Memorial planned for Scotland’s only Catholic martyr

Saint John Ogilvie at the church of the same name in Easterhouse, Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry
Saint John Ogilvie at the church of the same name in Easterhouse, Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry
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AN online campaign has been launched to mark the spot where St John Ogilvie was executed.

The saint was put to death at Glasgow Cross in 1615 after being arrested for preaching Catholicism at a time when it was outlawed.

An online campaign launched on his feast day last week.

The Knights of St Columba said they would take the project forward by raising funds for a marker for the saint.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow used his homily at the St John Ogilvie feast day Mass in St Andrew’s Cathedral, a few hundreds yards away from Glasgow Cross, to call on Scotland to make more of its saints, and a campaign by a Scottish Catholic media group for a memorial has received huge support online.

The Archbishop said: “John Ogilvie was a Scot from Banffshire. He was a Jesuit priest. He died here in our city.

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“He is an honorary Glaswegian. He belongs to Glasgow. And above all, his blood was shed for Christ here in Glasgow. I just wish we knew where he was buried, but we don’t.

“We know he was executed at Glasgow Cross. We have the national shrine at St Aloysius’, where we celebrated ecumenical vespers in honour of St John Ogilvie yesterday evening, and we have the renowned painting of our martyr which is displayed in this Cathedral.

“These tangible things help us to claim St John Ogilvie as our saint, to love him and to keep his memory alive.”

The Archbishop also said that the saint’s memory was particularly important at a time when Catholics faced ‘more subtle forms of restricting religious freedom.’

He added: “It gets into the realm of limiting your freedom to say in public places what you believe and what you hold most dear in your heart and in your conscience, and that trend, let’s call it, is recognisable even in developed liberal democracies like ours.

“Christians and Catholics all over the western world are wakening up to this now and it is a difficult prospect for us because the goalposts of civic respectability appear suddenly to have been moved. I think this may be our next big challenge.

“That’s one reason why we continue to need the example, inspiration and intercession of St John Ogilvie.”

John Patrick Mallon leads Sancta Familia Media, a group out of Holy Family parish in Motherwell Diocese which make Faith-based online videos.

He was inspired to call for a memorial when filming a short film about the saint at Glasgow Cross.

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He said: “I was just really surprised there was nothing there to mark it, not even a plaque.

“And I thought, ‘this is terrible.’ So we put up a campaign on social media and it had an amazing response, hundreds of people liking and sharing it.”

Charlie McCluskey, supreme knight of the Knights of St Columba, said the order had first started to consider a permanent memorial to St John Ogilvie at Glasgow Cross on the saint’s 400th anniversary in 2015, but the time was now right.

He said: “He’s the only Scottish martyr and there’s not even a plaque. Whether you are Catholic, Protestant, whatever, this was an historic event in the history of the city that should be marked.”

Mr McCluskey suggested an alcove on the Mercat Building, which is owned by Glasgow City Council and overlooks the Cross, would be an ideal place for a statue of the saint.

“We have made tentative enquires to the council,” Mr McCluskey said. “There didn’t seem to be major objections. We need to move onto the next stage now, but if there’s public support we’d be happy to take a lead on this.”