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It would be foolish to imagine that readers, however faithful, have been stopping each other in the street to complain about the non arrival of Scalan News in November, but to cut a long and anxious story short, there was a problem with the computerised address list. It has now been solved, and this issue which has been in preparation since October again has December on the cover. Anne Davidson's frontispiece (see p. 13) which somehow evokes Scalan - and also Tynet, Anson's 'Banffshire Bethlehem' - is suitably seasonal.

Seminary Visits

The interior work of restoring Scalan has been proceeding steadily through the work of George Beverly and his family firm from Rhynie, with good prospects of everything being completed by next summer. A party of Scotus College students went there a few weeks ago and were pleased with the weather and the premises. They were with their Spiritual Director Fr. Paul Kelly, having already visited the 'West Scalan' of Loch Morar in a larger party which included another member of the Scotus staff. Mass was said on the island, bagpipes were played and history was spoken about. It was good that priests of the future made pilgrimage to these two seminary sites. A less successful boat trip to the island took place in June, when Fife Catenians and their wives had to contend with midges, bracken and mud. A strategic retreat to the jetty was made after one lady cried, 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!'

BBC Scotland at Scalan

Provided the boys and girls of Lady Lovat School in Morar carry out the package and posting task with their usual enthusiasm, UK members should get their magazines in time to benefit from this notice. On a bitterly cold autumn day John Watts was interviewed at Scalan by Mark Stephen for his 'Past Lives' series. He was very enthusiastic, and went on to Blairs for a further unplanned interview with David Taylor who has charge of the museum. The programme goes out on BBC Scotland on Monday 8 December at 11.30 a.m. with a repeat on Tuesday at 10.30 p.m.

Annual Scalan Mass

The usual gathering of members took place on Sunday 8 July on a dry day, although it stayed overcast throughout. To drive or not to drive the last stretch from Eskmulloch is always a question - partly about the spirit of pilgrimage, partly car springs. This year, thanks to committeemember Gordon MacGillivray of Achnascraw and £1700 worth of aggregate, all the old potholes had been filled in. There was an obvious incentive to 'follow the yellow brick road' (very bright) but most chose the route over the field as in previous years, such is the force of habit.

    Jimmy Cameron Stuart played his pipes as people arrived and preparations were made. Jimmy has been abroad, and brought to Scalan a Chinese priest from Goa. Those 'on the altar' in front of the old seminary building with our President Canon Brian Halloran were Monsignors John McIntyre and Eddie Traynor (whose petrol driven musicians once more led the singing) and Fathers Frank Barnett SJ, Michael Briody, John Kelly and James Morrow. Deacon Vincent McQuade completed the Catholic clergymen there on the day, but the Rev. John Hegarty, who is Buckie's Church of Scotland Minister, was also present.

    Fr. Briody preached movingly about one Braemar born Scalan student who continued his studies at the Scots College in Valladolid. He certainly 'put flesh' on the building with this focus on Lachlan McIntosh, but pointed out that the same man who built the second Scalan, John Geddes, also reopened the Madrid college in Valladolid, where there was also an English College. It was in that very Spanish atmosphere, speaking about the college he had presided over in Glenlivet, that he spoke the words on the cover of Scalan News. A lottery win in 1778 prompted Lachlan to leave college for Corunna, ignoring a call by Geddes to return. Next year he became seriously ill in the Canary Islands and twice nearly died. In 1781 he sailed to Lisbon and walked to the Spanish border, where he had just enough money to reach Valladolid by coach. The Prodigal Son arrived barefoot, rang the bell and waited on his knees for the new rector Alexander Cameron, who accepted him back. Lachlan McIntosh was ordained in 1782 and returned to the Highlands of Aberdeenshire, where he used his all enveloping black manteo (part of the college uniform) with a silver clasp for protection against the Scottish weather. He travelled between his Glengairn base and Corgarff on Donside on a 'sheltie' or pony. At the age of 75 Lachlan asked his bishop for a less onerous mission, but was still in charge of Glengairn when he died in 1846. He had seen Scalan give way to Aquhorties, and then the opening of Blairs College in the year of Catholic Emancipation. Thanks to Bishop Conti's timely intervention, some years ago, the gravestone of Lachlan McIntosh can still be visited at Foot of Gairn.

George Watt intends to follow up his article on the Michies of Badenyon with another about two Clark sisters (Michie descendants) who married and brought up families at Scalan. However he has been held up by a fire at the Grant Lodge branch of Elgin Library. Sophia the older sister married John McGregor whose occupation of molecatcher lay behind the title of an article in ScN 13, 'Of Moles and Men'. The article which follows in this issue appeared in a June 1897 issue of The Distiller's Magazine and Spirit Trade News: thanks for this are due to Ron McGregor at Elgin Library. The author James Gordon Phillips was a writer, poet and travelling tailor whose 1881 book Wanderings in the Highlands of Banff and Aberdeen Shires contained five chapters on Glenlivet. His lively observations are quoted in the final historical section of Tales of the Braes of Glenlivet. George Watt has discovered that John McGregor was born in Glasgow after his father James was disbanded with the Strathspey Fencibles at Stirling Castle in 1799. More than a molecatcher, he turns out to have been a famous whisky smuggler.

