College People

The College has a long history, which means many people have passed through its doors, both students and staff.

Here, we publish a few images taken across the College’s life – a little glimpse into changes and continuities across time!


The earliest of these images is dated in our archive as coming from 1910, although most of the students only arrived in 1912. It shows the class with their classic Spanish birettas and “becas” (the scarf-like silk worn by university graduates in Spain and made part of the student attire in 1860). In 1910, for the first time, students began to attend the local seminary in Valladolid for Theology, which granted pontifical degrees. It is possible that the students in the picture were among the first to graduate from the Valladolid seminary. In any event, these were all ordained and left Valladolid in 1919. They all went on to have long ministries in their respective dioceses, in some cases well into the 1970s. The original photograph lists them as follows: (l to r) Back: William McGoldrick (Glas), — [unnamed: possibly Patrick Clarke (Glas; later Motherwell)], James Matthews (Dunk) , Front: Joseph Costeur (Glas; later Paisley), Hugh O’Brien (Glas; later Motherwell).

Second is a group photo of the students who arrived in 1927, the year of the 300th anniversary of the College’s foundation. Of this group, all but one (the student in the centre, George Smith) went on to be ordained. Edward Scanlan left in 1933 to complete his studies in Thurles, Ireland, but all returned, ordained, to Scotland in 1934.  They are (l to r): Thomas Cassidy (Glas), Charles McKinney (Arg&I, later Shrewsbury), George Smith (Arg&I), Donald Bonnar (Glas), Thomas Taylor (Glas) and Edward Scanlan (Gall)

The group of ten in classic birettas and becas are those who arrived in 1933.  All of these students would complete their studies elsewhere, as the College was forced to evacuate students in 1937 as the Spanish Civil War intensified. They include a young James Monaghan (standing, back left) who would go on to be auxiliary bishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh (in fact, he would be forced to leave the College in 1936 due to ill-health, but completed his studies in Ireland and was ordained priest in 1940). In addition, and in a more tragic vein, the young student sitting on the front, far right, Duncan Kennedy, would be drowned while swimming in the River Duero only a few months after this picture was taken, in May 1934. We still pray for Duncan when we visit the College grave at Boecillo, a grave which was purchased specifically for his burial in 1934, but which, tragically, has had to be used twice since. RIP.  The students are ( l to r): Standing: James Monaghan (St An&Ed), Alexander MacKellaig (Arg&I), James Dooley (Glas), Denis McCarthy (Gall), Joseph Cahill (Glas), Edward Long (Glas); Seated: Peter Foylan (Dunk), John Flood (Dunk), John Ross (Dunk), Duncan Kennedy (Arg&I).

The fourth photograph is of those who were leaving the College after ordination to return to Scotland to work as priests (1936). This was the last group to be ordained from the College before it closed due to the ongoing conflict of the Spanish Civil War in 1937.  They are (l to r): Standing: Fr Martin Hughes (Glas) and Fr James Anthony McLaughlin (Abd); Sitting: Fr Hamish Stuart (Dunk), Mgr James Humble (Rector), Fr James Connolly (Vice-Rector) and Fr John Haran (Glas)

For a little more about Fr John Haran, click here.

The fifth image shows the first students to be ordained priests after the Civil War and the return of students to Valladolid in 1950. They are pictured in the centre in chasuble and laced albs: Fr Ian Murray (St An&Ed) and Fr John Sheridan (Glas).   Those standing around them in dalmatics have been ordained as sub-deacons: (l to r) Thomas Holloran (Glas) John McCabe (Glas) Patrick J. Byrne (Glas), WiIliam Ferguson (St An&Ed), and Alex Bremner (St An&Ed). The remaining students (in soutane and surplice) have been ordained into minor orders: (l to r) John Harkin (Gall), William Fitzsimmons (St An&Ed), Edward Glackin (Moth) and Stephen Judge (St An&Ed).

The final image is of the College community in academic year 1975-1976. Seated at the front (centre) is Fr John Walls, the Rector, to his left, Fr John McGee (vice-Rector) and to his right, Fr Noel Burke (Spiritual Director).

College Rectors

These images show a few of the College’s Rectors of different periods.

The first is Fr John Cowie, rector from 1873-1879.  Ordained in 1833, he came to Valladolid first of all in 1843 as vice-rector to the longest-serving rector in the College’s history, Fr John Cameron (rector 1833-1873). Having served as vice-rector himself for thirty years, he became rector for the next six years until his death in office in 1879. He is buried in the College grave in Valladolid. He was said to have been a man of intense scruples, and at times was felt to be a little stingy, but his early rectorship was marked by civil unrest in Spain and ended with the College in some financial difficulties owing to the bad state of repair of the Madrid property and costs of refurbishment. However, in his time, the “Academy” was reinstituted, students were encouraged to put on plays (even Shakespeare), and he witnessed the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy and dioceses of Scotland in 1878.

Don David McDonald first came to the College in 1865.  A native Gaelic speaker from  Fort William, he had been educated at Ratisbon (Regensburg), in the Scots Benedictine monastery there, at Blairs in Aberdeen and then in Rome. He was vice-rector under John Cowie from 1873 and eventually succeeded him as rector in 1879.  He remained in post until his retirement in 1903. Thereafter, he lived on in the College (in ill-health after suffering a stroke in 1907) until his death in 1909. He is buried in the College grave in Valladolid. The image to the left is of him in later life (indeed he may even betray the signs of having suffered his stroke already), and is marked on the rear “The late Very Rev David McDonald”. To the right, is an image of him in younger days, with a suggested date of 1875 (when he was 43 years old). It is from the archive of the English College in Valladolid, a place where he was a regular visitor and had good friends.  Although a long rectorship, and involving a great number of improvements to the College’s life and Rule, to the country house at Boecillo and to the building in Valladolid, his relations both with other staff and the bishops back in Scotland were rarely warm and at times openly hostile.

