Fr. Donald Mackintosh

This rather fierce looking priest is Fr MacKintosh. He was the first parish priest of the new parish of St Mary’s, Benbecula. A native of Glenfinnan, Fr MacKintosh was born in 1837. He carried out his studies for the priesthood at Blairs and at Ratisbon in Germany. There had been a very strong connection between Ratisbon (Regensberg) and Scotland since the middle ages and posts were reserved at the seminary there for Scots seminarians until relatively recent times.

He was ordained in 1860 and his first appointment was as assistant to Fr John Chisholm at Bornish. Bornish parish extended from Stoneybridge to Eriskay at that time and Ardkenneth parish extended from Howmore to Gramisdale.

In 1867 the parish priests of Ardkenneth and Bornish died within a few months of one another. Donald MacKintosh succeeded Fr James MacGregor, who had been parish priest at Ardkenneth since 1828 – thirty nine years. John Chisholm had been parish priest at Bornish since 1819 – forty eight years. Donald Mackintosh was the parish priest at Ardkenneth until 1877.

He realised very early on in his time at Ardkenneth that a new parish had to be formed for the people of Benbecula. He even went so far as to write that the people of Benbecula would be more generous if they needed to support a priest of their own! He began to make moves to establish the new parish by taking the lease in the early 1870s of a farm at Griminish. He moved there in 1877, having already built a house on the farm (the present house). The church was to follow. It opened in 1884. Meanwhile, in the south the parish of Daliburgh was established in 1867. Boundaries between Ardkenneth and Bornish were adjusted. Ardkenneth went as far south as Stilligarry and Howmore and Howbeg became part of Bornish parish now only going as far south as Frobost.

Donald MacColl succeeded MacKintosh at Ardkenneth. MacKintosh claimed that Ardkenneth parish owed Benbecula half the value of the stock at the Ardkenneth farm but, although an inventory was taken, I have never found any evidence that the money was ever paid!

Both MacKintosh and MacColl made submissions to the Napier Commission. MacColl represented the opinion of the crofters of Eochar who complained more than anything else about the activities of the landless cottars in Eochar whose cattle roamed around helping themselves to the crofters’ crops while their owners paid no rent!

Donald Mackintosh, in every sense, is the founding father of the parish of St Mary’s, Benbecula.

From 1890 -1892 he was the priest in Eriskay. He preceded Fr Allan MacDonald. Then in 1892 he returned to the mainland to become parish priest of Mingarry until his death in 1927 at 90 years of age.

Articles by Fr. Michael J. MacDonald