Scottish CND      Magazine
To the backdrop of HMS Victorious preparing to take on its nuclear role, the Rev Andrew Callon RN gave the blessing - prosper their labours with good success. So ended Songs of Praise from the Trident submarine base - a collage of hymn singing from Helensburgh West Church and nuclear submarines.
Even before the programme went on air there was outrage. One week earlier Songs of Praise had come from a circus and ended with the trailer - and next week we will be in Faslane. Rev Maxwell Craig asked for the programme to be cancelled as this would stick a Christian cross in weapons designed to kill a million people at a time. He said that the programme would be at best deeply insensitive and at worst bordering on blasphemy, because it associates a weapon of mass destruction with the worship of the God of love. Maxwell is General Secretary of Action of Churches Together in Scotland and argued that The churches have consistently objected to the continued maintenance of Trident - most particularly at a Scottish base.
This was followed up by letters in the Herald and elsewhere from other clergymen. Colin Anderson wrote that Maxwell Craig can certainly claim the support of the Church of Scotland whose General Assembly has, at least since 1983 consistently held the view that nuclear arms, including the readiness to use them, are by their nature morally and theologically wrong. Gilbert Marcus also supported him saying I am looking forward to future interviews with heroin-pushers, child-pornographers and land-mine salesmen and hearing them discussing how they reconcile their faith and their careers. In his article in the Edinburgh Evening News Father Steve Gilhooly said The irreverent chants of the peace campaigners might not be heard on the telly on Sunday night, but their voices will resound the length and breadths of heaven ! Maxwell Craig was attacked by David McLechie, Vice-Chair of the Scottish Conservative Party, who said that these rantings should be drowned out by loud choruses of onward Christian soldiers. Rev Craig was also criticised in a letter to the Herald which ended Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.
The programme itself included many clips from Defence of the Realm a documentary which followed HMS Victorious for 6 months in 1995 as the submarine prepared for and rehearsed firing Trident missiles. One of the opening shots used in Songs of Praise was taken inside the Explosives Handling Jetty at Coulport at the time when nuclear warheads were loaded onto the missiles. Other clips showed the missile control room going through their drills.
When churchfolk were asked to attend the recording in Helensburgh they were not told that these images would be used next to their worship. Two local ministers were suspicious that the programme might end up appearing to endorse nuclear weapons and so they avoided the service. Some of those who took part were appalled that their singing was used in a programme about Trident.
Sally Magnusson did not interview anyone opposing nuclear weapons but did speak to Ben Franklin, who is the first chaplain to have gone on a patrol on a nuclear submarine. During the interview footage was shown of the test firing of a Trident missile from Victorious.
The response to the programme has indicated the strength of feeling against Trident not just in Scotland but across Britain.
A Song Of Praise
Oh, hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril from the sea
From death by violent fire and quakes
That meet us when our Kraken wakes,
Those sleek and monstrous metal toys
Guided beneath by pale faced boys
Who now with face angelic sing
Their sweet Hosannas to you, King,
While puzzled folk throughout the land
Wonder on what side You stand.
Scottish CND      Magazine