The Old Smuggler

James Gordon Philips

This incident is so well known in Glenlivet and the man showed such coolness and bravery that I do not hesitate to give his name. John McGregor was the last man we would have expected to do a piece of daring. He was one of those exceedingly quiet men who almost speak in whispers and so seldom that it looks as if they were afraid. Neither was he a big man, but he was firmly built. I have got John to tell the incident oftener than once, though he never thought much about it himself. John had the misfortune to be caught redhanded with smuggled whisky at the Spittal of Glenshee, at a time when extraordinary efforts were being made to put down smuggling and when dragoons were employed in the operations as well as infantry. John was seated upon a horse between two dragoons, his legs tied beneath its belly and his hands tied behind his back. Then the march continued down Glenshee. There were ten or a dozen dragoons under an officer, but I may as well tell the story as nearly as possible in John's own words:

'They were a jolly lot o' fellows,' he said, 'and they had had a good dram at the Spittal (the Spittal was and is [1897] a public house). It was pretty well on in the afternoon, in fact near the gloamin'. The twa dragoons an mysel' were the last so that I could try an' release my hands without anybody seeing from behind. They werena very tightly tied; maybe they thocht that when my legs were tied, there wasna muckle chance o' me escapin'. Well, I got my hands loused, but I kept them in position till I would think what I could do, and the evening was closin' in fast, which would give me a better chance. 'The only plan that I could think about was to jump ower the Brig o' Calley, for if I was ance in Blairgowrie there wadna be muckle chance for me. But then the Brig o' Calley is a terrible height, about sixty feet above the water, and how was I to get on the ravel (parapet) o' the brig wi' a dragoon on each side o' me and my legs tied anaith a horse's belly? I thocht if I could get my hand into my pouch and get out my knife - I could manage. I waited until it was pretty dark and we were near the brig, and then I thocht now or never.

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Cautiously I drew round ane o' my hands, leaving the other behind my back. The dragoon never noticed me, and I got my hand slipped into my pocket and got hold of the knife. Now, I thocht, the day's my ain, so I waited until I got close to the brig. Then I suddenly bent down and cut the cord that bound my legs, gave ae chiel a skepack (blow) wi' my right hand and another a skepack wi my left and knocked them baith aff their horse. Then I sprang on the ravel o' the brig and was oot ower in a crack.' 'But, John, you might have been killed,' I said. 'Oh, I kent the hole below was gey deep,' he replied, 'and there was little danger from the dragoons. You see the poor chiels got sic an astonishment that they were not prepared to defend themsel's.' 'Well, how did you get on ?' I asked.

'Man, I cam' doon in the water wi' a terrible clash, and I struck my foot on a bit of rock and knocked mysel' oot o' the queet (ankle), but I swam and got in anaith the roots o' a tree. The dragoons went proggin' wi' their lang swords in the banks, an' they cam' near enough ance or twice. Then the officer cried, "Oh the poor devil is drowned; let him go."' 'Then how did you manage with your ankle, John ?' I asked. 'Well, I had a gey struggle. There was a canny woman that I knew who lived about two miles away, and I managed to reach her house, and she put it right for me, and I was able to walk in the course o' a week or two." Some folk may think that this story looks a bit fishy, but it is perfectly true and can be verified if any one takes the trouble to write to John McGregor's son at Scalan, Braes of Glenlivet. That however was only one of the feats performed by John.

    On another occasion, he and a neighbour were pursued by a number of preventives when they came to a heap of broken metal on the roadside. John and his neighbour settled down upon the heap of broken stones, and soon the metal was flying about the heads and on to the backs of the Excise officers with wonderful precision. The officers threatened shooting but they did not do it and in the end called a parley. An arrangement was arrived at whereby John and his friend were allowed to depart.

    John, however, was only one amongst many, but I have selected him as a typical case of dour pertinacity. He was a year in Perth prison, and he used to say that he came out a good deal richer than he went in. Twelve months' imprisonment, however, had not the effect of stopping him from smuggling. No sooner had he returned home than he commenced the making of whisky. In after years, John took to the much less exciting occupation of catching moles, but I remember he often went searching for a cask he buried in haste in the dark and forgot the spot. He used to say to me if he could only discover the spot he would give me a gallon or two out of it. He was sure it would be well matured lying so long.

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I have most kindly recollections of the old man, not only for his pluck he displayed on many exciting occasions, but for his quiet modesty in talking about himself. He was a good man and an excellent type of the Scottish Highlander.

John McGregor's son was James McGregor, born at Scalan on November 13 1833 and died there on May 21 1899.

The Keenan Family

Ian Stewart

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I was very interested in Ann Dean's article on 'The Elusive JK' in No. 24 (May 2002) and Malachi Mulligan's followup in No. 25. My mother's family were great friends and neighbours of the Keenans; and indeed I believe they were related through marriage. Certainly my maternal grandparents - who themselves met in the Cathedral choir at Huntly Street in Aberdeen - knew the Keenans well and admired their skills and musicianship - James (the gilder) also being a flautist, and his daughter Mary Frances a music teacher and organist. May I therefore make a few points about the article in question?

