Report from the mission of Scotland, [1668-1672]


Report from the mission of Scotland, [1668-1672]


Scottish colleges


Report from the Scottish mission. Ibernese Scottish are referenced as the inhabitants of the Scottish mountains. All the natives of this area (and those adjacent), cannot be called either Catholic or Protestant. However within their minds they reject these heresies, that they are forced to listen to by the heretic priest. They are (in matters of the faith), ignorant, due to the lack of priests to instruct them. When a priest arrives on the islands, they call him 'crowned,' respecting and loving him way more than they would do with a Protestant priest. They still respect the old Catholic customs, and they baptize their children themselves when the Protestant ministers refuse to. There are no heretics among them, and they do not collaborate in the destruction of churches and altars. These island are without churches, as well as priests. To provide them with spiritual assistance, it has been proposed to give the title of prefect of the mission to the new archbishop of Armagh. The archbishop himself has shown to be in favor. He is willing to go there himself, in order to inform PF about the state of the mission in these lands. It will be important to raise the youth according to the Holy orders, therefore it will be necessary to instruct the rectors of the Scottish Colleges to admit a number of competent students from here. From the report by Winster (once the prefect of the mission), one comes to understand the following issues: a) next to the Atlantic Ocean [Mare Deucaledonio], there are the Hebrides, to the north there are the Orkney islands, and the Shetlands islands are closer to Norway. The biggest of these islands takes more than a days travel from the coast; b) the part in the North, is called the Highlands [Hijlans]. The cities are very far away from each other, and during the winter it is impossible to travel; c) the lands in the mountains are not very productive during the five or six months of winter. The sea areas however, have a great abundance of fish; d) the most northern parts have very little trade with the rest of the country. Therefore, the missionaries have to bring their own wine and bread; e) there is no way to send or receive letters except through the capital; f) their language is Gaelic [Hibernese], therefore only people from that area are able to conduct the mission; g) originally there were bishoprics in Dunblane [Dumblanen'], Dunkeld [Dunchelden'], [Rossen'?], [Catanesien'], [Argatelien'], and the Orkney island [Orcaden'] also known as island churches; h) in the country of Glengarry, under the Count MacDonal, the Catholics are safe. They are also safe in the mountain areas under Euntlei [George Gordon, marquis of Huntely]; i) the most important Catholic is the Count of MacDonald. Thanks to his zeal the Catholic faith has been able to spread in this part of the country, and the same goes for Huntely. Officially Catholicism is forbidden, but the mountains and islands are so far out the centre, that one is able to practice; j) the missionaries are two franciscan priests, one named Marco [Mark MacDonnell] and the other Francesco Magdonalli [Francis MacDonnell], one secular priest Francesco Bianchi [Francis White], and a school master in Glengarry, called Eugenio Macalastrio [Eugene Macalister]. They often visit the mountain areas and the islands; k) it is hard to convince the parents to let their children study abroad; l) the school master is able to stay in Glengarry because they are protected by Lord MacDonnald. It would be hard to find another master, and Macalister is only able to survive there because he receives support from MacDonnald. There used to be a Irish missinary Duigen [Duiguin] but he recently retired; and m) there are more missinaries needed. Francis White offered to find some with the help of his brother, the vicar apostolic of Limerick. They should be paid 20 or 25 scudi. Only the natives are able to travel between the villages in winter, therefore one should recruit the missionaries from among them. Even the Irish missionaries tend to leave, and because the ground is not very fertile, there is not a great abundance of bread. It is hard for foreigners to adjust to this lifestyle, but the natives are used to it. In the mountains it is easier to practice the Catholic faith, and one can easily flee in the face of persecution. Nonetheless, many missionaries have decided to leave the country all together. The secular missionaries work very hard to aid the Catholics, but the secular ones often stay in their houses. The reason why it is so difficult to find youths to send to the Colleges overseas is not because there is no-one suitable, but because the missionaries have difficulties making friends among the population of the mountain areas, who do not like those from the lowlands. As the missionaries visit most places only twice every seven years, they are very unlikely to convince the parents to allow them to travel. Its suggested that the natives of the mountain areas should be won over through gentleness, and not by force.
Additional comments
The report was probably written between 1668 and 1672, as it mentions that Winster had been prefect; he was prefect before 1668 and again after 1672.




APF SOCG 421, 177r-184r, 185v












Origin: [Rome]


[PF], “Report from the mission of Scotland, [1668-1672],” Early Modern Documents: Sources and Resources for Historical Research, accessed July 1, 2022,

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