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St Mary's

St. Mary’s Catholic Church


1837 1937

[The following pages are from an account by Messrs W.F.Hasson and Peter Anson of the story of St. Mary’s for the Centenary in 1937]

The Second Day of April will be a red-letter day for the Catholics of Inverness. On that date one hundred years ago St. Mary’s Church was solemnly opened. Those who were present at the opening ceremony were the descendants of Confessors and martyrs who had given up all, even life itself, for the Faith brought to the North by St. Columba. After the storm of the religious revolution had devastated our country, a small remnant continued to hand down the true Faith in spite of "dungeon, fire and sword." At last, when freedom came at the beginning of the nineteenth century they, as their fathers of old had done, raised up to God a fair house as worthy of Him as they could make it.

The Catholics of 1837 had reason to be grateful to God, and their children in 1937 have an added joy: the mustard seed has grown to a tree, the handful of Catholics at the opening of St. Mary’s one hundred years ago has become a noble congregation, already in its second thousand, and showing abundant evidence of life and continued growth.

The Ness flows on to the sea as it did many centuries ago when St. Columba opened the great gates of King Brude’s Castle with the sign of the cross. It saw the sowing of the seed, it witnessed the growth and the harvest that has reaped in due season, it felt the blighting frosts of Winter, and now in God’s mercy it sees the "second Spring." The noble river is itself an emblem of the Church of St. Columba the Catholic Church smiling in the sunshine or dark and troubled by the storm, but ever going onward till time is done and there is only the ocean of eternity. We are proud that John Ruskin no mean critic who had seen most of the beautiful places of the world, admired the Ness and praised it in his writings. We love it more for its wonderful story than for its natural beauty.

The records of the past remind us that through the ages Catholicism has been a cultural force as well as a spiritual power. We have fragments of architectural value still around us that speak in their own silent language of the glorious days when great and good men of our faith enriched their generation with piety and scholarship. We shall profit, Catholic and Protestant, by the legacy they have left us.

                1810 Revd. Austin McDoneIl

The faith has never been dead in Inverness. It lived on through hard tribulation though the numbers of the faithful were ever decreasing. How it subsisted for three hundred years of agony we can only guess, but a noble few, without priests or churches, held firmly to the faith of their fathers and in 1810 we read of a small congregation mostly Gaelic speaking assembled for the celebration of Mass in a room in Margaret Street and known to the outside public "as a place where Lord Lovat and the tinkers worshipped."

It was the kindly sense of justice of one of the Magistrates that made this possible. The Revd. Austin McDonell came specially from Aigas in Strathglass for the first Mass and continued to care for the spiritual needs of the infant congregation.

                1818 Revd. Duncan McKenzie

From 1818 the visiting priest was the Revd. Duncan McKenzie, also of Aigas. He died in Eskadale in 1828.

1827-37Revd. Terence McGuire

The congregation increased considerably and in 1827 St. Mary’s, Inverness, was established as a separate Mission, the Revd. Terence McGuire being appointed Priest in charge by Bishop Ranald Macdonald. History repeats itself. The first Church of Inverness was founded by St. Columba, an Irish Mass-priest according to the testimony of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and it was fitting that the first resident Priest of the reborn Church should also be a son of Erin. It was during the pastorate of Father McGuire that the devotion of the Catholic priesthood to their people was demonstrated to all the world in a manner that should never be forgotten in Inverness, and so this is the place for the story of the labours of Father Lovi which is surely an epic.

Father Lovi had gone from Keith to Wick to minister to the spiritual needs of the fisher folk when he was confronted with serious difficulties. "No Popery" agents were at work ready to victimise the Catholics and all who ventured to aid them. For a time the good Priest managed to say Mass in a cabinetmaker’s shop but it was raided and looted. Father Lovi was hooted and jeered at and his life was threatened. He might have been a martyr but for the coming of one of the dread visitants of those days cholera. When the terrible plague broke out in Wick the agitators represented it as a punishment on the town because it had harboured a popish priest. Father Lovi, however, was too much occoupied to trouble about such superstition. He threw himself into the task of fighting the cholera regardless as to whether its victims were Catholic or Protestant, friend or foe. He rendered valuable service in the hospital and outside of it, was priest and doctor and nurse to all who needed his care.

