Obituary: Rev Grahame Bailey, 97

Rev Grahame Bailey with wife Mary at a party to mark their silver wedding anniversary
Rev Grahame Bailey with wife Mary at a party to mark their silver wedding anniversary
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Tributes have been paid to the Rev Grahame Bailey, who has died in Edinburgh aged 97.

Rev Bailey, known to his friends as Raymond, served as the founding minister at St Martin’s Church in Magdalene Drive, Edinburgh, and was best known for his role in the campaign to have women ministers ordained in the Church of Scotland.

He was born in the Punjab on January 7, 1915, to a missionary family. His grandfather had established the Mission to Lepers in India – now known as the Leprosy Mission – and his father also served in the country.

Educated at Highgate School in London after his father took a job teaching Hindi and Urdu at the city’s School of Oriental Studies, he went on to study arts and divinity at Edinburgh University.

After working with the renowned George MacLeod at the Iona Community, he followed his father and grandfather by being ordained as a missionary in the Punjab in 1939.

He returned to Britain in 1945 and, two years later, was appointed minister of St Columba’s Presbyterian Church of England in Oxford, where he met his future wife, Mary.

In 1957, Rev Bailey was appointed to St Martin’s, where tributes have been paid to the determination and enthusiasm he brought to the role of leading what was then one of the newest congregations in the city.

The Rev Russel Moffat, current minister at St Martin’s, said: “Grahame set the trend, he was a formidable innovator. He was a gracious and scholarly man who had a keen ability to relate to the congregation.

“He is fondly remembered throughout St Martin’s, and he and his wife were an inspiring double act.”

It was in 1963 that Rev Bailey began his campaign for the ordination of women ministers. Speaking in support of Mary Levison’s petition to the Church’s General Assembly, he argued that change was inevitable and would be of long-term benefit. During an Assembly debate four years later, he gave an impassioned speech in support of women ministers. The speech won sustained applause and the motion was backed overwhelmingly – by 397 votes to 268. The vote was also later approved by 42 of the Kirk’s 59 presbyteries.

Rev Bailey maintained a link with his overseas missionary work and served in remote areas of Pakistan for three years from 1967 before returning to a parish in the Borders.

He is survived by his three daughters, Diana, Elizabeth and Rosalind, and by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife, Mary, and son, Alan, died previously.