One would never think that our friends, the animals, could have religious beliefs. However, about this, a paradox has always existed. Noah was commanded to save the animals in the Great Flood, and yet we are told in scripture, that there will be no room for earth's animals in the heavens above. Not a little bird falls to the ground, we are told, that Heaven does not know about. These contradictions, and some more, have , since time began, forced the animals to play it safe, and follow mankind in their numerous religious beliefs. All over the world, the religious practices of their masters, are mirrored in those of their animals. eg. Hindu/Hindu or Buddhist/Buddhist etc.
In "Taigh Shoudie", Murdo and Iain were nominally Church of Scotland, but their attendance at services was almost nil. But the "boys" were almost uniquely aware that the animals might have religious leanings, and because of that,they were encouraged to attend church, if they so desired. Dogs and cats were adherents of the Animal Church in Scotland, by far the largest in the country. There were now many foreign breeds of dog and cat in the Church, but this church was all-inclusive and that, everyone believed, was a good thing. Services and prayer meetings were held in an old abandoned house in Doune, down by the loch, and these were generally well attended. The human population would not be aware of these large gatherings which commenced at 3.00 am. on Sunday mornings, and mankind seemed deaf to the baying and eldritch shrieks of the animals in their Psalm singing. A big attraction at the Animal Church in Scotland here in Doune was undoubtedly the minister in charge, the Right Reverend John MacCollie, an evangelical and, something of the "charismatic", some professed. This huge dog had very humble beginnings. In his testimony, he speaks of his first memory being with his two brothers, all three of them pups, at the "Cat and Dog Home" in Cardonald in Glasgow. This was not an auspicious start in life, but, as a minister here in Lewis, he now occupied a position of respect among the people at large . Rev. MacCollie was a humble man, "eagalach diadhaidh" ( terribly godly), people said . He was converted during one of the many "awakenings" that had swept through the island in times past. His master took the "curam" and Big John MacCollie followed in his wake.
The Dalmore animals, with a few exceptions (the hill cats, Tom and Kenny Iceland), were fairly regular attenders on Sundays, but rarely went to the Wednesday prayer meetings, which were for the truly committed and the "curamach" ( the converted ) . In any case it was a fair distance down to Doune. The Precentor, who lead the congregation in singing the Psalms, but never, ever hymns, was an old grey moggy, called "Donnachadh Spagach"( hen-toed) . Old Duncan was an irascible old tom, who started every psalm with the tune of "Amazing Grace", irrespective of the psalm that had been called. Talk of caterwauling; old Duncan's "singing" was a painful experience for those, like Fancy and Rupie, who knew every psalm by heart, and enjoyed singing.
The Right Reverend MacCollie (the title Rt. Rev. was conferred on him for being Moderator of the General Assembly of the Animal Church in Scotland in 1950), was a humble big soul who felt a little awkward when addressed as the Right Reverend, by any one of his congregation. During the week, he was like any other crofter's dog, whether at a fank or at the peats. There was however one thing which puzzled other animals about John MacCollie, and So-Sally was definitely one of them. No matter where he went, or the work he was involved in, MacCollie always wore his dog collar, whether grappling with sheep or cutting peat out on the moor. For such a humble dog, others could not understand the ever present dog collar. He seemed to be very attached to it. Well, in a way he was.
For the Dalmore crowd, it was time to return home, but there would be no singing or laughing, as it was still the Sabbath. Someone once "reported" Soho and Rupie for just that,and Iain Shoudie was very cross with them - well, not really. He just shook his head, gave a wink and smiled.