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Macpherson, John


Pioneer of Catholic periodical literature in Scotland; b. Tomintoul, Banffshire, August 29, 1801; d. Dundee, July 16, 1871. He was born of crofter parents in one of the continuously Catholic districts of Scotland. He studied for the priesthood at Aquhorties College, Aberdeen-shire, the seminary of the Lowland Vicariate of Scotland, and at Paris, where he was ordained in 1827. Returning to Scotland that year, he was appointed a professor at Aquhorties. On the College's small handpress he produced (1828) the first issue of The Catholic Directory for the Clergy and Laity in Scotland. Macpherson was not, of course, the first to use the printing press on behalf of the Church in Scotland: throughout the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries there had been a small, but steady and interesting, production of polemical works. Macpherson, however, produced the first periodical devoted to the service of the Church.

During its first three years, this 40-page publication provided the liturgical calendar for Mass and the Divine Office. In 1831, it grew to 84 pages, printed by John Johnstone of Edinburgh, and in addition to the liturgical calendar, provided information about Catholic churches and clergy in Scotland. From letters in the Scottish Catholic archives it is evident that in the mid-19th century, the Directory was being used in such faraway places as Tasmania and the West Indies.

Macpherson served the Church in Scotland in many capacities: he built St. Andrew's church in Dundee, where he was pastor from 1832 to 1847; he was president of St. Mary's College, Blairs, from 1847 to 1858; from 1858, when he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Pope Pius IX, until his death, he was vicar-general to two bishops. He continued until the last year of his life to edit the Directory, which is the only publication dealing with the Catholic Church in Scotland that has appeared uninterruptedly since 1828. Its rich historical, biographical, and statistical material makes it an indispensable source for the study of the Catholic Church in modern Scotland.

[d. mcroberts]

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