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Bishop Hay, Architect of Revival

Bishop Hay is, undoubtedly, the major figure in the revival of the Catholic Church in Scotland. He was the driving force on several fronts: he organised the clergy; he formed new priests especially by taking over the rectorship of Scalan (1788-93); he wrote devotional works for his flock; he engaged in exchanges with opponents of Catholicism by means of small publications; and he entered into negotiations with the authorities in London for Catholics to regain their freedoms. It was on returning to Edinburgh from one of these meetings in 1780 that he discovered a large crowd near his home. Upon enquiring what was happening, a w

oman told him: “We are burning the popish bishop’s house and we are looking for him to throw him on the flames”. Word had got out about the London negotiations and the mob was not happy. Bishop Hay retreated to Edinburgh Castle, which provided refuge for him and several Catholic businessmen whose properties had also been attacked. Rev. Gordon Mathieson, just returned from being ordained in Spain, was in the Bishop’s house and escaped over adjoining rooftops. A Catholic Relief Act was eventually passed in 1793.

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