Robert Hope-Scott Q.C., M.P., D.C.L, Founder
The Honourable James Robert Hope, born in 1812, was the third son of Sir Alexander Hope and grandson of the Earl of Hopetoun. In 1849 he married Charlotte Harriet Jane Lochart, only daughter of the late John Gibson Lochart and granddaughter of Sir Walter Scott. He assumed the name Scott and became known as Hope-Scott. They had three children. Mary Monica, born on 2nd October 1852, was heir of Abbotsford. Their second child, Walter Michael was born on 2nd June 1857 and died on 11th November 1858. Margaret Anne, their third child was born on 17th September 1858, and died on November 3rd 1858. Tragically, Mrs Hope-Scott died in Edinburgh that same year. All three were buried in St Margaret's Convent, Edinburgh. The estate of Abbotsford was passed to Mary Monica.
In 1861, Robert Hope-Scott married Lady Victoria Fitzalan-Howard, but sadly, she predeceased him, leaving several children. He died on the 20th of April 1873, aged 61, and his funeral was held in the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception in Farm Street, London, at which John Henry Newman preached the Eulogy. He was buried in Edinburgh beside his first wife, Charlotte.
A convert to Catholicism, Robert Hope-Scott was ever mindful of the religious needs of others. Through his gracious benevolence, he built not only one but two churches for the use of the Catholic community of Galashiels. When the first chapel proved too small to accommodate the increasing population of the town he did not hesitate to purchase land and the necessary materials for the construction of a larger church. This has remained in continuous use to the present day for daily and weekly service.
On 8th August 1873, one of the most beautiful parish churches in Scotland was officially opened and given the name Church of Our Lady and St. Andrew. Sadness tinged this happy occasion for Robert Hope-Scott did not live to attend.
This lovely house of prayer is forever a memorial to his piety, and his magnificent kindness and generosity. He founded a weekly Mass for the repose of his soul and those of his family. As you enter the church, look to your right, to the pillar. There you will find a plaque and inscription which reads:
Of your charity, pray for the soul of James Robert Hope-Scott
The founder of this church who died 20th April 1873
Fortified by the Sacraments of the Church
The blessing of Pius IX
The Need for a Church
Before 1853, no Catholic place of worship existed in Galashiels. The spiritual needs of the Catholic population were administered by a priest, Father Taggart, who came once a month from Hawick to celebrate Mass in a private house in Over-haugh Street. Later, the Assembly Room in the Bridge Inn was used for this purpose.
Around this time, Robert Hope, an English barrister and Member of Parliament, married Charlotte Lockhart Scott, granddaughter of Sir Walter Scott, and came to live in nearby Abbotsford House. In London, they had met and befriended John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest and leader of the Oxford Movement, where the doctrines of that church were discussed and questioned. Ultimately, it led to their separation from the Church of England. Robert Hope-Scott, his wife, and many influential friends, including John Henry Newman, converted to Catholicism.
A Mission Chapel is Built
When Robert Hope-Scott and his wife, Charlotte, took up residence in the Scottish Borders, they saw that the arrangement for Catholic worship in the nearby town of Galashiels, with its ever increasing population, was entirely inadequate. A generous man, Robert Hope-Scott purchased a property and land in the ground known as Darling's Haugh, at the foot of Stirling Street, and on this site he erected a chapel and a school. The chapel opened on 9th January 1853 and the school in 1867.
From 1853-63 the order of Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.I.), whose headquarters remain in Leith, were the first resident priests of the Mission Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Cooper was appointed supervisor. Their mission of celebrating Mass, administering Sacraments, preaching, and teaching the people, spread across the Borders' countryside as far as Berwick-upon-Tweed. In order to provide suitable accommodation for these resident priests, Mr. Hope-Scott bought the adjoining property that has been used as the Presbytery until present day.
