TRIBUTES have been paid following the death at 98 of a popular Greenock minister who served in the Second World War.

The Rev. Alexander Chestnut MBE was ordained in 1948 by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland but served for almost 25 years in the Church of Scotland in the town.

Such was his standing within ecclesiastical circles that former Moderator, the Right Reverend John Christie, left the General Assembly to speak at the service of thanksgiving to a full congregation at St Columba's Parish Church in Largs last week.

The Rev. Christie said that Alex, as he was known, had been his minister at Westburn Church in Greenock and was instrumental in him taking up the cloth therefore, he 'played truant' from the Assembly to pay tribute to 'an exceptional minister'.

Alex had said that volunteering for wartime service with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) in the occupied countries of Europe in the 40s had given him an advantage as a minister from when he was ordained in July, 1948.

He also married Elizabeth Elliot the same year, celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in retirement in Largs last year.

He was one of four children and was born in May, 1921 at his father's farm in Leitrim, County Antrim.

He was working on the farm when he won a scholarship to school in Ballycastle, becoming proficient in both Greek and Latin.

While at Trinity College, Dublin he refused several offers of army commissions to become a driver and administrator with REME, taking part in D-Day rehearsals as a lorry driver before being stationed in Iceland, and returning to his university studies.

He also served as an air raid warden in Dublin with one of his tasks being to inspect the German Embassy.

After 15 years in ministry in Northern Ireland he was appointed minister at the former St Mark's Greenbank in Greenock in March 1963 having first preached at Clark Memorial Church in Largs.

He retired in 1987 after a merger with the old West Kirk which became the present Westburn Church.

He and Elizabeth retired to Largs.

His war service in Europe led him to pack the family including son James - now a vice-president with Coca Cola in America - and daughters Catherine, Jane and Sandra in a car on camping trips abroad.

His nephew, the Rev. Robert Bell from Ulster, told the service that Alex had led 'a long and incredibly active life in service to King, country and church."

As a keen cyclist who had twice cycled round Ireland he was proud when two grandsons, Andrew and Tom recently cycled across the USA.

He is survived by wife Elizabeth, four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

His committal service was held at Largs Crematorium.