There used to be a kind of Christian within Church of Scotland circles who was known as a Carberry Evangelical, the kind of person who was comfortable “giving their testimony” and participating in Bible study but who also enjoyed discussing poetry and the theological implications of the latest film. The label came from Carberry Tower, a Church of Scotland retreat centre, now a luxury hotel. At the heart of this movement was its best known warden, Jock Stein, “minister and makar”.

Diminutive in stature but immense of energy and ideas (and therefore of influence) Jock has been one of the best known figures in the Scottish church scene over the past four decades. Born into wealth (at one point he refers to his stock-broker) Jock takes us on a very personal memoir from Iona to Cambridge, Kenya, Dundee, Hungary, and Kincardine, and does so not only in prose but in poetry too.

Along the way we meet some very famous people from churchmen like George MacLeod and Tom Torrance (who married Jock and Margaret) to politicians like Alex Salmond and Donald Dewar and celebrities like Natasha Kaplinsky (as a child she played with Jock’s daughter) and Sally Magnusson—though it is interesting to note which leading churchmen are not mentioned.

While Jock avoids the danger of this memoir being a “vanity project” (his own words), to be honest it can only be of interest to those who know who he is. A wider audience would require more reflection on the events he has lived through, particularly the catastrophic decline of the church in Scotland. That said, I’m sure his family and friends will enjoy it all.

This book is available to purchase from Waterstones.

Ian Watson, Hope Church, Blackwood & Kirkmuirhill