CollectionGB 3380 Scottish Catholic Archives, Historic Archives
Ref NoSCA B/5
Alt Ref NoB-JK
TitleBishop James Kyle, Northern Vicariate
Extent2 boxes
Administrative HistoryBorn in Edinburgh in 1788, the son of a War Office Commissioner for roads and bridges. Educated at the seminary at Aquhorties. After completed his own studies and being ordained priest in 1812, remained as a teacher until 1826. Took charge of the Mission in Glasgow. Consecrated as titular Bishop of Germanicia and Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic for the newly-formed Northern Vicariate of the Scottish Mission in 1828. Collected nearly 75.000 letters and documents covering the post-Reformation history of the Catholic Church in Scotland, now forming part of the collections in the Scottish Catholic Archive in Edinburgh.

James Kyle was the son of a wealthy Edinburgh architect and he was sent as a boy of twelve to study at the seminary of Aquhorties which Bishop Hay had founded near Inverurie in 1799. Aquhorties was intended to solve the acute problem of training future priests at a time when the Scots Colleges on the continent were unavailable. Aquhorties lacked the endowments that the foreign colleges had enjoyed and it is said that Kyle was largely self-taught. His scholarly interests covered many fields and he eventually took charge of the seminary and remained there till 1826.

The Scots Catholics experienced radical organisational changes in the late 1820s when the controversial decision was made to establish a new tripartite division of the country:- the Northern Vicariate, the Eastern Vicariate and the Western Vicariate each with its own Vicar Apostolic. Seminary training in Scotland was to be centralised at Blairs College outside Aberdeen, made financially possible when Menzies of Pitfodels bequeathed the Blairs Estate to the Church. In 1828 Kyle was consecrated Bishop of the new Northern District. To date his direct experience of pastoral work had been the three years he had spent in Glasgow, dealing with the Highlanders who had come to the city to find work and the many Irish immigrants. It says much for his leadership that during his long episcopate, he won over many priests who had opposed the new division and earned their loyalty and affection.

His new territory had the advantage of including the areas like Banffshire where the faith had deep roots and the communities had produced many priests, but it also included many small and scattered settlements. The Bishop was an assiduous visitor and embarked on a programme of rebuilding a number of chapels which were no longer fit for purpose. New chapels were built and he invited four Congregations of religious sisters to set up convents- clear evidence that the Church was emerging from its underground status.

His scholarly interests led him to collect letters and documents which reflected, recorded or illustrated the history of the Church in Scotland. These were to form a substantial part of the Scottish Catholic Archives collections and as he would have wished, they provide invaluable materials for scholars today.
DescriptionPersonal papers; financial papers; student notes and sermons; historical and miscellaneous documents
Access StatusOpen
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