Obituary: Rev Alistair Kelly, 80

The Forth and its rail bridge inspired Alistair Kelly to paint. Picture: contributed
The Forth and its rail bridge inspired Alistair Kelly to paint. Picture: contributed
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THE Rev Alistair Kelly, minister of Albany Deaf Church and Scotland’s longest-serving reporter to the Children’s Panel, has died, aged 80.

Alistair Kelly was born in Clydebank on March 10, 1933, the son of town clerk Henry Kelly and his wife, Agnes, a secondary school teacher.

During the Second World War, he and his sisters, Aileen and his twin Margery, were evacuated along with their mother to rural Perthshire – a wise precaution as it turned out. While safely in the village of Gartmore, their family home took a direct hit during the Blitz of March 1941.

He went to Glasgow Academy and completed national service with the RAF before studying law and divinity at the University of Glasgow from 1953 to 1959.

As a student, his holidays were spent earning his keep as a waiter at the Marine Hotel, in North Berwick.

He began his work in the ministry as assistant at Dundee Parish Church, where he met and married Joyce, a contralto in the church choir. He then spent five years at Drumry St Mary’s in Drumchapel, before moving to Edinburgh in 1966, where he became minister of South Morningside Parish Church.

Four years later, he switched career and joined the children’s panel of Renfrew County Council. It was the beginning of the children’s hearing system and over the next quarter of a century, Mr Kelly was to become acknowledged as an expert in the field, writing a book on the hearings system that advocated further reform and demanded proper respect of children’s rights in Scotland, within a European context.

In 1974, he was appointed
regional reporter to the Children’s Panel for Fife Regional Council, where he remained until his retirement in 1996.

He returned to the ministry four years later as minister of Edinburgh’s Albany Deaf Church after the Church of Scotland learned he was proficient in sign language. He spent the next 13 years looking after the 128-member congregation spread across the east of Scotland.

The congregation shares the building with Greenside Church and regularly holds services in the Albany chapel within the church.

In his leisure time, Mr Kelly was a prolific artist, a talent that stemmed from childhood when he would often sit with a sketchpad on his knee. A self-taught watercolourist, he took it up professionally in 1996 and developed a unique style of vibrant land and cityscapes.

He sold more than 800 pictures and concentrated mainly on Scottish scenes including many of Edinburgh and Fife fishing villages plus the Forth Bridge as well as scenes of Austria, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Canada and the United States. His work has been exhibited in the Capital and elsewhere.

He is ­survived by Joyce, children Graeme and Alison and four grandchildren.