Christmas and New Year message from the McKnight family. December 2004.


This year I feel like I am about to retire all over again. This is because for many years now (since I retired from gainful employment) I have worked in a voluntary capacity as a “District Secretary” for the United Reformed Church. But now my term of office comes to an end, and the eight or so committees I serve on will have to do without me. So too will the fifteen churches I represent. From March 2005, we will no longer have to consult our diaries to see if and when we can go away.

Dan Benedict from New Jersey shows the transit of Venus, on the quayside, Santorini.


            Not that we don’t get away, of course! This year, once again we visited the Greek Islands, this time Santorini and Skiathos. Santorini is an incredibly beautiful volcanic island (see our web-page ) where we had the chance to observe the transit of Venus. The island is full of antiquities, and will need another visit. Skiathos has the dubious reputation of having the shortest air strip in the Mediterranean used by wide-bodied jets. Thrilling!


Nearer home, we have starting work with a charity called “Aquabox”. Whenever there is a disaster somewhere in the world, this organisation sends out emergency relief boxes; but the special feature is that the plastic box itself converts to a purification tank which can keep a family or a hospital provided with clean water for three months.  Because we travel frequently across the Pennines, we are able to assist in some small way with transportation. If this interests you, look at





Our British readers will know the problem that often arises in conversation, if ever we takd about world trouble spots. We can get challenged about Northern Ireland. Indeed, what are we doing about it? This year Kate and I joined a group to visit the Corrymeela centre in Northern Ireland, set up to help with the “troubles”. For those who don’t know, in Northern Ireland there are two factions who have been fighting a sort of urban warfare for years, and they have allied themselves to the two main Christian groups known as “Catholic” (also unionists) and “Protestant” (also loyalists). I put these in quotes, because the divisions are really much more complicated, and are part ethnic, part historical, part political.


Militant wall paintings still adorn the streets. In the background, the redundant cranes of the abandoned Belfast shipyard. The artistry is excellent – skilled people with nothing better to do?











We were assured that the root problem is fear. Each side is frightened of the other. And many people are working to bring the sides together, to simply talk. We visited the area where the most recent trouble took place, the Ardoyne in Belfast, a shameful situation putting primary school children in danger. We met the church leaders, and found they had refused to support the trouble makers; that the churches on both sides always have, and still do, cooperate in social matters. Now you see why I used quotation marks above. The Catholic and Protestant trouble makers are rarely, if ever, seen in church.


But the people cannot help but be Irish! A major factor has always been high unemployment; there are even people there who have never worked. All that has to be changed, and efforts are being made to improve national pride. And they are proud, and are busy promoting the fact that Belfast built the….Titanic! Funny? No, as they say seriously, the designer and captain were both English, nothing wrong with the ship...




Cora, the flamenco dancer.






As proud grandparents, of course Kate and I dote on Cora. Hence, the obligatory picture.


Kate and I wish you the very best for the coming year.

 Jim & Kate McKnight, December 2004