When poor victims were abandoned, even by their own, he tended them himself, carrying water from the wells and performing the most menial tasks: he brought the cholera-stricken victims to the hospitals in his arms: he even put the dead in their coffins and helped to carry them to the grave. Like Father Damien half a century later with the lepers, he was utterly regardless of his own safety. If God had allowed him to succumb to the fell disease, he would gladly have given his life for his flock. When the plague had subsided, it was calculated that Father Lovi had saved two hundred from death by his labours in Wick. And he had done more. His former enemies were now his most enthusiastic admirers, and it is strange but true that the terrible outbreak of cholera which ravaged England and Scotland in 1833 was, not only in Wick and Inverness but also in the South, one of the chief factors that brought about a more tolerant attitude to Catholics on the part of their separated brethren.

But the fame of the Father Damien of the North had gone abroad and he had to leave his now promising apostolate to go to the help of Father McGuire in cholera-stricken Inverness. On the very day of his arrival there had been fourteen deaths. Throwing himself into the fray he began at once in conjunction with Father McGuire a house to house visitation of the sick and dying. With the experience gained at Wick and a repetition of his self denying devotedness, he had the satisfaction of seeing the epidemic grow feebler and finally die out.

Modern science and sanitation have happily put an end to the horrors of cholera and plague. But a reminder of what our forefathers had to endure may be salutary. The cholera coffin with its moveable bottom is still kept in the steeple or belfry of the Old High Church of Inverness.

God’s ways are not our ways and He can bring blessings from unpropitious happenings. Father Lovi’s name was held in high respect and crowds of non-Catholics came to the little Church when he was preaching in the evening. The battle for toleration was virtually won.

Before leaving Inverness Father Lovi was waited on by a deputation representing all classes of citizens and presented with a valuable snuff-box suitably inscribed. The tribute concluded with the words— "Infirmus fui et visitasti me" I was sick and ye visited me.

Long before the year of the plague the room in Margaret Street had proved inadequate for the growing congregation, and a house in the neighbourhood had been converted into a temporary chapel. The Catholic Directory of 1831 speaks of this building as being in a ruinous condition and deplores the fact that the poverty of the congregation is an obstacle to its being repaired or rebuilt. Four years later the note is changed. From an account in the Directory of 1835 we learn that it is proposed to build a worthy chapel in Inverness, and in the following year, 1836, mention is made of the building being well advanced and expected to be ready for use at Midsummer.

Next issue that of 1837 announces triumph "The elegant Chapel is now finished" and arrangements are being made for its opening.


                1837-46 Revd. Angus McKenzie

As often happens, the man who had borne the burden and heat of the day was to let another enter into his labours who would gather his harvest. In 1837 the Revd. Terence McGuire was transferred to Keith and was succeeded by the Revd. Angus McKenzie who had been ordained in Rome in the previous year.


                Opening of St. Mary’s, 1837

And so we come to the first day a hundred years ago April 2nd, 1837. The opening of St. Mary’s the first Catholic place of worship to be built in Inverness since the change of religion in the 16th century is thus described in the Catholic Directory "This beautiful Chapel, lately erected in this town (Inverness) was opened with great solemnity on Low Sunday, 2nd April, 1837, by the Right Rev. Dr Kyle, assisted by the Revd. Terence McGuire and several of the clergymen of the district. The style of the architecture is Gothic. The interior is elegantly painted: the cornices and some portions of the ceiling are gilt. We can imagine that the opening of the new Chapel made something of a sensation in Inverness. It made no attempt to hide itself, but on the contrary rose up in a fine situation overlooking the River Ness and in the very centre of the town.

The Church of Scotland had, since the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, come forth from the Catacombs. Catholics were no longer denied their right to freedom and equality with their

fellow citizens, even in such a stronghold of Presbyterianism as Inverness. The erection of a new Chapel was a declaration of freedom and it was on the whole amicably received. Among a representative congregation we might well expect to find several members of the Lovat family, but there were also present Sir James Gordon of Letterfourie, Charles Edward Stuart, Esquire; John Sobieski Stuart, Esquire, and several reputable Protestants whom the novelty of such a ceremony and in such a place had attracted to the spot.


