St. Columba's, Cupar, History of the
Parish of Cupar
parish of Cupar or "The Cupar Mission", as it is otherwise
known dates back to 1846. It was in September of that year that
the Rev. Aeneas McDawson became the first resident priest in
Fifeshire. The town of Dunfermline was chosen as the Mission
Centre and four Mission Stations were created and opened in
Kirkcaldy, Newburgh, Culross and Cupar.
On Sunday 27th September 1846, Mass was celebrated for the first
time in Newburgh, (a village which is part of this parish),
since the destruction of the neighbouring and richly endowed
Abbey at Lindores. These stations continued for a few years
but were closed down in 1849. Here in Cupar, Mass was celebrated
for the first time 'in modern days' on Setuagesima Sunday, 1847,
in a spacious hall, which was made available by Mr. McNabb.
A new beginning was made in 1864. Mr. William Douglas Dick was
in residence with his family at Montrave, which is four miles
from Cupar. The Mansion House included a private Oratory to
which the Catholics of the neighbourhood were invited to celebrate
Mass. The first chaplain was the Rev. Isidore C. Laporte who
was succeeded by the Rev. T.J. Capel, a priest who worked zealously
to gather the scattered Catholics of the area and single-handed
he instructed the people and encouraged them to live out their
this year of 1864, Mr. Douglas Dick purchased a property in the
Millgate of Cupar, which consisted of a three-storey dwelling
house, with a garden attached. He had the second flat converted
into a hall, which was capable of accommodating about 100 people.
This was to be used as the church in Cupar. The ground and upper
flats were reserved as apartments for the priest. This building
is still in use today. It now houses the staff room, offices,
games / dining hall and storerooms for St. Columba's Primary School.
1864, Rev. William Grady was appointed as the first resident priest
in Cupar. During the period of 1864-65 he also had charge of a
Mission in Kirkcaldy, where he had a congregation of about 200
people. It was in 1865, that Kirkcaldy again became a separate
Mission. At this point, Fr. Grady became absorbed in the Mission
in Cupar. He actively sought to gather the parishioners together,
when possible, and visited the wide area which is his responsibility.
His particular concern was for the education of children, so he
personally opened and conducted a small school, which was attended
by about 25 pupils. Difficulties soon arose when Fr. Grady, who
was acting as teacher had to care also for the parishioners, who
were widely scattered. When it was necessary to travel any distance,
he had to dismiss his pupils, a circumstance, which militated
against the success of the project.
1866 a Mission Station was opened at Anstruther and this was attended
from Cupar until 1869 when it became attached to the Mission in
Kirkcaldy. It was in 1869 that Mr. Douglas Dick, whose generosity
to the Mission had enabled it to exist, sadly died. This loss
led to Fr. Grady being transferred to Haddington and yet again,
the Mission at Cupar was left without a resident priest and was
put under the care of Kirkcaldy.
In 1871 another attempt was made to re-open the Mission Station
in Cupar and the Rev. Joseph Hoare was placed in charge, with
additional care of stations in Anstruther and St. Andrew's. This
attempt was deemed unsuccessful and Cupar once again became a
station attached to Kirkcaldy from 1872-1873 and then from 1874-1879
it was under the charge of St. Mary's, Dundee.
1878 when the restoration of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church
in Scotland took place, Cupar was included in the part of Fife
pertaining to the Diocese of Dunkeld. By this time the property
at the Millgate had fallen into disrepair. The Catholics were
few and poor but sufficient in number to satisfy the ecclesiastical
authority that steps should be taken to raise Cupar to the status
of a separate mission. Following this decision, Rev. Bruce D.
Geddes was appointed to Cupar. Extensive repairs were carried
out on the existing property and the mission was re-organised.
Following Rev. Geddes' appointment, a mission station was opened
at Tayport, where Mass was celebrated in a private dwelling house
on the last Sunday of each month, with a congregation of about
25 people. In 1885 Fr. Geddes was transferred to Dunblane, but
continued to serve Cupar once a month and Tayport as the occasion
following year, Tayport and the newly founded station at Newport-on-Tay
was served from St. Andrew's, Dundee. During the year of 1887
Cupar became detached from Dunblane and became the responsibility
of the clergy of St. Joseph's, Dundee. In 1889 Cupar along with
Tayport became stations attached to the Newport-on-Tay Mission.
Cupar continued in this way, being served from other areas until
1934, but the faith lived on.
the 10th May 1934 Bishop John Toner wrote to Fr. Quinn, resident
priest in Newport-on-Tay telling him to secure Sunday Mass for
the people of Cupar. Again on the 10th August 1934 Bishop Toner
wrote to Fr. Quinn telling him of developments made known to him
by the Archbishop of Edinburgh
Archbishop of Edinburgh is placing a priest in Falkland, and he
has made the offer, to allow this priest to say Mass in Cupar
every Sunday. This, I realise, would be so great a blessing for
the people of the place and the surrounding district that my unwillingness
to part even temporarily with so devoted a congregation must not
be allowed to stand in the way of the people's greater good. I
had been looking forward, and still look forward in the not too
distant future to a new Church in Cupar. I hope that when that
prospect is realised, to be able to give Cupar a resident priest.
