top of page


1884 - 2021

The history of St James' Catholic Church, St Andrews, begins in 1864 when a formal mission was started to provide the Sacraments to Catholics in the town. On the Scores, James Hope-Scott reserved a large piece of land so that a permanent Catholic Church could be built on the site. Following the restoration of the Scottish Hierarchy in 1879, Archbishop William Smith left the initiative to the Marquess of Bute, who generously met all the costs of the proposed mission.

In 1884, the first parish priest in St Andrews since the Reformation, Fr George Angus, took up residence on Queen's Gardens and began the long process of reestablishing the Catholic Church in St Andrews. On the site donated by Hope-Scott, a stone Presbytery was built and a temporary church was planned. This temporary church gained the name of the "Tin Tabernacle" as it was entirely constructed out of cheap tin. Shortly after Easter 1885, the church was dedicated, at the Marquess of Bute's request, to St James, the patron saint of James Hope-Scott. Gradually, parish life began again and a healthy devotional life was soon established, with Fr Angus's sermons being the main attraction. For the rest of his life, Fr Angus remained devoted to the parish and the mission and, in his last 17 years in St Andrews until his death in 1909, was away for only one Sunday.

Following Fr Angus's death, his curate, Fr Herbert Laughton assumed the role of parish priest. His most notable achievement was the replacement of the 'Tin Tabernacle' with a permanent building. While he paid for some of the construction himself, most of the money came from Annette Elizabeth Harmar, a widow who lived across the street in Canmore. The new church was begun in 1909, completed in 1910, and was consecrated by Archbishop James Smith of St Andrews & Edinburgh on Tuesday 2 August 1910. The church was designed by Reginald Fairlie, a local architect on his first commission. He would later go on to design the rectory of All Saints' Church, St Andrews, and the National Library of Scotland. Fr Laughton passed away in 1924, and was replaced by Canon William Rooney, who was transferred to Peebles just 5 years later.


In 1929, Canon John Allan Gray came to St James', and apart from Fr Angus, made the most lasting impression upon St James' Parish. Looking forward, Canon Gray took over a house in Pittenweem in 1935, transforming it into a church. He also was instrumental in the development of Canmore Catholic Chaplaincy for Catholic students at the University of St Andrews, overseen by the White Fathers. Following Canon Gray's death in 1955, Fr Hugh Gordon was appointed parish priest, and his main priority was the foundation of a Catholic Primary School. Greyfriars Primary School opened in 1959 and was staffed by the Poor Clares of Newry, and Canmore Chaplaincy was acquired by the Archdiocese. Following Fr Gordon's transfer in 1969, Fr Thomas Engelen became Parish Priest and attempted to adjust the parish to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, most notably in separating the High Altar from its gradine and the creation of a Parish Council. He was a keen gardener and, for many years, looked after the parish garden on his day off.

In 1983, Canon Brian Halloran was appointed to the parish and was the first priest to assume both roles of being Parish Priest and University Chaplain at the same time. He revamped Canmore, and, during his 23 years, they averaged one vocation a year to the priesthood or religious life and 6-7 students were received into the Catholic Church on an annual basis. He later assumed responsibility for the East Neuk of Fife, including the parish of Christ the King with Most Holy Trinity. In 2011, Fr Andrew Kingham was appointed Parish Priest of St James and the East Neuk and University Chaplain. He began renovations to Canmore and focused on sustaining parish life. In 2014, following a major reorganization of the Archdiocese, Fr Kingham was transferred to Stirling and Fr Michael John Galbraith assumed the roles of Parish Priest of St James and the East Neuk as well as Chaplain of Canmore Catholic Chaplaincy and Honorary Catholic Chaplain to the University of St Andrews. Fr Galbraith has continued major projects of building restoration, particularly Canmore and St James' Church itself, which included the dedication of the stars inside the newly painted domes. In 2018, the above Fife parishes were united, by canonical decree, as the original parish of St James’ by His Grace, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Parish History: About
bottom of page