Minister known for his work combating Glasgow's gang wars

Born: June 11, 1922;

Died: May 6, 2018

REVEREND William Duncan Crombie, who has died aged 95, was always more concerned for others than for himself and he took a genuine interest in the lives of all around him; when asked how he was faring he generally responded with “hinging the gither”. He enjoyed nothing better than sharing stories, jokes and having a sing song with anyone who had time to spare.

Born in Milngavie in 1922, he remembered a happy childhood where he ran free in the surrounding countryside. His father, also William Duncan, was an engineering draughtsman who designed steam trains but during the war, worked on Spitfires at St Rollox in Springburn. His mother Mary looked after Bill and his brothers Lawrence and James.

Bill attended Milngavie Primary school. At aged 8 he contracted diphtheria and spent several months in hospital. After this, his mother proclaimed that he was a delicate child who should not be allowed to take part in rough activities. His so-called delicate disposition didn’t stop him from youth hostelling around Scotland on his own at age 14 and aged 17 just making it back from touring Europe on his own by rail the day before war broke out in 1939.

At Bearsden Academy he was an academic student, gaining the George 5th medal. He went to Glasgow University and gained an honours degree in philosophy and then undertook his bachelor of divinity degree. He founded the University Mountaineering Club and was president of the Dialectic Society in 1943 and then president of the Students Representative Council in 1946.

Summer months were spent helping with the war effort doing farming work on the east coast, and he was an ambulance attendant at the Clydebank Blitz. That left a lasting impression on him and he spoke of the streams of people walking up the Kilbowie Road with no homes to go to. He wanted to join up when war broke out but his older brother who was a pilot in the RAF discouraged him. James was killed in action in 1942 whilst bombing the well protected German U Boat Pens off the west coast of France.

In 1947 Bill became an assistant minister at new Kilpatrick Church in Bearsden and renewed his friendship with Margaret, whom he had known at school. He often told the story that romance followed when he saw the beautiful girl in the church choir and decided that he would marry her. They were married in 1948.

In November 1947 Bill was called to his first charge at Townhead Church in Dumfries. He was only in Dumfries for a few years but he made a big impact on the town as an enthusiastic young minister with new ideas.

He then spent four years as an army chaplain, firstly, with the Gordon Highlanders in Malaysia during the Emergency and then with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in British Guiana.

His interest in youth work developed when he returned from the army and took up his parish ministry in the Macmillan Calton Church in 1955, where he was to stay for over 30 years, living in the manse in Dennistoun.

In the 60s, the Calton was "Tongland” and gang warfare was rife. The churches and Bill’s response to this was to form the ground breaking Calton Youth Club. The aim of the club was to take young people off the streets and give them purposeful activities. His church which sat across the road from the Barras “attracted many dynamic young ministers to work as Bill’s assistants. Many social workers also cut their teeth there.

Ministering in this part of Glasgow suited Bill’s concerns about the inequalities of life. Poverty, poor life expectancy and rising drug abuse featured much in his ministry.

In the late 1960s he attempted to form a professional association for ministers but the idea was ahead of its time and did not come to fruition.

He also served as chaplain at Belvedere and Stobhill hospitals and at Lowmoss Prison. He retired from full time ministry in 1987 but continued to preach until finally hanging up his robes at aged 80.

Bill and Margaret moved to Bearsden on retirement and enjoyed having family nearby and focusing their activities and worship around New Kilpatrick Church.

He enjoyed several hobbies; he played the violin in the Glasgow Senior Citizens orchestra and sailed his yacht at Rhu. He was a writer of newspaper articles, and a Burns scholar. He was chair of Bearsden North Community Council and a member of the Milngavie and Bearsden Ramblers.

He is survived by Margaret, his wife of nearly 70 years and his daughters Maryanne and Elizabeth, five grandchildren and three great grandsons.