Obituary: Norma Ronald MBE DCS, 83

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Norma Ronald MBE DCS, a deaconess of Morningside Parish Church, has died, aged 83.

Norma Ronald had been slightly concerned that she might depart this earth at a rather inconvenient time – during one of the most important weeks in the Church of Scotland’s calendar, the meeting of the General Assembly.

Such an event would have made her funeral slightly tricky as her minister was also the gathering’s business convener this year. So, in her inimitable style, she declared that if she was “feeling a bit fatal” she would just hang on. And hang on she did, for a week after the General Assembly had concluded and long enough to get an eagerly awaited update on proceedings from her colleague the Rev Dr Derek Browning of Morningside Parish Church where she had served as a deaconess until only two years ago.

It was typical of the can-do attitude that characterised her ministry, and which had taken her from Glasgow to Romania, to chaplaincy in Stirling’s Cornton Vale women’s prison and to Saughton jail in Edinburgh.

Born in Glasgow, she was educated at Hillington Primary School and Bellahouston Academy, and had initially hoped to become a doctor.

When that did not prove possible she trained for a while as a nurse until a back injury put paid to that line of work.

Greatly influenced by Glasgow minister George Macleod, the founder of the Iona Community, she spent some time around Community House in Glasgow and, through her links with the Church of Scotland, was involved in youth work in Romania during the 1950s.

She went on to serve in Currie, Cumbernauld, Cowie and Plean, among others. Then in Edinburgh she served in Slateford Longstone and Craiglockhart Parish Churches and was also a part-time chaplain at the Capital’s City Hospital.

One of her most significant contributions was during her time in the tough Raploch area of Stirling where she worked at St Mark’s Parish Church and served in chaplaincy at Cornton Vale.

Along with others, she helped to set up a successful Ranger Guide Group for the younger women in the prison and was awarded an MBE for her services to the institution in the 1989 New Year Honours List.

At Saughton prison she helped to build renewed respect for the chaplaincy after it experienced a difficult period. Over the course of her long pastoral career, countless people all across society benefited from her practical, caring ministry and wise counsel.

She was also unfailingly positive and a dutiful daughter, caring for her mother for many years.

Her final years of service were at Morningside Parish Church.

She undertook visits, conducted funerals and preached from time to time, leaving her unique mark on the pastoral work of the church and on the lives of the young people who trained there.