Crieff Hills receives a special gift from Dr. Ruth Alison

In the office, we keep saying that we need a bell so that we can ring it every time we get good news—and since I began as the new director at Crieff Hills last September, we have had some really good news indeed. Along with beautiful stories of guests who have been blessed by their time here, we have also received a number of generous donations. One of them arrived in November from a woman name Dr. Ruth Elizabeth Alison.

By all accounts, Dr. Alison was a remarkable woman. When she died in May 2017, she left behind a legacy of service, leadership and faith.

After graduating in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1952, Dr. Alison went on to practice oncology at Princess Margaret Hospital for thirty years. For decades she led the CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training) program at Glenview Presbyterian Church in Toronto, and was an elder both there and at Union Presbyterian Church near Georgetown, Ontario. Even in retirement she shared her faith and herself, becoming a hospital chaplain in Mississauga.

Dove Lodge in winter
Dove Lodge

Dr. Alison had a special connection with Crieff Hills. She served on the Maclean Estate Committee for two terms beginning in 1990, acting as the committee’s convenor for a time, and firmly supported the retreat centre’s ministry. In both her professional and personal life she believed in, “ministering to the whole person,” and understood the importance of warm hospitality. “Students, strangers, friends and those in need have found an open, welcoming door wherever Ruth Alison has lived,” wrote the Presbyterian Record in 1997 as a part of the Faces of Faith series. (“Faces of faith: Dr. Ruth E. Alison.” The Free Library. 1997 Presbyterian Record 16 Jan. 2019

When she died at age 91, Dr. Alison left a large gift for Crieff Hills. It will be used to tackle an urgent and very practical project: replacing our original septic systems. The work will take two years to complete, mainly around the retreat houses, and will ensure that we meet the 2022 deadline imposed by the Ministry of Health. We are so grateful.

A project like this one made possible by Dr. Alison might not sound very exciting, and yet it is a significant investment in ministry. When the facilities at Crieff Hills are well kept and comfortable, people are able to find rest and renewal in their time here. Visitors can listen for the still, small voice of God or delight in the gift of Spirit-filled community. They find an open, welcoming door.    

We may not have a bell to ring in the office, but we are definitely rejoicing. Dr. Alison was a faithful woman throughout her life, and has now left a legacy that will nourish the faith of others. That is something to celebrate!

Crieff Hills Retreat Centre welcomes gifts of all kinds. If you would like to discuss the possibility of leaving your own legacy, please contact Rev. Kristine [email protected]

About the Author


Kristine O'Brien

Rev. Dr. Kristine O’Brien began work at Crieff Hills in September 2018.

Kristine studied music and English Literature at McMaster University before completing a Master of Divinity degree at Knox College, University of Toronto. After being ordained at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Strathroy, Kristine stayed for five years before moving to Oakville. She served Trafalgar Presbyterian Church for sixteen years, during which time she earned a Doctor of Ministry with a focus on justice and contemplative practice.

With a long history in camping ministry, including service on two Synod camp boards and two years as the Director at Camp Iona (Bala), Kristine is deeply rooted in the practice of Christian hospitality. She also loves the outdoors and is a passionate gardener which fuel her blog,

Kristine shares her life with her husband Pat, who is a funeral director, her four almost-grown-up children, and a rescue Airedale named Minnie. She loves wilderness canoe trips, visiting beautiful gardens, and seeding the occasional flat of kale.

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