Auld alliance honoured at kirk

Scotland will always remember the Auld Alliance with France.

Formed in 1295 to curtail English muscle-flexing (sound familiar?) it eventually collapsed, alas, because, as the BBC puts it, “after the Reformation, the Auld Alliance was no longer feasible between Protestant Scotland and Catholic France but the trade in claret continued. People simply kept drinking it”.

The connection continues and comes occasionally to public view as, for example, at the dedication of a cross (the Caskie Cross) at the Scots Kirk in Paris in April.

The Rev Donald Caskie was minister of the Scots Kirk at the time of the German invasion in 1940 and chose to stay in France.

He helped run an escape network for allied servicemen – shot-down aircrew, mainly – but was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and sentenced to death. He was saved by a fellow padre, the German pastor Hans-Helmut Peters, who appealed for clemency.

Rev. Caskie spent the rest of the war in a prison camp. After the war, he continued his ministry at the kirk and was most hospitable to boys of my school in Scotland, George Watson’s Boys’ College, who visited Paris, notably those who came on summer term exchanges with students of the Lycée Henri IV. We all admired him enormously and, in gratitude for his kindness, in 1959, the boys made a large collection of threepenny bits (today about 50p) and presented the kirk with a large wooden cross — the Caskie Cross — which hung there until 2002 when the old kirk was torn down.

The cross was consigned to the cellar of the replacement building, where it remained until a former Watson’s pupil, Andrew Brown, found it and arranged for its resurrection, as it were.

In 1960, Rev. Caskie retired to Scotland, where he died in 1983, a revered figure.

The service to unveil the cross at the kirk in April was well attended.

Rev. Caskie published an autobiographical account of his wartime activities as The Tartan Pimpernel in 1957.

Brian Cloughley, Voutenay-sur-Cure

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