Manse Bairns Network offers fellowship to ministers' children

Manse Bairns
Members of the Manse Bairns Network

From living in a home that doubles as a meeting space to being expected to be a model of good behaviour, life has sometimes been difficult for children growing up in a manse.

But for 226 years the Glasgow Society for the Sons and Daughters of Ministers of the Church of Scotland has been on the scene to offer fellowship and practical support. "In offering financial help over the years, we've seen people struggle, socially and financially", says Fiona Watson, Treasurer of the Society.

Now, going by the shorter title, Manse Bairns Network, the Society is reaching out to the next generation of ministers' children to ensure that all manse bairns have access to a group of peers who understand their unique experience.

"The minister used to have respect in the community and was known throughout the community so you were more visible and people expected more of you," says Michael Grieve, a trustee for the society, himself a manse bairn. "That was particularly true in villages and rural congregations, although it was a bit different in the city. People expected manse children to be better, so you'd better not be caught eating apples from the local apple tree."

Marion Dodd, president of the society agrees. "It created a lot of pressure," she says. "I know some manse bairns have rebelled and life was very difficult for them. "

Even though life is different today, people who grow up in minister's families now might still benefit from the fellowship of other manse children.

Likewise, domestic issues, like divorce or violence in the home are difficult for any family, but in a manse family, because other people are looking in and expecting the manse family to be an example of good living, it adds pressure.

Besides fellowship, the Manse Bairns network issues grants, mainly to support students through college or university, but also to fund any need that might help former manse children become financially self-sufficient.

With so many years of service behind them, the society has a long history. In earlier days, its work was recognised with a large annual procession and its members included titans of Scottish industry as well as nationally known cultural figures, including BBC founder Lord Reith and, more recently, Lord David Steel.

Part of the original constitution, as seen in the founding document held at the Mitchell Library, was that the Society hold an annual service of thanksgiving in Glasgow, which continues to this day, usually in Glasgow Cathedral.

If you are a child of the manse, no matter what your age, you can find out more about the Manse Bairns Network, and discover others with a similar background.

Learn more about the Manse Bairns Network on the group's website.