It was a very emotional and affecting memorial service that St. Andrew’s Cathedral hosted for the 10 victims of the Clutha Vaults tragedy. The congregation consisted of family, friends and colleagues of the dead, and members of the emergency and medical services who had been involved in the rescue, as well as representatives of civic and national government. Outside a piper played, and inside the cathedral the diocesan choir, the St. Mungo Singers, and Dr. Noel Donnelly on harp, provided gently reflective music as people gathered.
The Glasgow churches were represented by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia who led the service, Dr. Laurence Whitley, minister of Glasgow Cathedral, Rt. Rev. Gregor Duncan, Episcopalian Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, Rev. Bill Hewitt, Clerk to the Glasgow Presbytery of the Church of Scotland, and Rev.Colin Brown, Presbytery Clerk of the Presbytery of the West of the United Free Church. Lord Provost Sadie Docherty and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were among the local and national government representatives.
As the service began with the singing of John Bell and Graham Maule’s evocative “We cannot measure how you heal”, ten lit candles were placed on the altar , one for each of those who had lost their lives in the tragedy. After a brief welcome by Archbishop Tartaglia, Lord Provost Docherty spoke. She expressed the hope that the service would go some way to comforting the families of the dead, and she welcomed the members of the emergency services present who had responded so magnificently to the crash.
In the prayer which followed, Bishop Duncan said that this was an opportunity to lament those who had died, to express and commemorate our solidarity with all involved, and to give thanks for all who had helped on that terrible evening.
The first reading was given by Alasdair Hay, Chief Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, from the Book of Lamentations. Then the choir led everyone in the singing of Psalm 62 to the well-loved tune “Iona”. Chief Constable Sir Stephen House gave the second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. James Quinn’s gentle and beautiful “O Light from Light” was an appropriate response to lead into the Gospel reading, proclaimed by Dr. Whitley from St. John’s Gospel.
Archbishop Tartaglia’s homily came from his own memories of that November night. The Clutha Vaults, he said, was only a short walk from the Cathedral. It was a well-known hostelry with a great reputation in an area of Glasgow which was re-inventing itself as a place to socialise. He had been completely shocked to hear of the carsh and had watched and listened to the news unfold into the early hours of the following morning.
Referring to the ten lit candles, he read out the names of those who had died:-Pilot David Traill PC Tony Collins PC Kirsty Nelis Joe Cusker John McGarrigle Mark O’Prey Gary Arthur Colin Gibson Robert Jenkins and Samuel McGhee.
Today, he said, we placed them before God in prayer. He also remembered the 32 injured and hoped that they had recovered or were in the course of recovering from their injuries. He himself had visited the scene of the crash, with some sense of reluctance because he might be seen as an irritant or superfluous, but he had been welcomed .
In the days which followed, the churches had sought to offer spiritual comfort with Mass at St. Andrew’s and a service at Glasgow Cathedral. The mosque across the river from the scene had opened their doors to offer assistance, and the Salvation Army centre nearby had done what they do best in such circumstances, giving out tea and bacon rolls to all involved in the crash and the subsequent rescue work.
The tragedy had brought out the best in people. Ordinary Glasgow citizens had come together to offer help and support, and indeed had been the first responders to the disaster. They had also raised funds to help the survivors and the families affected. Their actions had been acknowledged by those from government and the Royal Family who had come to pay their respects in turn. In concluding, Archbishop Tartaglia expressed the hope that the service would assure the families that their loved ones were not forgotten, that we had prayed for them and continued to do so.
Dr. Donnelly played quietly as the congregation reflected on Archbishop Tartaglia’s words, then they sang a hymn whose words offered some comfort with their reminder of our belief in the fullness of eternal life after death “O Love that wilt not let me go”.
Rev. Colin Brown led the intercessions for those who had died; those who had suffered physical or mental injuries as a result of the disaster; the families and friends of those killed or injured; all the emergency servicesand others who had offered help; and the city and its citizens (full text below). Before each of the intercessions, the hauntingly beautiful prayer, “My Dearest Lord”, attributed to St. Columba was sung, and at the end, the Taizé “O Lord, Hear my Prayer”. The feeling of prayerfulness in the Cathedral at that moment was tangible.
The choir then sang the commendatory prayer “Receive their Souls” before leading the sung blessing “God to Enfold You” which was followed by a joint spoken blessing by the church representatives. The service finished with “Be Thou My Vision” and its final petition “Grant Heaven’s joy to me, bright heaven’s sun. Christ of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, O Ruler of all”
Hear us, Heavenly Father, as now in solemn remembrance we recall those lost to us in the Clutha Bar tragedy: Gary Arthur, David Traill, Kirsty Nelis, Tony Collins, Samuel McGhee, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, John McGarrigle, Mark O’Prey, and Joe Cusker. Although they are lost to us, we know they are not lost to you. We ask therefore that you will hold them safe in your near presence, that your light may ever shine upon them and that the peace that passes all human understanding be their possession for all eternity; and may they know that their memory will be ever with us.
God of all compassion, we know you are the caring Father who seeks the welfare of all His children, hear us as we pray for those still suffering, physically and mentally, from their experience of this tragedy. Let your restoring touch be upon them to bind up their wounds and soothe their distress. Although the passage of time may bring some easing of what they must bear, we know the scars will remain. So we place them into your hands, trusting in you, the Master Physician, whose ways are ways of healing and whose love is never-endin.
Lord of life, in times of trial you are ever a source of courage and strength. We commend to your care the relatives, families and friends who, through these weeks, have been cast into the darkness of bereavement and loss. You have promised that you are ready always to draw close to us at such times. So we pray that those we remember before you will feel the comfort of your presence. May they be upheld by your unfailing love, so that, day by day, their anxieties may be eased and your peace fill their aching hearts.
Lord Christ, by your example you showed us the meaning of sacrifice and service to others, we therefore remember before you those who, when tragedy or disaster strikes, at once step forward to show the hand of help and succour. We think of the Police and Fire and Rescue services. Bless and fortify them as they answer the call to face the demands of accident and emergency, whatever the dangers, so that we might be safe. Bless the doctors, nurses and others who make up the medical services, whose professionalism and reassurance do so much to bring calm out of anxiety. We also ask blessing on all our support services: social workers, counsellors, chaplains and volunteers seeking simply to help their fellow man.
Finally, we invite God’s blessing on our great city: rich in diversity, yet one in our readiness to stand with our neighbour in time of need. Let your spirit of compassion and humanity continue to guide us in future days. We pray that your blessing will rest upon the Lord Provost, Council Leader, Chief Executive, Bailies, Councillors and all who by their work and commitment seek our citizens’ highest good. Further the work of everything that promotes a sense of community so that whatever challenge may come our way in future days, we will be ready to meet it, upheld by your grace and fortified by our unity with each other.