CollectionGB 3380 Scottish Catholic Archives, Historic Archives
Ref NoSCA B/2
Alt Ref NoB-JG
TitleBishop John Geddes, Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the Lowland District
Extent5 files
Administrative HistoryBorn (1735) into a farming family in the strongly Catholic Enzie district of Banff. Sent to study for priesthood to Scots College in Rome in 1750. Ordained and returned to Scotland in 1759; Missioner at several stations in the north east and supervised the rebuilding and the extensions of Scalan Seminary, which had been virtually destroyed in the post-Culloden suppression of Jacobitism. For ten years (1770 to 1780) Rector of the Scots College in Spain, establishing it at Valladolid. Consecrated in Spain as Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the Scottish Lowland Vicariate. In charge of the Edinburgh Mission from 1781 and established cordial personal relationships with distinguished Enlightenment figures in the City. Retired to Aberdeen where his health continued to deteriorate. Died at Aberdeen in 1799. Was the author of many books both religious and secular and left behind extensive autobiographical writings.

John Geddes was Coadjutor to Bishop Hay in the Lowland Vicariate from 1780 until ill-health forced him to retire to Scalan and later Aberdeen. He and Bishop Hay had been friends since they were fellow-students in Scots College, Rome. As they were of widely different temperaments, it is a tribute to Geddes famous moderation, charity and patience that their friendship remained to the end, with Geddes deferring courteously and affectionately to his superior but sometimes candidly maintaining his own opinion. His skill as a negotiator was demonstrated when he was able to get agreement for the re-establishment and secure financial position of the Scots College in Spain. He also had a remarkable for friendship- with rich and poor, powerful and helpless, learned and simple. It was his pleasure to travel on foot all over the Vicariate and beyond, so that he could meet and converse with all kinds of people and also pray and prepare his sermons. His notes show his wide range of interests. His students at Valladolid had great affection for him though some thought him an over-indulgent Rector. The learned and distinguished men of Edinburgh, like the men of consequence in Spain, welcomed him to their homes and he believed that by making himself very accessible to them, he was raising their awareness of the injustices inflicted on Catholics through the Penal Laws and winning their support for repeal. It was he who recognised that great change was coming to the Church as immigration brought more and more Catholics to the industrial centres. He regularly made visits to the small band of Catholics in Glasgow in order to prepare the ground for the spiritual support which later waves of newcomers would require. His prolonged last illness was endured with Christian fortitude and patience. He was buried in Aberdeen University ground and the Professors of the College waived all charges saying that they would be honoured to have the grave of a man of such distinction on their land. It was a gracious gesture to the memory of John Geddes, himself the most gracious of the Scottish Bishops.
DescriptionAutobiographical material; Scottish Mission; theological material; miscellaneous; published works and secondary material
Access StatusOpen
Add to My Items