Exterior of Church.

 The style of architecture is remarkable considering the date of its erection. The Gothic facade with the curious crocheted pinnacles and open parapets have a charming originality and it may be asserted with perfect sincerity that the Inverenss Chapel is the finest example of revived Gothic at the period. Neither St. Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh (1814); St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow (1816); nor the Chapels at Tombae Glenlivet (1929); Dufftown (1825); nor Portsoy (1829) can compare with it. According to the "Inverness Courier" (1837) the Architect was a Mr Robertson from Elgin.

                Franciscan Nuns

In 1845 there came a new development. A school had been opened by the Revd. Angus Mackenzie and was already in a prosperous state. A small community of Franciscan Nuns from the parent house in Glasgow came to Inverness in 1854, and their Convent School began its great work for the children of the town. A house in King Street adjoining the present St. Joseph’s School was assigned to the Nuns, but later they removed to the buildings in Huntly Street since known as the Franciscan Convent. Of the many boarders from far and near who came in the early days to avail themselves of the spiritual and educational facilities offered by the daughters of St. Francis, there are still to be found representatives in Inverness and elsewhere who remember with affection and gratitude their happy days with the good Nuns. Apart from the general excellence of their tuition they were noted for the teaching of pianoforte and violin. Besides their work in the Schools they found time to visit the sick in their homes and alleviate the hardships of the poor true to the tradition of their great Founder, the Poor Man of Assisi.


                Notre Dame Nuns

It was with deep regret and sorrow on the part of the Nuns and congregation that a link of eighty years’ endurance had to be broken when in 1935 the Franciscans were recalled to the Mother House in Glasgow. They were, however, immediately replaced by a community of Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur who, besides teaching in St. Joseph’s School, conduct a Convent School at Huntly Lodge. The chief house of their congregation in Scotland is at Dowanhill, Glasgow. As these Sisters of Notre Dame are among the world’s leading educationalists, specialising in all branches of instruction from Montessori and Froebel methods to Training Colleges for Teachers and (in America) a Catholic University College, it may be confidently anticipated that the Schools, under their charge, will go forward from strength to strength.

1845-47Revd. John McCorry

Resuming our narrative in chronological order with the Directory as our guide we find that the Revd. John McCorry was assistant to Revd. Angus McKenzie in 1845, and in the following year he is in charge with the Rev. John Macdonald as assistant.


1847-48Revd. John Macdonald

Two years later when Fr. MeCorry had gone to Perth, the Revd. John

Macdonald was left in sole charge until 1849 when he was succeeded by the Revd. John Maclachlan.


1849-53Revd. John Maclachlan

About this time and for several years to follow, the garrison at Fort George had service every Sunday served from Inverness. During his tenure of office Fr. Maclachlan was responsible for the redecoration of the Church "with a chasteness and elegance of taste of which there are as yet but few examples in this country."


                1853-88 Revd. William Dawson

For a long period of three and thirty years the Revd. William Dawson had charge of this Parish. Of a kindly and amiable disposition, he won the respect of Catholic and Protestant alike. It is due to him that Catholics have now their own burial ground in the cemetery of Tomnahurich, since having acquired ground for 200 he resold it to the Town Council on condition that it was to be exclusively reserved for the Catholics. He was long and affectionately remembered after his retirement in 1888.



 In the Memoir of the Mission of Strathglass printed in the Directory of 1846 by the Revd. Angus Mackenzie we are told that Eskadale had a population of 700 Catholics, Inverness 400, and Beauly 200.

1887-1918 Revd. Duncan McQueen

During the pastorate of Fr. McQueen several notable improvements were carried out. In 1888 we learn of the completion of an excellent new Presbytery. It came none too soon since it replaced "a wretchedly small and inconvenient chapel house." It was the generosity of Miss Jessie McDonell that gave this welcome addition to the Church buildings at a cost of 1200. By this time St Mary’s was proving all too inadequate for its increasing congregation and it was decided to enlarge the Church by building a new Sanctuary. This was done: and besides giving additional seating for two hundred, it greatly improved the appearance of the interior without changing its special features.

