Neil MacArthur, our Senior Elder, passed away at Raigmore Hospital Inverness on Sunday 22nd July 2017.
His funeral took place on Saturday 29th July 2017.
You can read the tribute from the minister or
to listen to the Funeral Service use the play button below:
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A tribute to Neil MacArthur by Rev. A. MacAulay
Neil MacArthur was born in Breasclete in Lewis in 1926 and though he left there almost 70 years ago, Breasclete was still viewed as home. Being from Breasclete myself, I grew up hearing people speak fondly of Neil, but I only really got to know him personally when I came to be his minister in Tain five years ago.
Neil was a humble, self-effacing man, and he would want very little said about himself today. He would instead want the attention to be on his saviour Jesus, whom he loved and served since his early 20s.
When he finished his degree, he began his teaching career in Tain Royal Academy. This was just going to be a temporary move until a post would come up back in Lewis. That was sixty five years ago. The reason he stayed can be attributed to another Breasclete man called Murdo C. who was a policeman there and who introduced Neil to Misss Gena Robertson who worked in the police station.
It was only last year that Gena told me the story about Murdo introducing them, and when she had finished, Neil piped up – “He did Gena a good turn that day, for sure.” It was certainly a fruitful relationship with 7 children, 22 grand-children and 6 great-grandchildren at the last count
Neil was my go-to font of all knowledge whenever I needed to find information about anyone in Tain, and it didn’t matter who I asked him about, his reply almost always began with; “Oh a nice boy” or “a nice girl” or “a nice family”. I don’t think I ever heard him speak critically of anyone.
He was probably best known through the decades he spent in Tain through his being a teacher; initially in Tain Royal Academy, then for a while as Depute Head in Hilton Junior Secondary and finally as Assistant Head in Tain Royal Academy. Dozens of former pupils have paid tribute to him on the church Facebook page, with comments such as; “The Best teacher TRA ever had”, “I’d never have passed maths were it not for him”, “A fine man” and “A Gentleman”.
Up until the last few years, his ability to remember the names of anyone he ever taught was virtually unparalleled. He would also be able to say what year he taught them in, and who else was in their class.
Neil was made an elder in the Free Church at the age of thirty nine. In a denomination where you would usually be in your sixties before you were even considered for eldership, that says something about his character, and the esteem in which he was held. Neil loved to serve the Lord through the church, whether that was running a Friday night sports club, visiting the housebound or teaching Sunday School.
At the age of eighty eight he had asked me not to call on him to pray publicly because he was finding it difficult due to his failing memory. But a few months later, he phoned me to say that it bothered him that he was not doing his duty to the Lord and could I resume asking him to pray in public again. His was a life of commitment.
And yet when we marked his fifty years as an elder last year, and I said some complementary words before making a presentation to him, his response was; “I didn’t recognise myself in that description”.
He was a genuinely humble man, who always put others before himself. He was devoted to his family and prayed that all his grandchildren would become Christians. Neil was also still young at heart and just a week before his stroke was on Shandwick beach, digging in the sand with some of his grandchildren.
Neil and Gena spent more than 60 happy years together and one of the things that made their marriage strong was that they put Jesus at the centre of it, speaking to him every day in prayer and listening to him as they read the Bible. Even when Neil’s memory was failing he would read and pray as meaningfully as he ever had done.
It was true of Neil is it was of the apostle Paul, that he fought the good fight; he finished his course; he kept the faith; and as the Bible tells us; “now there is in store for him, a crown of righteous which the Lord – the righteous judge will give him on that day”.
When a person lives well in Christ – they die well in him also. And that is certainly true of Neil MacArthur.
His obituary can be found in the December 2017 issue of the Free Church magazine the MONTHLY RECORD on page 18 .