As ‘the Highland Apostle of Temperance’  William McIntosh was hard on priests who drank, and in a letter to Bishop Scott about the unsuitability of Ranald Rankin  for Moidart he went further. McIntosh knew Rankin ‘very intimately’, having been ‘four years a fellow-student of his in Lismore.’ Granted that he was ‘pious and virtuous, sober, zealous, and by his good nature, cheerful disposition and unassuming deportment, a general favourite,’ Rankin was still deemed unsuited for the task of confronting the drink problem in face of ‘opposition from the interested and those on whose pleasures and propensities these reformations may intrench.’ Moidart had been ‘much and long neglected’ – first under an aged priest, then an alcoholic one – and this led McIntosh to make judgements which reveal as much about himself as Rankin:
There are in Moydart several respectable families of bigoted Protestants and indifferent Catholics, so that it would be desirable to have a clergyman there of polite and dignified manners. Now Mr Rankin’s natural talents are rather below par, his education too was desultory and everything but complete. In his manners and deportment you find something trifling, not dignified, too familiar with his inferiors. He has no great energy of mind. . . He is a good Gaelic scholar and, as I hear, a good or at least a fair preacher, and to remedy his want of method and plan in conducting his parishioners, I believe him docile and submissive to dictation particularly from your Lordship; nay I think he would bear admonition and direction from myself for I am a great favourite with him, especially were I invested with authority as your Lordship proposes. 
Rankin had just opened a chapel at Sron an Dun near Laggan in Badenoch,
where he was long remembered as ‘one of the best and most popular priests
that ever came to the parish, with both rich and poor.’ Part of this stemmed from his reputation as
‘a little wee man like myself, but awful quick and very good at the
shinty.’  The Paris seminary of St Sulpice
had given McIntosh a high sense of the priestly office,  but Highland clergy were close to the people (whose homes they often
shared) and broadly accepting of traditional customs - including shinty.
The first significant change which the Arisaig vicar general
sought to introduce was a more ‘respectable’, ‘polite and dignified’
way of being a clergyman – one which was modeled in the Highlands, as
it happens, by Protestant evangelicals.  But old customs died hard,
and in any case McIntosh arrived at a more relaxed view in time.  Even at the outset of his
mission to the West Highlands he recognised that ‘discernment is requisite
to know when to prohibit entirely and when to regulate by judicious
restrictions such customs and old established practices as are not essentially
bad in themselves.’  Ranald Rankin was appointed
to Moidart, in the event, and made a good impression from the start:
‘He is a pleasant, accomplished, gentleman and a good Gaelic
scholar.  We will be much pleased with
him in this district.’  The ‘little wee man’ served
the mission well until 1855, when (some five hundred people having already
left Moidart after a series of crop failures  ) he followed the area’s emigrants to South Australia, departing ‘amidst
the tears and lamentations of an afflicted people.’  McIntosh’s judgement on the
man he knew ‘very intimately’ was faulty, in other words, but his criticisms
of other priests had more substance. . .
A clear priority in changing the practice of religion was to provide suitable chapels. As vicar general it was McIntosh’s task, in co-operation with the clergy, to maximise the use of these new buildings through mass attendance, taking account of the difficulties imposed by geography and weather. Ranald Rankin described the problems he faced in reaching Moidart from Arisaig:
Friday we walked up to Borrodale, waited there all day but no boat from
Moidart, the wind was too high, the Borrodale large boat was from home. We remained there Friday night.
Saturday it blew a hurricane.
I set off by land, walked 22 miles.
I was glad to remain at Mr Stewart’s Kenlochmoidart  that night. A stout young man
that was along with me was fairly done out, he fainted near Colonel
Robison’s house.  I got him into a house, powered
[sic] warm milk down his throat which cured him very soon. I was well attended but the cold seised me
by the throat. Sunday morning
I proceeded to Langal chapel. 
a priest might have travelled to where people lived more often than
they came to him.  An ‘obligation’ of regular
Sunday mass attendance at a chapel built for worship was scarcely imaginable,
or people’s houses served for religious occasions.  The use of even humbler buildings
as mass-centres was ruled out during autumn and winter: ‘I go to Glengarry every sixth Sunday, but
there is no place about Laggan until their barns are empty.’  Now that formal places of
worship - with seat rents  - were being opened, however, expectation grew that people would ‘go
to church’ on a more regular basis.
