own Mission was strong. It was conveniently placed not only for the immediate neighbourhood but for the communities beside Lochailort to the west, Loch Shiel to the south and Lochiel to the east. It was in fact a natural gathering place, as the ’45 had shown, and since that ‘Year of the Prince’ it had become a focal point also in the minds and hearts of the people.Yet there were no arrangements even for Mass in Glenfinnan until 1844, when the Scottish Catholic Directory reported that Mr Chisholm of Fort William was now visiting “occasionally”, using an upstairs room in a private house for the services. A chapel was “much wanted”, the report added, for the room was not only too small for the “considerable” congregation, but insecure.
For twenty years the position remained much the same, and it was not until 1863 that the people were given their own priest, Rev. Donald MacDonald. It was an apt appointment, for Fr Donald was the brother of the Laird of Glenaladale, on whose land Glenfinnan lay, and one of seven priests (three of whom became bishops) to spring from that loyal Catholic family. Like the lairds themselves he was a most generous benefactor to Catholicism in the West Highlands, and it was entirely through his personal generosity that the people finally got their own church ten years later. It had been worth the wait. The handsome building was designed by Edward Welby Pugin in the ‘late Early English’ style, its beauty enhanced by the use of a variety of stone – blue native granite marbled with quartz for the ashlar work, cream granite for the buttresses, and light pink Elgin freestone for the edging of the doors and windows. Its striking appearance matched its stunning setting, high above Loch Shiel.
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Church Door View
Church Door View
The church was consecrated in 1873. Designed by E Welby Pugin in the Gothic style, the church enjoys an elevated and commanding position overlooking Loch Shiel with a spectacular view of the loch and surrounding hills. The church is a memorial chapel to the MacDonalds of Glenaladale, the family with whom Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed prior to the raising of the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in August 1745. The church contains a memorial to the Prince and headstones of members of the MacDonald family. Near the altar is the burial place of Father Donald MacDonald, the first parish priest, also one of the family who built the church. Glenfinnan is a younger parish than its neighbours. Despite its strategic position – standing sentinel at the eastern boundary of the Catholic lands of Clanranald – it had not been chosen as the site for a Mission in the Penal years of the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, as the Church recovered and
consolidated in the West Highlands following the Reformation. Perhaps it was precisely its position on the boundary that went against it – not surrounded by friends, and too exposed to its enemies. By the nineteenth century, with the Church no longer outlawed and with no priest nearer than Mingarry, Arisaig or Fort William, the case for its