Bringing the College’s History to Light

In 1971, the then Rector, Fr Maurice Taylor, later to become bishop of Galloway, published “The Scots College in Spain”, practically the definitive word in the history of the College to that point. Since then, the College has undergone many changes and faced many new challenges, not least, of course, its move to Salamanca, its closure as a place of full priestly formation in 2004, and the beginning of a new phase in its history with the introduction of the Propaedeutic Seminary course in 2016.

For that reason, we felt it would be important to bring something of its long history to light via these new digital media – our website, our Facebook page and Twitter feed. So, you can now find alongside our “History” page some other pages (some to be added in time) which give a glimpse into the lives of students and staff of the College taken from our archives.  On the page “College People”, for example, you can find images of groups of students from various periods across the 20th century, and photographs of a number of our former rectors and other staff members from the mid-19th to the mid-20th Century.  There have been some colourful characters along the way and we hope to share something of their story.  We want to honour the many young men who, since 1627, have left home to seek to put their lives at the service of Christ and his church in their homeland and beyond, and some of the priests who dedicated at least a part of their lives to helping them do that.

Above is a picture of the new boys of 1912. Below is a picture of the new students who began their time in Valladolid in 1903 – a taster of what you’ll find on the “College People” page.

Valladolid 1903


The photograph above, from 1903, shows the students who arrived that year with the priests of the College. The odd one out is Donald Martin (centre back, standing) who had been in the College since 1899. He was the nephew of the (by 1903 “former”) rector, Fr David McDonald.

The three priests seated at the front represent three generations of rectors of the College and almost a century of its life:

Seated left Fr David McDonald (“Don David”) who was on the staff from 1865 and had been rector since 1879. When this picture was taken, he had just retired, and was known as “Rector Emeritus”, but he lived on in the College until his death in 1909.

Seated centre Fr John Woods, who in 1903 had just succeeded Don David as rector. The latter had been his vice-rector as a student. Indeed, his ordination (in 1879) had had to be postponed as the previous rector, Fr John Cowie, had died suddenly and, as the vice-rector’s appointment as rector had not yet come through, there was no one to give permission for him to be ordained.  He remained rector until 1909.

Seated rightFr James Humble, a former student of the College from 1883-1889, under Don David’s rectorship, had returned to the College in October 1903 to be vice-rector to John Woods.  He would, in time, succeed him as rector in 1909.  He would remain rector until 1940, through the turbulent Civil War years in Spain, and live on in retirement in the College, like Don David, until his death in 1948.

The students gathered around them are as follows:

Rear, standing (left to right): Matthew Murphy, Joseph Daly, William Shaw (ordained 1911 for Aberdeen), Donald Martin (a senior student at this time) James Walls, Patrick Plunkett (ordained 1911 for Glasgow and assigned to Motherwell in 1948) and David Phillips;

Front, seated (left to right): John McMahon (ordained 1911 for Dunkeld), Lachlan McNeish, [the three rectors, past, present and future!], Walter Welsh (ordained 1912 for St Andrews & Edinburgh) and William Stopani (ordained 1911 for Glasgow).

A  number of these students were transferred by their bishops to other seminaries at home and abroad (Daly, Welsh, Phillips and McMahon) while two of them initially left but were readmitted to the College (Plunkett, left and readmitted in 1910, and Stopani, left and readmitted in 1905).  James Walls left in 1909, but contracted pneumonia on his return to Scotland and died in 1912, aged only 28.  Patrick Plunkett, by contrast, was the longest lived of the group. He became a canon in Motherwell Diocese and died in Wishaw in 1963 at the age of 82.  Donald Martin was ordained for Argyll and the Isles in 1905 and, in 1919 became bishop of the same diocese.