But for the present, at any rate, and till such times as I can
make other dispositions of a satisfactory nature, it is to be
understood that the present priest in Falkland will attend to
the Church services in Cupar, and the spiritual care of the flock
hope of Bishop Toner was realised in 1948. It was then that the
Augustinian Fathers from the parish of Ss Peter and Paul's, Dundee
became responsible for the Catholic people in Cupar and the surrounding
areas. In 1949, Fr. Leo McCabe O.S.A. became the resident priest
in Cupar, living in the house in the Millgate, which had been
bought by Mr. Douglas Dick in 1864.
this point the Parish grew from strength to strength as Fr. McCabe
visited the parishioners regularly on foot, by bicycle or on the
bus when going to the further areas of Auchtermuchty, Strathmiglo
and Newburgh etc.
was still no Mass centre for the parish areas outside Cupar, so
in 1953, Fr. McCabe asked Mr. J. Fairlie of Myres Castle, Auchtermuchty,
if the private Chapel at Myres Castle could be used again for
the benefit of the Catholics in the Auchtermuchty area. This Chapel
at Myres Castle, which has previously been the old coach house,
was converted in 1890 into a splendid private chapel and Mass
had been celebrate there until 1920.
Mr. Fairlie was delighted with the idea of having Mass celebrated
in his private chapel for the local Catholic community and he
had the chapel restored to its former beauty. Fr. McCabe celebrated
the first Mass there on Palm Sunday of 1953. Soon it became obvious
that he Chapel at Myres Castle was too small to accommodate the
increasing number of Catholics in the area and so in 1956 Fr.
McCabe discussed with the Bishop of Dunkeld, the Rt. Rev. William
Hart, and the need for a new Church. It was decided that a Catholic
Church would simply have to be built in Auchtermuchty. This plan
went ahead and St. Matthew's was solemnly opened and blessed by
Bishop Hart on the 21st September 1959, the Feast of St. Matthew.
following year, 1960, the provincial of the order transferred
Fr. McCabe from Cupar to take up the post of chaplain at Dungeness.
When Fr. James Malaney arrived in the parish in August of 1960
the people of Cupar were still worshiping in the building which
had been purchased in 1864. The community had out grown this building
and often parishioners had to stand outside in order to attend
Church services. It was about this time that Bishop Hart decided
that a new church has to be built in Cupar.
Fr. Malaney could see that a more spacious Church was a necessity,
but other ideas were coming to birth in his mind. Fr. McCabe,
had given him wise advice on his arrival in Cupar, "Forget
about a new church, build your own Catholic school." These
words haunted Fr. Malaney. With the intention of making an application
to the Fife Education Authority for a Catholic School for the
area, Fr. Malaney was amazed to find that approximately 200 children,
who were scattered throughout the parish, were attending non-denominational
schools. Obviously, this number was a matter of deep concern and
made extra-curricular religious instruction for everyone impossible.
well prepared and armed with numbers, Fr. Malaney met with a sympathetic
hearing from the Director of Education for Fife. Nevertheless,
the application was refused on the ground that the Director could
not accept the numbers quoted and indeed if the numbers were correct,
there was no guarantee that the children would actually attend
a Catholic School. This outcome prompted Fr. Malaney and the parents
to think in terms of building their own Private School hoping
and praying that, with classrooms available, an order of Sisters
would be tempted to undertake the responsibility of teaching in
In 1964, Bishop Hart decided that the building of a new church
in Cupar would go ahead. With this decision, Fr. Malaney along
with some of the men of the parish considered erecting prefabricated
building with a view to using the old church and halls as part
of the proposed school. Finally it was decided to go ahead with
the school project. Just at that time, some prefabricated buildings
were being demolished in different part of Fife so Fr. Malaney
acquired two prefabricated buildings for £50.00 from a company
in Markinch. The parishioners worked day and night to construct
and furnish the prefabs.
Whilst the building work was being carried out, assisted by Fr.
Malaney, he searched for a congregation of sisters to teach in
the school. It so happened that two Sisters of Namur, Sr. Jane
Frances and Sr. Mary Paul, were visiting Dundee and heard of the
project. They visited the parish and were struck with the situation.
After little discussion, Bishop Hart invited the Sisters of Namur
to open a house in Cupar, their first in Scotland, and to teach
in the school. Three sisters moved to Cupar and lived in the new
church house, whilst Fr. Malaney lived with a family in the parish.
It was on the 4th September 1964, that Bishop Hart opened and
blessed St. Columba's Primary School. A dream had come true. The
school was furnished from donations from local companies; stationary
was supplied by a local paper mill and furniture was donated etc.
On the first day 62 children started at the primary school.
1964 and 1968 the reputation for high academic standards meant
that the school roll reached 163, a rise which put the financial
situation of the school in jeopardy. Fife Education Authority
realised that the school was now an asset to the local education
system and they decided to take control of the running of the
school on the 6th January, 1969.
James Malaney continued to work in the parish, and built the
parish into a strong and vibrant catholic community in the North
of Fife. In September 1997, at the age of 80, he approached
Bishop Logan and asked if he could retire. Bishop Logan accepted
his retirement and appointed Fr. Pat McInally to take over as
parish priest. Sadly Canon Malaney died on the 27th July 1998,
may he rest in peace.
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