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Reverend Caledonia and the candles

April 4, 2015


Today marks the first melancholy anniversary of the loss of that indefatigable keeper of the flame of Scottish independence for so many years, Margo MacDonald. She was many things to many people over the years, but I think coming as it did in the midst of the referendum campaign, we all felt her loss keenly. It’s impossible not to think that, like Moses, she was allowed to glimpse the promised land, but not to enter it. And we still have that task before us, but enter it we will. Perhaps sooner than a lot of people think. And when it does happen, many of us will be sparing a thought for those we have lost over the years, those we’ve known who worked for independence and who would have been overjoyed to be celebrating our freedom with us. I’ll be thinking of my father for instance. But today we are thinking of Margo. In tribute we bring you this parable by returning guest blogger, Welsh patriot and friend of Scotland, Siôn Rees Williams.


Reverend Caledonia and the candles

Reverend Caledonia had officiated at St. Alba’s church for many years. The minister came into his church one morning, shivering. It was a cold morning and Reverend Caledonia, being rather elderly tended to feel the cold more than most. That morning however, he felt the cold outside more than usual – and he felt it in his church too. Something was not right, and Reverend Caledonia knew it.

Now, not only was Reverend Caledonia’s church colder than usual that morning, the minister felt sure that it was darker too. He looked around him. It was then that Reverend Caledonia’s gaze fell on the altar. He immediately saw what was wrong: his big altar candle, a venerable MacDonald taper which had served him and his congregation for a good many years had seemingly disappeared.

Reverend Caledonia hurried over to the altar, fearful that someone had stolen the MacDonald candle. When the minister arrived at the candlestick which held the candle, he realised what had happened. Far from being removed, the MacDonald candle had in fact completely melted and had gone out. Only its burnt and frayed wick and a small pool of wax remained as testimony to its former glory. Reverend Caledonia realised with a heavy heart that it would not be possible to relight the MacDonald candle.

When Reverend Caledonia took in this dreadful news, he fell to his knees and began to sob deeply and audibly. He began entreating God to give safe passage to the soul of the MacDonald candle. Now you may think this kind of behaviour a little bizarre – to feel such profound grief for something seemingly inconsequential and inanimate as a candle. But you have to appreciate that Reverend Caledonia was a very sensitive man. In all the years he had been the minister at St. Alba’s he had developed some sort of affinity or connection with his altar candle.

The MacDonald candle had indeed come to symbolise, in true Christian fashion, “the light of the world,” and it (or as Reverend Caledonia had personalised the candle over the years, “she”) had given off light and warmth during his many services at St. Alba’s. Reverend Caledonia knew that his congregation had also appreciated the light and the warmth the MacDonald candle had given off – and they too would miss that when they learnt that she was no more.

When Reverend Caledonia realised this fact, he sobbed all the louder. No other candle would (or indeed, could) replace the MacDonald candle – she was truly one of a kind.

But Reverend Caledonia was also a very practical and resourceful man. After a few minutes of silent contemplation, he dried his eyes and blew his nose a couple of times. He got up off his knees gingerly and started to smile.

He knew what he had to do and what his parishioners would expect him to do. So Reverend Caledonia began to light a number of little candles all over the inside of St. Alba’s church. Now, as individual, little candles, they could in no way compare with the MacDonald candle – she was truly unique. They also lacked the experience she had in serving Reverend Caledonia in his services. But Reverend Caledonia also knew that the combined strength of the little candles – their joint giving of light and warmth – would help dispel the darkness and gloom inside St. Alba’s. The little candles would also gladden the hearts of Reverend Caledonia and his parishioners.

And so it was that Reverend Caledonia, realising this little miracle of deliverance, again fell to his knees on the altar steps and gave thanks to God and expressed his gratitude for the work of the MacDonald candle. He also thanked God for inspiring him to continue her warm and joyful message through the medium of the little candles.

It would be a fitting tribute to the work previously carried out by the MacDonald candle and he was happy to be a facilitator in that process.


Editor’s note: you can find the rest of Siôn’s parables (that was number 44) on his page,

Parables For The New Politics

  1. Great piece. Really enjoyed it

  2. Sion Rees Williams permalink

    Thank you to the Editor for publishing and for readers who enjoyed this. Please feel free to find, read, share and use my other stories on Facebook under “Parables For The New Politics”.

    – The author

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  1. Reverend Caledonia and the candles | The Babel Fish - The People's Republic of Clydebank

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