A new High Altar designed by Mr Carruthers of Inverness from suggestions of Peter Paul Pugin and statues of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady and St. Joseph, further beautified the Church. Considerable financial help came from a wealthy Australian lady, Mrs Dalgleish Bellasis, while the money paid by the Town Council for the ground in Tomnahurich Cemetery went towards providing a new Organ. Stations of the Cross at a cost of 40 each were at this time erected.

The solemn opening of the enlarged Church took place on the 22nd August, 1894. Pontifical High Mass was celebrated by the Right Revd. Hugh McDonald, C.S.S.R., Bishop of Aberdeen, and the sermon was preached by His Grace Archbishop McGuire of Glasgow.

Towards the end of his career Fr. McQueen became a member of the Cathedral Chapter in Aberdeen and was raised to the dignity of Domestic Prelate. Like his predecessor, Mgr. McQueen was held in great veneration by the town’s people of Inverness. In the management of the Parish he had the able assistance of the Revds. Patrick Keenan, Bernard Auer and William Bowie.

                1918-28 Revd. Francis Cronin, D.D.

On the death of Mgr. McQueen, the Revd. Francis Cronin, Vice Rector of the Scots College, Valladolid, was appointed to the charge. His first task was to clear off a debt oLE900, outstanding from the various expenses incurred by his predecessor in the extension of parochial work and schools. This he completed within two years.

Dr Cronin interested himself particularly in the cause of Catholic education and served efficiently on the Education Authority and also on the School Management Committee. By his frequent and systematic visitation he endeared himself to his parishioners, while his broad outlook and wide experience rendered him an esteemed member of the community. The curates who served under him were Fr. Macdonald, now Parish Priest of Marydale, and Fr. Francis Walsh, D.D., now Rector of the White Fathers’ Seminary, St. Boswells, Scotland. It was with universal regret that Dr Cronin’s friends heard of his promotion in 1928 to the important charge of Rector of the National Seminary at Blairs.

        1928-34Revd. Patrick Keenan

Father Keenan, who had previously worked in Inverness under Mgr. McOueen, came from Torry to succeed Dr Cronin. Unfortunately the climate of Inverness did not suit him; yet in spite of continued ill health he heroically performed his pastoral duties. No one meeting his breezy and genial personality would have suspected how much suffering there lay underneath. By his cheery and sympathetic manner his visits to the hospitals and other sick beds brought wonderful consolation. The down and out never failed to strike a sympathetic cord in Fr. Keenan’s heart and seldom did they appeal in vain. In his parochial work he had the assistance of Revd. Francis Walsh, D.D.; Revd. Alexander Sullivan, now Parish Priest of Kirkwall; and Revd. Kenneth Mackenzie, now stationed at Wick. In 1934 Fr. Keenan retired through ill health to St. Raphael’s Home, Edinburgh, where he died on 31st August, aged 54 years..


The Last Fifty Years

1937 1987

Interior of the Church

                    1934 - 1938 Canon George P. Shaw

Early in 1936, a meeting of the Congregation was held to consider "what steps should be taken to celebrate the centenary of St. Mary’s in a fitting manner." Plans were made to renovate the stonework at the front of the Church and to refurbish the interior. Various activities were arranged to finance the project and all the organisations in the Parish played their part: the Catholic Young Men’s Society, Children of Mary, the Catholic Women’s League, Scouts, Guides and teachers and pupils of the school.

On Sunday, 2nd May, the Right Rev. George H. Bennett, Bishop of Aberdeen, celebrated Pontifical High Mass in the presence of the Rt. Rev. Andrew Joseph MacDonald, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, who preached the sermon. The Archbishop referred to the opening of the Church one hundred years before, recalling that, at that time, no church in the country could have compared with it, and that "it outshone in dignity and beauty even the Cathedrals of the great cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow." Among the laity was the young Lord Lovat whose forebears had played an active part in the establishment of St. Mary’s in 1837.

The following day began with the celebration of a Requiem Mass for all the deceased clergy and laity identified with the congregation during the past hundred years, and ended with a social evening in the Queens-gate Hotel attended by some three hundred guests. Among these were two representatives of the County Council of Inverness, both of the Education Department, Sir Alexander MacEwan and Mr Murdo Morrison. It is interesting to note that there were as yet no signs of reconciliation and openness in relations with other churches as there were no representatives of other denominations.

