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Pioneer of United States Salvation Army commemorated in his Scottish hometown

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Arbroath will be the focus of an international celebration today for one of the pioneers of The Salvation Army in United States, George Scott Railton.

A new commemorative plaque will be unveiled to mark the life of one of the church and charity’s most inspiring figures, who was born in Arbroath, Scotland 6th July 1849. It will mirror a similar memorial to Railton in Battery Park, New York City.

The son of a Methodist minister, Railton lost both his parents aged 15 and was forced to leave Angus for work in London. He eventually joined The Salvation Army seven years later and in 1880 he travelled to New York with seven female officers (ministers) to start the first Salvation Army mission in the United States of America.  The Salvation Army is now the second biggest charity in the USA, with more than 1,200 churches and 123,843 members.

‘Railton is one of Arbroath’s most famous sons and his role in The Salvation Army cannot be over-estimated - without him, I don't think it would exist in the form it does today,’ explains Major Jim McCluskey, manager of The Salvation Army’s Community Care Service (Angus, Scotland) and former Commanding Officer at Arbroath.  

               [Read more: History of George Scott Railton]

He adds: ‘We are absolutely delighted to be involved in a project which will bring new recognition to such an important figure. The Railton family history extends beyond our shores and is something which Angus can be very proud of and should be celebrated.’

In later years, Railton would extend his work to other parts of the world including China and Japan and as Booth's spiritual son he was laid to rest beside The Salvation Army's founder in London in 1913.

From its beginnings in the years Railton joined The Salvation Army, the church and charity now offers practical support to millions of people who are vulnerable or in need in 125 countries.

Commissioner William A. Roberts, Leader of The Salvation Army in the USA, commented: ‘The Salvation Army in the United States will always be grateful to the pioneering work of George Scott Railton, the first National Commander of the USA. Railton's bold leadership immediately captured the attention of the American public. His fervent evangelism resulted in hundreds turning from lives of sin and wasted lives. His organizational skills cast a sure foundation for the Army that still profits us to the present day.

‘As one of those who are the beneficiaries of his legacy, first as a Salvationist and now in my present appointment as his successor as National Commander, I am grateful for the fruit still born from his sowing. I am stirred by the example of unflagging dedication and I am honored to wear with pride the uniform that he first modelled when he landed at Battery Park in New York City in 1880.’

In the UK and Republic of Ireland there are more than 800 Salvation Army social service centres and churches (corps).  The Salvation Army runs 120 drop-in centres offering support and help for people in need and serves 3,000,000 meals every year at community and residential centres.