The View from the (vacant) Rectory - June 2019
Having been fortunate enough to be born in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, I received my secondary education at George Heriot's School. This is situated on the edge of the Old Town, on the other side of the street from the former Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, with superb views of the Castle.
George Heriot was a 16th-century jeweller who had his shop in the Royal Mile, between the Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. From this advantageous location, he attracted the custom of King James VI, son of Mary Queen of Scots. As time went on, Heriot became money-lender to the needy King. The proceeds of these transactions increased still further Heriot's already substantial fortune, and he acquired the nickname of "Jinglin' Geordie".
On the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, his royal debtor became James I of Great Britain, and moved to London. Heriot soon followed, and in the ensuing years amassed great wealth. When he died in 1620, he left a very large
sum to found a "hospital" for orphan boys in Edinburgh. A magnificent building was erected, round a quadrangular court, on the plan of a Scots castle. This had not quite been completed when Cromwell's troops occupied the city in 1650, and they stabled their horses in some of the rooms. The establishment proved of great benefit to Edinburgh, and in the mid-19th century this was extended to all boys, the school becoming fee-paying. My father became a pupil immediately after the First World War, and in due course my brother and I followed in his footsteps. In recent years, girls have been admitted.
By long-established tradition, the first Monday in June is " Founder's Day", known, logically enough, as "June Day". The entire school assembles in the quadrangle, under the watchful eye of the founder's statue perched above the entrance gateway to listen, more or less patiently, to speeches from assorted dignitaries. At last the time comes for the school song, which begins "The Merry Month of June, of sunny days and flowers". One may well wonder about this, in Edinburgh, but then the long-awaited moment arrives when the headmaster announces that the school will now close, and the following day will be a holiday in honour of the founder.
"The Merry Month of June, of sunny days and flowers" - we shall see!
Merriment will depend very much on ourselves, and we can rely on having some flowers in this first summer month of June, but whether we have sunny days will depend on the complexities of weather systems, the Gulf Stream, etc.
I now realise, as I probably did not all those years ago as I stood in that historic quadrangle, that June Day presented me with the opportunity to give thanks for the excellent education which had been provided for me. We all have so much for which to give thanks, not only in June, but through-out our lives. As we go into June, we have just celebrated Ascension Day and are still in the season of Easter, reminding us of the greatest reason of all to give thanks - thanks to God for the gift of His only Son to die for us on the Cross, to bring us the promise of eternal life.
This year, we have also given thanks for the wonderful ministry among us of Archdeacon Justine of Boston, throughout Holy Week and Easter. We can obtain more than a reminder or a flavour of that ministry by reading the Archdeacon's recently published book, "The Resilient Disciple". At least two members of the Ministry Team followed it throughout Lent, and found it very rewarding, but it does not necessarily have to be used as a Lent Book - its rewards can be enjoyed at any time.
So let's enjoy the sunny days and flowers of June, but let us also remember to give thanks for them and the many other blessings God showers upon us.