During his short time as Parish Priest, Canon Shaw had worked with energy and dedication in the promotion of many projects. Among these was the planning of a replacement of St. Joseph’s School by a more modern building. Canon Shaw invited Messrs. Reid and Forbes, Architects of Edinburgh, to submit plans and estimated for the construction of a school and gymnasium "built of good quality materials without extra luxuries."

Sadly the Canon did not live to see the fruits of his labours and it was with great regret that the Congregation learnt of his death in Blairs College, Aberdeen, almost exactly a year after the Centenary.

                1938 - 1954 Rev. Valentine J. MacKenzie

Father MacKenzie’s first task was to carry on the negotiations begun by Canon Shaw for the completion of the new school. Many factors delayed the progress of building, not least the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1943, the school was formally opened by Bishop Bennett at a ceremony presided over by Provost Hugh MacKenzie, and custody of the new school was accepted by Lochiel Kt on behalf of the County Council in his role as Convener. The Church authorities had stipulated that the school should be built next to the Church and that "it should be carried on in all times as a Catholic School."

The war years saw many changes in St. Mary’s with the influx of Catholic service people from all over the world. To meet their needs, Canon MacKenzie established a canteen in vacant premises at the top of the Raining Stairs.

It was staffed by ladies of the Congregation and it was to become a place of rest and recreation for men and women of the Services and a contact with the Church. It proved popular with those of all denominations.

It is sad to recall that, a few short years after the renovations, a violent storm blew down the ball and cross from the front elevation of the Church. In the interests of safety, the balustrate and pinnacles of the spires had to be removed as it was impossible to have repairs carried out during the war years.

Father MacKenzie was to serve as Parish Priest in St. Mary’s for sixteen years, carrying out his duties faithfully in a quiet and unassuming way. He became a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter and later, as Vicar-General of the Diocese, became a Domestic Prelate. In 1954, he was appointed Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Beauly, and remained there till his retirement. He died in 1970 at the age of 79.

1954-1977 Canon Alexander D. Sullivan

The post-war years saw rapid changes in the town of Inverness. With the growth in population, new housing estates were springing up, extending the burgh boundaries to the east. The congregation had increased in proportion and, by the end of the Fifties, the Catholic Director records an estimated Catholic population of 1520. Many families without private transport had to walk long distances to Sunday Mass and in 1959, Bishop Walsh decided the time had come to create a new parish in the town. A house was purchased in Culduthel Road and altered to become a bright and modern Church. Many felt sadness at what seemed the breaking up of the Community but the years have proved the necessity of the decision. The first congregation of St. Ninian’s numbered 230, but, at the time of writing, has increased to 700 while St. Mary’s numbers 1100. Father George McCurrach (now Canon) was the first Parish Priest of the new Church.

In 1958, Pope John XXIII was elected and the sixties became the decade of the second Vatican Council. It fell to Canon Sullivan to prepare the people for the liturgical and other changes, particularly the New Order of the Mass. An interesting sidelight on the celebration of the Mass in English comes from Canon Sandy MacWilliam. Father Terence McGuire, Parish Priest of the small congregation in Margaret Street in 1936, had to begin the usual campaign to raise money for the proposed church in Huntly Street. Canon MacWilliam writes: "The building process was both helped and hindered by the Invernessians according to their various theological persuasions, but the Provost gave a guinea with the promise of something handsome later on condition that the Mass should be said in English. He and his council, he said, and most of the leading citizens were warmly favourable to the project."

Canon Sullivan ministered to the Congregation of St. Mary’s for twenty-three years. His pastoral care could not be better expressed than in the memorable panegyric preached by Canon Bernard McDonald of St. Ninian’s Parish at the Requiem Mass in St. Mary’s. "As a priest he had real solicitude and care for each and every parishioner. His concern primarily was for their spiritual welfare in the sight of God but he was also concerned for their material well-being . . . Countless people came to him with their worries, anxieties, problems. He would spend endless hours listening, counselling, caring. And they came in such numbers because they trusted him."

