Alex McLellan, Snr. was born in Edinburgh on November 30th 1944.
The son of James and Rose McLellan. His Dad, James, or Jimmy as he was known, went into the navy straight from school and married Rose on his first leave. The couple were delighted to welcome little Alex into the world, their only child.
As a young boy, Alex was known for riding his bike up and down the street (since not too many kids had bikes at that time) and every weekend he was playing football - captaining his local team. He played well into his adult years, cheering on his local team on Saturday afternoons, Edinburgh’s finest: Hibernian football club.
Alex grew up in Leith, close to the Docks on the east side of Edinburgh. He described his home as a “single-en’” (which basically means a single room) and he captivated his kids whenever he told them stories about the gas lighting and outside toilet.
Later the family moved to a larger, more modern flat in Drylaw in Edinburgh and this is the place he would call home. It was a childhood with lots of friends, lots of fun and lots of outdoor activities.
Alex left school at 15 – not unusual in those days - and started work as an electrician. He worked hard during the day and enjoyed the local dance scene on the weekends – this was the 60’s.
At a local dance club, he asked one pretty young lady to dance. Her name was June Smith. June had been a talented ballerina, and her form and features quickly caught Alex’s attention. So he offered to walk her home, not knowing that this lady would become June McLellan, my Mum – and this journey would continue for the next fifty years.
There was no Christian input or influence at this stage of Alex’s life. This is important to point out because of what happened later. He never grew up going to church – indeed he never gave it much thought. While he told us he was fearful of death, like many people he got too busy living to think about dying.
After a year’s engagement, Alex and June were married and the couple rented a small flat in Edinburgh. The next year a beautiful wee girl was on her way and the couple bought their first house – a small flat in Robertson Avenue. Alex loved music – he could remember the words to almost every song from the 60’s - and one popular hit inspired them to name their first child, Paula.
Within two years, the family of three grew to a family of four, and I made my appearance. June wanted to call her son, Andrew (after her brother) but Alex had other ideas, so when June was released from the hospital she discovered she was holding another Alex in her arms (thereafter called “Wee Alex”).
The bigger family needed a bigger house – on the ground floor, so Alex and June bought another property, a terraced house in Craiglockhart, a sought-after part of town. From the outside, the family seemed to be moving in the right direction. However, cracks had been appearing in the relationship for a long time. So just when things ought to have been settling down, they started falling apart.
In 1971, after six years of marriage, Alex and June got divorced.
Alex moved back in with his parents in Drylaw. June moved into a council flat in a new development on the opposite side of town. For the next six years, Alex went back to the life of a single man – working, playing football and going out with friends. He would still visit the kids on weekends - even taking them on holiday, but the family was broken beyond repair….
…or so it seemed.
On a visit to see the kids, Alex discovered that on 1st December 1974, June had become a Christian. He noticed a real change in her life – for the better – and this got his attention. He wanted to find out the reason so Alex started hanging around church. People got to know “the guy who would sit outside, on the steps” until he was brave enough to go inside.
Alex sat in church for one year, hearing the same message that June heard, one that for two thousand years has changed people’s lives around the world.
God does exist. He created this world – he created people in this world, and each person is created to know God, to live in a relationship with God and to spend eternity with God.
That’s the good news.
Then he heard the bad news.
This broken world is full of broken people and there’s nothing we can do to earn or deserve a relationship with a good and perfect God. There’s nothing we can do to reach up to him.
However, Alex heard something that would change his life forever, literally.
God loves broken people in this broken world, so much that he sent HIS son, Jesus into this world to die on a cross and to give his life for you and for me. We all know the idea of a substitute – someone standing in the gap and taking our place. Well, the Bible says, Jesus is our substitute. He stood in the gap and took our punishment on his shoulders.
So the price has been paid, Jesus is reaching out to each one of us, and we need to decide: are we willing to humble ourselves and take his hand, or will we choose to go our own way in life?
On 7th May 1977, Alex decided Jesus is the only way!
