April 2 2023
By Bill Heaney
The Bishops Conference of Scotland is to move all its agencies, the Scottish Catholic Archives and the Scottish Catholic Museum, to a new single location in Glasgow’ East End.
Following a consultation and review of its agencies, the Bishops’ Conference decided to relocate to one central location.
The relocation will also include the Scottish Catholic Archives and the Scottish Catholic Museum. For the first time ever, the Bishops’ Conference and all its employees will have a single base in Orr Street, Calton. Some of them were formerly housed in Clyde Street at St Andrew’s Cathedral.
The property which has previously served many roles, including a social work office, a parish/dance hall and a school will bring all the branches of the Conference together and promote the identity of the Bishops’ Conference and the presence of the Catholic Church in Scotland at a national level.
Bishop Joseph Toal, pictured left, who has responsibility for Catholic Heritage and Culture said: “It is good that the Bishops have taken the decision to bring together the Offices of the Bishops, the Catholic Archives and Museum.
“In the chosen location we wish to identify with plans to regenerate the area around St Mary’s, Abercromby Street, which itself has such strong historical and cultural links with the development of the Catholic Church in Scotland through the last two centuries.”
Prior to this decision, there were many properties for each agency. Consolidating the agencies with the archives and museum will contribute to a significant financial saving.
It is also an investment in the historic Calton district of Glasgow, currently undergoing redevelopment and regeneration.
The building was previously the school of St Mary’s parish, which once served as the pro-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Glasgow in the mid-19th century and was home to many immigrant Catholics from Ireland.
The monument to those who suffered from famine in the Scottish Highlands and Ireland in the 19th century is located on this site.
The presence of the archives and museum in Glasgow will give greater accessibility to the historical records and artifacts of the history of the Catholic Church in Scotland- pre-Reformation, the Penal Laws when Catholicism was banned in Scotland, and the Emancipation of Catholics in 1829 up until the present day.
The Bishops’ Conference headquarters will serve not only for the efficient running of the Catholic Church at a national level but as a centre of culture and education for schools, academics and the general public.
This exciting initiative underlines the Bishops’ commitment to a formerly deprived area of the city of Glasgow.
It involves using the richness of our Catholic culture including the famous portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, pictured right, and many Jacobite artifacts to tell their story through the ages
Bishop Toal said: “We will be engaging with the many nearby historical religious sites of the life of St Mungo but also as a means of informing and evangelising Catholics and all people as we look towards the future of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”
The transfer to the new premises should be completed by Spring 2024. The building in Orr Street will provide accommodation for 14 staff members including the curator and archivist.
The agencies which will be located in the new premises are: The General Secretariat, Scottish Catholic Education Service, Scottish Catholic Media Office, Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office, Justice and Peace Commission, Priests for Scotland, Ecumenical Officer, Interfaith Officer, the Scottish Catholic Archives (formerly housed in Columba House, Edinburgh) and the Scottish Catholic Museum (formerly housed in Blairs Chapel sacristy).
Bishop Toal preaching the homily at the Red Mass for the legal profession in Edinburgh.