    JK and his wife Mary (m.s. Martin) were said by Ann Dean to have had six children; in fact they had nine. A son, Stephen, was born in 1882 and sadly died just before Christmas of the following year. He is the infant referred to in the St Machar's inscription quoted by Malachi Mulligan. A second Stephen was born in 1891 and Redmond the year after that. The other six are named in the article.

James Keenan Jr.

James, the eldest son of the gilder, carver and picture framemaker, was actually born in June 1874, not 1875. He began life at 15 Forbes Street and his 'arrival' (on 3rd June) is noted in my greatgrandmother's birthday prayerbook. Great grandmother was an Aberdeen McDonald like JK, so it is very likely they were related. Young James and my grandfather appear to have been boyhood companions, but no one still alive in the family know the details of his death. Although this James Keenan gave his address as 'Balgranach', Milltimber, in October 1941, he cannot have stayed there very long. I suspect this was a refuge from bombing in the south, because he had moved many years earlier to London where he had a position with the Chartered Bank of India. When my own parents sent out their wedding invitations in 1935 his address was 8 De Walden Court, New Cavendish Street, London W1. As far as I know, he never married.

Other Family Members

JK, father of the family, was indeed a widower when he stayed with his priest son Patrick in Torry, but daughter Mary did not stay on long at Huntly Street as suggested in the article. She moved to 101 Beaconsfield Place, which was still her home in 1941 although she died at the Northern Nursing Home in Albyn Place. She was 64, not 66 as stated in her death certificate.

    Ann Dean mentions confusion over a death in World War I. In fact the John Keenan of the Scottish Rifles killed in France in March 1915 was not part of the Aberdeen family at all: his parents were at Carfin and his wife at Motherwell. The Redmond Keenan on the Huntly Street memorial is not a case of mistaken identity. He was the youngest of JK's sons and served in the Machine Gun Corps. He died on 24th March 1918. His name also appears (along with 14,000 others) on the Pozières Memorial in the Somme district of France.

    John Sutherland Keenan, twin of (Father) Patrick, was named after the Rev. John Sutherland who spent many years at St Mary's, Huntly Street. He became a house painter and, like James the banker, left Scotland. I don't think he ever returned. Ann Dean has told us about the girls. Going back a generation, JK's father came to Aberdeen from Dundee, where he and Jean McDonald (an Aberdonian) had married in November 1837. Originally, of course, the Keenans came from Ireland.

Meanwhile Ann discovered the following in P. J. M. McEwan's Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture: 'Keenan, John S. fl. (painted) 190211. Aberdeen painter of landscape, usually in oil. Exhibited AAS (Aberdeen Artists Soc.) from 195 Union Street.' This brings us back full circle to the landscape painting which included Scalan.

Bishop Peter Moran

Canon Moran's work as Administrator of the Aberdeen diocese was featured - twice - in the last issue, and it is very pleasing that he has been named as successor to Bishop Mario Conti. A recent inquiry about Shaws on the Blairs estate produced, 'immediately and off the top of my head', a full reply which amply demonstrated his affection for the college which had its roots in Scalan. The editor of Open House, Ian Willock, welcomed the appointment on other grounds:

The new Bishop of Aberdeen, Canon Peter Moran, is coming to office with several recommendations. He has a good intellect, exercised in academic and pastoral experience. He knows the diocese and its priests and people well, having worked there for 39 years. As Diocesan Administrator for eighteen months, following Bishop Conti's translation to Glasgow, he visited all the parishes in that time and so is familiar with the current conditions and problems of the Diocese. Indeed the appointment provides an interesting example of the clergy in effect electing their own Bishop, since they chose one of their own number to be temporary Diocesan Administrator, and having presumably done the job satisfactorily he was appointed as Bishop by the Pope on the recommendation of the Congregation of Bishops.

Ian, a Scalanite, went on to regret the trend towards 'OAP Bishops' contrasting eight episcopal appointments, since Cardinal Gray, of men in their forties. Bishop Moran would no doubt shake his grey head with that characteristic rueful smile and agree! The elevation of Cardinal Keith O'Brien also deserves to be celebrated here. He progressed from being Rector of Blairs to Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and is a committed member of the Scalan Association.

Strichen Postscript

More is promised from James Russell, whose 'The Rev. Charles Fraser and his Forebears' focused on the Double House at Strichen. Meanwhile here is a follow up. Bishop John Geddes, whose words are on the cover, passed through Strichen in September 1788 within six months of the birth of Charles Fraser: 'He made a missionary tour through the destitute district of Buchan [i.e., destitute of a priest - the lack of one may explain the gap between Charles' birth and baptism] saying mass, preaching and hearing confessions at various places as he went along. In the Fair at Strichen his umbrella was an object of general curiosity.' Geddes was a great walker. On the bookplate which displays his arms as titular Bishop of Morocco 'in partibus infidelium' is the motto Ambula Coram Deo - Walk in the Presence of God.

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In the summer of 1790 he walked to the northern tip of Scotland and crossed to Orkney in order to visit two sisters who had become Catholics in Edinburgh. The episode (as well as an earlier visit by the Rev. Alexander Gordon, last Principal of the Scots College Paris) is discussed in a fine book produced recently by Alison Gray entitled Circle of Light: The Catholic Church in Orkney since 1560 (Birlinn, £9.99). Her article 'Catholics of the Enzie: A Neighbour's View' was in ScN 16.

