Neil Dickson Collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 NDC
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1.5 lm, 14 boxes
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

The collection contains the personal papers of Neil Dickson relating to evangelical activities in Scotland in the 1970s connected with the Ayrshire Christian Youth Rallies. The bulk of the collection is made up of material collected by Dickson whilst researching the Scottish brethren. There are documents relating to the lives of particular individuals, including manuscript material as well as secondary literature. There is a bundle of documents relating to the 'Kelly' and 'Glanton' Brethren, an assortment of Brethren publications, a large collection of material relating to particular Brethren assemblies in different parts of Scotland, and various other notes, printed documents and photographs on Brethren related themes. Also included is material collected on particular themes for articles Dickson was working on, notably the relationship between Brethren and the Baptists, and conscientious objectors in the First World War.

The collection would be of interest to anyone studying the history of the Brethren movement, to those tracing the development of particular assemblies or particular individuals, to students of evangelical Christianity generally, and particularly to those interested in tracing its Scottish variants.

Administrative / Biographical History

Neil Thomas Ramage Dickson was born in Largs, Ayrshire, to Tom and Jessie Dickson on 15 October 1953. His father, after war service in the Royal Army Medical Corps in India, was successively a commercial traveller, a master grocer, a supermarket manager and a wholesale grocery manager. Both of Dickson’s parents were Brethren and had themselves Brethren parents. Through his paternal grandmother he could trace his Brethren lineage through five generations to the 1860s.

He completed his secondary education at Lenzie Academy, East Dunbartonshire, and from 1972 until 1976 studied English literature at Aberdeen University from where he graduated M.A. (Hons). In 1977 he was awarded a Dip. Ed by the University. He taught English at Kilmarnock Academy from 1977 to 2009. In 2000, under the supervision of Professor David Bebbington, he completed a PhD on the history of the Open Brethren at the University of Stirling which became the basis for his book Brethren in Scotland 1838-2000.

He had a childhood conversion and was received into fellowship in 1968, being successively in assemblies in Gospel Hall, Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire; Gospel Hall, Haggs, Stirlingshire; Victoria Hall, Aberdeen; Elim Hall, Kilmarnock; Central Evangelical Church, Kilmarnock; and Seagate Evangelical Church, Troon. At secondary school he became an active member of Scripture Union (SU), and at Aberdeen University he served on the Christian Union executive. When he became a teacher he assisted with a school SU group, and from 1977 until 1982 helped manage an SU camp on Arran, latterly being camp director. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he assisted in and later directed youth fellowships in the Kilmarnock assemblies, and was also during this period the chairman of the Ayrshire Christian Youth Rallies, an inter-assembly youth event. He was a founder member in 1989 of Interface, a series of annual conferences in Scotland which attempted to spread fresh thinking among Scottish assemblies. Until 1992 he served as its secretary. From 1977 he developed a wide lay-preaching ministry among Scottish Brethren and in other churches in Kilmarnock. In 1992 he developed chronic-fatigue syndrome which led to a major retrenchment in church-related activities.

Dickson has written extensively on the history of the Brethren in Scotland, publishing articles on history and literature relating to the Brethren in both The Believer’s Magazine (printed without attribution) and Aware. He was the convenor of Brethren Archivists and Historians Network from its inception in 1997, and edited its journal, the Brethren Historical Review (previously known as the Brethren Archivists and Historians Network Review), from that same year. While working at Kilmarnock Academy he has contributed academic articles, mainly on religious history, to a variety of books, journals and biographical dictionaries, including The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) and Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (1998-2007). He has published An Island Shore: the Life and Work of Robert Rendall (1990), Brethren in Scotland 1838-2000: a social study of an evangelical movement (2002) and The growth of the Brethren movement: national and international experiences: essays in honour of Harold H. Rowdon edited with Tim Grass (2006). He married Beth Jack in 1983 and they have two children, Katie and Mary. He lived in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, from 1982 until 1998 when, with his family, he removed to the nearby town of Troon. Since 2009 he has been retired, while Beth continues as a senior lecturer at Glasgow University. In 2010 he was appointed Chairman of the Ayrshire Federation of Historical Societies, being also a contributor to its publications. In 2010 he became a member of the Church of Scotland and in 2011 taught church history at the International Christian College, Glasgow.


The collection has been arranged into the following series:

  • NDC/1 Papers of Neil Dickson
  • NDC/2 Assembly Histories
  • NDC/3 Material related to individuals
  • NDC/4 'Kelly' and 'Glanton' documents
  • NDC/5 Printed periodicals
  • NDC/6 Documents relating to particular Brethren Assemblies
  • NDC/7 Brethren and Baptists
  • NDC/8 Notes
  • NDC/9 Audio tapes
  • NDC/10 Miscellaneous printed material
  • NDC/11 Articles and cuttings
  • NDC/12 Printed leaflets
  • NDC13 Conscientious Objection among Brethren
  • NDC/14 Photographs
  • NDC/15 Notebooks
  • NDC/16 Miscellaneous correspondence
  • NDC/17 Interface
  • NDC/18 AWARE
  • NDC/19 Charts and plans

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA.

Acquisition Information

Neil Dickson

Archivist's Note

The photographs in this collection were catalogued by Nathanael Hodge.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The collection was accumulated by Neil Dickson in the course of his research for his doctoral thesis and his book on the Scottish Brethren. Archival material from individuals and chapels was collected on the understanding that he would deposit items with the Christian Brethren Archive at the John Rylands University Library on the completion of his project.


It is anticipated that additions will be made to the collection on an occasional basis. These will be incorporated into the finding aid.


Neil Dickson, Brethren in Scotland 1838-2000. A Social Study of an Evangelical Movement (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2002).