Yes/No…Should Glasgow Build Statue of Scotland’s Only Martyr – St John Ogilvie?

Yes/No…Should Glasgow Build Statue of Scotland’s Only Martyr – St John Ogilvie?

A statue for Scotland’s only Catholic Martyr?

A CAMPAIGN is growing for a memorial to St John Ogilvie, Scotland’s only Catholic martyr, to be built on the spot of his execution at Glasgow Cross.

An online campaign launched on his feast day last week has found huge support, with the Knights of St Columba saying they’d be delighted to 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.

“John Ogilvie was a Scot from Banffshire,” Archbishop Tartaglia said. “He was a Jesuit priest. He died here in our city. 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 (right). 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.”

 Religious freedom

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.’

“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,” he said.

“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.

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

“There should be a something,” 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.”  Source

Comments invited…

Comments (14)

  • gabriel syme

    Yes Glasgow should absolutely have a statue of St John Ogilvie.

    I daresay it would be deeply unpopular in some quarters, especially on the back of news that there is to be a Glasgow memorial for the Irish famine victims too. But such narrow-minded and bitter people cannot be allowed to dictate to all.

    Hopefully any such statue would do St John justice and not portray him as some ecumenical hippy.

    I am pleased with what ++Tartaglia said about subtle restrictions on religious freedom in the modern day and the need to make more of Scotland’s Saints.

    However I was dismayed at the mention of the annual “ecumenical” vespers in honour of St John Ogilvie. The concept is absurd on so many different levels and I daresay the usual paltry public attendance at these (I have been before) would increase, if the vespers were unashamedly Catholic.

    March 21, 2017 at 8:07 am
    • editor

      Gabriel Syme,

      I see Archbishop Tartaglia’s reference to “religious freedom” as a way of distancing himself from the real reason for Ogilvie’s martyrdom. He did NOT die in the cause of “religious freedom” but that’s the modernist take on the deaths of martyrs these days (including the great English Reformation martyr, Saint Thomas More).

      And as long as the statue is not as hideous as the Howson painting now placed in St Andrew’s cathedral, I’m “good to go” with it, as they also say these days!

      March 21, 2017 at 10:00 am
      • gabriel syme


        I see Archbishop Tartaglia’s reference to “religious freedom” as a way of distancing himself from the real reason for Ogilvie’s martyrdom

        I didn’t make that connection at first, but I do now recall ++Tartaglia (in years gone by) claiming that religious freedom was the “core issue” behind the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie.

        That is of course, false. The core issue is the truth of the Catholic faith above all. And so you are right to point out ++Tartaglias twisting of the facts.

        March 21, 2017 at 10:42 am
  • Josephine

    I don’t think it would be a good idea to build a statue of John Ogilvie until the crisis is over and a suitable statue can be made. Right now, it would be a focus for ecumenical stuff, IMHO. In other words, it would be an insult to the saint.

    March 21, 2017 at 12:17 pm
  • RCA Victor

    Not that the opinion of a Yank is relevant, but YES – Mr. McCluskey’s spineless comments notwithstanding.

    March 21, 2017 at 3:50 pm
    • Josephine

      RCA Victor,

      I agree with you about Mr McCluskey’s spineless remarks. They’re all so busy falling over themselves to make the Church “inoffensive” that they might as well say and do nothing. A statue of an “ecumenical” saint isn’t going to make any difference or do away with bigotry in Glasgow, that’s for sure.

      March 21, 2017 at 5:51 pm
    • Nicky

      RCA Victor,

      the opinion of a yank is very relevant, LOL! Especially today when the UK is banning technology from passengers coming on planes from certain countries, no names, no pack drill LOL! I’m still waiting for the outcry, the protesters, but nobody seems to think anything of it. It seems it’s only Donald Trump who isn’t allowed to ban terrorist threats. It’s OK here!

      I read Mr McCluskey’s comments the same way you did. Spineless, but that’s the modern day Knights for you.

      March 21, 2017 at 7:59 pm
  • Nicky

    I’d vote “NO” to a statue – it would be meaningless in Scotland today and only give them a focus for ecumenical events. Also, if it’s anything like the dreadful painting of St John Ogilvie by Howson, it will be as ugly as sin. So, thumbs down from me.

    March 21, 2017 at 7:55 pm
  • Theresa Rose

    Did Archbishop Tartaglia really claim that religious freedom was the “core issue” behind the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie? And does he believe that now?

    Does the Archbishop conveniently forget, that St John Ogilvie was a Protestant when he left Scotland, sent by his father to receive a better education than could had be had in Scotland. That this Saint became not only a Catholic convert, but eventually studied and became a priest in the Jesuit Order. His martyrdom was more than due to the Calvinist hatred for the Mass.

    So much for ecumenism.

    March 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm
    • gabriel syme

      Theresa Rose,

      Did Archbishop Tartaglia really claim that religious freedom was the “core issue” behind the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie?

      Yes and I have managed to find the source of where I learned that. It was from nearly 3 years ago, when ++Tartaglia asked Pope Francis to make a visit to Glasgow for the 400th anniversary of Ogilvie’s martyrdom.

      At the time he said:

      “Our celebrations would be clearly marked too by an appreciation of how ecumenism has changed the relationship between Christians over the last four centuries and focus on how Christians and other people of faith can make common cause for the core issue for which St John Ogilvie died, namely religious freedom.

      March 21, 2017 at 9:47 pm
      • editor

        Gabriel Syme,

        I remember well that scandalous statement of Archbishop Tartaglia in which he blatantly belittled the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie. A timeous reminder – thank you for that.

        March 21, 2017 at 11:30 pm
      • gabriel syme


        Yes, the Archbishops remarks suggesting Ogilvie died for “religious freedom” are even more absurd when considered against Ogilvie’s famous quote about returning to Scotland to “unteach heresy and save souls”.

        March 23, 2017 at 12:32 pm
      • crofterlady

        Yes, and on the scaffold he said that he didn’t want the prayers of heretics. If the cap fits………..

        March 27, 2017 at 11:34 pm
  • Michaela

    I’m thinking it might be a good thing to have the statue of St John Ogilvie at Glasgow Cross, as it might help to re-start the annual Ogilvie Walk, from the cathedral in Clyde Street to the Cross.

    I agree the sculptor should be of superior skills to Howson, LOL!

    March 22, 2017 at 7:50 pm

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