Sunday July 27th. 2014                                                                                        Charity registration No. SC 002876

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St. Margaret's,                        St. Joseph's,                        St. Finnan's

Before being transferred to Motherwell as its new bishop, Bishop Toal arranged for the 300th anniversary of the founding of the seminary at Eilean  Ban to be celebrated with an open-air Mass at St. Cumins;, Morar. He will be the main celebrant and it is hoped that members of the  Scottish Hierarchy will also be present. The Mass will be next week, on  Wednesday, August 6th, at 1 p.m.

Brief History of Eilean Ban

Bishop Gordon saw the great need for a seminary in the Highlands, and had his mind set on Morar, because of its ideal situation in a Catholic region, and where it was unlikely to be interfered with by the laws of the land which prohibited the teaching of Catholics, and clerical students in particular. Morar had already established itself as a safe meeting place for missioners.

The first mention of a Seminary appears in 1712 in correspondence where Bishop Gordon intimated that he wished Fr George  Innes, a  newly ordained priest just returned from Paris, to be the first Superior of a new Seminary which he planned to establish on Eilean Ban, Loch Morar. The problem in the Highlands was most acute due to the lack of Gaelic- speaking priests. The majority of those who ministered to the region belonged to either Irish or Lowland Orders, who were under no obligation to remain in the difficult  situations they had to endure. He realised that the only satisfactory solution to a continuing problem, would be the education of native-born Gaelic-speaking Highlanders who were accustomed to the arduous life and travel throughout the region.

These would also be more likely to be accepted by the Presbyterian ministers who were so hostile to the resurgence of the Catholic faith. These ministers greatly opposed the conversion to Catholicism of so many of their own adherents - though in fact, many of the converts were already of the faith, but through years of no contact with priests or the ability to practise their faith, had lapsed.

Bishop Gordon established the Seminary on Eilean Ban in the summer of 1714, on his second Visitation to the Highlands; and George Innes took over the duties of its Superior in the Autumn. To begin with, seven boys entered the Seminary but more arrived later. This was the first seminary for the training of boys for the priesthood to be opened in Britain since the Reformation. Among the first students was Hugh MacDonald, son of the Laird of Morar. He was the first Gaelic-speaking priest to have undergone his entire training in Scotland, being ordained priest in 1725. He was appointed Vicar Apostolic of the Highland Vicariate in 1731.

The 1715 Jacobite Rebellion was a set back for the Eilean Ban Seminary. Situated as it was in Clan Ranald territory and surrounded by staunchly Catholic clans -  all of whom had favoured the Jacobite cause—it became a dangerous location for a time when Government troops started to scour the district. The reason these clans stood by the Jacobites, was the result of the severity with which the Penal Laws were imposed on the Catholic population; and they saw the restoration of the Stewart Monarchy as their only hope of survival.

Eilean Ban Island, Loch Morar, site of the first seminary after the Reformation.

It was known as the White Island because of the surrounding silver sands of Morar