Reverend J H Mechie
The most forceful church personality in Fauldhouse was the Reverend J H Mechie, minister of Fauldhouse United Free Church. The church stood at the top of Store Brae, close to Crofthead Co-op. After the union of the two Church of Scotland charges in Fauldhouse in the 1970s, it was demolished.
Mr Mechie was something of a firebrand, and asked his Presbytery several times to release him for military service. They refused their permission, so he fought his battles at home, particularly that in favour of liquor control. Like the United Free Church in general, he was strongly in favour of total abstinence from strong drink. During the war, there were several campaigns to persuade people to sign the ‘pledge’ (a promise never to drink alcohol). In 1915, at a service taken by Mr Mechie, no fewer than 80 people signed the pledge.
In January 1918, the Linlithgow Food Controller asked all ministers to read out from the pulpit a letter pointing out the urgent need for food economy. In his reply to the Food Controller (which the West Lothian Courier published on 4 January 1918), Mr Mechie wrote:
I have a fire ready for the literature that you purpose sending.
An ardent tee-totaller, his point was that the Government asked the people to eat less, yet allowed huge quantities of barley to be used for the drinks trade.
The sober, industrious, law-abiding subjects of this country will not much longer tolerate the taking away of their own and their children’s bread to provide the boozers with their booze.
After a sharp exchange of letters, Mr Mechie moved on to further criticisms of the Government, accusing it of censorship and restricting the free flow of information to ordinary people. His anger had been aroused by Government restrictions on the sale of paper, and their Food Economy campaign.
On 18 January 1918 the West Lothian Courier published his letter:
They were anxious to starve the intellect of the proletariats; now they are for starving the body as well. Then they established a Censorship and enabled a Defence of the Realm Act, both of which have been abused to prevent the truth about alcohol and its doing reaching the ears of the nation... Stop the drink! At the present moment, while the German submarine is destroying 120,000 quartern loaves a day, the Government is destroying in the making of alcohol 750,000 loaves a day, or more than six times the amount that is being destroyed by German submarines. A brutal, cowardly, criminal Government are asking the many to go hungry that a few may be drugged with alcohol.
In his fierce criticism of the government and its policies, he may have come perilously close to being prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act.
©1914-18:Fauldhouse Remembers group
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