CollectionGB 3380 Scottish Catholic Archives, Historic Archives
Ref NoSCA CS/1
Extent5 files; 4 vols; 0.12m
Creator NameScalan Roman Catholic College
Administrative HistoryRecords of the Scalan seminary begin in the late summer of 1716 when George Innes and a group of 3-4 boys entrusted to his care, arrived at the obscure turf house high in the Banffshire hills that was granted to them by John Gordon. The seminary was located in Braes of Glenlivet, which formed part of the Duke of Huntlys lands in Banffshire, where the majority of the inhabitants were Catholics. Bishop Gordon believed that this area was safe at the time of its creation because it was hard to access due to the mountainous terrain, and the fact that it was on the lands of the powerful Catholic Duke of Huntly. Both of these elements provided the seminary with a degree of protection from those who wished to wipe out Catholicism in the country: the Government and Kirk.
The seminary at Scalan was initiated in defiance of the law, to train priests that were desperately needed to restore the Catholic Church in Scotland. When studying the history of the seminary, three mens names are inseparable from the seminarys emergence and survival: Thomas Innes, for leading the way to a Scottish seminary at Scalan in 1698; his brother Lewis Innes for his financial aid in life and death; and above all Bishop Gordon whose vision led to the realization of the seminary and its survival until 1799. The first building at Scalan was an extremely small two room turf habitation since it was designed to house only one man. Although the site was only intended to be temporary, it soon grew into a larger more suitable establishment for educating the youth bound for priesthood. It was at Scalan that the foundations for educating the lowland youth were established, with the Rules and Regulations created by Bishop Gordon in 1722. This document defined the principles, practices and all aspects of daily life at the seminary, and its successors. Although it was later extended and revised, the essentials were not changed and remained the crucial foundations on which the seminary and its successors were built. The history of Scalan is one set against the background of a hostile and turbulent time, in which the seminary and Catholicism itself were under constant threat of attack from the British government. Parliamentary acts and Kirk committees supported the harassment of Catholics and with it, the little seminary itself. These threats were made worse when the Duke of Huntly died on 20 November 1728.
Following the death of the Duke, who had been a Catholic and protector of the seminary, which was situated on his lands, his wife Henrietta, a protestant, educated and raised the children to be Protestants. The conversion of the house of Huntly was a large blow to the safety of the seminary; however relations between the Huntly lords and the teachers of the seminary remained civil. Although the seminary survived the Huntly conversion, internal disruption between Highlanders and Lowlanders proved to be another factor that caused extensive disruption in the seminary.
Bishop Gordon was forced to expel three Highland students from the seminary in 1730 due to the threat that they posed to the unity of the college. This led to a rift between the two vicariates, and was one of the factors behind the establishment of a Highland seminary at Eilean Ban in 1732-1733 by Bishop Hugh MacDonald. The creation of a Highland seminary meant that Scalan lost its role as the national seminary of Scotland. When it was not suffering from internal conflicts during the early stages of its existence, it was threatened from the outside. This was never clearer than in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion when the survival of the seminary was threatened the most.
As a result of the harrying of Scotland that ensued after the failure of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, Scalan was forced to shut down for the safety of its students and the master William Duthie. Duthie and his students removed all the possessions from the seminary and hid them throughout the region, before taking refuge with local families. The seminary itself was burnt down on 16 May 1747 by the local regiment that was placed at nearby Cargarff after the rebellion. Despite the ever constant threat of English attacks, Duthie believed it safe enough to rebuild the seminary in the summer of 1749. Once again the seminary opened its doors to students. The stability of Scalan was always precarious, until the term of John Geddes as master of the seminary.
Geddes came to the seminary in 1762 after the previous master, William Gray, had virtually run the college into the ground. Geddes re-established discipline in the school, and constructed a new seminary building with professional tradesmen, on the eastside of the Crombie burn, directly across from the old seminary. This new building was to act as a symbol of the seminarys hard won victory over the constant oppression it faced. Geddes term proved to be the watershed for the seminary. Before him it was tenuous and makeshift, but after, it enjoyed a new stability that stretched virtually unbroken until its closure in 1799.
By 1793 the seminary at Scalan acquired the role of an all-through college due to the closure of the colleges at Paris and Douai. It was this new role that ultimately led to its demise, as the new Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Hay searched for a better location for the future lowland seminary. Bishop Hay found his desired location and new Scalan in Aberdeenshire. The seminary was officially replaced by Aquhorties as the seminary for the lowland vicariate in 1799. In its eighty-three years of existence, Scalan proved to be a fundamental component in the survival and revival of Catholicism in Scotland. List of Masters at Scalan: George Innes (1716)
John Tyrie (1717-1720)
Alexander Grant (1720-1726)
George Gordon (1726-1736)
Alexander Gordon (1736-1742)
William Duthie (1742-1758)
William Gray (1758-1763)
John Geddes (1763-1767)
John Thomson (1767-1770)
John Paterson (1770-1783)
John Farquharson (1783-1784)
Alexander Farquharson (1784-1786)
Andrew Dason (1784-1786)
John Ingram (1788-1791)
Andrew Carruthers (1792-1793)
James Sharp (1793-1799)
DescriptionPapers relating to and originating from the Seminary of Scalan: Registers; Property Lists; Sale Revenues; Transaction Receipts; Literary Works; Land Surveys; Land Leases; Lesson Plans; Daily Conduct Lists; Rules for the Seminary
Access StatusOpen
Closed Until01/01/2011
LanguageLatin; English
OriginalsThe material is original
Related MaterialSee also GB 0240 CB/6; GB 0240 CB 12/20
CopiesThere are no known copies
Publication NoteRev. William James Anderson, The College for the Lowland District of Scotland at Scalan and Aquhorties: Register and Documents. The Innes Review, vol. 14, no. 2 (Autumn 1963):170-196;Peter F. Anson, Underground Catholicism in Scotland. Montrose: Standar
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