One of Father Tosh's former parishioners wrote that tribute on hearing of his death. Many people would have echoed her words.
Alistair Grant Tosh, son of Andrew and Jane (Grant) was born in Dumfries on 3 September 1939, the day that war broke out. He attended Saint Andrew's Primary School and Saint Joseph's College in Dumfries. As a boy, Alistair was mischievous and accident-prone, because he never stopped to think. He was knocked down by a tractor and rushed to hospital, he fell from trees and got up to all sorts of pranks. So his family was surprised when, on his parish priest's advice, he went to Blairs College because he wanted to be a priest. He wasn't very happy at Blairs. He used to say, in his own blunt way, that he was starved while there and often got into bother. But he enjoyed the sports that were played and especially cricket.
Alistair was a compulsive whistler and there is a story about this from his six years in the senior seminary of Saint Andrew's, Drygrange. Along with a few of his friends, he went on a forbidden visit to the cinema to see "Bridge on the River Kwai". Of course he came back, whistling the film's theme tune. The spiritual director twigged. He was in bother again!
Alistair was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph McGee in Saint Teresa's, Dumfries, on 30 March 1963 - a joyous and proud day for him, his parents, three sisters and two brothers. The only slight disappointment was that the ordination did not take place in Saint Andrew's Cathedral, his home parish and where he had been baptised as the church had been destroyed by fire two years earlier.
Father Tosh was given his first appointment to the newly opened church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Kilmarnock. He told how he wrote to Bishop McGee informing him that he would like to have a holiday in Ireland after his final exams in Drygrange and before going to Kilmarnock. The bishop replied with a short note: 'Perhaps you will be kind enough to let me know exactly when you will be available to take up your duties'.
Six years in Kilmarnock were followed by six years in Saint Peter in Chains, Ardrossan. It was while there that his very close friendship with Father Martin McCluskey began. The two were as different as chalk and cheese but it was a true friendship that was to deepen and which lasted until Father McCluskey's untimely death in 1996. The bereavement left a huge gap in Alistair's life.
Alistair's first appointment as a parish priest was to Saint Palladius', Dalry. After only a year and a half there, he was asked by Bishop McGee to go to Lockerbie to become parish priest of Holy Trinity and also of Saint Luke's, Moffat. Six years later he transferred to Waterside as parish priest of Saint Francis Xavier's and of Saint Barbara's, Dalmellington. It was while there that he suffered the misfortune - and indignity - of breaking both arms. On a Holy Saturday morning and while checking that things were in order at Dalmellington, he noticed some boys defacing the doors and walls of the church. Saint Barbara's, now closed and demolished, was built on a steep hill and the morning was very frosty. Alistair did as he had done as a youngster. Without stopping to think about the possible consequences, he gave chase, slipped on the icy slope, fell and broke both arms, ending up with his arms in plaster and slings for several weeks. Later, he was able to look back and laugh at the accident, but it was anything but funny at the time. He said of that time that, with both arms immobilised, he found out who his real friends were!
In the summer of 1985, Father Tosh moved on to Saint Brigid's, Kilbirnie, the parish in which he served for the longest time, nearly fourteen years. They were good and active years although it was at this time that he was diagnosed as being diabetic. Saint Mary's, Star of the Sea, Largs, was his final appointment. He was there from 1998 until 2004, happy in a parish with a beautiful church and an idyllic situation on the coast. But the diabetes was getting worse, a regime morning to night was needed for survival and he found it increasingly difficult to cope with the work expected of him. With Bishop Cunningham's agreement, he retired in November 2004 and lived in Troon until he died.
In addition to his parish duties, Father Tosh fulfilled various diocesan commitments: chaplain to the sick at Lourdes, chaplain to the Lourdes Hospitalité, spiritual director to the Legion of Mary, member (for twenty years) of the diocesan Finance Committee.
This last appointment elicited two episcopal judgments. Bishop Cunningham remarked: "He enjoyed being a member and had the ability to make very astute comments". Bishop Taylor remembered that "when difficult matters were under discussion or, even more, when one opinion was being strongly put forward which I felt ill-advised, I could rely on Alistair to be courageous enough to disagree. He was a wise member and an asset to the Committee".
In some ways you could say that Father Tosh was correct to the point of being pedantic. On his retiral, Bishop Taylor wrote of him in The Galloway Newsletter: "He is a man of firmly held opinions, never afraid to express them forcefully and clearly. This is one of his distinguishing characteristics, an admirable quality because people were never left in doubt about his views. Admittedly, his candour could occasionally be disconcerting or even perplexing!"
Often there was little subtlety. A friend recalls that four of them were doing the Camino de Santiago, driving across Spain to Compostela. When they stopped at a church outside Leon, Alistair's voice from the back seat announced emphatically, "I hope we're not going to stop at every single church!".
funeral Mass took place in his home parish of Saint Andrew's, Dumfries, on 26
September 2007. His mother, sisters and surviving brother were present in the
packed church. His mortal remains lie in the family grave.
Alistair is now at peace. He sees and enjoys the face of the God whom he served faithfully and whose face he tried to describe in human words to all the people he served. Though separated, he is still at one with us and benefits from our prayers and we from his. Father Archie Brown
The picture above left was taken around 1969 and the one above right around 2002.