He took the step of faith to ask God for forgiveness, believing Jesus died on the cross for him, and that Jesus rose again to conquer death – which means Alex was welcomed into God’s family that day, beginning a relationship with the living God that would last forever.
Most people know Alex had a gentle spirit, but he was someone who used to party - hard. So those who knew him before were surprised to see the transformation into a godly man who stopped smoking and drinking and was committed to God and to his family.
Alex’s life was a wonderful example of the fact true Christianity is not something you do on the outside, to become the right kind of person on the inside – earning your way to heaven.
True Christianity is something God does on the inside – guaranteeing you a home in heaven, and then changing your life on the outside.
Christianity is not outside-in.
Christianity is inside-out.
Christianity is not about what you can do for God.
Christianity is about what God has done for you.
God loves you enough to send his son, Jesus to die for you, so you can be with him forever.
This message meant everything to Alex. It changed his life and through him, it has changed the lives of many others.
One of the biggest changes was in Alex’s relationship with June. It was amazing to see they were getting on better than ever, but even more amazing when they told the kids they were getting back together.
On June 3rd, 1978, Alex and June were remarried.
Paula and I got our Dad back.
Alex became involved in Wester Hailes Baptist Church. A popular youth leader, he had a sense of fun but also a deep wisdom, compassion and a listening ear. Later he served as a church elder, known to speak boldly yet sensitively whenever the church wrestled with difficult issues.
Alex and June moved to Holy Trinity, another church in Edinburgh, and Alex started a men’s ministry, served at the Christmas pensioner’s meal, taught Bible classes and worked with the youth. His gentleness and compassion won him a place in many people’s hearts.
One memorable moment was at a church party when Alex & June performed the ballet, Swan Lake, playing the roles made famous by Margot Fontayne and Rudolph Nureyev. It was all the more memorable because Alex played the part of the ballerina.
It was always a source of delight to Alex when he was able to spend time with his Grandchildren. He enjoyed making memories with Sophia, Moriah and Asher in Scotland, and then visiting them when they moved to America.
Alex worked for T.B. McKay Energy Services for 35 years, and as retirement approached, Alex and June were ready for a new season. They moved south to Burgess Hill, closer to Paula and her husband Mark, and the grandchildren, Sophie and Lewis.
Alex worked his final few years for a local electrical company and put down spiritual roots in their new church at The Point. The couple joined 345, a church home group, and this became a place to study the Bible, pray and support one another through life’s joys and trials.
Retirement came easily to Alex, giving him more time to spend with the Grandkids. He loved listening to Sophie sing and act, and he forged a special bond with Lewis, taking him to football every week. When he wasn’t with June or the Grandkids he was easy to find: drinking his coffee and reading his paper in one of the many coffee shops in Burgess Hill.
Normally enjoying good health, Alex began to experience some physical challenges last year. Admitted to hospital for a small surgery, the doctors discovered his heart was not in good shape. The next six months would prove extremely difficult, but June’s love and commitment to Alex shone through – caring for Alex in sickness and in health. Despite the difficulty of this time, God deepened their love and created many moments together that June will treasure.
For the last few months, Alex was in a lot of pain and on a lot of medication, yet his courage and faith stood strong - so strong that it wasn’t always easy to know how much he was really suffering.
Now, ten years since Alex moved to Burgess Hill - in his 72nd year, God has decided to call Alex home. He leaves a world where he was loved by many, and that means he’s left a big hole in many lives and in many hearts.
I want to close with a statement made by the great Christian leader, DL Moody, who said, “…one day you will hear that I have died. Don’t believe it because on that day I’ll be more alive than ever!”
For the Christian, this is not wishful thinking. This is concrete assurance based on the rock-solid promises of God. At this moment, Alex McLellan is enjoying the presence of Almighty God, and one day all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ can look forward to seeing him again.
I know what my Dad would want to say to you today.
Thank you for your love, friendship and encouragement over the years.
Thank you for your love, friendship and encouragement to my wife, June.
Finally, thank you, Jesus for your help and strength on this part of the journey, and now that I have finished well, I can see you face to face.
Author and speaker.