Yesterday we had a large funeral for our brother Malcolm Farquhar. One of the reasons the attendance was so large is because of his consistent Christians witness over many years. In his work as a lawyer, an elder in Fintry Church of Scotland (and then a member with us in St Peters), his family and the work amongst international students. He is an example to us all. The funeral itself was wonderfully Christian – mourning but not as those with no hope. It was solemn and silent – yet filled with hope and joy. It’s at times like this that the rubber hits the road when it comes to the Christian faith.
Kathleen Humphris read this lovely tribute which we can now share with you along with some of the many photos which were so poignant to see.
A collection of memories from Malcolm’s family
Malcolm was born on 6th May 1955 to Robert and Mary Farquhar and spent the first four years of his life in Grantown-on-Spey. He was often seen, aged four, sitting on the doorstep recording the registration numbers of the few cars that passed. As he watched the world from the door-step he initially decided to be a refuse collector when he grew up. On reflection, he later changed his mind. He would be a lemonade lorry driver for Bon Accord.
Malcolm’s family moved back to Aberdeen and when he was seven his brother Colin was born. They became close friends. It was Malcolm who taught Colin to ride a bike. This involved Malcolm holding on to the seat of the bike as Colin pedalled along with no stabilisers. Then Malcolm decided to experiment. He built up speed and, with no warning, let go of the bike. Colin pedalled faster to stay upright and cycled at high speed directly into a lamp post, flying over the handle bars. He looked up to find Malcolm doubled up in laughter – but after that collision, bike riding was no longer a problem.
Malcolm attended Aberdeen Grammar School where he was part of a close group of friends, David, Ian, John and Alex. By now, he wanted to become a research chemist but, after a school visit to the law courts, had a last-minute change of plan and applied to study law at Aberdeen University. He could in fact have chosen any number of careers, having already re-plumbed and re-wired large parts of two family homes.
Each Sunday Malcolm’s mother’s cousin, Chrissie Pirie, took Malcolm and Colin to the Sunday School at Gilcomston South church. He was always grateful to Chrissie for that. But it was not until university days that he believed and followed Jesus Christ, which he did for the rest of his life.
After graduating with a first class degree from Aberdeen he did a master’s degree in Toronto, where he shared some travelling adventures with Colin. It was a wonderful experience and friendships formed then have lasted to this day.
Dundee and Ruth
Malcolm arrived in Dundee in October 1979 to work for Banks & Co. That same weekend Ruth arrived in Dundee as a new student. Ruth was our lodger that year and she and Malcolm met for the first time and often afterwards in our home. It was an unusual courtship, initially forged by working together at various youth and children’s events at Fintry church.
They made a great team – and it was one that lasted.
The wedding day finally came. On the day, almost everything went wrong:
- The car hire company that had offered a one-way hire from Sheffield to Wick, looked at the map and pulled out of the arrangement.
- Malcolm got lost on the way to the church with a convoy of cars following.
- He arrived three minutes late just after Ruth had been sent off to drive round the block.
- The minister accidentally recorded his occupation as “bachelor” in the marriage register … and so on.
Malcolm concluded that, despite everything, he was now legally married and almost immediately set about inviting all their friends for Sunday lunch in the flat at Baldovan Terrace. They were both so thankful for their happy marriage and the friends they made in those early years in Fintry have remained their close friends for 40 years.
Malcolm moved to Dundee law firm Scott and Soutar. When asked what kind of work he did, he often replied “everything that comes in through the door.” He enjoyed the broad range of work and was soon the office computer-fixer, plumber, electrician and odd job man. His office attire included a suit, a court gown and a boiler suit. One lunch time one of the office staff called the others to the window to see Malcolm arriving back after lunch in a suit and tie with his Tesco shopping bag on one arm and a very long ladder under the other.
Malcolm was always busy. His brother Colin can’t recall a time he wasn’t busy. A bewildering array of different tasks would always be in progress at home, each with a different purpose. Sometimes work would continue until 1.00 am or later with Malcolm apparently needing little sleep. This ability to compress a 48 hour day into 24 hours allowed him to completely renovate both of the family homes on Loraine Road.
Malcolm loved working with his hands. Many of the family still have wooden items he had carefully turned himself. His brother Colin and sister in law Ann-Margaret still cherish a beautifully turned 60-minute giant size egg timer, a barometer and a clock.
Four children were born, Jonathan, Aileen, Sarah and Anne. Despite working long days he always made time for family. He got his children involved in the DIY, even if it made a job take twice as long. Crawling around under the house helping with wiring, standing on step ladders holding lamps and watching him work his wood turning machines are some of the memories his children share.
He diversified his woodworking into children’s toys: a ride-on Sopwith Camel biplane, a fire-engine, a fork-lift truck, a doll’s house, a garage and a tree house were all constructed over the years.
The children enjoyed their family camping holidays even though most holidays featured a major weather event – two weeks of continuous rain, weather so hot that the tent disintegrated, high winds, thunderstorms and flash floods. Family holidays were always an event; whether marching through sideways rain in a quarry in Wales or up the only ‘hill’ in the Netherlands. Striving to complete the task together was always key. Perseverance against the odds was not only one of Malcolm’s traits, but one he was keen to encourage in others.