Canon Sullivan foresaw that there would have to be many structural changes in St. Mary’s to meet the requirements of the new liturgy, but failing health and advancing years prevented him from carrying these out. Instead he carefully husbanded the resources of the Parish in order to help finance the necessary renovations in the future.

                1977 Canon Duncan Stone

Canon Stone came to St. Mary’s from the Holy Family Parish in Aberdeen where he had just finished paying off the debt outstanding from the building of the new Church. With courage and determination, he shouldered the burden of transforming St. Mary’s to meet the requirements of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and to restore the front of the building to its former glory. The Sanctuary has been extended to accommodate a marble altar and an extra aisle and wing has been added to the south side of the Church. Care has been taken to keep the special features the beautiful altars of Caen stone designed in the style of Peter Paul Pugin, the stone pulpit and the Stations of the Cross. Work has still to be done to the facade to restore it to its former Gothic splendour but, hopefully, this will be finished in the near future.

Costs have been enormous, but with the same dedication that he showed in the Holy Family Parish, and the generous response of the faithful, Canon Stone has paid off a large part of the debt with remarkable speed.

One of the main themes of the Second Vatican Council was the greater involvement of the laity in the Church. Helped and encouraged by the frequent visits of Bishop Mario Conti, Canon Stone has gradually introduced many of the new features in the worship of the congregation. There are now five Ministers of the Eucharist commissioned to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion, especially that now we have the privilege of receiving Communion under both kinds. A team of Lay Readers, men and women, have overcome their diffidence and read the Word of God with confidence. Cantors sing the Psalms and lead the Congregation in the singing of hymns, old and new, accompanied by Mr George Spence at the new organ. Another innovation is the children’s liturgy group, when the three-to-five-year-olds retire to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word in a manner befitting their tender years.

It would be idle to pretend that everyone welcomed these changes but, in a surprisingly short time, they have come to be accepted as normal. It is well to remember that a younger generation in the Community has grown up with the new liturgy and do not look back with nostalgia as may some of the older parishioners.

A Parish Council has lately been formed comprising elected members of the congregation and representatives of the various committees in the Parish. Its purpose is to involve the laity in decisions about everything from the liturgy to the arranging of social events, sharing with the Parish Priest some of the burdens of administration.

The parishioners of St. Mary’s can justly rejoice in the beauty of their church building but it is in the deepening of its spirituality that the strength of a parish lies. The large numbers who receive Holy Communion at Sunday Mass, the attendance at Daily Mass, especially in Lent and Advent, testify to the deep faith of its people. The recital of the Morning Prayer of the Church has begun in a modest way on Saturdays and a Prayer Group meets regularly in the Convent. Tribute must also be paid to the members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society who quietly care for the more deprived of our community.

But now the Parish must reach out to the greater community in which they live, to many people living in a materialistic society who are hungry for a deeper purpose in life. Our Lord has said that the Good News we have received must be shared and, through the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.), the Parish is making a firm commitment to take responsibility for the formation of adults wishing to join the community of those privileged to have received the Faith. This spirit of evangelisation takes us beyond the boundaries of the Parish to the world outside. The first steps have been taken and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is to be hoped many may come to make a commitment to Christ.

No record of the history of the Parish would be complete without mention of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Scotland. For months, the congregation prepared by prayer and reflection for his visit. A special train bore three hundred parishioners of the northern deanery to Bellahouston Park on the 2nd June, 1982. Many others travelled by car and

coach to join in the tumultous welcome which he received, not only from the faithful, but from our brothers and sisters of other persuasions. How many of that first congregation in 1837 could have dreamed of such an event in Scotland!

                    The Sisters of St. Mary’s

With the departure of the Notre Dame nuns in 1953, the Convent at Huntly Lodge was taken over by the Siters of La Sagesse, where they continued to conduct the school and assist in the two parishes. With the abolition of fee-paying schools, many of the Sisters were recalled to serve in other Convents and the remaining nuns moved to a house in Kenneth Street. From there they opened a Kindergarten in Ballifeary Road and organised the instruction of Secondary pupils in the parish, but to the regret of their many friends, they too were recalled.

For a short time, the Holy Rosary Sisters occupied the house in Kenneth Street and did great work in the Community. Unfortunately they too had to leave.