The Mission Chapel was not large. Constructed from red brick and lined with unpainted wood, it had a triple roof, one large and two smaller. It was sixty feet long and thirty feet wide, and the illusion of height came from a square window in the centre roof. Matting covered the yellow brick floor, and movable forms in the centre of the floor provided seating for two hundred people. At one end, three steps led to the altar, which was covered in claret cloth. The public entrance was by a side door, whilst the clergy entered by a passageway from the Presbytery to the altar.
During the second half of the century, the population of the town continued to grow. Tweed manufacture and the construction of roads and railways resulted in an influx of workers prepared to settle. Galashiels thus became a prosperous and thriving town. The Catholic community also grew in numbers and the Mission Chapel was to become too small to accommodate so many parishioners. A new church was now a necessity.
A New Church is Needed
Again, with great generosity, Mr Hope-Scott acquired a large piece of land, on a site adjacent to the Mission Chapel and closer to the railway station. In 1856, construction of a second church began. When finally completed in 1876, it proved a remarkable and much admired building, and it has remained in use as the parish church to this day. It was named the Church of Our Lady and St Andrew, and many people, of all denominations, are attracted to this tall, eloquent building, constructed in the Gothic Revival style of the 1850s.
Mission in the Borders
Mr Hope-Scott's zeal for the support of the Catholic Church was felt most in the places near his home, especially the Scottish Borders where he built churches and schools and aided struggling missions. He intended that Our Lady and St Andrew's should become the centre, from which smaller outreach missions might later develop. The church was completed gradually and the following extract from a letter he wrote to Father Newman (later Cardinal Newman) expresses the heartfelt concern he had for the work he was offering to Almighty God.
Abbotsford, December 30th 1857
I hope that ten days or so will render the church fit for use in a rough way and I hope it will be so used and that I shall not be hurried in the decorative part, which I cannot afford to do handsomely at present, and which I think will be done better when we have become used to the interior, and observed what is to be brought out and what concealed. The shell I am well pleased with. It is massive and lofty, no side aisles, but chapels between buttresses - and no altar screen - more like a good college chapel than a parish church. The whole plan, however, has not been carved out, so the proportions cannot be fairly judged of. Someday, perhaps, I may finish it, or someone else instead. To keep us in mind that more is to do, we have a rough temporary work at the west end, with square sash windows of a repulsive aspect.
Mr Hope-Scott lived to finish it, but tragically died three months prior to the official opening. From Robert Ornsby, MA, Memoirs of James Robert Hope-Scott ofAbbotsford, Q.C. M.P.
On Sunday 8th August 1873, the church was officially opened for public worship. At eleven o'clock, the ceremony of blessing took place, preceding the Solemn High Mass, which was celebrated by Dr. Strain, Bishop of Abila and Vicar Apostolate of the Eastern District. He was attended by Father Bowdon of the London Oratory, as Deacon; Father Lomax S. J. of Galashiels, as Sub-Deacon; Reverend Turner, Master of Ceremonies; and Father Foxwell S.J. of Galashiels. The Church was filled to capacity. Among those present was Miss Mary Monica Hope-Scott, now Laird of Abbotsford, for sadly her father had died that April. Lord and Lady Henry Kerr of Huntlyburn, the sister and brother-in-law of Robert Hope-Scott, and donors of the altar of St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary and contemporary of St Ignatius Loyola, accompanied her.
The music was performed by a choir of thirty-four voices from the Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart, Edinburgh, and assisted by a full orchestra. Solemn High Mass opened with Hadyn's Imperial Mass No 3. The offertory piece was Quod, Quod in Orbe, and at the end of Mass, Beethoven's Alleluia was sung. The Reverend Thomas Williams S.J. of Edinburgh preached the sermon, during which he reminded his congregation of the necessity to show their love, not only by words, but also by loving and willing deeds. He ended with a eulogy on the recently deceased Mr. Robert Hope-Scott, to whose piety and munificence they were indebted for the beautiful church in which they were gathered.
When Mass ended the large congregation had donated a collection of £108. They had witnessed a most important day in the life of the church.