Muriel’s Musings: “All is Safely Gathered In” at the Rural Bolthole

  • Posted on: 12/10/2018

Come, ye thankful people, come,

Raise the song of harvest home;

All is safely gathered in,

Ere the winter storms begin. 

Is Anyone Actually Ready For Church?

“Jasper, Mrs Travers, you will need to get a move on. I can hear the bell and Lady Pentland-Firth has just gone by in the Bentley with her chauffeur.”

“Just coming Muriel, I am putting some of that new after-shave on, you know Yardley for Men.”

“Don’t over do it Jasper. You don’t want to asphyxiate the beadle as he passes with the Bible, and don’t forget the collection. I have left it on your tallboy. Mrs Travers are you anywhere near ready?”

“Aye almost, I am just practising sitting with my new girdle on.”

“Well you will have to continue practising in the Kirk. Lady Pentland-Firth has invited us to join her in the Laird’s Pew, which is wider as the gentry had bigger derrières in the 18th century due to a great deal of pudding and sitting. And you should know all about that being a woman what does, but not a lot.”

“Ah cannae hear yous Mrs Wylie, yon Cliff Richards is on the wireless and I am trying to put on your old flank musquash that you gave me when I perfected the art of making paper doughnuts for the fire.”

“Well put Cliff whatever his name is off and come down, and it really is not cold enough for a fur coat. I am just wearing a stole over my two piece. Harvest Thanksgiving is usually a stole day, giving that little hint of wintery days to come, without overdoing it. I could lend you my purple mohair it would match your complexion.”

“Here I am Muriel.”

“Yes Jasper, what do you want? A medal? Now what did I say about aftershave? You smell like a moneylender in some oriental bazaar.”

“I rather like it Mrs Wylie.”

“Well  Mrs T why would I be surprised coming from a woman who puts carnation fragranced disinfectant behind her ears. Now check list – Jasper, collection; myself Bible, King James version of course – I do think royalty adds something to a forward; Mrs T two Macintosh Squares of a suitable liturgical nature. Jasper does not need one, he doesn’t mind the damp. Oh yes and a packet of mint imperials in case of dry throats. “

“Check, Dahling.”

“Mrs T?”

“Check, Mrs Wylie.”

“Now I can see from my perfect positioning, at a thirty degree angle to the side of the vestibule window, that  Mr and Mrs Portnockie are coming with their delightful twin sons Ross and Cromarty and their harvest gifts. Open the door Mrs T and –  one, two, three –  glide and smile.”

Men Walking to Church

“Oh good morning Alastair, Shelia, I didn’t see you coming there. My you are brave to wear that colour, it’s not everyone who can carry it off, still one cannot always be choosy at a fire sale. I couldn’t help noticing you when I was buying some bargains for my girls at The Home for Fallen Women, they get so little.”

“Good morning Jasper, still some heat in the sun.”

“Good morning Alistair, yes there is, but the leaves are just beginning to go and I had to defrost the window on the Humber Super Snipe yesterday.”

“Yes same here with the Alvis, shape of things to come.”

“Indeed  Alistair there is much to come judging by the papers. Did you read about that new American organisation just set up to promote space travel?”

“Yes Jasper, it’s called N.A.S.A.. I believe. I read it in The Herald.”

“Then it must be true.”

“They say they will have a man in space in three years.”

“There will much competition with the comrades.”

“I couldn’t agree more old chap, Cold War takes to the cosmos. I say, any chance of a round of golf this afternoon?”

“Hmm will do my best, in the dog house a bit over the gee-gees and no doubt I will be expected to help distribute apples and unripe pears to the needy.”

“Yes never really understood that, I’d rather have a tin of baked beans or a tin of mulligatawny soup, especially when one’s teeth are of a cosmetic nature.”

“Me too Alistair, but please whatever you do don’t mention mulligatawny soup. Anyway Muriel thinks tinned soup and fruit on the communion table looks common.”

“Oh Sheila’s just the same. She was up all night making cottage loaves with granary flour. They look good, but there won’t be a filling in place in southwest Scotland by night fall.”

Ladies Walking to Church

“I do hope you do not mind me being pass remarkable Muriel, but I just love your fur stole. Alistair has promised to buy me one if the wholesale stationery business picks up. He has such a way with carbon paper and foolscap. Of course we have to consider school fees too, we have to gather in our resources.”

“Not at all Sheila, and you do so well on a limited budget, with the taste of one who has moved up from the typing pool through volunteering to work Saturday afternoons in the Stock Room and Goods Out. It’s not every girl who can go within the space of nine months from 150 words a minute  to marrying the son of the Filing Cabinet King. I heard that the typing pool had only to hear those words “Can someone come to my office and take a letter” than you were off your knees like a rabbit at a greyhound track.”

“Aye and on them again soon enough.”

“What was that Mrs Travers?”

“I jis’ said,  Mrs W, Mrs Portnockie, they boys are going through a growing spell sure enough.”

“Youhoo, Mrs Wylie, Mrs Portnockie.”

“Oh it’s that dreadful woman from the Electricity Showrooms. Hello Mrs Sparks, good to see you looking so … so full of energy.”

“Oh thank you Mrs Wylie, I am a bit out of puff, but I was looking at the back of my pantry for a tin of beans. Then I got held up by Mrs Lottie Macaulay who said she is not coming to church as she is getting ready to go to New York on the first B.O.A.C. Comet flight, and not only that she has a washing out.”

“ A washing oot?!

“ Mrs T, we are not a parrot are we?”

“ Naw we are not; but a washing oot on a Sunday would suggest madness or a chink in the current social order. Or possibly both.”

“Don’t worry about Mrs T, ladies. She is undertaking a twilight class at the college in sociology and  it has made her rather opinionated.”