    John Watts picked up what was most interesting about Bishop Geddes on this expedition: 'He took in Scalan on his return, and seems to have covered the road from John O'Groats to the Braes in ten days. He arrived at the door of the seminary, where no doubt an admiring crowd of local children and grownups gathered to gaze wide eyed, not at the bishop (for they could see one of those every day) but his folding umbrella. His weeks on the road probably marked a turning point in his health, which began to decline that autumn.'

    Geddes's health was further weakened by a trip to Paris at Christmas 1791. There he negotiated unsuccessfully over the future of the Scots College, as events moved towards the execution of Louis XVI by Dr Guillotin's invention. British ingenuity inclined towards sheltering heads, not removing them. The globetrotting Jonas Hanway had at last succeeded in making the umbrella acceptable for men - and for rain not sun - after thirty years of mockery in the streets of London. Dr Samuel Johnson, who resisted Hanway's objections to tea drinking, said: 'Jonas acquired some reputation by travelling abroad, but lost it all by travelling at home.' Steel frames replaced whalebone in mid 19th century, and folded brollies followed. [Sorry for the urge to trivia!]

    When Geddes arrived at Scalan to relieve Bishop Hay in the summer of 1793 he could no longer dress himself. Nor did the Scalan goat's milk cure help. As winter approached, Geddes left the building which he had raised quarter of a century ago. He was taken by farm cart to the turnpike road at Dufftown. His last years of pain and paralysis (while he wrote a history of St Margaret of Scotland) were spent in the care of his nephew the young priest Charles Gordon in Aberdeen's Castlegate.

A new edition of St Peter's Church, Aberdeen: 1804 1979 by Mgr Alexander MacWilliam (founding father of the Scalan Association with two other priests) is to be brought out for next year's bicentenary of the present building. Canon Peter Moran, as he then was, visited the Castlegate last year:

Many years ago, when Miss Margaret Shaw (of Briggs on the Blairs estate, and recently deceased in her mid nineties) taught music at St Peter's Secondary School, she had a choir which sang from the balcony of St Peter's church. One day a little boy who did not know about it came to church with his mother, or perhaps his granny, and both of them went to the front. When the choir began to sing the boy was taken by surprise and twisted round to see where the voices were coming from. As they went out he was interrogated: 'Fit wis aa that cairryoan at the start o' Mass?' He replied, 'Ah thocht ah heard the angels singan, bit fan ah lookit roon it wis jist a lotta quines on a shelf.'

    When I recalled this with some of today's singers over a cup of tea, it emerged that they had very probably been among those 'quines' as members of Miss Shaw's choir. (One of them is looking towards her Goden Wedding in 2005, so we are talking about the postwar period.) To understand the story they gave me, one has to know that the stalks of a potato plant above ground are 'shaws' or 'tattie shaws' - pronounced 'shaas'. Indeed two related families of Shaws on the Blairs estate (second cousins of the Miss Shaw in question) were referred to even in my time on the college staff as 'Tattie Shaw' and 'Goatie Shaw' in order to distinguish the farmer from the goatbreeder.

    One of the recognised ways of teaching children elementary rhythm in a music class or choir is to ask them to say certain syllables as they beat out the correct rhythm to a piece of music. The correct syllables for one such rhythm were 'Taa taa, ta fe, ta fe taa', but these ladies told me they used to amuse themselves by saying instead: 'Taa taa, tattie tattie Shaa'.

Wardhouse's Treasures

Following a series of references in recent issues to the Spanish Gordons of Wardhouse, another fine booklet has been compiled by Jean Matheson entitled The Search for Wardhouse.

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New ground is covered in the description of sales which took place in 1898, first at the house and then at Union Bridge Sale Rooms in Aberdeen. Among Jacobite relics and religious paintings at Wardhouse a recurrent feature is the Gordon family crest on silver items including spoons. It may be significant that the cross crosslet with one leg 'fitché was also the heraldic emblem of the Cheynes of Arnage. As the late Dr A. T. Macqueen showed in ScN 5 and 6, the priest theologian James Cheyne funded the Scots College Douai out of a forced sale in Buchan. Also curious, a Gordon of Newton bought crested dessert spoons. After the 1594 victory of the 'Popish Earls' at Glenlivet, the Gordon house of Newton near Insch was blown up in the same way as Old Slains, though Huntly's Gordon Castle was spared on account of its beauty.

A contributor asks 'How many islands can you find? He wishes to remain anonymous, so no answers on a postcard!

Once upon a time there was a man called Ben Becula who was much Harrissed lest he might Lewis his life. So he took a cocktail of Eigg and Rhum, though it seemed Eriskay drink especially as he wasn't Uist to it. Shortly afterwards he said, 'Iona feel a little Tireed,' and he knew he Shuna swallowed the Muck, so he said Islay me down to enJura little peace. Later he was heard to Colonsay, 'I hear my final Coll.' So his soul went to Skye, and they took his body in a Barra. As for his poor wife, she Canna believe it, and it is a wonder the shock has St Kilda.

Readers Write. . .

