Alumni Services

George Russell Barr

Reverend Barr counts his time at the University as having had a profound impact on his life and shares his stories of student life from freezing peas to football.


George Russell Barr

Degree Course MBChb
Year of Graduation


George Russell Barr
Image courtesy of the Church of Scotland

Your time at the University

Having been brought up in the Ayrshire town of Kilmarnock, Glasgow was the expected destination for people going to university. I wanted the opportunity to mix and meet with an entirely different group of people so chose Edinburgh and was always glad to have done so. Another major attraction of Edinburgh was that the Divinity Faculty at New College had some of the world’s outstanding theological and Biblical scholars.

What was there not to enjoy about six years of student life in Scotland’s capital city? As well as my academic courses I played football (badly) on Wednesday afternoons for Red Star and also helped run a youth club in the Old Kirk at West Pilton. The youth club involvement led to the award of the Sir Willy Darling Memorial Prize as student of the year in 1978.

Summer jobs included 12 hour shifts freezing peas at Salvesen’s near Granton, the students being barely tolerated as casual workers only to become very popular when one night there was an infestation of maggots into the factory and the science students worked out how to deal with them.

And it was while we were both students at Edinburgh University that I met my wife Margaret (BSc 1976) so I have many good reasons to be grateful for my time as a student.

So whether academically or professionally Edinburgh University continues to have a profound influence on my life and ministry since my first tentative walk into the David Hume tower in 1972

George Russell Barr

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

Since graduating in 1978 I have worked as a Church of Scotland minister. My probationary period was spent at Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders before being called the following year to be the minister at Garthamlock and Craigend East in the Easterhouse area of Glasgow. After nine years in Easterhouse I moved down the Clyde to become the minister at St Luke’s in Greenock and in 1993 moved back along the M8 to my present charge at Cramond in the north west of Edinburgh.

Meanwhile I returned as a part time student at New College to compete a Master’s degree in 1993 and this led to the opportunity to complete a doctorate (2000) at Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States.

My connection with New College continues as I am a member of the New College Board and also attend public lectures and seminars when the opportunity allows. In 2011, I was Moderator to the Presbytery of Edinburgh and last October I was nominated to be the next Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and all being well will take up the appointment in May 2016.

In 1999 I formed a charity, Fresh Start, which helps people who have been homeless make a home for themselves. Fresh Start continues to support about two thousand people each year providing starter packs of basic goods and materials and helping them decorate their flat. Edinburgh University has been a source of volunteers and also a wonderful source of materials from the halls of residence.

So whether academically or professionally Edinburgh University continues to have a profound influence on my life and ministry since my first tentative walk into the David Hume tower in 1972.

Alumni wisdom

Enjoy – because being grown up and responsible is not nearly as much fun.

New College Summer Party

Join fellow New College alumni for the 2016 Alumni Reunion to share food, entertainment and good memories at the New College Summer Party on 4th June 2016.

For more information see the event page here.