the British Community Council, Lisbon

The British Community Council, Lisbon

Umbrella entity for organisations
with links to the British Community
in and around Lisbon

Remembrance Sunday – Address at St George’s Church Lisbon

(Date posted: 2016-11-29 | Organizer: Lisbon Live | Category: Church Services)

Sermon by Rev. Norman Hutchison, Minister at  St Andrew’s Church, Lisbon.

Reverend Norman Hutcheson

Rev. Norman Hutcheson

The Rev. Hutcheson started by explaining that he was a Minister of the Church of Scotland for over 40 years and had presided and attended many Remembrance Services. By the early 90′s attendances was falling off, and Leonard Cheshire was suggesting that the time had come to call an end to Remembrance. The 75 anniversary was his intended date. Somehow Remembrance took on a new life. And now thousands of these events are held worldwide.

As he comes from Scotland, he wanted to speak about two people with deep Scottish Presbyterian roots who came from his part of Scotland. Balmaghie is a small farming hamlet, and in the 1830s a deeply devout family left their farm in Balmaghie for Canada where they made a new life.  They had a family, and in turn their son had a son, John McCrae who became a doctor and then surgeon with the Canadian Army during World war 1. In 1915 at the 2nd battle of Ypres, his good friend was killed yards away from McCrae. Lt Alexis Helmer died instantly, and McCrae sat down and wrote the most famous of all the poems of the War:

“In Flanders fields” where the poppies grow.

But that is not the line that has always impressed and galvanised him most. It is the last stanza of what is a short poem he says:

“to you from failing hands we throw
the torch. Be yours to hold it high”

The second Scot he wanted to introduce and whose life has been important to him for over 20 years came from another small farming hamlet called Dunscore. In the 1930′s Jane Haining became the matron of the Mission to Jews in Budapest. This was a school for Jewish girls, many of whom boarded at the school. So this large building in Vorosmartry utca became home to her and many of the girls. A month ago he was in Budapest listening to some of the former residents, now in their 80′s, tell of Miss Haining, how she cared but she was strict!  She was there in the 30s and returned home in the early summer of 1939 for leave. When she heard war had broken out, she immediately returned to Budapest, in spite of being forbidden by the church’s head office.

In March 1944, the German army moved into Hungary, suspecting that the Arrow Cross had been less than enthusiastic about the final solution. A Jewish Mission was an obvious target, and soon Jane Haining was charged with, among other things, listening to the BBC World Service and crying when she sewed the yellow stars of David on the girls’ uniforms. 

Prisoner 79467 died  in Auschwitz in July 1944, the only Scots Woman ever to do so.

When asked to return, the words that have echoed over the decades was her reply:

“I was with my girls in days of sunshine
Why would I not be with them in days of darkness too”

We recall the bravery of the military and civilians who gave their lives. From the Gospel we are reminded that no greater love hath a man than this, than that he lays down his life for his friends.  To us comes a torch, to hold high – a torch of dignity, mercy and justice. We know there will be days of darkness, but we can be grateful  for those who challenge us in days of sunshine, who offer us the torch.