I was very interested to read about the Michie family of Glenbuchat. I can give George Watt information on them going back a further two generations which was provided by Bill Grant of Glenlivat, now sadly deceased. [George's address in Ontario was supplied and led to a fruitful exchange.] Regarding James, the natural son born to Thomas Michie and Helen McHardy at Corrie Demick in 1846, one sponsor at the baptism, Alexander Grant of Coruanach, was my great grandfather and the other, Margaret Grant of Demick, my great aunt. Isobel Grant, who has been a regular contributor to Scalan News, is a distant relative of mine. I believe she now lives in the Glenlivat area. We used to correspond by letter and phone until a couple of years ago, and my wife and I once visited her in London. Please give our best wishes to Isobel and tell her we are still thinking of her.

James Grant, Bedworth.

Isobel Grant, who is now a grand old lady in the family tradition, lives in Tomintoul. As she makes clear in Tales of the Braes of Glenlivet, Isobel was born a 'posthumous baby' at Comelybank on 26 March 1915.

I returned to England in 2001 just before Bill Grant's death. Indeed his last kindness to me was to give explicit instructions on how to find the Buiternach (the old cemetery) as I had failed twice before in my search. Thanks to Bill I got there at the third attempt. I have been in the habit of visiting Glenlivet in alternate years since 1989 and there I've been treated almost as a local - coming from near Sherwood Forest and six foot four they think of me as 'Little John'. However my widowed friend left the area for Elgin, and was promptly flooded out much as described by Hetty Milne in the last issue. She found refuge near Nottingham, and it was from there that I drove her up to see about builders' merchants, furnishers, etc. That was in April 2003. I hope to be able to continue my visits to mass at Tomintoul, Tombae and the Braes, making my pilgrimage to that treasured spot which is Scalan. I'm within sight of 75 now, though, and it's a 450 mile journey.

John Stevenson, Southwell.

The next letter is left in the writer's elegant French for the sake of those who learned the language at school.

Je me suis plongé dans "Scalan News"; j'y ai retrouvé avec plaisir le Collège des Ecossais, avec la reproduction de son remarkable ex libris dont notre bibliothèque des Irlandais possède plusieurs exemplaires. Avez vous remarqué que le graveur, John Ingram, a fait figurer, à l'arrière plan, derrière la croix en X de saint André, deux minuscules paysages parisiens, à droite deux moulins sur des buttes, le futur Montmartre, à gauche un bord de Seine? [Get out your magnifying glasses along with your dictionaries!] Quant à l'inscription "Collège des Ecossois", elle est gravée depuis la fin du XVIIe siècle sur la clef de voûte du portail du Collège rue du Cardinal Lemoine, à l'époque rue des Fossées Saint Victor.

Maurice Caillet, Paris.

Monsieur Caillet was at home when your editor called after locating the Irish College, now a cultural centre. Its library contains books from the Scots College which closed at the Revolution along with that of Douai. He produced a dossier of information on Scots who were 'exiled for their religion' in the half century or so after the Scottish Reformation. From balmy Buchan, and from Dunblane, they went to the Siberia which is Provence - and stayed there!

'The Rev. Charles Fraser and his Forebears' has completely unknown details about Gallus Robertson OSB, e.g., forenames of his parents, being brought up Protestant, etc. It is interesting that he grew up in the house where the Buchan priest resided. Strichen is also unknown as his birthplace. Would it be possible to find out where Sister Margaret Fraser's manuscript is? I have made a short article concentrating on Gallus Robertson's early life. My piece on him in the New Dictionary of National Biography is already out of date! I will offer it to the Innes, making full reference to Scalan News.

Mark Dilworth OSB, Edinburgh.

Abbot Dilworth was put in touch with James Russell's collaborator Nicholas Coleman, who has Sister Margaret Fraser's MS. The editor of The Innes Review, the journal of the Scottish Catholic Historical Association, has accepted the Gallus Robertson article for one of the 2004 issues. Your editor has a long article in the current Innes entitled 'William McIntosh in the West Highlands: changing the practice of religion'.

I am very honoured to have my drawing used for Scalan News [see frontispiece]. It is such an interesting publication and there is always something new to learn. Even without the offer of a plug I'd say yes, but am quite happy about that too!

[In March Scotland on Sunday carried the story of how Archbishop Conti arranged for PM Tony Blair to present a bronze statue of St Margaret, made in the Aberdeen studio of Anne Davidson (where she is in business with her husband Jimmy) to the Pope when he visited the Vatican.] The incident was rather strange. Though we both found the publicity welcome, we were not so happy to have our work used by someone trying to justify going to war. I am relieved that the Pope was unmoved. I've just finished a St Cuthbert, complete with otters. There is a great devotion to him in the Borders and the North of England.

Anne Davidson, Aberdeen.

The St Margaret of Scotland statue is nine inches high and shows the queen with a poor child. It was cast in 1993 to mark 900 years since her death and costs £90. Pope John Paul's present was No. 291 in a limited edition of 500. Check the website at:


. . . and E mail

If the people of the Braes had all perished then my great grandfather William Ross, whose mother was Elspet Michie, would never have walked upon this earth. This would have eliminated my mother and also myself! Elspet was born at Corrie Demick to Thomas Michie and Elizabeth McHardy, as shown by George Watt and his family tree in the last issue. George and I are related through both the Michie and McHardy lines.

