Much-loved former Aberdeen minister, Rev George Cowie – who was known for his great sense of humour – has died aged 58.
George, who led Holburn Central Church and later became Chaplain-in-Ordinary to the Queen, passed away after a long illness.
A call to Aberdeen
A supporter of oil and gas chaplaincy, he moved to Aberdeen with his family in 1999.
In 2006 his congregation merged with Ruthrieston South Church to form South Holburn Church.
The city of his father’s birth, Aberdeen was home to the Cowie family until 2017 when he moved to begin his Glasgow role.
Born in Dundee but raised in Hyndland and Jordanhill, George attended Glasgow University.
He studied civil engineering which opened the door for work with Tayside Regional Council.
From there, following in the footsteps of his dad Gordon, he pursued his call to the ministry.
Licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1990 he was ordained and inducted as minister of Auchtertool linked with Kirkcaldy in 1991.
Friends and colleagues described him as a man of deep compassion, wisdom, integrity, humour and said the church has lost a “true servant” of Christ.
George is survived by his wife Marian who is also a minister, their son Graeme, daughter Kay and grandson Logan.
One of a kind
Other notable appointments during his ministry included convening the church’s legal questions committee and serving as acting depute clerk to the General Assembly in 2014-15.
Rev Dr Grant Barclay said George, who died peacefully on December 21, was ideally suited for the role of clerk to the Presbytery of Glasgow.
“George had a wide experience of church life as a parish minister in Fife and then in Aberdeen.
“He possessed a deep knowledge of church law,” he added.
He went on to say that his principled commitment, genuine care and sense of humour were found to be immensely supportive and encouraging.
“George was everything we could have wanted in a boss – he was one of a kind and will be missed.”
While serving the congregation of South Holburn, Mr Cowie shared clerking duties at the former Presbytery of Aberdeen with Rev Dr John Ferguson.
Now clerk to the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, he shared a poignant tribute for his friend of 30 years.
“George was an outstanding parish minister who cared deeply for his people.
“He had a very sharp mind, a brilliant sense of humour and showed deep compassion to others.
“He was a very good friend and I always knew I could turn to him for sound advice and rely on his strong support.
“The church has lost a true servant of Christ.”
While in the north-east George played a key role in establishing a partnership between Aberdeen Presbytery, the university and Zomba Theological College, Malawi.
The alliance provided additional training for Malawian ministers removing the need for Masters studies to take place in the UK.
Very Rev Dr Derek Browning first got to know Mr Cowie through their work with the General Assembly.
He described him as being unflappable with a dry and pawky sense of humour.
Dr Browning added: “George was the noblest of colleagues, the finest of friends and the aficionado of good malt whisky.
“He was amongst the safest pair of hands the General Assembly has known in the handling of many challenging issues.
“How I miss him.”
In 2017 George was appointed a Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen during a service at South Holburn Church.
Very Rev Professor David Fergusson, Dean of the Chapel Royal, described him as a “distinguished servant of the Kirk”.
He added: “We have lost a wise and trusted colleague who had much still to offer.
“While George’s absence will be keenly felt, especially by Marian, Kay and Graeme, we offer thanks to God for his years of service and friendship.”
Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance was Dean of the Chapel Royal at the time of Mr Cowie’s installation.
He described George as “one of the people I most trusted and admired in the church”.
Oil and gas support
During his time in Aberdeen, Mr Cowie was a strong supporter of chaplaincy within the UK oil and gas industry.
He provided invaluable assistance to the trustees of the Oil Chaplaincy Trust after former chaplain, Rev Andrew Jolly, fell ill.
Following Rev Jolly’s death in 2010, George helped appoint Rev Gordon Craig as successor.
Mr Craig said: “George was a man who touched the lives of so many with his compassion and humour.
“I consider it an honour to have known him and can think of no other who epitomised the word ‘gentleman’ better.”
Mr Cowie’s funeral is being held at New Kilpatrick Parish Church in Bearsden on January 12. It will be available to watch the online.