Football Club Chaplain is snap happy

It is not often that a person is lucky enough to indulge three of their great passions at the same time.

But that is exactly what probationer minister of Word and Sacrament, Bill Wishart DCS, is doing - combining his love of the Gospel, football and photography.

Bill Wishart
Football chaplain Bill Wishart with the East of Scotland Cup (left) and the Fife and Lothians Cup.

The 51-year-old, who is currently serving at Gladsmuir Church linked with Longniddry in East Lothian, is chaplain to Tranent Juniors Football Club as well as its unofficial photographer.

The club has won the Fife and Lothians Cup and the East of Scotland cup since Mr Wishart, a Church of Scotland Deacon, joined last November.

The role of a sports chaplain is to be servant-hearted, striving to be pastorally proactive and spiritually reactive, serving all people in the club irrespective of position, beliefs or lifestyle.

In his own words, Mr Wishart, who has passed his final review and is now looking for his own church, explains what it is like to be a football chaplain and the novel way in which he has quickly fitted into the club.

“The Church has an important role to play not just in sport, but in all aspects of society because we bring the love of God into any situation we are in.

“It cares about and for people and I have been made very welcome at the club and very included.

“My role as a chaplain is just to be a ‘listening ear’ if needed, someone that players, staff, committee members can talk to, if necessary.

“When I went to the training day for Football Chaplains at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Mark Fleming of Sports Chaplaincy Scotland advised us to try and find a job or a role at our club that would help us fit in quicker while helping the club out a bit.

History

“I remembered that at my first game someone asked if anyone had a camera but nobody had, other than a smartphone.

“I decided that I would bring my camera to the next game and then uploaded all the pictures onto Facebook.

“At first the reception was mooted, people enjoyed the pictures and I got some nice comments but the whole situation changed very quickly when Tranent went on two of its best cup runs for decades.

“Suddenly, almost without realising it we had reached the quarter finals of the Fife and Lothians Cup and the East of Scotland Junior Cup, second only to the Scottish Junior Cup in importance and last won by Tranent in 1979.

“My photos were beginning to tell the story of how history was being made.

“As the rounds progressed and each victory sparked great celebrations I found that players and officials would come over to me to get a photo taken and I tried to catch the best of the action as the games were in play.

“I would never class myself as a particularly good photographer but I certainly learn a lot during the season and it was a lot of fun doing it.

“Some of my photos have even been used in the local newspaper.

East of Scotland
East of Scotland Cup final. Photograph by Bill Wishart.

The season culminated in Tranent, a second-tier Junior side reaching both cup finals and although I was unable to attend the Fife and Lothian Final at Newtongrange on June 7, in which Tranent beat Broxburn United 1-0, I was able to go to the East of Scotland Cup final on June 10 in Bathgate.

“The game was a cracker and even though Tranent, for the 9th time that season, were playing opposition from the league above them, they were not daunted.

“Although they fell behind in the second half, an equaliser five minutes later meant the game went to penalties.

“Tranent defeated Bonnyrigg Rose 4-1 in the shoot-out.

“The place went wild, fans were on the pitch, the players, coaches and officials were ecstatic and I caught it all on film with a huge smile on my face.

“Photography has been invaluable to my work as chaplain.

“People got to know my name very quickly and I began to build relationships with the folks at the club.

Magic

“It truly is a fantastic place with a real community ethos and I’m proud to be the chaplain of the Juniors and its parent organisation the Tranent and District Community Football Club, which encompasses over 70 teams including a newly formed para-football team.

“Whilst I can’t guarantee that every new chaplain will see their team win a historic cup double in their first season, I can guarantee an experience that is right up there with the best.

“I look forward to a continued association with Tranent Juniors and, for as long as we’re needed my camera and I will try to capture the magic.

“Since the cup final wins myself and the club’s vice-chairman Colin Dryburgh have taken the cups to the home of an elderly supporter, a local kid’s team, a Tranent Colts’ trainingsession and two evenings at the Tranent ground (Foresters Park).

“It really has had a huge impact on the town and more visits are planned including to nursing homes and sporting memories groups who work with people living with dementia, depression and loneliness.”