We’re mourning the loss of Randal MacAlister this week following his sudden death on Friday.

Clergy are notorious for being a bit hard on one another. But we all loved Randal. He served as Dean of our diocese until his retirement in 2006. He was quite literally getting into the stride of a well-spent retirement – hill-walking, Gaelic speaking, fiddle-playing – yet still willing to say ‘yes’ when called on for some ministry. Randal and Valerie were working hard on their beautiful house in Dykehead at the bottom of Glen Clova.

If there are balances to be found in the extraordinary way of life which is ministry, then Randal had worked them out. He was eirenic but he wasn’t soft. He radiated contentment and well-being but he gave himself unsparingly to ministry. He was holy but people found him accessible and they loved him.

He was extraordinarily kind and supportive to me, particularly when I was learning to acclimatise to a new situation. We had an extra bond. I knew where he came from in ministry. He had learnt his trade from Tom McGonigle, one of the great curate-trainers of the Church of Ireland, who used to say something like ‘149 curates and never a bad one – well maybe one’ Tom lived in retirement in my parish. I knew Tom and so, in a sense, I knew Randal.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Valerie and her family.

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