News of a death is never welcome, particularly when the person was young. The news of Reverend Louise Duncan’s early passing was greeted with particular shock and sadness in Balerno and the wider district. While Louise, her husband Derek and son Tom only arrived here just less than five years ago when she became minister of Balerno Parish Church, her impact on the church and the community was immeasurably more than that timescale would suggest.


It was a fitting tribute to her that over 1200 people attended the service of celebration and thanksgiving for her life on February 28. It seemed appropriate that people sat together in the church sanctuary, the Ogston Hall, St Joseph’s hall and the High School concourse, the live video link joining together places which had been invigorated by her presence and leadership. The tributes to her reminded us all of the many spheres of influence that she had created. Coming to Balerno from South Leith Parish Church, her Irish charm and winning personality ensured she was soon a well-known face around the village. As well as being an inspiring and influential spiritual leader, with her firm belief that church really is something without walls, she had a burning desire to take herself and lead her church out into the community – for she loved people of all ages, people from all walks of life, people with lots of faith and none.


Louise quickly took the lead in the church’s St Joseph’s centre development project and was instrumental in its design and completion. Under her guidance, the buildings became a focus for village life and her vision helped ensure that the Mill café is now vibrant and successful community hub. She encouraged and attended the whole panoply of events that took place there, including cocktail nights, dinner discussions, The Guild, mothers and toddlers, fair trade days, dementia cafes, discos, parties, pilates and many many more. She was a champion for many now established events in the Balerno calendar including the Music Festival, the Christmas Tree Festival and Balerno Village Screen.

But Louise was not just seen in the church buildings. She was a well-known face in our active village life. As a busy school mum, she participated in all the usual child focused events in Balerno through Dean Park Primary (where she was also chaplain), the Gala and spending time with family friends.

Her passion for running meant she was seen nearly every day pounding the paths of the Pentlands with her dog Buster in tow. Her fund raising efforts through her running included 5ks, half marathons and completion of the Edinburgh marathon in 2013.

Having worked in France and Israel/Palestine, she also enjoyed travelling and particularly loved spending holiday time with family and friends. She had a wild enthusiasm for discos with a particular weakness for Abba and Queen – live music was also a love that she shared with those close to her.

Even after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in August last year, Louise continued to radiate with her very special qualities of care, concern and love for all. She had a unique ability to make everyone she met feel valued and respected. Even the moderator of the General Assembly commented that, when he paid her a visit, he left feeling that he was the one that had been cared for rather than vice-versa.

During her illness, Louise received great care from her medical team including in particular the staff at the Marie Curie Hospice at Fairmilehead. While the retiring offering at her funeral was for the St Joseph’s development fund, her family are planning a weekend of events to celebrate and commemorate her as well as raise funds for Marie Curie. It is hoped that it will be a cross community and cross generational event – something that she believed so passionately in. More details will be published on this soon.

Louise’s greatest sadness was leaving behind her beloved son Tom and husband Derek. It is a sign of how much she loved this place that she wished them to remain within this community. Our thoughts and love extend to them and their wider circle of family and friends as they seek to rebuild a life without her.

Louise will always be remembered as someone with a smile, a warmth, a care and a concern for others. She was a person with a true heart who gave a piece of herself to everyone she met. She will be sorely missed and long remembered.

  • The family would like to express their sincere thanks for all the cards and good wishes that have been passed to them at this time. They are very grateful for the support they have received and continue to benefit from. Particular thanks is given for the community wide effort that ensured the service of celebration went well, especially to the IT, catering and stewarding teams, the High School and Mark Porteous and his team at Porteous Funeral Directors.