Bishop Ian Murray, R.I.P.

ian-murray-smTributes have been paid to Bishop Ian Murray, former Bishop of Argyll & the Isles, who died on Friday 22 January aged 83. Bishop Murray served in the College as Vice-Rector from 1963-1970 and as Rector from 1987-1994.  It was he who implemented the decision to move the College from its home in Valladolid to its current location in Salamanca in 1988, and, as a bishop, he was a staunch supporter of and advocate for his beloved Spanish College.  His influence on, love for and legacy to the College have all been enormous over the years.


Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, who were in Salamanca for their annual in-service meeting when news of the Bishop’s death reached here, said: “On behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland I would like to offer Bishop Murray’s family our deepest and most prayerful sympathies.”


“During his active years as a bishop, Ian Murray played a full part in the life and work of the Bishops’ Conference contributing with humanity, faith and humour to everything that we did. He will be sorely missed. May God rest his generous soul.”


Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh added: “When we heard the sad news [during our meeting], Archbishop Tartaglia immediately halted proceedings and we paused to pray for the repose of Bishop Murray’s soul.  Ian Murray was happy priest, a good bishop and a father to his people with a particular corner of his heart for the students of the Royal Scots College in Spain.”


Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell – himself a former Rector of the Royal Scots College who replaced Bishop Murray as Bishop of Argyll & the Isles when he retired – said: “We will remember Bishop Murray with great fondness both as Emeritus Bishop of Argyll & the Isles and also his wonderful contribution to the Royal Scots College in Spain.  We ask God to grant him eternal rest after his fruitful and happy ministry as a priest and bishop in Scotland – and we appreciate all that he did for the Church in our country over the past 60 years of his priesthood.”

Monsignor Jamie MacNeil, Diocesan Administrator of Argyll & the Isles offered his tribute on behalf of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles: “We have very fond memories of Bishop Ian and are very sad to hear the news of his death. The priests and people of the diocese will make heartfelt prayers for the repose of his soul with gratitude to God for his service and his leadership in our diocese.” For his part, the new Bishop of Argyll & the Isles, Bishop-elect Brian McGee, added: “It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Bishop Ian Murray, I will pray for the repose of his soul while I am in Rome and join with so many others across Scotland, mourning his loss.”

On the morning after his death, the Bishops offered Mass for him in the College Chapel – a fitting venue for such a moment, given both his affection for the College and the fact that it was he who oversaw the move to Salamanca, a chapel in which he had celebrated Mass and spent many hours in prayer, as rector and later as a bishop, when he joined the other bishops of Scotland at this in-service event over the years.

A native of Lennoxtown, and educated at St Ninian’s High School in Kirkintilloch, in 1950, Ian Murray was one of a group of eleven students selected by the bishops of Scotland to go to the College in Valladolid, the first to be sent there since the College closed in 1936 because of the Spanish Civil War  and later the Second World War. For the next six years he was a student of the Scots College, attending classes at the local seminary. He was ordained in the College chapel on 17 March 1956 by Bishop Joseph McGee, himself a former student of the college.


Returning to the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Fr Murray was initially appointed to St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh by Archbishop Gordon Gray. Three months later he was appointed curate in St Kenneth’s, Lochore, which was then a thriving mining village.


After a spell as curate in St Columba’s in Newington, he returned to the Royal Scots College in Valladolid in 1963 as Vice-Rector, a post he held until 1970.


Having had a number of appointments in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, including serving as chaplain to Stirling University, he returned to Valladolid in 1987, this time as Rector. His first major task was to negotiate the transfer of the college to its present site in Salamanca, which he did successfully in 1988.


Upon returning to Scotland in 1994, Fr Murray served in a number of parishes and was for a  time Vicar General of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. Then, in 1999 he was nominated the 9th Bishop of Argyll & the Isles and was ordained on 7 December, the feast of St Ambrose.  This in itself is testimony to the place the College had in his heart: the College in Valladolid occupied the former Jesuit College of St Ambrose, from which fact the former students of the College traditionally and proudly bear the name of “Ambrosians”.  He would spend a good deal of his time as bishop advising and supporting his successors as rectors of the College, and promoting it among his fellow-bishops in the Conference. It was he who had been an early supporter of the idea that the Bishops should make use of the College, after it had closed as a seminary, as a place for their own in-service study and formation – the very reason they were here at the time he died.

He retired in December 2008.


Dale, Señor, el descanso eterno.

Brille para él la luz perpetua.

Que descanse en paz.


The students who came to the College in 1950 with the then Rector, Fr James Connolly (centre front).  The future rector and bishop Ian Murray can be seen second right in the back row.