Obituary: Tribute to Chris Rosie, devoted family man of deep faith who lived a full life
Chris Rosie, 18th February 1941 – 11th December 2010
James Christopher MacRae Rosie was born at Heylor, North Mavine, in the home of his aunt Mary. He was the eldest son of the late Arthur and Margaret Rosie. His father was a lighthouse keeper, and as a result the family moved frequently around the Northern and Western Isles. During his early life the family lived in homes at Copinsay, Lewis, Skerries and Bressay.
When Chris was peerie he was very weak due to asthma, a condition he endured all his life. A doctor told his mother that he would be unlikely to see his sixth birthday.
When they were in Skerries, they lived at the shore station which had been bombed during the war. In fact two of the rooms in the house couldn’t be used and the shore station had been abandoned by everyone else. Only Chris, his two sisters and his mother remained. During that time there was a period of six weeks when Chris was so ill, his mother never had her clothes off, as she nursed him night and day.
His mother always took great care of Chris and was very protective of him. Due to his ill health he spent a considerable part of his childhood confined to bed and didn’t start attending school until he was aged eight. He learned to be content and would read Bible stories and draw. These early experiences nurtured traits which were to characterise him throughout his life. He was always a very contented person and was a very gifted artist who could draw anything.
Chris loved to watch the ships go past when they were stationed at the Bressay Lighthouse, and quickly learned all the ships’ names. On one occasion when his parents went across to Lerwick, they asked him what they could bring him back. He asked for a bag of nails! His mam kept him an old chair and he was so happy sitting banging in the nails. Throughout his life he was always very competent doing DIY, especially woodwork, and could really turn his hand to anything.
The family moved to Lerwick and made their home at St Magnus Street. He became great friends with his cousin, the late Henry Gilbertson, and spent many a day at Henry’s family home in Law Lane. Being both very musical and a with a great sense of fun, they formed a very entertaining double act.
After Chris left the Central School, he went to work on the Earl of Zetland. He enjoyed this and would have liked to have made a career in the Merchant Navy but his health issues meant that would not be possible. He eventually had to leave the Earl and went to work at Laurenson Brothers, a gents outfitter on Commercial Street. Later that business was taken over by Louie Pottinger and became J R White’s. Chris worked there for many years and became very well known throughout Shetland for his knowledge and exceptional customer service. On their days off, Louie and Chris would enjoy many a trip on Louie’s boat.
In 1955 the American evangelist Billy Graham held a series of gospel rallies at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. These were relayed to venues around Britain. Chris attended these meetings in Lerwick and at one of them he went forward and spoke to the late Magnie Doull who led him to the Lord. One beautiful Sunday in August 1958 at St Ninian’s Isle Chris, his two brothers and their parents made a public declaration of their faith when they were baptised by immersion in the sea.
In September 1964 at Lerwick Baptist Church, Chris married Barbara Doull from Muckle Roe. They enjoyed their honeymoon in the north-east of Scotland. While there, they were asked to go and sing, and for Chris to play his guitar to the inmates of Peterhead Prison. Chris had a beautiful voice, he was always singing and playing his guitar. He loved country gospel music. He dedicated his life to singing and preaching about the Lord whom he loved. He started preaching from the age of 18 and continued to do so until his illness. Many people have fond memories of the coffee bar, which Chris ran with Babs for 30 years. It took place on Sunday evenings and was a fixture in many young people’s lives. Playing his guitar, singing choruses and telling people about the Lord. In years gone by he would often be seen at the Market Cross along with others having open air meetings, singing and preaching. Chris went for years to the Old Gilbert Bain Hospital, again taking his guitar and singing to the old people there, even on Christmas morning. Chris and his cousin Henry with others often went and took meetings at various places around Shetland.
Chris and Babs were blessed with a family of three bairns – Mark, Steve and Estelle. They were both very proud of the family. Chris was a keen photographer and took many photos of the family at home, on holidays and on trips around Shetland. The family grew with daughter-in-laws Rachel and Lesley and son-in-law Charles. Chris loved each of his nine grandbairns: Christian, Nathan, Lewis, Jordan, Aaron, Janine, Luke, John-Lee and Estella. He was always present at their birthdays and was very proud of them all. His kind and patient manner made him a grandad they loved dearly.
Chris was made redundant from J R White’s in 1997. This kind of work was a very big part of his life and not something he wanted to give up. In March 1998, he started up in business with his son-in-law, Charles Smith, opening a menswear shop in the Toll Clock Shopping Centre, specialising in men’s suits. His name has been associated with men’s outfitting in Shetland for half a century and his knowledge and expertise in this field will be sadly missed. He also chaired tenants’ meetings at the centre, not an official post but one for which his talents were suited. He was trusted by all and his mere presence made those occasions much more enjoyable. He loved the social aspect of the shop immensely and the many yarns he would have when his friends came in, which was a daily occurrence. Chris entered into business purely to continue in the work which he enjoyed and excelled at.
Chris and Babs have enjoyed many holidays together and they were regular travellers on Andrew Morrison’s trips. Chris had a special love for Norway and took hundreds of photos, capturing the beautiful mountains and fjords. He loved the food there, so much so that one woman commented she had never seen anyone enjoying their food like Chris. His warm friendly personality made him a very popular member of every coach party. He would often say there was no place like Norway and was a very active member of the Shetland Norwegian friendship society. He was very proud of the connection Shetlanders have with our Scandinavian neighbours and was keen to maintain and promote it whenever he could. He was also involved with the Faroe friendship society. In 2009 the couple enjoyed their sapphire wedding anniversary in Switzerland. Chris really appreciated the spectacular Alpine scenery and of course captured it on camera. The last few years they have made a point of taking many short holidays in Scotland – Inverness, Stirling, Glasgow, Perth and Aberdeen. Although he enjoyed travelling, he loved Shetland and has thousands of photos of the beautiful countryside, the birdlife, flowers, landscapes and sunsets here at home. He was continuously invited to attend different social occasions to show his slides and also take his guitar along to sing and give a message.
He lead such a full life, he had so many interests. He enjoyed gardening, DIY, photography, writing poetry, making furniture and of course music. For many years he was a member of the Islesburgh photographic club and also the Sound gardening club, of which he was treasurer for a time. A very community minded person who was willing to give his time to so much. He spent many years as a leader at the Sound youth club and was very popular with both the young people and the other adults. For the last 37 years he attended the Ebenezer Hall. He was an extremely active member and elder of the assembly there. He was always very approachable with both old and young. He was always willing to give his time to anyone who came to him with any issue or problem. He had a great energy for so many things, especially the work of his Lord. Through his personal ministry many have come to faith in Jesus Christ and those already in the faith, strengthened and encouraged. Chris had so much to give, and he freely gave. He loved to be active and he always was. A visiting speaker at Ebenezer Hall last Sunday stated that Chris Rosie was a giant of the faith in Shetland. On Friday 17th December 2010 at the Ebenezer Hall in Lerwick, close to 400 people attended his funeral, despite the snowy weather conditions. Not only was he a man who was well known and highly respected but he was genuinely loved by many who knew him, and not just close family and friends. His engaging manner, bright shining eyes and welcoming smile will never be forgotten. His passing has left a void in the lives of us all.
Deeply missed by his loving wife Babs, by Mark, Lesley, Jordan and Janine; Steve, Rachel, Nathan, Aaron and John-Lee; Estelle, Charles, Christian, Lewis, Luke and Estella; also, his sisters Mavine and Irene, his brothers Ian and Alan and all their families.