For over sixty years, Netherlee Church has enjoyed a partnership with St Andrew’s Scots Kirk in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which began as a result of the friendship in the 1950s between two ministers: Rev Stanley Mair (Netherlee) and the Rev Andrew Baillie (Colombo). These strong links and friendship have continued to the present day with our current minister, the Rev Tom Nelson, and his wife Catherine, visiting Sri Lanka in 2006 and again in 2009 to take our greetings to St. Andrew’s and establish connections with the various projects which we, as a church, support.
There has also been a live connection between the 91st Glasgow (Netherlee) Scouts and the 17th Colombo St Andrew’s (Netherlee) Scout Group over the years, and the Netherlee congregation has been giving regular financial assistance to the Scout Group in Colombo since the 1950s. This link has been strengthened by the current Netherlee Group Scout Leader, Dorothy Hamilton who has paid several visits to Sri Lanka. On returning from a visit in Spring 2016, Dorothy brought with her a rug made for the church by the ladies of Netherlee Cottage in Colombo, which she presented to the congregation at the Youth Organisations service in April.
Another outreach project we have supported on a regular basis is Ladies Ward 19 at Mulleriyawa Mental Hospital. Church members from St Andrew’s have visited and supported the patients in this ward on a monthly basis. As well as providing music, song, dance and refreshments every month, St Andrew’s has engaged in a programme of refurbishment of the ward which has included new TV and clock, lights and fans, doors and windows, showers and toilets, internal and external painting. A donation from Netherlee Church contributed to this.
However, it was in 2005 that the congregation of Netherlee made a major contribution to the establishment and continuing operation of a halfway house called ‘Netherlee Cottage’, to enable ladies from Mulleriyawa to be rehabilitated into society. The provision of Netherlee Cottage means that up to 6 women can live in community with support rather than in an institution and they can develop skills for employment and moving on to independent living, making new friends and having a social life. There are two staff members, the House Mother who joined at the start in 2005 and her Deputy who joined in 2007. Three of the original residents remain whilst others have made the transition to independent living, giving the opportunity for more ladies to benefit from the services of Netherlee Cottage. Over the years the original residents have grown in confidence and skills.
On their visits to Sri Lanka, our minister, Tom Nelson, and his wife Catherine took our greetings to St. Andrew’s. On his return, Tom showed us in words and pictures, that, alongside the beautiful beaches and luxury hotels, there was also great poverty and squalor in Colombo. He also told of the wonderful work being done there, by St Andrew’s and, through our donations and support, by the people of Netherlee Church. Homes and businesses destroyed by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 have been rebuilt, and, while he was there, Tom was privileged to open a coir rope factory, built with some of the money that we sent. The St Andrew’s minister at that time, the Rev John Purves, was awarded an MBE for his services to Sri Lanka.
Tom praised St Andrew’s minister and the whole multi-national congregation for the magnificent work they were doing, describing the church as a beautiful beacon of light in this rushing, bustling city. While in Sri Lanka, Tom was delighted to preach at St Andrew’s centenary service, and to make a presentation of gifts from Netherlee – including a pewter quaich which will now be used as St Andrew’s baptismal bowl.