Saint of the Day Quote: Saint John Ogilvie

On the head of religion alone I am condemned, and for that I would willingly and joyfully pour forth even a hundred lives. Snatch away that one which I have from me, and make no delay about it, but my religion you will never snatch away from me !

Saint John Ogilvie

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  1. During the Scottish Reformation, the proto-martyr was a Father Frank a monk, who was stabbed to death in the sacking of the Trinity Friars monastery in Aberdeen, on 4 December 1559. Next was another monk, a Father Robson about whom there is very little known, who was hanged for saying mass in Glasgow. The third was John Ogilvie, a Jesuit missionary who was badly treated, assaulted and eventually entrapped in an argument about the Pope having power to depose kings. He was convicted of treason and hanged in Glasgow on 28 February 1615. He, too, had been guilty of saying mass. No laymen or women are known to have been executed for the Catholic faith during the Scottish Reformation.

    The last Catholic priest to die for his faith in Scotland was Rev Mr Colin Campbell of Morar. He was one of the chaplains that had accompanied the Prince’s army. Although unarmed, he was shot down in cold blood on the fatal field of Culloden by Hessian mercenaries, as he tried to rally his fleeing parishioners for one last charge.

    The British government treated the Highland clergy with great savagery after the failure of the ’45. Of the priests who had accompanied the Prince, Rev Mr Allan MacDonald, rector of the seminary at Scalan, near Glenlivet was imprisoned for a year in a military garrison and then ordered to leave the country. Scalan itself was burned on the orders of the Duke of Cumberland, as a “nest of traitors.” Rev Mr Aeneas McGillis of Glengarry was put to the horn (outlawed) and fled the country.

    Of those who had stayed at home, but had “prayed for the Pretender,” Rev Mr Neil McFie of the Rough Bounds, Rev Mr Alexander Forrester of Uist and Rev Mr James Grant of Barra were bundled on board ship and deported to France, without the formality of a trial, where they might have perished from mere want, had not the Most Christian King made these holy confessors of the Faith the most especially objects of his royal bounty. Rev Mr William Harrison of the Rough Bounds was later captured carrying Jacobite dispatches and similarly deported.

    Finally, Bishop Hugh MacDonald of Morar, the Vicar Apostolic for the Highland District was tried before the High Court of Justiciary on 15 November 1756 on the charge of being a Jesuit, priest, or trafficking papist. He refused to purge himself of popery by taking the statutory formula, boldly declaring he was not at freedom in conscience to do it. His real crime in the eyes of government was having blessed the Prince’s standard at the famous gathering on 19 August at Glenfinnan. He was sentenced to be banished forth of this realm, with certification that if ever he returned thereto, being still a Papist, he should be punished with the pain of death. He ignored the sentence and the authorities in the Highlands winked at it. He died at Aberchalder on 12 March 1773, one of only two men who had played a leading part at Glenfinnan to die peacefully in Scotland, and he was buried in Kilfinnan cemetery on Loch Lochy side.

  2. Thank you, MPS,for your input. I had just finished reading the bio of John Ogilvie, which led me to lists of Scotland’s R. Catholic saints, then Scottish martyrs. Missing were Fr. Frank and Fr. Robson. Interesting that Mary Queen of Scots kept a relic, St. Margaret’s head, to assist her in childbirth. Sad that Knox and his adherents almost obliterated Catholicism from Scotland, especially given the repositories of Catholic learning on the Western Isles early on.

  3. Cam
    “Sad that Knox and his adherents almost obliterated Catholicism from Scotland”

    A substantial “Remnant” did remain, especially in the West Highlands, the Western Isles and the North-East around Morayshire. In Moidart, Arisaig, Knoydart, Morar, Glengarry and Lochaber, the tradition of Catholic worship was and remains unbroken.

    After the ’45, Bishop Hugh, whom I mentioned in my previous post, had to rebuild the Church more or less from scratch. Himself the son of Alexander MacDonald of Morar and of Mary, daughter of Ranald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart, he recruited his priests mostly among the Highland gentry; ordained ad titulum patrimonii sui and unpaid, they stayed with relatives, or with influential friends, and served their native place. Thus we have Alexander MacDonald of the Scotus family living in Knoydart; Austen MacDonald of Glenaladale in Moidart; Allan MacDonald of Morar’s family living in the Morar area; James MacDonald, son of John MacDonald of Guidall in the Rough Bounds, and so on. Bishop Hugh was succeeded by his nephew, John MacDonald.

    During the Highland Clearances, with whole communities emigrating together, especially to Canada, a number of these priests went with their flocks.

    This tradition continued well into the 20th century, with the “Ettrick bishops.” Unfortunately, relations were often strained between the Remnant, especially the Remnant clergy, and the newly-arrived Irish immigrant Catholics and their clergy. One bone of contention was the Gaelic chapels in Glasgow, intended to serve the Highland Catholic population that settled there.

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