    Here in Michigan I find the idea of Scottish people and places fascinating. To me it is not just history but part of myself. As a girl I used to ask my grandmother to teach me the way her father and mother would have spoken in Scotland. She dearly tried as she sat with her quilting, but at the end of many days she said softly, 'Esther I do not think you can make your tongue form the words, so I will give you a simple phrase. When someone asks you something you do not know, just say "I dinna ken."'

Esther Elspeth Kualske, EElspeth@aol.com.

Another e mail came from George Watt's province of Ontario.

I have found the Scalan site and would be delighted to become a subscriber. My mother's family originated in the Braes, and I was brought up with stories about the Stuarts of East Auchavaich. When we visited the graveyard she went from stone to stone and they were all relatives. A family history was undertaken by an aunt, and my winter project is to utilize the information on a computer family tree program. Later, in response to a request for back numbers. . . I have had such an enjoyable time with the issues you sent of Scalan News. The format of great articles complemented by Ann Dean's sketches is so good, and 'Readers Write' testifies to the interest of members. I am looking forward to making contact with James Cameron Stuart who has Easterton connections. Cameron is the maiden name of our great grandmother Janet Cameron, whose picture I have.

Maureen Gibb, gibb@magma.ca.

Many thanks for the latest Scalan News. You do a great job. While reading it I was struck by the thought that there must be many people like yourself in Scotland who worry about the future of the Catholic Church due to the shortage of priests. For over 30 years I have belonged to Serra, a lay organisation which devotes its time to promoting and affirming vocations to priesthood and the religious life. My wife and I were on holiday in Aberdeen recently and went to see Blairs. Apart from a few rooms on the first floor occupied by the offices of different firms, the place is deserted. The beautiful church was closed (despite a notice saying otherwise) and the Blairs Museum only opens at weekends. We saw nothing except a lovely Calvary in the grounds and one or two statues. I have so many friends that went there, and although they did not carry on to senior seminary I am sure they would be sad to see the place today.

Noel Rogers, cnoelrogers@ntlworld.com.

A Blairs visit by Friends of the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums (with slides) earlier this year was so popular that a second one had to be arranged. Owen Davison described conservation of the Mary Queen of Scots portrait. Since purchasing Blairs in 1988, two years after the departure of staff and pupils, the Muir Group have made seven applications to develop the estate. Houses starting at £200,000 would raise funds to restore the increasingly dilapidated college building. The latest objections by Deeside environmentalist group Green Wedge were heard in November.

My daughter and I have been tracing our Duncan family tree. The family lived and worked on their farm at Robieston, outside Huntly. We are now back as far as Robert Duncan who died about 1786. Your website contains a mention of Robieston as a masscentre which was burned down after the 1745 Rebellion. Can you help?

Bob Duncan, bob.rp.duncan@bt.com.

Ann Dean searched the Huntly Catholic register without success and suggested a way forward through estate papers. A copy of ScN 15 was sent with its very full - and well illustrated -  article on 'Mortlach, Robieston and Scalan'.

I wonder if you can help me. I work in the Grand CaféRestaurant De Heerdt in Putten, Holland (www.deheerdt.nl). The main bar is an old church altar. Last week one of the staff said we should have a party for the bar as it is 200 years old. Sure enough, carved into the left hand end are the names 'George Goldie Archt. London and Arthur Hayball, Sculpt. Sheffield - 1803.' Many guests show interest in it. The rumour is that it came from a church in The Hague, but we can't be sure as it was bought with the rest of the fixtures when the restaurant was given a revamp eight years ago. A Google search led to you. Any information on George or Arthur would be appreciated.

Eunice Dovey, Eunice@worldmail.nl.

Google found an index of 196 Scalan News items since 1990 on The Scalan Trail website - see below. A copy of 'George Goldie, Architect' from ScN 8 was sent by email with an invitation to contact the author Dr Mark Goldie at Churchill College, Cambridge. The information from Holland seems to show that the father of George Goldie (1828-87) was also an architect.

Kilmonivaig - the Braes of Lochaber

Rory MacDonald

The old parish of Kilmonivaig fell into two parts - Invergarry and the Braes of Lochaber. During the 17th century Glengarry, along with the Clanranald territories in the west, reverted to Catholicism under the leadership of Catholic chiefs and served by Franciscan missionaries from Ireland. In contrast the Brae Lochaber lands of the Keppoch family remained without clergy of any persuasion for some 150 years after the collapse of Catholicism in Scotland. To quote the Scottish Catholic Directory of 1860, 'Not indeed that they ever lapsed into Protestantism, for they were in reality more ignorant than heretical; but they had in a manner become quite indifferent to the practice of any religion whatever.'

    The revival of Catholicism in the Braes of Lochaber in the first part of the 18th century was in contrast so comprehensive that until comparatively recent times the heartlands of Glen Spean and Glen Roy were almost entirely Catholic, and indeed the only church in Roy Bridge is still the Catholic one. Moreover a large number of priests and bishops from those glens have served the Church in Scotland, and in the districts of Canada and Australia where Highlanders settled. The work of Blessed Mary Mackillop and her two Jesuit brothers in Australia, and Alexander MacDonald the much loved Bishop of Victoria in Canada, bear testimony to the faith of their Lochaber ancestry.