“But Muriel she is right. If Mrs Macaulay is hanging out a washing on the Sabbath, then we might just as well open the doors to the comrades now.”

“Now Ladies – there may be extenuating circumstances.”

“She knows something, it’s Mr Macaulay isn’t it? She knows about him and …. Well where will we start? That’s what happens when you are in concrete; you get too firm an opinion of yourself.”

Arriving at Church

“Now ladies we are at Church, we must not talk about things like this, about people’s private lives. The church says many things on this subject.”

“Well Mrs Wylie, if I might interrupt from my position a few feet behind you” interjected Mrs T “might I quote Lord Melbourne when he said to Queen Victoria that things had come to a pretty pass when religion is being allowed to invade private life.”

“Yes Muriel, exactly! Tell us more about the Macaulays’ private life; we won’t tell a soul.”

“Later, ladies”.

And in hushed tones to the woman what does – “Mrs Travers are you perhaps becoming a socialist?”


“Good and did Queen Victoria agree with Lord Melbourne?”

“Of course not, she immediately covered all the piano legs, I mean lower limbs Mrs Wylie.”

Settling down for the Service in the Laird’s Pew

“Good morning Muriel. Jasper come and join me. Jasper you sit next to me, I don’t bite – not on Sundays anyway! Mrs Travers if you wouldn’t mind sitting in the narrower pew behind with my flossie.”

“Good Morning Patience, good view from up here. I wonder who I taking the service?”

“Oh some missionary with a guitar from a depraved part of Glasgow.”

“Don’t you mean deprived, Patience?”

“Jasper, I chose my words carefully.”

“Well I wonder when we will get a new minister; this vacancy is becoming ridiculous anyone would think no one wanted to answer the call here in Shangri-La.”

“Well Muriel it is entirely your fault. If you had not introduced that mulligatawny  soup into the rota of Soup and Sandwiches Lunches then none of this would have happened.I hear the previous minister is  recovering well now and is making some nice baskets on the ward. Apparently he has said he would rather go and work among cannibals than ever come here again.”

“I will not repent Patience. One has to move with the times or mark my words the place will be empty and full of carpets.”

“Don’t be ridiculous Muriel this pew will always support a Pentland-Firth bahookie.”

Mr Scrabster, the Duty Elder Has News

“Morning your Ladyship ,  Mrs Wylie, Mr Wylie, ladies what do.”

“Good morning Mr Scrabster.”

“Thank you Mrs Wylie for making the church look so simply marvellous with all the fruit and flowers and vegetables , so many of them donated by you from your garden. You and your ladies have done a wonderful job, how lucky we are to have an interior decorator in our midst.”

The interior decorator Mr Scrabster, lest we forget.”

“Quite so Lady Pentland-Firth, quite so.”

“And how did the Presbytery Conference go Mr Scabster?”

“ Well what can one say your Ladyship?”

“Directly and to the point Mr Scabster.”

“Let us say there were some lively debates in Rothsay Ma’am .”

“Do tell Mr Scrabster.”

“Well five clergymen signed a letter of protest to the town council objecting to the council allowing dancing on Sunday Evenings in the Municipal Pavilion. The Reverend Hector Mackinnon of the Free Church said it was wicked.”


“Yes your Ladyship and he reminded us of what dancing can lead to.”

“One lives in hope Mr Scrabster. How was this resolved?”

“With compromise,  Ma’am. The trouble was the Council said it needed to do this to attract tourists and perhaps if dancing was not allowed then neither should golf be.  Of course quite a large number of those ministers and elders at the conference are golfers so it was agreed that dancing would be allowed on wet afternoons during the holiday season.”

The Juicy Details Get Worse

“So was all then harmony?”

“Oh no there was a big stooshie over the marriage of a condemned man in prison and then over a motion that church members should not drink before driving.”

“What about before sermons?”

“Oh Mrs Wylie they didn’t mention that, but most walk to Church.”

“Was that all?”

“Oh no; there was much more including disagreement over how we should mark the 400th anniversary of the Reformation.”

“By reversing it!”

“Oh your ladyship you have such a sense of humour. I am assured there will be many appropriately sombre reflections on the anniversary.”

“Our cup runneth over Mr Scrabster, any last juicy details before you pump up the organ bellows?”

“Well I shouldn’t be saying this but there are reports from Dunfermline by the temperance and gambling committee of ‘housey-housey’ games on the Sabbath. And worse.”

“Worse?” (all in unison)

“Yes, sometimes even tombola!”

“Jasper, Mrs T, I hope you are taking note about the evils of gambling – don’t forget I know all about Haydock Park.”

Some May Not Be Gathered In

“Mr  Wylie?”

“Yes Mr Scrabster.”

“If you don’t mind my saying so is that aftershave you are wearing today in the precincts of the Laird’s Pew?”

“Indeed Mr Scrabster, how very kind you to notice, as the advert says

Yardley for Men – Men of tradition know that ceremony starts in the bathroom and take pride in the duty of discrimination, in the niceties of their daily applications: and for them Yardley has devoted years of research into masculine needs – and prepared  a scent with freshness beyond compare.

“Mr Wylie I suggest once the vacancy is filled you should, with all haste, endeavour to see the minister as soon as possible. I fear you are not safely gathered in. Now I must dash our guest preacher the Reverend Glen Rothes has just arrived, he has been in the jungle.”


“No Glasgow, Africa was his reward for being in Glasgow.”

 The Opening Hymn

“Good morning and welcome to our Harvest Festival as we sing Come ye thankful people, come, the children will present their gifts of tinned soups, stews, baked beans and fruit cocktail and the generous donation of Mrs Lottie Macaulay whose husband is in concrete.”

“Really!” gasped all the ladies in unison.

à bientôt

Muriel Wylie

Harvest Festival 1958