John Howieson in Scottish Parliament

Humanist delivers first Gaelic time for reflection

June 4, 2019

John Howieson, a celebrant with Humanist Society Scotland from Skye, has become the first person to deliver time for reflection in Holyrood in Gaelic. The previous contribution in Gaelic was in 2003 before the Scottish Parliament building was opened in 2004.

John’s address fittingly included the poem ‘The Four Winds of Scotland’ by George Campbell Hay whose words are etched into stone on the outside of the Parliament building.

John’s full contribution, translated into English, was as follows:

Good afternoon, friends, and many thanks for inviting me to do this Time for Reflection.

I am a Humanist, and a member of the Scottish Humanist Society, along with about 14,000 others throughout the country. I am also a humanist celebrant, and as such perform weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies for other humanists.

Humanists believe in two main principles: firstly, that we should trust in reason; and secondly, that humanity came into being through evolution. Just as happened with our closest relatives, the great apes,  two sides of our nature developed – the competitive, violent side, and the peaceful, loving, co-operative side.

The number of people who hold these views is constantly rising.  For example, in 2017 – the most recent year for which figures are available – humanist celebrants conducted nearly 12% of all weddings taking place in Scotland.  

And what a country for a wedding! As a celebrant based in the Isle of Skye, I have tied the knot for others in some of the most beautiful places in the world – at the foot of the Cullins, beside the Old Man of Storr, in castles and on beaches, in rain and in sun and with the wind blowing.

Talking of the wind, here is the poem, ‘The Four Winds of Scotland’, by the poet George Campbell Hay, about what this beautiful country meant to him:

My melodious, gentle breeze blowing from southward in my Summer
birchwood is she;
my ocean storm, with downpour sending in headlong spate each
burn for me;
the north wind with driving snow that makes beautiful the hills for me;
the wind that drives my Springtime muirburn up the slopes of glens
is she.


The leaves of Summer, the spate of Autumn, the snowdrifts and the
high Spring wind is she;
the sough of the woodland, the roaring of waterfalls, the freshness of
the snow and the heather ablaze is she.

All year long, each season through, each day and each fall of dusk
for me,
it is Scotland, Highland and Lowland, that is laughter and warmth and
life for me.

Many thanks for listening.  Now, I wish you a good debate, good reasoning and good co-operation for the sake of our country – Scotland, Highland and Lowland. Good day to you all.

John Howieson, Humanist Society Scotland

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