Going Softly Forward

The front porch was built onto the front of the church in December 1987.


Going Softly Forward

Going Softly Forward: After his 17 year ministry, Fr McEwan went to Rothesay, leaving behind a garden which he and Peter Ciarella had fertilised, mowed and deadheaded within an inch of its life. Fr John McCormack (no - not the Irish tenor. We were not twice blessed with such talent!) who took his place didn't have the gardening bug and according to Peter the garden has never seen the same glory days again.

Parish priests have included the very different personalities of Fathers McIntyre, McShane, Kennedy, Murphy, Fraser and Campbell, and in 2003 came Fr Michael Hutson.

When Father Hutson arrived in Lochgilphead he was an unknown quantity. His first act was to tell parishioners swarming through the parish house after  his first Sunday Mass that this would be the last time we would have coffee there. It sounded unsociable- yet Fr Michael turned out to be the most gregarious of parish priests.

He transformed the parish house into a home and turned St Margaret's parish into a hive of activity. Justice and peace,SCIAF, Fair Trade and the Zambia projects all flourished with his encouragement and imaginative input. His musical talent gave congregations confidence to sing out. He galvanised the parish to come together through social activities and his outspoken policy of social inclusion drew the marginalised to share in ceilidhs and lunches, pilgrimages and musical retreats. Using music as a lingua franca, he reinforced ecumenical progress in Mid Argyll. 

His role in education in the diocese meant he was frequently on the move but the blue tooth earpiece sticking out from under the baseball cap meant he was rarely out of touch with the parish.

When the word came suddenly in the first minutes of 2006 that he was to leave St Margaret's for the Star of the Sea in Barra, the sense of loss wasn't felt only by the parish but by the wider community; quiet kindnesses: enthusiastic involvement and serious- minded commitment in many spheres had made him a much loved figure in the two years he was with us.

We should not have feared: Fr Paul Hackett S J has come to us with a different collection of enthusiasms and inspired us to work together to present a vibrant parish to Fr William Maclean this summer.

St.Margaret’s was Fr William Maclean’s first parish and he was immediately thrown in at the deep end with the arrival of the Mthunzi Culture Group, an exchange visit organised by the Mthunzi and Lilanda Initiative (M.A.L.I.).

However, he not only opened his heart to the young Zambians - he opened his home, too, and hosted the group’s leaders and continued to be supportive of the Mid Argyll charity throughout his stay in the parish.

Fr William also supported the work of Jumbulance, MOMA and SCIAF. During his time in Lochgilphead, he taught Spanish at Argyll College, trained as a CAB counsellor, and was part of the chaplaincy at Lochgilphead joint campus.

He lent a helping hand at coffee mornings, the sale of work and the summer fayre, where he was even willing to take his turn in the stocks in the name of fund raising.

Fr William encouraged and supported parents and children’s liturgy leaders, and developed a great rapport with St Margaret’s little ones. Understanding shyness, he patiently helped new altar servers learn their role.

The re-decoration of the church took place during Fr William’s tenure, and he oversaw the renovation of the sacristy.

The Catholic community in Inveraray was very important to Fr William. We do not have our own building in Inveraray and when the Episcopal Church that is our home there fell into disrepair, he was happy to accept the kind offer of the Church of Scotland minister to share the historic parish church in the centre of the town, forging a strong ecumenical friendship that will not be forgotten even though we are now back in the Episcopal Church and Fr William has moved on.

Fr William’s moved to Skye in 2011 and Fr David Connor, who was ordained in June 2011, was welcomed to St Margaret’s.

A keen cyclist, enthusiastic footballer and cat lover, Fr William and his Norwegian Forest cat Freya became well known in the wider community.

The rest, as they say, is history: a much kinder history than that of the 16th and 17th centuries and even than that of the early 20th century when Catholics still felt the after shock of oppression.

It has happily become normal to worship freely, proud of the physical presence of our attractive church building and proud of the integral role which Catholics play in today's Mid-Argyll.
Article written by Marian Pallister

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