Minister retires after lifetime of service on Arran

The Rev Elizabeth Watson receives a presentation from Gill Gregory at the end of the service in Whiting Bay church.

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By Hugh Boag

A minister who has given her entire service to the church on Arran has retired after 40 years.

And it was perhaps appropriate that the Rev Elizabeth Watson should say her farewells at the Palm Sunday service, the first service allowed at the church since reopening, as Easter holds a special place in her heart.


For Rev Watson her time on Arran has been one of firsts. She was the first female Church of Scotland minister on the island and the first woman moderator of Ardrossan Presbytery.

Originally from Whitburn, West Lothian, Rev Watson arrived at the then linked parishes of Whiting Bay and Kildonan churches as her first sole charge and one she kept for the remainder of her career.

She had been working as assistant minister at Castlehill Church in Ayr for two years after completing her training in 1980 and was ordained on April 1, 1981 after which she applied for the Arran charge. She was inducted at the end of March 1982.

In 1990 she become the first female moderator of Ardrossan Presbytery, serving for a year. In 1993 the Stewart Memorial in Whiting Bay and St Donans in Kildonan united into the charge of Whiting Bay and Kildonan after Kildonan church closed.


When she left school, Rev Watson studied history for three years at Edinburgh University for a BA degree before studying for a divinity honours degree, specialising in Hebrew.

Easter has always been a very special time for the minister and every Easter Sunday she held a sunrise service at the Viking fort at Kingscross Point and later at Sandbraes beach, a tradition which continues to this day.

Although she now has mobility difficulties, during her career Rev Watson was always active – even running the Glasgow Marathon in 1985 with Barbara Thomson of Kingcross and walking the West Highland Way, both for charity.

And in a proud moment she said grace at the lunch held at Brodick Castle during the visit of HM The Queen to Arran in 1997.

She was chairwoman of the Arran CVS from 1991 to 1994 and was made hospital chaplain at the Arran War Memorial Hospital in 1995.

She was also a regular visitor to Whiting Bay primary school, regularly attending their Friday assembly and was, for a time, chairwoman of the parent teacher association.

Rev Watson is leaving the island to retire in Largs.

Writing in the church newsletter she said: ‘I had thought my first charge would be for between eight and 10 years, but living and working here has been such an amazing privilege and pleasure that 39 years have simply flown by.

‘I have made such good friends and being minister here has been all that I could ever have hoped for.

‘That’s not to say it hasn’t been a bumpy journey at times, but together we have made it to the end of the road.’