Mgr James Humble came to Valladolid as a student in 1883 and was ordained for Glasgow in 1889. He returned as vice-rector in 1903, under the then newly-appointed rector, Fr John Woods. He was appointed rector in 1909 and remained in that post until 1940, when he retired but lived on in the College until his death in 1948. He is buried in the College grave in Valladolid. Under Mgr Humble, a number of significant events took place. Firstly, he was responsible for managing the compulsory purchase on the Madrid house, the original College building, during the development of the Gran Via in Madrid city centre. He acquired in compensation and empty plot on the new “main street” where, borrowing heavily, he had a new building erected. That building, the legacy of the Semples themselves, still provides rents and funds therefore which sustain the College. Secondly, he proposed moving the College from its site in the old Colegio de San Ambrosio, to a new home in Canterac, a small village on the outskirts of Valladolid. This move never took place, for a variety of reasons, although the property was bought and remained in College hands until the late 1990s.  In happier times, he led the celebrations for the College’s 300th anniversary in 1927, but also had to send the students home in 1937 as the Spanish Civil War began to hit close to Valladolid and safe passage in and out of Spain could no longer be guaranteed.  He lived on in the College with his vice-rector, Dr James Connolly, who succeeded him as rector in 1940.

Mgr Philip Flanagan, by contrast, had been vice-rector in the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, before being appointed to take over from Dr James Connolly as rector in Valladolid in 1952. Dr Connolly had been vice-rector for twenty years and had served as a “studentless” rector for ten. When a group of enthusiastic young men arrived in the summer of 1950, he quickly proved ill-equipped and overwhelmed by the task of organising this new life in the College, with students whose experiences and backgrounds were very quite different to those of the students who had made up the community of the 1920s and 1930s. Fr Flanagan was sent by the bishops to ensure a much smoother handling of the new context and to enable much-needed repair and refurbishment on the fabric of the building. This he did, despite having little or no Spanish when he first arrived, and knowing very little of the College’s tradition or past. Despite this, he took great care in, for instance, the cataloguing and arranging of the College’s extensive archive and library, work of which we remain beneficiaries to this day. He left in 1960 to return to the College in Rome as rector.

Other College Staff

Fr Alexander Munro was a convert to Catholicism, and came to the College as a student in 1843, aged 23. After ordination, he had a spell as a priest in Duntocher, before returning to Valladolid as a tutor in 1853, where he remained until 1861 when he returned to Scotland.  He was a regular visitor to the College thereafter, and was closely involved as a friend and advisor to Fr John Cowie.  In 1856, perhaps as a result of theological reflection on his own conversion experience, he wrote a theological text “Calvinism in Its Relations to Scripture and Reason”. He was instrumental in re-establishing the “Academy” to the College while on a visit in 1872.  In 1890 he attended the “silver jubilee” of Fr David McDonald (i.e. his 25th anniversary as a member of the staff of Valladolid), the man who had replaced him after a gap of a few years in 1865, and he remained until his death a benefactor and advocate for the College, donating many books, vestments and a microscope set we still have in the College archive room today. In addition, he personally provided for the upkeep each year of a student from Glasgow, provided funds for students to buy breviaries and regularly donated money for leisure activities and excursions for the students.  Priest-in-charge at St Andrew’s Church in Glasgow, he became its first Administrator when it became the Cathedral of St Andrew’s, Clyde Street following the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in 1878, and first Provost of Glasgow’s Chapter of Canons. For his dedicated service and reputation as a theologian, he would be awarded an honorary doctorate and the title “Monsignor”.

Fr James McGinnes had been a student in Valladolid from 1853 until 1862 and returned in 1889 as vice-rector under Don David McDonald. He is best remembered for having revised the rules of the “Academy” and publishing a (somewhat prescient) work entitled “The Ministry of the Word”, presenting themes in preaching, public speaking, voice and debate. He may have been responsible for composing the words of the College song, “The Star of Ambrosio”. He eventually left in 1894 somewhat at odds with Don David, the rector.

Fr John Doherty arrived as a tutor in 1890, having been ordained in 1881 for Dunkeld diocese. He had studied in Rome and in St-Sulpice, Paris, but never in Valladolid.  The story goes that on his arrival at the College, he was met by the rector, Don David McDonald, in his nightgown, carrying a candle, and, having been shown to his room in semi-darkness and in the cold of late December, sat on his bed alone and wept.  He seems to have had quite a strained relationship with the Rector and left, following some intense arguments with the latter, in 1894 – to be followed soon after by his colleague, the vice-rector, Fr James McGinnes.

Fr Donald Easson hailed from the north-east of Scotland, but was ordained from the College in 1887 for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. Following a nine-year ministry in Linlithgow, he was appointed to the College as vice-rector in 1897, although he only arrived in November 1898.  He died only a few months later of tuberculosis, in March 1899, aged only 35 years old.  His funeral took place in the parish church of San Esteban next to the College, and he is buried in the College grave in Valladolid.  We pray for him and for all those buried in the “Camposanto” every time we visit there.


Here is a list of generous men, whose good works have not been forgotten;
In their descendants there remains a rich inheritance born of them.
(Ecclesiasticus 44:10-11)