Obituary: Monsignor James Clancy, Scots College Rector who took short-term charge of Glasgow diocese

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Right Rev Monsignor James Clancy, Prelate of Honour. Born: Belfast, 3 March 3 1943. Died: Glasgow, 6 November 2017, aged 74

Monsignor James Clancy, who has died aged 74, was the person chosen to take short-term charge of Archdiocese of Glasgow, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in Scotland, following the sudden death of Cardinal Thomas Winning in 2001.

Mild mannered, self-effacing and remarkably quiet in the way he went about his priestly life for 50 years, Monsignor Clancy began his priesthood in 1967 as a lecturer on the staff of St Mary’s College, the seminary for training Scottish priests, at Blairs in Aberdeen.

On his appointment as Diocesan Administrator, Mgr Clancy, a popular priest who was widely perceived as a safe pair of hands, outlined his priorities – “We must keep the archdiocese running as smoothly as possible until the Holy Father appoints a successor. I know I can count on the support of all the staff to ensure the archdiocese continues to function well. I would ask for prayers that the Holy Father will give us a strong and courageous new bishop, like the cardinal, to lead us in faith in the years ahead.’’

Mgr Clancy became Rector of the Scots College in Rome from 1981 until 1986. Previously he had been an assistant priest in St Andrew’s, Bearsden. He also took on the role of confessor to the nuns at the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Ghost in Kirktonhill, Dumbarton.

A major event of his tenure in Rome was the pastoral visit of Pope St John Paul II to Scotland in the summer of 1982. The first trip of its kind, it was followed two years later when the Bishop of Rome visited the college on the Via Cassia to mark the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the new college building.

His time at the college began at the start of the new academic year in 1981. One of the new intake of students that year was the current spiritual director of the college, Father Mark Cassidy. Father Cassidy remembers his first rector as “a good priest with a fruitful ministry, which included the five years he guided us in our formation in this college.”

Fr Mark also speaks fondly of Mgr Clancy at the end of a visit by the Holy Father to the college - “My abiding memory of Mgr Clancy would be from the day he, as rector, had the privilege of welcoming Pope St John Paul II to the college.

“There was a visible, simple joy radiating from him, epitomised by the image of him joining in the singing of ‘Will ye no come back again’ as the Holy Father prepared to leave.”

Following his service in Rome, Mgr Clancy returned to Glasgow in 1986. He was appointed assistant priest in St Ninian’s in Knightswood and Vicar General of the archdiocese. His dedication to his pastoral duties is underscored by the fact that while at Knightswood, Mgr Clancy took on the additional burden of chaplain to Gartnavel Hospital. He also served at St Kessog’s in Balloch and St Joseph’s in Faifley, Clydebank. In 1999, Mgr Clancy was elevated to become a Prelate of Honour (an honorary bishop) and two years later he took charge as parish priest of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Clyde Street.

In 2004, he moved from the cathedral parish to St Paul’s, Whiteinch, and then finally as parish priest to St Michael’s, Dumbarton, the home parish of his parents, where he retired in 2014.

Latterly, Monsignor Clancy had been resident with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Robroyston, Glasgow. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease exacerbated by a stroke. He persevered bravely and determinedly with his illness for a number of years and died on the morning of November 6 in Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia said at the time of Mgr Clancy’s retirement: “He took this decision as much for the parish as for himself. It was a decision he came to slowly and which emerged out of caring and affectionate conversation with his family, out of supportive exchanges with his priest friends, and out of some meetings with me in which we discussed the various options. Above all, I believe, this decision emerged mostly out of Mgr Clancy’s own prayer and reflection.”

Mgr Clancy was born in Belfast during the Second World War to Thomas Michael Clancy and his wife, Bridget, known as Delia. The family moved to London where he was first educated at Westminster Cathedral Primary then St Colman’s and St Teresa’s, Belfast. He attended St Aloysius’ College, Glasgow, for two years until 1956 when he went to Blairs. He completed his priestly formation at the Scots College in Rome where he was ordained in March, 1967, by Bishop Giovanni Canestri.

Mgr Clancy is survived by his brothers Kevin and Thomas, both retired school teachers, sisters in law Clare and Patricia, his nephews, Kevin John, David and Martin and niece, Frances.

BILL HEANEY