Wirds have aye hid a queer fascination for me, for they can be saft, couthy an' clean, or hard an' coorse-soonin wi a bite in their sayin. Some wirds ging roon yer hert like a hairy worm a' gie ye a warm glow, an' there's ithers that gar yer bleed rin chill like an icy burn. As a bairn, I aye likit the soon o' the wirds drappin fae the minister's moo in the kirk, even though I'd nae muckle idea fat they meant, jist that they hid a flow an' a rhythm that made thae Bible wirds soon like poetry, even tae a bairn's lugs.
If truth be tellt, the kirk wis files a place o' escape fae the jobbies o' hame. Sunday mornin, faither aye hid a list o' things tae be deen, bit if ye, innocent-like, said, "Bit I'm gaen tae the Kirk!" he wis that dumbfoonert, he hid nae argument agin that.
The inside o' the kirk hid a 'holy' feel aboot it, fite an' clean, an' the smell o' the altar flooers an' the dusty pews gied ye a calm sough, sittin there feelin unco gweed an' kennin ye were better there than at the ither side o' the saw-meer cuttin sticks wi Faither or gaitherin his dug tatties for him. I likit the look o' the minister's face - he hid a look o' ane o' the saints, clean an' scrubbit, wi fite, streakit-back hair an' hauns saft an' faulded fan he prayed fae the pulpit. He kinna driftit in fae the vestry, his goon swishin roon his queets, like a floatin ghost! He gied ye the feelin he hid the lug o' God an' micht get through tae Him far us lesser mortals couldna. Fan he read oot o' the Bible, the auld wirds hid a soothin soon, an' files, rich an' mellow, they seemed tae soar richt tae the vaulted rafters o' the kirk. I didna aye follow his drift - I kinna lost the threed as he kirned aboot in his sermon, bit then I wid jist sit an' coont the organ pipes ahin his heid or watch the licht playin on the brasses far it filtered wi bonny colours through the stained-gless windaes. Failin that there wis aye the wifies' hats or the mannies' lugs tae amuse ye - that's foo I aye sat weel back in the kirk, so that I hid a gweed view o' a' the ferlies!
It seemed a fine, couthy place tae be back then, for the days o' fire an' brimstane that made Victorian fowk hodge an' squirm on their hard pews wi a' the thochts o' sulphur lakes, an' hell-fire waitin for them, hid changed tae stories o' hope an' forgiveness for them that maybe did ill a' week bit were at the kirk o' a Sunday tae tell o' their sins an' be sorry aboot it a'. It wis a kine o' a clean-oot for the week, jist like Mam gied yer guts a clean-oot ilka weekend wi Syrup o' Figs, except it wis yer sowl that got the spring-clean o' a Sunday.
As I gaithered mair sense wi the years, I eesed tae like the Bible stories fine - real grippin tales wi a bit o' 'gumption' in them. We werena an awfu kirkie faimily, bit I likit the feelin o' bein ane o' the kirk-goin fowk back then. Mither wid nark awa at Faither till, for peace sake, he went tae the Communions. He aye hid tae hae a bigger bath than his usual lick an' a promise an' then hid tae trail oot his weddin suit fae the moth-baa smellin press. He wis a gweed enough livin chiel, Faither, bit he hid aye a lot o'work tae get deen. As weel as that, fan Granny an' Granda Davidson hid a craft doon the road, he an' his brithers hid tae gie the auld bodies a haun, so we were aften doon at Logie Coldstane o' a Sunday fan I wis a little bairn.
It's hard tae explain the feelin the Kirk gave me then. Maybe it wis jist a wey tae be thankfu ye were sittin there in this bonny Kirk wi a the hills roon aboot ye, like a comforter. Aye, that's fit it wis - a comfortable place far ye could sit an' gie yer brain a file tae mark time, jist lettin the fine wirds wash o'er ye.
We werena as feel as we lookit as we grew up tae be teenagers. If ye said ye were gaen tae the Youth Fellowship classes in the vestry on a Sunday nicht, ye aye got oot! Mind ye, ye tellt a bare-faced lee an' vowed tae Mam it wis fae seven o'clock till nine, fan it really feenished at eight, so ye aye hid an oor tae caper aboot on the kirk green wi yer freens. Some o' the meetins were fine tae. Files, a missionary chiel wid show picters o' the Holy Land or some far-aff foreign place, or ye'd hae a Bible Quiz an' choose yer ain hymns. We aye wintit the roch, roarin kin' o' hymns, nae the dirges o' death that made ye feel like deein there an' then as ye droned them oot.
On Winter Sunday aifterneens, some o' us even went tae Holy John's Class in the Readin' Rooms. I think Holy John and his twa sisters were Evangelists fa hired the Readin Rooms on a Sunday tae try tae bring some religion tae the heathen young o' the village. He aye mint me o' a hoodie-craw, tall an' thin, a' dressed in black, jist like his twa sisters. They were gweed fowk an', I'm bein honest aboot this, I feel a twinge o' guilt noo, for I think we only went for the sweeties! He eesed tae hand oot Bible texts on bits o' bonny-coloured paper like stamps, an' if ye could learn it up for the next time an' recite it tae Holy John like a parrot, ye got a sweetie! I canna min goin on fine days fan the sunny hills beckoned, bit on a coorse Sunday, it wis a fine meetin-place tae ging wi yer pals, bit I still think the sweeties were aye the great attraction!
As ye can see, we were nae angels, bit thinkin back, oor religion wis kinna mixed up wi' a fear o' a mythical kinna God fa ruled the warld o' Nature, an' we were sae close tae Nature here, it wis like God an' Nature were ane an' the same thing. I still hiv that feelin noo on top o a lonely hill wi the saft sough o' the win' in yer hair - it's like bein close tae yer God, far iver he is! Bein close tae the land, as Grassic Gibbon aye said, ye hiv a heathen-like worship o' the very marra o' life itsel, the Land! I consider I'm real lucky, for I've found my God back hame amun the hills!