In 1981, the old Convent School in Huntly Street was renovated. At the turn of the century it had been a boarding school in the care of the Franciscans and later a small fee-paying school with classrooms on the ground and first floors. When the Notre Dame nuns reopened the school in Huntly Lodge, the ground floor of the old building served for a time as a canteen for the pupils of St. Joseph’s until the new kitchen, canteen and infant classrooms were opened.

The building is now occupied by the Sisters of La Sainte Union. The ground floor room is now an attractive meeting room for the Parish, while the upper rooms have been converted into a livingroom, bedrooms and a beautiful little oratory.

The Sisters do sterling work in the Parish, visiting the sick and elderly, encouraging the young people to become involved in the community and lately supporting Canon Stone in the establishment of the R.C.I.A.

What of the future? The town continues to expand and a large percentage of the Parish now lies in the Balloch, Culloden and Smithton areas. Mass is said in Duncan Forbes School for those who find it difficult to attend St. Mary’s but it is clear that the time must come when they will have to have their own church.

 [Quote from 1937 Brochure]

"It is interesting to note that the Church was dedicated to Our Lady, thus perpetuating the original dedication of the Burgh of Inverness to the Blessed Virgin. The old Parish Church built in her honour stood on the site of the present High Church. Researches show that the earliest ecclesiastical seal of Inverness was that of the Virgin and Child. From a document in Inshes Charter dated 1517 we gather that the monastic seal of the Black Friars had the Crucifix on the obverse side with the Virgin and Child on the reverse. When the arms were matriculated in 1688, the Crucifix became a central figure of the Burgh Arms. Inverness Burgh enjoys, therefore, the unique distinction of being the only one with the Crucifix on its coat-of-arms. But still earlier dates are given in a Catalogue of Seals in the British Museum. There the date of the Ecclesiastical Seal in 1436, and the seal of the Burgh of Inverness, with particulars showing that it had the Saviour on the Cross and also the Virgin and Child, is given the date of 1439.

Our Lady has graciously protected the Church and Burgh of Inverness in the past and has been with us in all our efforts to restore the freedom and honour the Church of St. Columba in the place which was honoured by his footprints. It is the heartfelt prayer of all of us, her children, that by her unfailing intercession with her divine Son, Our Lord, she may help us preserve unsullied the noble tradition of our Fathers, and that she may, in her own gentle way, enkindle in the hearts of many the blessed fire of the faith that Columba first brought to Inverness. The great Apostle opened the doors by the sign of the Cross and the Church of Inverness has manfully borne the Cross for centuries."

Finally, tribute must be paid to Canon Stone for his selfless dedication in carrying out his pastoral duties. He has proved himself a worthy successor to the priests who-have served St. Mary’s so well in the past 150 years. Ad multos annos!

Parish Priests of St. Mary’s

1837 - 1987

Rev. Terence McGuire


Rev. Angus MacKenzie


Rev. John Stuart McCorry


Rev. John McDonald


Rev. John MacLachlan

1848- 1852

Rev. William Dawson


Rev. Duncan MacQueen


Rev. Francis Cronin


Rev. Patrick Keenan


Rev. George Paul Shaw


Rev. ValentineJ. Mackenzie


Rev. D. Sullivan


Rev. Duncan Stone


Assistant Priests in St. Mary’s


Rev. John McCorry


Rev. John Macdonald


Rev. Patrick Keenan


Rev. Bernard Auer


Rev. William Bowie


Rev. Cohn Macdonald


Rev. Francis Walsh


Rev. Alexander Sullivan


Rev. Kenneth MacKenzie


Rev. William Nicol


Rev. William McLaughlin


Rev. John Ward


Rev. Hugh Gordon


Rev. J. K. Robertson


Rev. Robert Mann


Rev. Duncan Stone


Rev. Patrick Grady


Rev. Charles Redmond


Rev. Aloysius Waleczek


Rev. David Keith


Rev. Douglas Stuart


Rev. Hugh Malaney


Rev. J. Gordon Robson


Rev. Aeneas MacRae


Rev. Richard Larkin


Rev. CharlesT. Stanley


Rev. John Beveridge


Rev. James Birrell


Rev. Brian MacDonald