With the post of vicar general so recently established, decisions
on where - and effectively how often - they should go remained, to a
large extent, with the priest of each mission.
Moidart is a case in point.
Ranald Rankin’s long walk round from Arisaig left him unable
to preach at Langal, but his sore throat was better by the following
Sunday at ‘the Castle’:  the Dorlin chapel beside the
ruined Castle Tioram (where there had been an earlier chapel). Dorlin was built in 1828 by the Rev. Norman
MacDonald, who was buried inside it nine years later.  It included living accommodation
on the upper floor which was shared between the priest (who had his
own garret room) and the owner, Miss Isabella MacDonald. 
There was a third chapel named after the bay beside an ancient
fort, where the track came over to Loch Moidart from Glenuig.
Rankin mentioned it when outlining his plans for something better: ‘A chapel at Kenlochmoidart is quite essential,
being the most centrical and accessible spot in the country. Portandun Chapel wants both these advantages,
and is so small that a great part of the congregation are outside be
it foul or fair.’  Dr Coll MacDonald of Dalilea,
at the same considerable distance from both Dorlin and Portandun, lent
his support: Mr William Robertson has consented to give the use
of ground, and the people would give labour in making a bit of road
and levelling the foundation, if some funds were forthcoming.  At present on a short winter
day going seven miles, two out of the three Sundays, is no joke, and
Mr Rankin’s Gaelic sermons are so pleasing that the day steals away
or rather the time slips away imperceptibly.  We meet on Christmas next
at 8 o’clock which is a usefull change in wild Highland parishes. 
There were problems, however. Kinlochmoidart was the area’s focus of Protestantism, with an SPCK school already in place,  and plans were being made to erect a kirk of the Established Presbyterian Church.  Meanwhile William McIntosh was exerting himself to block the proposal on other grounds:
Rankin requests me to inform you that he has made no final arrangement
with Mr Will. Robertson for the site of a Chapel, and indeed it is so
far fortunate for the situation is every thing but eligible. . .
A centrical chapel besides being in the centre of the country
would require to be in an elegant exposure suitable to the building
to be erected. He went sneakingly
about the business and never asked my opinion.
He is tired of attending the three chapels and he wanted the
thing done in a jiffy. . . However
with a little caution and prudence and patience I do not despair of
getting matters to rights again. I
will take a step over after Christmas. . . 
Perhaps the vicar general saw things more clearly than the incumbent, though it is open to question which man acted more ‘sneakingly’. Rankin admitted he was uncertain about the terms on offer for the site at the head of Loch Moidart, but the effect of McIntosh’s ‘caution and prudence and patience’ was that no chapel was built to replace any of the old ones during the remaining sixteen years of Rankin’s time in Moidart.  Just after he left for Australia,  in the same year (1855) that the estate was bought by Hope-Scott of Abbotsford, the chapel was described as ‘a miserable thatched edifice, destitute of everything befitting the service of religion.’  Rankin’s successor the Rev. Hugh Chisholm described work being carried out at Langal in 1855: ‘Gillespie Ban commenced to thatch the Vestry Nov. 15th – Finished it the following morning. The work was done gratuitously except what it cost me in whisky.’  It is not clear whether it was to Dorlin or Langal that Charles MacDonald came as a very young ‘Priest of Moidart’ in 1859,  but he was resident at Mingarry before the ‘centrical’ church was finally opened there in 1862. ‘For years a continual source of trouble and expenditure’,  it can hardly have been an improvement on the building which was envisaged for a much larger congregation two decades before. McIntosh also opposed the younger man on how the upper end of Loch Shiel should be served. Rankin was addressing the problem raised by the Rev. Austin MacDonald  in the previous century, ‘that if there was a resident priest, such as I cannot be, in a short time all the neighbouring district would return to the Catholic faith.’  The willingness of people to gather for mass, and perhaps for social purposes after, was a matter of concern to the vicar general:
Rankin on coming to his new mission being full of zeal, and finding
a considerable number of people, from various motives no doubt, attend
divine service the first Sunday or two he officiated at Glenfinnan,
he fancied to himself that he would form a congregation there in a short
time, so instead of going there once every three months he commenced
going every eight weeks, and he now finds this heavy on his hand and
is anxious to get rid of it altogether; hence he is pressing me to get Glenfinnan attached
to Fort William as it was originally.  Glenfinnan (with its
Jacobite monument erected in 1815 by a young rake of the Glenalladale
MacDonalds  ) was twelve miles by carriage road from Fort William. A major stumbling-block to Rankin’s proposal
was that the priest lived in a newly built chapel-house at Ballachulish,
fifteen miles on the other side of Lochaber’s market town. The accommodation for Fort William’s chapel
was let.  The Rev. Charles Mackenzie
was unhappy about the conditions in both:
‘The plaster of the low room (though lathed) is as wet from floor
to ceiling as the Chapel. The
turn-pike stair at Fort William  is not a bit better and the vestry worse.’  Mackenzie, who left the Highlands
soon after, was replaced by Archibald Chisholm. McIntosh wondered if ‘some arrangement could
be made, by letting the Glenco house and the lower flat of the Fortwilliam
one, where in my humble opinion he should reside.’ 
of my friends at FortWm frequently remind that you promised when installing
me here that as soon as they enabled me to live at FortWm they should
have service two Sundays for one at Glencoe, & considering that
the congregation (including good & bad) is more than twice as numerous
& that they pay twice as much I do not see that this arrangement
would be bad especially for the winter season, when the weather occasions
sometimes no inconsiderable loss of time before I can return.
What would make one approve of it still further is that I might
give an English sermon every alternate Sunday here to prevent the desertion
of some Irish who do not understand Gaelic. 
did take up residence in Fort William and probably served Glenfinnan
from time to time until his move to the new Glasgow church of St Alphonsus
in 1846. His successor Donald
MacEachen certainly did during his eight years at Lochaber’s market
town:  indeed
the 1851 census catches him as a ‘visitor’ in the crowded household
of John McIntosh, sheep manager. 
 Scottish Catholic Archives/Oban Letters. Archibald Chisholm, Fort William, 29 Jan 1841. Father Mathew, who first became known outside Ireland in 1839, was called the Apostle of Temperance. For more on this see E. B. Ritson and A. Roberts, ‘Scots Highland Catholics and the Temperance Movement, 1837-43’ (forthcoming).
Rankin was the oldest child of Donald Rankin, a Glencoe Episcopalian,
and Elizabeth MacDonald, a Keppoch Catholic.
She was widowed as the mother of one son and four daughters,
all of whom grew up as Catholics. The future priest was born at Fort William
in 1796. North Argyll, ‘From
Moidart to Victoria’, Oban Times,
30 Dec 1950.
to Scott 9 Jan 1838.
 O. Blundell, The Catholic Highlands of Scotland, i, (1909), 131. Laggan is near Newtonmore and Kingussie in the heartland of Scottish shinty. A contrast of body types is provided by McIntosh, who was renowned for his strength and laid open the exciseman Malcolm Gillespie’s jaw by ‘a stroke with the sabre’. Quoted in Roberts, ‘William McIntosh’, 138. Gillespie’s scar is reproduced in his Dying Declaration.
The movement begun by Père Jean-Jacques Olier became international
as the Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice:
‘This community exercised a great influence and helped to form
for the Church in France a dedicated and devout corps of clergy, conscientious
about their duties.’ Saint
Sulpice (Paris, 2000), 45.
Protestant opposition to shinty see J. Macinnes, The
Evangelical Movement in the Highlands of Scotland, 1660 to 1800
(Aberdeen, 1951), 46. For
later Free Church attitudes, see D. MacLean, The
Counter-Reformation in Scotland, 1560-1930 (London, 1931) and
D. Macleod, ‘The Highland churches today’ in Kirk, Church
in the Highlands, 146-76. The
priest Alexander Gillis played shinty in Eigg ‘every Christmas and
New Year on the fine sandy beach of Laig Bay. . . Mr Gillis would
join in the game, barefooted like the rest.’
Blundell, Catholic Highlands, ii, 200.
old age McIntosh made fun of a young priest’s difficulties with a
Morar Christmas ceilidh and ‘the Bonnet dance . . . at which the gentleman
at whom the lady throws the bonnet rises and kisses her publicly.’
Glasgow Archdiocesan Archive.
McIntosh to Archbishop Charles Eyre, 8 Jan 1872.
McIntosh to Scott, 9 Jan 1838.
 ‘Father Rankin is still remembered on the West Coast of Scotland for his gifts as a poet and a preacher. His beautiful hymns, songs and witty sayings were familiar. . .’ Scottish Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, vii, (Dec. 1905), 106.
Dr Coll MacDonald, Lochshiel, to Scott, 28 Feb 1838.
Later the local doctor wrote:
‘Mr Rankin is making his Congregation young and old excellent
Christians, and we are getting up a School House some of these days
where a Catholic teacher will preside.’ Coll MacDonald to Scott, 22
Dec 1839. For more on this
see A. Roberts and J. C. Stocks, ‘Education and faith in the Catholic
Highlands of Scotland’ (forthcoming).
use of Moidart and Arisaig Catholic registers has been made on death
rates and potato blight. T.
M. Devine, The Great Highland Famine: Hunger, Emigration and the Scottish Highlands
in the Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh, 1988), 57-59, 64-65.
 J. Ireland, Some Priests of Moidart (Acharacle, 2000),
27, quoting the parish register.
is surely too early to be ‘Mr Stuart of Kinloch’.
C. MacDonald, Moidart; or
Among the Clanranalds (Edinburgh, 1889, 1989), 255. Although a house at Kenlochmoidart is hard
to identify for him, it could be Alexander Stewart who was at various
times proprietor of Glenuig, Glenforslan and Glenalladale. Moidart, 241-3.
This is the Lieut. Col. Robertson, youngest son of Principal William
Robertson of Edinburgh University, who married Margaret MacDonald
last in the line of Kinloch-moidart in 1799. Their ‘very comfortable house’ was replaced
by ‘the handsome mansion recently raised by Robert Stuart of Ingleston’. Moidart,
231. The son of this couple,
who later went by the name William Robertson-MacDonald, lived there
when Rankin first came to Moidart.
SCA/OL. Rankin (Crathie, Badenoch) to Scott, 6 Mar
1838. Travel by boat remained
the preferred option on this coast:
the last twelve miles of the journey from Borrodale to Kinlochmoidart
had no metalled road until 1964.
people ‘were known to come the thirty miles to Fort Augustus, starting
at four o’clock in the morning.’
Blundell, Catholic Highlands, i, 189. More commonly, perhaps, ‘Glenquoich, in Glengarry,
[was] attended twice a year from Fort Augustus.’ The Catholic Directory for Scotland [CDS] (Edinburgh,
churches were non-existent, meeting-places or Tighean-Phobuill (houses
of the people as they were called) were to be found throughout the
glens. There the people would congregate to practise their faith. . .’ P. Galbraith, Blessed Morar (Morair Bheannachte) (Fort William, 1989, 1994), 5.
 SCA/OL. Alexander Gillis, Fort Augustus, to Scott,
26 Mar 1840. This is Laggan
at the head of Loch Lochy. On
barns, see A. Roberts, ‘Mass in the kiln’, IR,
xli (1990), 227-29.
shown by Niel MacDonald’s comment (main article) seat rents were an
innovation in Barra although they had been used to finance the Preshome
chapel of 1788. In Morar there were complaints from those ‘not
provided with seats, who did not appear for their interest on the
day of letting.’ SCA/OL. MacColl to Scott, 9 Feb 1838.
 SCA/OL. Dr Coll MacDonald, Lochshiel, to Scott, 28
remains of the Rev. Norman MacDonald and another unnamed priest were
reinterred on St Finan’s Isle by James Hope-Scott.
Iain Thornber, ‘Memories of Moidart by the late Sandy MacDonald
(1892-1982)’, De tha dol? – 1999?, 16.
Bell MacDonald belonged to the Dalilea family.
Alexander MacDonald of Glenalladale paid her board between
1798 and 1814 as the ward of the Rev. Alexander MacDonald at Balloch
(later Taymouth Castle) in Perthshire.
NAS, GD243/3/3. After Dorlin she moved to Fort William. Moidart,
146, 152. Soon after the Kinlochmoidart
project failed, Rankin’s revised intention was ‘to build joining the
Dorlin chapel which is too small – in such a manner that the house
may be converted to an enlargement of the chapel.’
SCA/OL. Rankin to Scott,
12 Jan 1840.
Rankin to Scott, 11 Mar 1839. Portandun
soon fell out of use: ‘In
this [Moidart] Mission there are two Chapels – one of them is tolerably
good and the other is miserable.’
CDS (1847), 76. There was
an earlier chapel nearby: ‘[Father
Hustian Macdonald] . . . lived principally at Altegil, on the Glenuig
proerty.’ Moidart, 215. Aultigil is
shown a mile WNW of An Dun on the Pathfinder 1:25 000 map but the
chapel served by Rankin is almost certainly the building by the shore
at NM 679736.
earlier made appeals from pulpits elsewhere:
‘The country is wretchedly poor.
With your permission I would try the begging system again. I think I would collect as much in three months as would effect
my purpose at Dorlin.’ SCA/OL. Rankin to Scott, 12 Jan 1840. This may not have been for the proposed Kinlochmoidart
chapel, however: ‘Badenoch,
by Laggan. Reverend Ranald
Rankin. It is expected that
the Chapel which it is proposed to erect in this part of the country,
and for which collections were made nearly two years ago, will be
commenced in the ensuing spring.’
CDS (1836), 54. Due to difficulties
of land tenure the work was not completed until 1846, ‘on the cold,
stormy and incovenient site of the old Chapel’. CDS (1847), 76.
more on this see S. Grannd and A. Roberts, ‘Eobhan MacEachan and the
orthography of Scots Gaelic’ (forthcoming).
 SCA/OL. MacDonald to Scott, 22 Dec 1839. William Robertson (49) was in residence at
Kinlochmoidart House when the census enumerator called in 1851, along
with a sixteen-year-old son of the same name who was studying at home. The ‘usefull change’ may have been from the
inconvenience of Midnight Mass.
Fletcher (20) from Salen in Mull was recorded in the 1851 census as
a schoolmaster living at Kinlochomoidart School House, shown just
west of St Finan’s Church on the 1873 map, along with his fourteen-year-old
 SCA/OL. Rankin to Scott, 11 Mar 1839. In fact St Finan’s Episcopal Church was built
to satisfy the spiritual needs of the Robertson family and dependents,
the cornerstone being laid on 12 May 1857, when a ‘parsonage’ was
already envisaged. Robertson MacDonald Papers,
NLS, MS72a. The incumbent
in 1861 was the Rev. Joseph Rawlins (32), a B.A. of Trinity College,
 SCA/OL. McIntosh to Scott, 19 Dec 1839. McIntosh, like Rankin, had early seen the need
for a central chapel ‘in course of time when people’s views are more
enlarged.’ SCA/OL. McIntosh to Scott, 18 Feb 1838.
was greatly overpopulated in the 1840s:
Alexander MacDonald of Lochshiel took in families from Rhu
Arisaig, where his brother Gregor had been forced to evict most of
his subtenants when giving up the tenancy, Lord Cranstoun having imposed
realistic rents on his Arisaig estate:
‘The only thing that he could do was to get his brother MacDonald
of Loch Shiel to take the people. . .’ Eneas Ranald MacDonell, in Report of the Royal Commission [Highlands and
Islands, 1892], (Edinburgh, 1895), 1228.
Rankin lived at Dorlin from his arrival in 1839.
He was there in 1841 and 1851, and his widowed sister Jean
Kelly or Rankin (ten years his junior and born in Strathglass) was
housekeeper. In both years a female house servant and a male farm servant were
maintained. The widow’s three
children, born in Campbeltown, were part of the household although
one had left by 1851. Also
at Dorlin that year were the priest’s teenage cousin of the same name
(a scholar born at Torosay in Mull) and the MacDonald children (aged
five and three) of another sister. Finally the dressmaker Jessy Rankin (23) of
Lochaber was probably a relation, although registered as a visitor
in 1851 along with Netty MacDonald (25), a farmer’s wife from Lochaber.
Ornsby, Memoirs of James Robert Hope-Scott of Abbotsford,
ii (London, 1984), 233. James
Hope added to his name on marrying Sir Walter Scott’s granddaughter.
A friend of John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman, this London
lawyer became a Catholic at Easter 1851 along with the man who became
Cardinal Henry Manning. Langal chapel served a new purpose, on the evidence of ‘The Old
Poor House’ at the gate, but when?
Mrs Doris Parrish, the present owner, knew that an elderly
male pauper occupied one of the apartments during the second world
war. Personal communication,
9 June 2002.
Some Priests of Moidart, 21. Fr Ireland
had Austin MacDonald rebuilding the Langal chapel and building the
Dorlin and Portandun ones before 1783.
Mrs Parrish has photographs of the building before she and
her late husband improved it. The
vestry at the rear (now removed) is clearly in evidence.
Macdonald was aged 25 at the 1861 census.
His housekeeper was helped by a maid aged twelve.
By 1871 his widowed mother had come to live in the eight-roomed
Hope-Scott of Abbotsford, 237. A chapel was built for Glenuig in 1861.
is likely that Austin (Uisdean, Hustian or Hugh) MacDonald lived at
Austinscroft, close to Dalilea, as proposed by Ireland, Some
Priests of Moidart, 20.
Macdonald to the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda, 10 Sept 1771, quoted
in Blundell, Catholic Highlands, ii, 137.
 SCA/OL. McIntosh to Scott, 24 Jan 1840.
Cameron, ‘A Romantic folly to Romantic folly:
the Glenfinnan Monument reassessed’, Proceedings
of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland, 129 (1999), 887-907.
took time and legal pressure to move the tenant:
‘Capt. McDonald has been warned out of the house.
I employed Sinclair the Fiscal here. . .’ SCA/OL. Archibald Chisholm,
Fort William, to Scott, 8 Mar 1841.
‘turn-pike stair’ may reflect the chapel’s position next to the stables
owned by Posting Masters MacGregor & Cameron in Gordon Square.
Fort William Memories: A Pictorial Record (Fort William, n.d.,
Mackenzie, Fort William, to Scott, 11 Mar 1839.
He described himself as a ‘wandering Jew’, and the near fatal
effect of going to Glengarry in winter.
 SCA/OL. McIntosh to Scott, 24 Jan 1840.
 SCA/OL. Chisholm to Scott, 25 Sep 1840. Chisholm reported that the masons had been
required to pull down the half-finished front windows of the Presbyterian
chapel because the frontage was narrower than that of the Catholic
one for Glencoe. The two churches
still stand side by side in the Braes of Brecklet above Ballachulish.
‘Western District’, 128, 143, 147.
people were listed in this Glenfinnan house. For an insight into the life of a ‘sheep manager’
at this time, see A. Cameron, Our
Greatest Highland Drover: John
Cameron ‘Corrychollie’ (Oban, n.d.).
As a tenant of Cameron of Lochiel, Corrychoillie at one stage
paid £1,430 in rent for grazings north of Glenfinnan.
Scott often stayed at Borrodale House in Arisaig on his summer visitations,
and spent a week there in September 1838.
SCA/OL. Scott to Kyle,
15 Sep 1838.
‘Western District’, 127.
was in the lifetime of John’s successor, viz., the late Angus of Glenaladale,
that the family seat was removed from Borrodale to Glenfinnan. . .’
219. He died in 1870. Glenfinnan House was built about 1860 and designed by Sir Alexander
Ross. An older house was built
as an inn by Alexander MacDonald VII of Glenalladale in 1753-5. The West Highland seminary was there briefly
(probably in this building) before moving to Samalaman ‘due to too
much social life for the students!’
Tearlach MacFarlane, Glenfinnan, pers. com. 31 Jan. 2002.
son of the architect Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-52) died two years
after the Glenfinnan church was opened.
Catholic Highlands, ii, 157, quoting CDS for 1874. By chance (as reported) it opened on 19 August, the date when the
Stuart standard was raised at Glenfinnan:
‘The pipes used on the morning of the opening of the Church
were the identical pipes played at the first gathering of the Clans
on this same spot in 1745. They
were played again on the fatal field of Culloden, and were ever afterwards
carefully preserved as a most precious heirloom in the family of Glenaladale.’
 Modern editions give both 1870 and 1872 as foundation dates. Fr MacDonald offered daily mass at Glenfinnan until the year of his death in 1895. According to Tearlach MacFarlane he had been ‘ordained to die’ in 1844.