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The Very Reverend Ronald Selby Wright, 1908-1995
[used under Common licence from the National Portrait Gallery]

The Radio Padre - Ronald Selby Wright

East Lothian can hardly claim ‘ownership’ of The Very Reverend Ronald (Ronnie) Selby Wright but it can bask a little in the sunshine of this talented, unusual and unusually well-known cleric. Since Selby Wright’s connection with East Lothian was partly pre-war, partly during and partly post, I am, perhaps, stretching a point to include a chapter on him on this website. However, his connection with East Lothian was real and his work with the boys of the Canongate, at summer camps at Skateraw and elsewhere in the county, was a practical example of his faith in operation.

We can also see, from some of his famous wartime radio talks, that this experience must have had a strong influence upon his work at the BBC. Finally, while Padre to the 7th/9th Royal Scots (the Dandy Ninth), Selby Wright was billeted in Waverley House, Gullane, from November 1940 to October 1941. I think this passes the test for inclusion.

Ronald was a Glaswegian, born in 1908, who came to Edinburgh for his university and vocational training and, by and large, stayed put. After his training he spent a year in St Mungo’s Cathedral in Glasgow and was then appointed Assistant Minister at the Canongate Church in 1937. This rundown church, nestling in the heart of an area of high deprivation, was where Selby Wright was to practice as a minister for the next forty years.

St Giles and the Canongate Boys' Club

At Canongate Church Selby Wright was faced with a host of deep-rooted problems: the fabric of the church itself required significant restoration and the area it was located in was hardly awash with cash; additionally, many of the youth of the area were raised in the destructive grip of poverty. That Selby Wright found the means to tackle both problems, in addition to a host of additional ones, was a tribute to his doggedness, ability and Christian care.

As a student in Edinburgh, Ronald Selby Wright had been Warden of St Giles’ Boys’ Club, as well as serving as a cadet officer in the Royal Scots. Both strands of this phase of his life converged in East Lothian. The useful experience he had had of running the Boys’ club at St Giles was put to good use when he established one in the Canongate too. There must have been a measure of the Victorian about Selby Wright in that he clearly believed that a Boys’ Club was a means whereby its members could socialise in safety, pursue healthy outdoor sports and through which he could minister to his flock’s youth freed from the constraints of the Sunday pulpit.

This page is under active construction: 18.11.2020