Long lost WW1 Gaelic Bible discovered at St Giles

A beautifully preserved Gaelic Bible dating back to the First World War has been discovered at St Giles Cathedral in ‪Edinburgh.

St Giles exhibit
St Giles Cathedral is hosting an art exhibit, “Mapping Remembrance" by renowned artist Alison King that commemorates the contribution made by former Moderator of the General Assembly the Very Rev Dr James Black, chaplain to McCrae's Battalion – the 16th Royal Scots.

The red hard-backed tome, which bears the white Royal Naval Ensign on the first page, appears to have been produced to provide comfort and inspiration to seamen.

The text reads: “Presented by the National Bible Society of Scotland to………… on active service 1917.

“Be strong and of good courage for the Lord Thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest”.

It is understood that the ‪Bible was a spare and never handed out because there is no name on the presentation page.

St Giles Cathedral visitor services manager Sarah Phemister said the unexpected discovery was very topical given an exhibition about the role McCrae's sporting Battalion played in the Battle of the Somme in northern France in 1916 is on display in the building until August 2.

“We stumbled across the Bible in the minister’s office when we were creating a catalogue of some of the documents that we have in St Giles,” she added.

“I think it is very special, interesting and topical.”

The exhibition on display at the back of the Cathedral consists of a large painted textile titled “Mapping Remembrance".

It is a very personal tribute from renowned artist Alison King and commemorates the contribution made by former Moderator of the General Assembly the Very Rev Dr James Black, chaplain to McCrae's Battalion – the 16th Royal Scots.

He preached the sermon, which inspired this work, in St Giles Cathedral at the unveiling of the monument to McCrae's Battalion – a unit named after its colonel Sir George McCrae and made up of players from football clubs including Hearts, Raith Rovers, Hibs, Falkirk and Dunfermline and fans.

On the 17th December 1922 the last remnants of McCrae's men sat and listened to the words from the pulpit from "one who was there with them" at the terrible Battle of the Somme in July, 1916.

Dr Black, who ministered at what is now St Andrew's and St George's West Church in Edinburgh, described how he had lost count of the times he had been asked "Where minister is my consolation? Where is the good, why did he die?

“As one who was there, I would only say this. It was God and country took us out to France but it was loyalty to our pals that made us fight.

“And so my consolation lies in knowing that these men died for their friends and with their friends, keeping each other company like good comrades in death and in life.”

The large mixed media piece was inspired by the question posed in the sermon and some of the words are reproduced on the panels.

The design of the work is based on Dr Black's trench maps, inherited by his grandson, the artist's husband.