Tribute to Canon Galbraith


The Canon or “An Canan” as he was affectionately known amongst the parishioners of Daliburgh, Garrynamonie and Eriskay, spent most of his years as a Priest in his much loved St Peter’s in Daliburgh, South Uist.

John Angus Galbraith was born in Brevig in Barra on 29 November 1945. The family moved to Oban when he was very young and while in Oban at the age of 12 he felt drawn to the church and his faith, within a short time he was studying for the Priesthood.

Canon John Angus Galbraith was ordained in St Columba’s Cathedral in Oban in April 1971 and in actual fact this was the last church on the mainland where his remains lay before making the final journey across the Minch to his beloved St Peters for Requiem Mass before burial in Hallin cemetery in South Uist.

St Peter’s Church was his first appointment as a parish curate. From there he served various parishes including Campbelltown and Oban, then he returned to St Peters in 1991. His responsibilities were extended in 2001 to include the parish of St Michael’s Eriskay, following the retirement of Fr Calum MacLellan.

Canon John Angus was dedicated to his faith – as a young and newly appointed priest his ambition was to attract parishioners back to their church. Needless to say he did this over a number of years and gained love and respect amongst his fellow parishioners old and young. This was evident from the number of youngsters that attended services in Glasgow and other parishes on the announcement of his death.

In his will, Canon Galbraith asked that the homily at his funeral service would be dedicated to vocations within the Church – what a tribute to him if there were to be an increase in vocations in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles in the coming years.

Outwith his faith and dedication to the Church his other love was for the Gaelic language and culture. He was always keen and willing to contribute to Gaelic programming – from news and current affairs, topical issues and religious programmes. It was through my work as a religious producer that I got to know “The Canon” very well. He was a tower of strength and although always busy looking after three Parishes he would still find the time to prepare “Smuain na Maidne (Thought for the Day) and services for “Deanamaid Adhradh”, sometimes at very short notice. I remember his words – “I won’t leave you stuck, I’ll help you out but don’t abuse my generosity” I tried not to. However occasionally circumstances outwith my control arose, I would duly phone St Peter’s and ask Canon Galbraith to come to my rescue – he always obliged, travelled to Lionacleit Studio on a Saturday afternoon to record the service along with preparing for three Sunday services. It’s hard to believe that one will not hear his distinct Gaelic voice, ann an deagh Ghàidhlig Bharrach le blas Uibhisteach!

Canon Galbraith was an active member in the Community he served, always there to defend the heritage and lifestyle of the community. He will be remembered for the work and effort he put into the case to retain services at Daliburgh Hospital and to keep secondary education at Daliburgh School.

He was also a bit of an expert on the computer – this was evident from his parish newsletters that were read far and wide and many are grateful to him for the material on the website, history of the diocese, prayers, hymns and cathechism.

The death of Canon Galbraith is a huge loss to the Catholic Church and a huge gap has been left in the southend of Uist and Eriskay. Our sympathies are extended to his sister and brothers, Sandy his housekeeper and parishioners in Uist and Eriskay and all relatives and friends. May they find comfort in the words of the Uist poet Donald John MacDonald:

“Cha chrìoch am bas dhuinn ach fas as ur dhuinn-
O lion led ghràs sinn, gu brath bi dlùth dhuinn
‘S’nuair thig an t-am oirnn aig ceann ar n-ùine,
S e og-mhios Mhaigh bhios an àite Dùbhlachd.”

(Death is not the end for us, but a new growth –
O fill us with your grace, be close to us forever;
And when the moment comes at the end of our time,
Youthful May will replace dark winter)

Angela MacKinnon

BBC Radio nan Gaidheal.