stables and steeples

Banffshire was one of the few regions in Scotland that remained Catholic after the Reformation. This also applies to the regions of Barra, South Uist and Moidart. Today, about one eighth of the Scottish population is Catholic. In most cemeteries, the separation is not really obvious, there are some, where it is and there are very few others, that are purely Catholic. One of them is St Ninians in Buckie.

Many of the Catholics living in Scotland today have roots in Ireland, Poland or Italy. The Reformation in Scotland had changed the whole country, mass was illegal, Catholics were persecuted. Only where the chiefs were willing to protect their clan did the old faith survive.

In Banffshire it was the Earl of Huntley who kept the faith. The traces of his work are still evident today. Where the nobles remained Catholic, the rest of the population could as well. The Gordon family (Earl of Huntley) had their own priest for many years.

The persecution of the Catholics reached a final climax after the second reformation and failed revolution of 1745. The rebels were largely Catholic, faith was a political identifier. Many priests had to hide for many years after Culloden.

What is left of the Catholic churches is usually not very grand. While magnificent cathedrals were still being built in 18th century France, the few Catholic priests in Scotland often preached in stables.

St Ninian’s Catholic cemetery in Buckie has a small chapel. It is open to visitors of all faiths.


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