Life of Fr. Calum MacLellan

Fr Calum MacLellan, retired Parish Priest of St. Michael’s, Eriskay, died in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, in the early hours of Saturday July 14th aged 86. Although Fr Calum had been in hospital for a number of weeks his death was somewhat unexpected and a cause of much sorrow to his family, his fellow clergy, and the many people throughout the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, Scotland and beyond who loved and respected him.

Fr Calum was born in Glasgow on 6th June 1926, the son of Allan and Flora MacLellan, and was baptised in St Margaret’s, Kinning Park. In his early childhood the family returned home to Eriskay, where Calum grew up and went to school. Having expressed a desire to become a priest he went to St Mary’s College, Blairs, in 1940, where he studied throughout the Second World War. In 1945 Calum was called up for National Service and spent three years in the  Army, including a number of postings to places, like North Africa and  Greece, devastated by the War. Having completed his National Service Calum was readmitted to seminary and spent the next six years in the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, studying philosophy and theology at the Gregorian University. He was ordained a priest in Rome on 5th July 1953 and returned to Scotland to minister in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles.

Fr Calum spent the whole of his priesthood in parish ministry in the Diocese, first as a curate in Oban between 1954 and 1956, in Dunoon from 1956 to 1962, and in Daliburgh, South Uist, for a short time in 1963. In that year he was appointed Parish Priest of the neighbouring Parish, St. Mary’s Bornish, and then successively of St. Barr’s, Northbay, Barra (1966 – 72), St. Mary’s, Benbecula (1973-80), Our Lady Star of the Sea, Castlebay (1980-91), and St. Michael’s, Eriskay (1991-2001). The bare statistics give an indication of Fr Calum’s extensive priestly ministry in the Western Isles, but cannot show the work he did in each parish and the service he offered in local government, for development agencies, in cultural and sporting activities, and especially in promoting Gaelic. He loved being involved in everything that was happening, and was a most effective voice in the public bodies on which he served. It was a very special honour for him to be made a Freeman of the Western Isles in recognition of his contribution to Comhairle nan Eilean and other public bodies.

In 2001, having reached the age of 75, Fr Calum retired as Parish Priest, but chose to stay on in his beloved Eriskay. Through these last 11 years  he offered great support to his fellow priests, by the many supplies he did both in the island and mainland parishes. His spiritual and human contribution was much loved by the people for whom he celebrated Mass and the sacraments through these later years. He was never averse to talking about his own experiences, particularly his achievements, but always with a touch of humour and humility. He had indeed gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom through his priestly life, and this shone through in the interviews he gave last year for the television series, Island Parish, his contribution to which many may remember.

We trust Fr Calum is at peace with the Lord – hopefully there is still a room for smokers in heaven! We thank God for his life, his priesthood, and all that he did in service of the community. We extend our sympathy to his brother Donald and his family, his sisters Morag and Margaret, his fellow priests, the people of Eriskay, and all his many friends who mourn his passing. May he rest in peace.

Fr Calum’s Funeral Mass and Burial will be on Eriskay on Friday July 20th at 11am. A Requiem Mass will also be celebrated in St. Columba’s Cathedral, Oban on Thursday July 19th at 1pm.  

+ Joseph Toal   

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