St Giles’ bids adieu to Macmillan’s era

The Very Reverend Gilleasbuig Macmillan. Picture: Kate Chandler
The Very Reverend Gilleasbuig Macmillan. Picture: Kate Chandler
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The Very Reverend Gilleasbuig Macmillan has retired after 40 years as minister of St Giles’ Cathedral.

Gilleasbuig Iain Macmillan was born in Stirling on December 21, 1942, the son of the Rev Kenneth Macmillan and his wife, Mary.

He was educated at Oban High School before going on to Edinburgh University, where he graduated with an MA Honours degree in 1964 and went on to take a Bachelor of Divinity degree which he completed in 1967.

While training as a minister, he served as student assistant at St Michael’s Parish Church, Linlithgow, 1964-65, and at Blackhall 
St Columba’s, 1965-66.

He returned to Linlithgow as assistant minister from 1967-69 and then moved to be minister of Portree parish on the Isle of Skye until 1973 when he was called to St Giles’. He married his wife, Maureen, in 1965 and the couple have one daughter.

Mr Macmillan was made a chaplain to the Queen in Scotland in 1979 and Dean of the Order of the Thistle ten years later. He presided at the “kirking” of the Scottish Parliament after each election.

He has served as honorary chaplain to a host of Edinburgh institutions, including the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Society of High Constables.

He has received two honorary doctorates from the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews and is an Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In 1991, at a service in St Giles’ in memory of the victims of the first Gulf War, he famously halted the service for 20 minutes to allow members of the Muslim community to perform their prayers in front of a Christian congregation of more than 1000 worshippers. He was awarded a Muslim News Award for Excellence in recognition of the move. Mr Macmillan was tipped to be chosen as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1996 and again in 2002, but failed to win sufficient support. He retired on September 30 after four decades in the pulpit.

He said: “It has been a great privilege to be the minister of St Giles’ Cathedral. I have had the opportunity to meet a huge variety of kind and friendly people. My work in this building has been supported by great music and a fine congregation, who have always been a great support.”

The Rev John Chalmers, the Principal Clark of the Church of Scotland, said: “Gilleasbuig Macmillan’s ministry in St Giles’ has been remarkable. During his time the physical space of the cathedral has been transformed and this has been driven by his acute sense of what is required to bring the worship of a cathedral come to life.”

“His preaching and theological insight has inspired a generation. Those of us who know his great gifts hope that in retirement he will publish some of the sermons and prayers which have been the hallmark of his ministry.”