Influences at Work

The reasons why this change was so complete are of interest. The Keppoch chiefs were not Catholics, and at the time of the reconversion of the Glens nor were either of the major landowners - the Duke of Gordon and the Mackintosh of Mackintosh. In some ways the parish is a microcosm of the influences at work in the religious revival both of Catholicism and Presbyterianism in the Highlands at that time.

    Although the Dukes of Gordon ceased to be Catholic after the death of Alexander the second Duke in 1728, for a century and a half before that the Gordons had been, in the words of the Rev. John Tyrie in his 1738 report to Propaganda in Rome, 'the main support of the Catholic religion in Scotland'. Even then, ten years after the apostasy, Tyrie was able to say: 'Still, thank God, we enjoy the same peace and freedom throughout his bounds as we had under the late Duke.'

    Nor had the Presbyteries any doubt that conversions to Rome in the reign of Queen Anne and during the early years of George I were due to the Gordon influence. Yet surprisingly perhaps - the most influential Catholic in the Highland Banffshire territory of the Gordons was Silis, sister of Coll MacDonald of Keppoch, who had in 1685 married Alexander Gordon of Camdell (close to modern Tomintoul) who was the Duke's factor for Lochaber. She was a notable religious poet and later, at Beldorney Castle, she and her family became a mainstay of faith in the Huntly area.


There was considerable influence also from neighbouring Glengarry which had been almost wholly Catholic from Cromwellian times thanks to visiting and resident priests. Their chief Angus MacAlasdair Dearg, later Lord MacDonell of Aros, led the Highland opposition to Cromwell's forces and went on to confront the Campbells in Mull. He was the natural leader of the mainland MacDonalds, with Keppoch and Glencoe following him in these ventures. Bishop James Gordon founder of Scalan passed through Glengarry and Brae Lochaber in 1707 after his first visitation of Catholic communities in the west. He was on his way to the Gordon stronghold of Ruthven Castle, across the Spey from the modern village of Kingussie. He rode, we are told, fifteen miles from Invergarry, a distance which would have taken him into the heart of the Keppoch lands. There he stopped, said mass, preached and confirmed. He then rode a further twelve miles before nightfall, continuing on to Badenoch the following day.

    The distances given suggest that he went first to Ranald MacDonell of Tirindrish, the brother of Coll chief of Keppoch, and then to John MacDonald of Aberarder. Tirindrish was married to a Glengarry - probably a daughter of Ranald the tenth chief - while Aberarder was married to her cousin. Both families would have been Catholic. The gravestone of Tirindrish's son Archibald at Cille Chaoril, with its symbols of death and judgement, is well known.

    His brother Donald, a major in the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, proclaimed his faith before being executed at Carlisle: 'I die an unworthy member of the Holy Roman Church in the communion of which I have lived.'

    Glengarry ladies married to senior Tacksmen of the Clan must have had an impact, but it scarcely spread beyond their households. When the first priest to live in Lochaber since the Reformation arrived in 1721 he found 'only three families that practised the duties of the Catholic religion'.

Popular Faith

While Gordon and Glengarry connections provide part of the explanation, it must be acknowledged that the Keppoch people themselves retained much of their religion from pre Reformation times - as happened elsewhere in the Highlands. They had lost the sacraments through lack of priests, but memories were long in these days.

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The historian David Stevenson has shown that when priests came from Ireland with Alasdair MacColla in Montrose's wars, they were welcomed by the MacDonalds of Glencoe, Glengarry and Keppoch. Coll's sister Silis - the religious poet - must have had a firm grounding in her faith before she married Camdell and moved to Beldorney. However it is in the epic and sometimes bloodthirsty verse of Iain Lom, the great Gaelic bard of Keppoch, that we have clearest evidence of Catholic memories being retained in the Glens: 'Well ought we to make supplication unto Thee, whose powers are most wonder working, and to kneel in prayer and fasting, to celebrate Mass to prove we are thine;' and: 'May the Son of Mary protect you in whatever situation you may be.'

Maighstir Iain Mor

A fourth strand of the cord which brought the Faith back to the Braes of Lochaber was one of their own. Maighstir Iain Mor was born at Inverlair about 1695. His father was a MacDougall, of a Clanranald family which settled there in the sixteenth century, featuring prominently in the infamous murder of the young chief of Keppoch and his brother. His mother was from Cranachan or Bohuntin in Glen Roy. We know nothing of his own conversion, but in 1713 he entered the Scots College Rome. Eight years later he returned as a priest to the Braes of Lochaber. Whatever may be said of the latent religious beliefs of the people - or of Gordon and Glengarry connections - there can be no doubt that it is due to his work, during forty years of hardship and difficulties, that the Faith became so firmly established in the Braes of Lochaber. It was not an easy task, and in one of his letters to Rome he begged to be allowed to retire from the arduous and unrewarding life. Permission was not granted. The story is still told of how, when he was on the point of leaving his mission, he was called to the sick bed of an elderly lady at Inch, and was so moved by her faith that he decided to stay on and complete his work.

