New Venture, Remarkable Lady

In the late 90s, I served as an elder on session at Bon Accord Free Church of Scotland in Aberdeen, where Iver Martin was minister and the legendary Dr. Ian MacDonald served as session clerk.  My sons were very young then and avid readers of the Free Church's children's magazine, The Instructor. Neither glossy nor slick, it was still good stuff for children, at least for those reared in a pre-XBox environment.  It was -- indeed, still is -- edited by Irene Howat, wife of the Rev. Angus Howat, a former moderator of the Free Kirk.

I always remember Irene calling me one evening out of the blue in order to make sure she had the birth dates of my boys correct for the next edition of the magazine.  Each month a page was always devoted to noting Free Kirk children's birthdays.  The kids loved seeing their names in print and knowing somebody had noticed them.   Her call struck me as a sign of real quality: she did not know me or my boys at all; yet she had true concern for them. She wanted to make sure that two of her readers were not disappointed when they opened their copies and looked for their names.  There are those who mouth the rhetoric of care for the little people; and there are those who simply and quietly get on with caring for them.  Irene, her attitude no doubt shaped by her own suffering and weakness, is one of the latter. She has struggled for many years with illness and pain yet she has worked faithfully behind the scenes, editing a magazine for the least among us as the world sees them and also writing wonderful children's books.

Now she has launched a new venture, a 'story a month' website which, for a small fee, allows parents to get access to her material, along with helpful activities, on a regular basis.   Details can be found here.  If her books are anything to go by, the investment will be more than repaid.