When I left Bellahouston last night the crowds, the very happy crowds, were slowly wending their way back to various stations and to their coaches, which had been parked on the (closed) M77. There was a wonderful spirit in the air, as pilgrims called out their thanks to the Police who were everywhere. The mounted Police were allowing children to stroke their horses. Those horses must have been as tired as we were, but they remained calm and still. We were shepherded to Dumbreck station and formed an orderly queue for the train back to Edinburgh Central. I fell into conversation with a group of ladies and asked them how the day had been for them. They were thrilled, and said it had been magical. One of them had been privileged to be a minister of Holy Communion and told me about how the youngsters with the yellow umbrellas had looked after her. It was just one of many incidents that day when young and old were united in joy and praise.
I asked them which of the songs had been their favourite and was surprised, a little, to learn that it was the Pater Noster. I suspect that each group of pilgrims would have a different choice, and one of the great things about the planning of this Mass was the wide range of musical styles, making sure there was something for everyone. The ladies were also very impressed at the quietness of the crowd just before Mass started. People were easily able to move from the cheering, banner-waving exuberance to prayerful expectancy and reverence.
The next stage of my journey was the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh. Here I found myself sitting next to a BBC cameraman, who had been working on a programme for the World Service, to be broadcast in Arabic for the Maronite community. This man, who was a veteran of the last Papal visit, told me he thought the crowd today had been a good deal larger than forecast. He used a curious way to estimate the size of the crowd, by comparing it with a maximum capacity Manchester United crowd. Using this measure, he estimated the crowd as 75,000. After so much gloomy talk of ‘unsold tickets’ it seems that the prophets of doom were wrong.