This will to help others complete the journey went beyond his family. One walking trip with students, it became clear it would be dark and cold long before they had reached warmth and transport. So Malcolm left the well-worn path and set off over a rocky outcrop to move the minibus from one end of the route to the other, before returning with a torch to lead them to safety.
In 2002, life changed dramatically. Around the time of his father’s death in Aberdeen, Malcolm suffered serious breathing difficulties and was rushed to hospital, his life in the balance. Church friends in Aberdeen met to pray and by that evening churches and friends all over Scotland were praying for Malcolm. A team of surgeons operated to clear the obstruction and insert a stent to hold his airways open. Malcolm saw every day after that as a gift. He had almost lost his life but had been given extra time.
Soon after, his life changed again when Scott and Soutar merged with Thorntons, and he went from having two partners to being part of a much larger firm. He joined the private client department where he valued each of the partners and staff and very much enjoyed his time working there.
Right from the start of their marriage, Malcolm and Ruth were involved in welcoming international students. Many students who attended the international café have written remembering Malcolm and to express love and concern for the family. It was Malcolm who started the international discussion group, where he enjoyed hearing stories from different parts of the world. He loved to listen and often held back so he could hear what others had to say. It was more important to him to listen, than to voice his own thoughts.
Christmas Day was the highlight of Malcolm’s international year. His idea of celebrating Jesus’ birth was to invite into his home people from all over the world. Soon they had to move furniture and take doors off hinges to fit everyone in. Then they moved to the church hall as numbers continued to grow, to the point of hosting 90 students for a full meal one Christmas day. He would drive a minibus all over town to bring people in. Malcolm often described Friends International as “sharing our lives with international students”. His home, his time, his DIY skills, his views, his humour, his experience and his Christian faith were all shared freely.
Blessed ‘ Extra’ Years
The first time Malcolm was ill, one thing in everyone’s mind was that the children could be left without a father. Instead they had him all through their childhood. He took an interest in everything they did and was supportive of their plans – most of them. He saw each of them starting out in the world of work and finding a way forward. Of all the things that happened in these sixteen ‘extra’ years, his children gave him the most joy. He had great faith in them, but even more that God would provide for them.
They were grateful for those extra years. Malcolm taught them how to ride a bike and drive a car. He taught them that it didn’t matter if they could hold a note or not, they should still sing as loud as they wanted – and in this he led by example. He taught them that napping after work was no bad thing, even when still at the dinner table, especially if you have a further 10 DIY jobs to complete before bed. He taught them how to see things with a sense of humour. Most importantly he taught them how to love unconditionally, to be selfless and to live with integrity.
A conversation Sarah had with Malcolm reveals a lot. She was trying to convince him to take early retirement, to go out and enjoy the time he had with Ruth, doing the things he loved most; creating memories, travelling and making friends. Malcolm’s response was that he was truly content. He had lived to see all of his kids grow up and to share his life with Ruth. He was happy in his work and didn’t want to change anything.
Recently, the stent that had saved his life began to unwind. First he lost his voice, then there was more damage. But Malcolm kept going as usual. In mid-January he realised for the first time the daily lunch-time walk from his office part way up the Law and back would have to stop so he changed the route and walked almost the same distance on the flat.
From the time it was put in, Malcolm knew that one day the stent could cause serious damage, but his recovery after surgery had taught him to live one day at a time, rather than worrying about the next day. He continued living life to the full, as if each day was his last. He didn’t allow fear to bring him to a standstill.
A Strong Faith in a Great Saviour
Malcolm had a strong Christian faith. It was fundamental to his identity, his view of everything, and of how he saw his place in the world.
He was a man of many talents, few words and a dry sense of humour. He was quiet, strong, dependable and cheerful. He would go beyond what was asked and do it in a humble way. He will be remembered as a deeply devoted and loving husband, a wise and fun-filled Dad, a dependable brother, an easy going and caring brother-in-law, an interested and kind uncle, and a loyal friend.
A final word direct from the family
On Malcolm’s last evening, we were all together. We ate, and watched the fire burn bright in the stove – feeling its warm glow. We laughed together at silly things and shared one beautiful final evening. That night he passed away with Ruth and Jonathan by his side. We will always be grateful for the time we spent together that evening.
A few days after Malcolm left us, we went for a walk through the woods at Balmerino. As we started the drive home over the Tay Bridge, the setting sun touched the horizon. As we crossed, the sun set, throwing its light up into the misty sky and across the water. By the time we reached the far side, the sun rested just beyond the horizon, but its soft light lingered to guide us home. We saw him in that sunset, and will remember him in many more. Malcolm held strongly to the hope of life after death, and as surely as we saw the sun set, for him it rose again in a better place.
It has been a privilege in the last few days to hear people’s observations about Malcolm:
Some mentioned his integrity. One comment that struck us particularly came from someone who worked closely with him who wrote, “Malcolm always did what was right.”
Many said they enjoyed the warmth of Malcolm’s smile. That smile was a genuine expression of the warmth and love he felt for people.
He was always full of gratitude.
He was always full of joy.
Kathleen Humphris – 11th March 2019