of the so-called ‘Footballers’ battalions. But most folk knew them simply as ‘McCrae’s’. They were named after their charismatic founder, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir George McCrae, who stood on a recruiting platform on a chill November Edinburgh evening in 1914 and invited the young men of the city to join him in serving for the cause. ‘I cannot ask you to go’, he told them, ‘if I’m not prepared to share the danger at your side.’

Within a week Sir George had his men – 1,350 of them. The first recruits were eleven players from the Edinburgh team Heart of Midlothian.

On 11 November 1928, Remembrance Day, from the fireside of his home in North Berwick, George McCrae wrote a short note to D.M. Sutherland, who had enlisted as a private in McCrae’s in December 1914 and who won the Military Cross as a captain with the battalion in October 1917. In the note, McCrae reflects on this paradox.

In the flames I see the faces of my boys. So young and full of promise. The sorrow and the pride are overwhelming. Sorrow at the loss and pride in the manner of their dying. They never flinched. Faced by a veritable storm of shot and shell, they marched towards the guns beside their friends. In remembering them, we must acknowledge our debt and find some way to justify our own lives so that when we meet our comrades in that better place we are able to say with a brave heart that we did not let them down.

At the other end of the Cathedral, in the Holy Cross aisle is a beautifully designed plaque in memory of Dr Elsie Inglis. On the top part are three elongated almost art nouveau style angels holding the symbols of faith, hope and love. Below, it reads:

To the beloved and honoured memory of Elsie Maud Inglis - Surgeon - Philanthropist - Founder in 1914 of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Service with the allies in France, Serbia and Russia – Born 1864 – Died on active service 1917.

For the people of Edinburgh, Elsie Inglis was the name of the maternity hospital in the city where generations of children were delivered – ‘Born in the Elsie Inglis’ was how her name lived on in folk consciousness. As one biographer, Leah Leneman, puts it, “Elsie Inglis is a woman commemorated for the second most important thing she ever did.” 

She was indeed a woman who as a doctor in the years before the war had a particular passion for the medical care of poorer women and had established in 1899 a hospital for women with a midwifery department in the city centre.

The first most important thing she did, as it were, was to found the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service. It is an extraordinary story.

At the beginning of the war, Elsie walked to Edinburgh Castle to offer her services as a surgeon to the British Royal Army Medical Corps stationed there.

The officer responded to her request to serve by saying “My good lady, go home and sit still.”

Elsie Inglis, as we have noted, was an agitator for women’s suffrage – the right to vote - so perhaps not surprisingly she ignored the patriarchal put-down and went to London where she began to raise money for a women’s volunteer medical outfit to travel to the places of greatest need in the war.

She said, ‘The need is there and too terrible to allow any haggling about who does the work.’ For Elsie, it didn’t matter if the doctor was a man or a woman if healing had to be delivered to the wounded combatants.

The organization, run and staffed only by women, sent over a thousand women to the World War One battlefront as doctors, nurses, administrators and orderlies, caring, on, and behind, the front lines for soldiers wounded in the conflict.

Elsie Inglis was awarded the Order of the White Eagle by the Serbian government for her work running the hospital on the Serbian front – the highest honour that country could bestow.

Serbian soldiers carried her coffin and laid it in the grave at the Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh.

The gospel text for this Sunday, the Reign of Christ, or Christ the King, speaks of a world in which the love and care of the neediest neighbour is the mark by which a person’s faithfulness in response to God’s grace is assessed.

New Testament scholar, Carla Works writes about this text:

“To be a messenger of this kingdom is to love and serve others and thereby to profess the invasion of God’s loving reign.” 

After Elsie’s death, her sister wrote that ‘her vision was that of a follower of Christ, the vision of the kingdom of heaven upon earth.’

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Amen                      

Anthem:   Give us wings of faith    (Bullock)


Kenneth Boyd now joins me in leading our prayers. 

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, you have willed to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, our Lord and King. Grant that the people of the earth, now divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under the gentle and loving rule of Christ.


And in his name we pray for the Church and the world.

Bless our nation Lord; give wisdom and compassion to the Queen and those who govern us. May the life of our nation be an example of welcome, tolerance, and justice for the world. Bless those who serve in the forces; defend them in danger and guide them to serve the cause of peace in your name. Bless our young people – may they never see the flames of war, or know the depths of cruelty to which humanity can sink.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.


May peace be known in those places of our world where conflict reigns. Deliver the people of the world from violence whether it is carried out in the name of religion, politics or economic power. Inspire the community of nations to work together for the relief of suffering of the poor and marginalised throughout the earth.

Save thy people and bless thine inheritance: feed them also and life them up for ever.


Remember, O Lord, your children who live in or on the edge of hardship and poverty, who are ill at home or in hospital, who are mourning the loss of a loved one, who have still to come to any real understanding of your love in their lives.

Be a source of comfort, healing, guidance and strength.

We pray for the healers; doctors, surgeons, nurses, midwives; use their sympathy and skill for the relief of suffering and the restoration of health.

And we remember with thanksgiving your servant Dr Elsie Inglis and the work of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service during the Great War. May their example inspire us to acts of healing and service in our time.


Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.

All:  Our Father, which art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy Kingdom come.

thy will be done

in earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive our them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil,

For thine is the kingdom,

the power and the glory

for ever and ever.  Amen

Hymn:  For all the saints   (Tune: Sine Nomine)



Go out into the world and be of good courage. Render no one evil for evil, but hold fast to the good. Honour all of God’s children; love and serve the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you this day and for evermore.   Amen.

ORGAN VOLUNTARY – Peter Backhouse

Widor, Symphony No 2:  Publisher: Alphonse Leduc



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