St Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Dumbarton (above; dedicated to St Augustine of Hippo) is possibly the most important building in my life. Not just because it was where I got married – though that can’t be minimised. It was the church where my grandfather (the original Jack Deighton) was the incumbent Rector in the 1930s and 1940s. The Episcopalian ministry was more or less the Deighton family business. Not only my grandfather but his brother (my great uncle,) his son (my uncle,) and his grandson (my brother) took up holy orders – or as I used to put it, “I come from a long line of penguins.” My generation was where the tradition ended though.
The church was where I spent a fair part of each Sunday in my youth as a member of the church choir. There were two accompanied services each Sunday; Matins/Morning Prayer or Sung Eucharist in the morning and Evensong in the evening.
More germane to its importance to my life is that it was where my mother first laid eyes on my father as he entered church in the choir procession and she told herself, “I’m going to marry that boy.” At the time they were both aged nine! My mother was a strong-willed woman and knew her own mind from a young age: her mother said she was so thrawn she’d walk on the other side of the road because she didn’t want to walk with the rest of the family. My father never had a choice. Still, without that I wouldn’t be here.
Since I moved to Fife the only times I have entered St Augustine’s have been for family funerals or as in Saturday’s case a memorial service for an old family friend who died earlier in the year. It was a chance to see how cruel time is to us all. One woman said to me, “I know you,” but couldn’t work out who I was till she was told. Mind you I didn’t recognise her either. My excuse is that she’d changed her hair colour.
I took the photograph below of the chancel, high altar, reredos and stained glass window at the east end; now all much more visible from the nave since the rood screen was removed during restoration. (The pictures on the lower altar are from the life of the old family friend.) The reredos is a particularly fine example of the form.
The War Memorial to St Augustine’s congregation members used to be to the right of the entrance door. When the church was refurbished with heritage funding – the church is a grade A listed building – it was relocated to halfway or so up the left hand side:-
It only occurred to me when I got home that this was probably the last time I’ll ever attend St Augustine’s. With the loss of that old family friend I no longer have a connection to the church and none with Dumbarton – except for the glorious Sons of the Rock of course. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take more photographs, especially of the stained glass windows facing the High Street.