For 'The Holy Woman of Inch' who foresaw her death and (seemingly in good health) greeted the priest in her best clothes  - also Jimmy Fitzpatrick's drawing of Cille Chaoril - see ScN 19 for December 1999.

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By the time of Maighstir Iain's death in 1768 the work was largely complete. Eight years before this the Kirk's Rev. James Forrest reported on the parish of Kilmonivaig to the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in Edinburgh: 'The number of examinable persons are 2,500, of whom 1,600 are papists. Two popish priests reside in the parish, one of them in Glengarrie and the other in the Braes of Lochaber.' The Cameron part of Kilmonivaig, along the River Lochy along with the area close to Fort William, adopted the 'reformed religion'. The people of the Braes of Lochaber had returned to faith of their fathers.

New Heritage Website

Mike Morrison

The appointment of Andrew Nicoll to the Scottish Archives in Columba House, Edinburgh is especially welcome to me since Andrew has created an excellent access interface on the Internet that records a massive quantity of information available for research into our Catholic heritage.

    The fact that the resources can be searched quickly using a computer speeds up the effectiveness of any visit to Edinburgh, and is especially welcome for people in the North of Scotland who may have to travel there for information on Scalan for example.

    In just four months Andrew has collated references to a vast quantity of records in Scotland and around the world which lets the researcher or family historian know what is available and where.

     Andrew intends to put key documents online for us and in four months he has completed a monumental task building on the excellent work done by Christine Johnson and others. Frankly he has made much of what I have on the Scalan website completely redundant and good luck to him. The resource is absolutely excellent!

    The links between The Scalan Trail Website and CatholicHeritage Website forge a 21st century bond for me in that they show how far we have come in archiving in a new computer based medium while making available our Catholic heritage to so many ex Scots across the world . This venture is one to be fully supported.

Log on to: www.catholic-heritage.net/sca


Andrew Nicoll responded from his base at 16 Drummond Place in Edinburgh.

I wasn't sure what I would find on my first visit to the Scalan website after Mike Morrison phoned. He said he was pleased I had made so much of his work 'redundant', and I had to check I wasn't duplicating someone else's work. I was totally unprepared for the amount of information Mike had put on the Scalan website, such as I will never be able to replicate.

    I'm originally from Kirriemuir in Angus, and I certainly didn't expect to find a page about St Anthony's Church there. Mike has got one, as part of a wealth of material on the churches of North east Scotland. On page after page I found photographs, essays and information, and there is no question of the SCA website ever outdoing The Scalan Trail - not the least valuable part of which is to let people all over the world read Scalan News online!     The aim of catholic-heritage.net will be to make clear what is available in the Scottish Catholic Archives. Inquirers and researchers (many with family history in mind) can now find out what primary source material is available at Columba House. It should not be difficult to make actual documents available online - just a question of deciding what people most want to see. There are also links with other websites on related areas of interest, including scalan.co.uk. I look forward to a very strong and close relationship in years to come. The full form of the website is:   



A Priest in Danger

Brian M. Halloran

The following extract is taken from our President's latest book as shown on the back cover (£14.50 from John S. Burns, 25 Finlas Street, Glasgow G22 5DS). It concerns Gilbert Blakhal, who served Catholics of North east Scotland during the wars of the Covenant from his base at Aboyne Castle. As Canon Halloran says, 'His account of his adventures has an air of exaggeration and melodrama, but is nevertheless valuable as giving an account of how a Catholic missionary exercised his ministry in a noble household, and journeyed from there round a circuit of Mass stations.' We join him on his way out of Scotland at an inn on the desolate Muir of Rhynie. The valise shown under Blakhal's arm in the drawing held his 'mes cloathes' or vestments.

He was welcomed at the door and led in by John Gordon of Leitcheston who omitted to tell him that the place was full of drunken soldiers. Their captain, William Gordon of Tilliangus, who was little less drunk than his men, demanded Blakhal say who he was. Blakhal took this as an affront and utterly refused to give his name. The quarrel grew so heated that Leitcheston had to retire to a separate room. There they were told that the soldiers intended to kill Blakhal. Leitcheston vowed to stand by Blakhal, and grabbed his sword and shield to make an attack. Blakhal, however, cautioned that, as they were heavily outnumbered, it were better to defend the door of the room. Then he had a better idea. He sent Leitcheston to tell Tilliangus that Blakhal would fight a duel with any weapons that the captain would choose. This so impressed the captain that he decided to make peace with so courageous a man. They drank each other's health, then Blakhal drank each soldier's health, and they parted the best of friends.

Meanwhile the ministers of the Presbytery of Aberdeen were most anxious to have Blakhal arrested. He had to find a ship as soon as possible. There was one off Aberdeen, but the skipper John Anderson of Torry was not sailing until Sunday and it was but Tuesday. Blakhal got the gunner of the ship, William Craig, to tell his captain that Blakhal was being hounded by friends who wanted to get him drunk, whereas Blakhal could not take two glasses of wine without being ill. The skipper swallowed this tall story and allowed Blakhal to hide on the ship, but must have realised how gullible he had been when they reached Campher in Zealand. . . They drank in the hostelry until midnight.

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Correspondence: Alasdair Roberts 3 Bracara, MORAR PH40 4PE.


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@Brian M Halloran