Living by the 5 D’s : Ernie

It has been three years that Tayside Christian Fellowship (TCF) has been sharing news and features on its website and in that time, we have met many of ‘our family’. 

This year we hope to introduce you to many more of our members through a series of home visits, because as the Bible reminds us, it’s the people not the building that makes a church.

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and God’s spirit lives in you.  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

1 Corinthians 3: 16, 17

Living by the 5 D’s

Our first home visit is with one of TCF’s founding members, a true gentleman, loving husband, proud father, and ‘solid’ Christian.  I say that because of the very first thing Ernie Bruce wanted to share during our home visit.

“Every day of my life I try to live by the 5 Ds” he says –

Dispel A Doubt

Defend the doctrine

Develop a dignity

Deplore a disease – sin

Decide a destiny – where are you going when you die?

Ernie was born to parents Ernest a boiler maker at Belfast shipyard and Sadie a seamstress before becoming a full-time housewife.  Ernie had two sisters, Anna and Hetty who sadly died at the age of 36 following a heart operation, and younger brother, Tom.  The family home was in Shankhill Road, Belfast.

Early memories are of happy and competitive times!  It was at senior primary school Ernie’s love for sport, in particular football, became evident.  He still remembers playing in a football team against Scotland and losing 2-0.  Nothing daunted, Ernie’s chief desire was always to play for Glasgow Rangers and although he did not achieve that, he did rise to semi-pro level playing for Glen Torn, Belfast.

However, sporting success came thick and fast in long distance running, cross country, road races and track events, but the most memorable win came in 1965 when, the Harriers team he belonged to for 10 years, won the all-Ireland Cross-Country Championship.

Ernie was in his 30s and married at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland.  Living right in the heart of everything, Ernie describes life at the time as very restrictive, fearful in general and constantly protective of your own kids and neighbours’ kids.  Edna, his wife, ‘coped very well, always cool, calm and collected and always supportive.  Still is”

Even when he returned to Ireland after 13 years in Scotland, life was still very restrictive.  The IRA, UDA and UVF were still highly active and although there were not as many bombs, there were a lot of gun shots.

Understandably, there is a lot that Ernie keeps private about this time in his life.  But when asked at the end of our home visit for his 3 best and 3 worst times in his life, it’s no surprise the three worst recollections are from Northern Ireland.

He recalls:

  • a miscarriage before any other family, while all their very close friends had been blessed with children
  • his brother-in-law was attacked in his house, shot from a car, while trying to save his mother-in-law, and
  • a great friend only in his 30s was shot 5 times in a case of mistaken identity and consequently ended up wheelchair bound for the rest of his life

This, claims Ernie, is where Christianity changes you… how you react   to and cope with life situations.


Ernie began his working life with Belfast Harbour Commissioners as an apprentice Mechanical Engineer, but 7 years later at the young age of 22, he switched to aircraft engineering and, unbeknown to him at the time, he was on a career path that would take him right through to retirement with the Ministry of Defence.

He started in the navy aircraft division, rising to Supervisor in the flight hanger and then into management as Professional Technical Officer, responsible for quality engineering and inspections.  

Next, he moved from the Navy in Belfast to the navy in Perth for the next 13 years.  He was promoted to Workshop Officer for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical engineers at Belfast and for the last 9 years before his retirement in August 1999, Ernie moved back home to Perth .

You know what they say, you can’t hold a good man down!  Three months after retiring, Ernie returned to Scotland and started work with Air Service Training at Scone Airport as their Quality Manager, teaching legislation with CAA approval.  After 16 years’ service, Ernie finally retired in 2016.

Family Man

There is another saying that comes to mind – behind every man is a good woman!  Never a truer word in Ernie’s case.  He married Edna in March 1962, which means their Diamond anniversary (60 years) is only weeks away! 

When Ernie was asked to recall the 3 best times in his life, no-one who knows him, would be surprised by his answers.

  • 17 November 1957 – the night he was saved and became a Christian
  • 24 March 1962 – when he married Edna
  • and the birth of both children, Heather, and Peter, in the 60s (“2 of the best kids in the world”)

A life of Faith

Ernie became a Christian at 18 while attending youth fellowship and much later in his life both Edna and Ernie, along with other Christian couples in TCF and the Gospel Hall in Perth, turned their home over on Sunday nights to up to a record 42 teenagers for Bible study, singing and home fellowship.  To ensure everyone could hear what was being said they removed internal doors!        

Ernie was presented to Prince Philip in recognition of his work in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.  Two boys in Ernie’s group won the Gold Award – a first for Northern Ireland.

Ernie has also dedicated 37 years supporting the work of Gideons and 16 years as an area representative for MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship).   He was also a founder member of Tayside Christian Fellowship and still somehow found time for the Probus Club and bowls!

Two other things, not many people know about Ernie – he’s got a bit of a reputation for woodwork and car repairs!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash