Call to honour Scotland's only martyr

The National Shrine to St John Ogilvie in St Aloysius Church, Glasgow
The National Shrine to St John Ogilvie in St Aloysius Church, Glasgow

The Knights of St Columba in Scotland are pressing ahead with their campaign to mark the spot where St John Ogilvie SJ was executed in 1615 with a permanent memorial erected at Glasgow Cross in his honour. The announcement was made to coincide with the Feast of St John Ogilvie on 10 March.

St John Ogilvie is officially recognised as Scotland's only Catholic martyr. As a Jesuit priest, he preached at a time when being a Catholic was outlawed. While Catholicism was not necessarily punishable by death, Ogilvie refused to pledge allegiance to King James VI during his trial. He was sentenced to be hanged at Glasgow Cross for treason and disembowelled. There is no record of where his body was subsequently moved to and interred.

In 2015, the Jesuits in Britain marked the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie with a series of events, including ecumenical vespers at St Aloysius' Church in Glasgow where there is a national shrine to the saint, and Mass at St Andrew's Cathedral, a few hundred yards away from Glasgow Cross, at which Archbishop Philip Tartaglia preached.Peter Howson's painting of St John Ogilvie SJ in St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow

An honorary Glaswegian

"John Ogilvie was a Scot from Banffshire," he 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 … We know he was executed at Glasgow Cross. We have the national shrine at St Aloysius' … and we have the renowned painting of our martyr which is displayed in this Cathedral [by Peter Howson, shown on the right]. These tangible things help us to claim St John Ogilvie as our saint, to love him and to keep his memory alive."

Following the 400th anniversary of St John Ogilvie's death, the Knights of St Columba began considering a permanent memorial at Glasgow Cross and they said last week that the campaign to get one is gradually gathering momentum.

"We will be expanding our online campaign very shortly," said Charlie McCluskey, the supreme knight of the Knights of St Columba, "but we have not settled on exactly what way we will proceed in relation to petitions or otherwise."

Glasgow Cross: site of St John Ogilvie's martyrdom in 1615Aiming high

Describing Ogilvie’s martyrdom as a "historic event" that should be acknowledged in Glasgow, he added: "We would like to see a statue at Glasgow Cross and there is an alcove on one of the buildings which would be perfect. But we do believe that as Scotland's only martyr saint there should be something marking his execution in 1615. So, we are aiming high."

Among the other highlights of the St John Ogilvie anniversary year in 2015 were a production by AGAP (Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project) of The Martyrdom of St John Ogilvie, which toured various venues in Scotland; a new version of the Ave Verum by Sir James MacMiIllan, which was premiered at St Aloysius College in Glasgow, performed by choirs from Jesuits schools in Britain; and an animation of the story of the martyr that was commissioned by St Aloysius Church, and created by Glasgow Street Films. The Jesuit Institute produced a wide range of resources for the 400th anniversary; and the Catholic Truth Society published a pamphlet about St John Ogilvie for the occasion subtitled A Jesuit in Disguise.

Meanwhile, Holy Family RC Church in Mossend has also produced a video that explores the life - and martyrdom - of St John Ogilvie SJ. It is available to view on their Facebook page.