Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.


A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The Old Scots College

Via delle Quattro Fontane, Rome

Next month I’m off to Rome and the last time I was there I happened to walk past the old Scots College on the via delle Quattro Fontane. The Pontifical Scots College is probably the oldest Scottish institution abroad and certainly one of the most important, both historically and today. As Scotland’s primary seminary it has — almost literally — helped form the soul of the country, particularly during times of widespread persecution back in the mother country.

The church of Sant’Andrea degli Scozzesi (St Andrew of the Scots) was built in 1592 during the reign of Clement VIII, and early in the seventeenth century the church and neighbouring hospice were given over to the Scots College which had been founded a few years before. The seminary building itself was (I believe) built much later, in the nineteenth century after the college briefly ceased instruction due to the tumult of the French Revolution.

Sadly the building was not very well maintained and by 1960 it was falling apart. It was decided to sell the old college buildings in the Via delle Quattro Fontane and move to a larger site out the middle of nowhere in the Via Cassia. The move was made in 1964, and the Scots College has remained there ever since, while the old college housed a bank for many years and more recently a lawfirm.


February 28, 2017 2:10 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

The Red Mass in Edinburgh

The opening of Scotland’s judicial year was marked this past Sunday by the Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh offering the customary Red Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral.

This year Archbishop Leo Cushley was joined by Lord Drummond Young and his fellow Senators of the College of Justice, Lord Uist, Lord Doherty, Lord Matthews, and Lady Carmichael.

Gordon Jackson QC, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and Austin Lafferty of the Law Society of Scotland joined many sheriffs, QCs, advocates, solicitors, trainee solictors, paralegals, and law students.

“These men and women serve the nation in a high office and come here to ask the Lord’s blessing upon this year’s work that they carry out on our behalf,” Archbishop Cushley noted in his homily.

“Know that we appreciate the difficult and complex tasks that you have and the duties that you perform – which are very onerous – on behalf of us all and that you be assured of our prayers and our support for all that you do to apply the law of the land with virtue and with justice and with mercy.”

Source: Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh

September 27, 2016 2:45 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Umbrella

The Umbrella
Paul Henni

[Photo by and copyright of Paul Henni]

February 3, 2016 10:37 am | Link | 3 Comments »

Caledonian Expedition

Sun, sand, champagne, Scotland: there’s not much more you could ever want, but to have an alignment of these four in the month of October is rare. It had been quite some time since the Cusackian feet had last graced the cobbles of the beloved ‘auld grey toun’ – the Royal Burgh of St Andrews – but a friend got in touch on a Monday morning with the provocative text “Scotland Friday?” I couldn’t resist. (more…)

December 10, 2015 3:37 pm | Link | No Comments »

Papal Mace for St Andrews

Archbishop Presents New Mace to Scotland’s Oldest University Amidst 600th Anniversary

Above: The 600th Anniversary Mace.

Below: The University’s three medieval maces:
St Salvator’s College, 1461; Faculty of Canon Law, circa 1450; Faculty of Arts, 1416.

ST ANDREWS University already boasts the world’s finest collection of medieval maces, but a new ceremonial mace was added to the university’s hoard recently. In honour of the University’s six-hundredth anniversary, the Most Rev Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, has presented the institution with a new ceremonial mace on behalf of the Catholic Church.

“This completes a triple recognition of the University St Andrews,” said Dr John Haldane, the University’s professor of philosophy.

“During his visit to Scotland at the outset of this decade, Pope Benedict referred to the university beginning to mark the 600th anniversary of its foundation, then last year Pope Francis sent a message of congratulation, and now his office has granted permission for the inclusion of his coat of arms on the head of a mace commissioned to mark the completion of several centuries and the beginning of who knows how many more.”

The silver mace with gold rose details was crafted by Hamilton & Inches of Edinburgh, who also constructed the mace of the Faculty of Medicine at St Andrews over a half-century ago. Their master silversmith Jon Hunt designed the mace, in consultation with Prof Haldane.

The mace’s head is reminiscent of Brunelleschi’s dome of Florence Cathedral, recalling St Andrews’s links with the Continent which were foremost in the University’s first century and a half while it was a Catholic institution. Atop the head a saltire design is incorporated, referencing the apostle who gave his name to both the Royal Burgh and the University as well as the country who’s first university St Andrews is.

Heraldic shields display the arms of the University and of Pope Francis who invoked “upon all the staff and students of the University, past and present, the abundant blessings of Almighty God, as a pledge of heavenly peace and joy”. (more…)

December 4, 2014 9:30 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

The Crowned Banner

The Emblem of the Scottish Parliament

Legislatures often have their own symbols. Often these are appropriated or stylised versions of national emblems. Stormont uses a flax plant. Some time ago Westminster adopted the Tudor portcullis which now represents the Parliament of the United Kingdom — in green for the Commons or in red for the Lords.

In Scotland, however, the unicameral parliament has adopted a crowned banner as its distinctive insignia. (For previous posts on prominent emblems of modern Scottish design, see the Clootie Dumpling and the Daisy Wheel). The crown expresses authority — ultimately the sovereign power of the monarchy — while the corded banner hanging from a pommelled pole displays the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag. While early versions of the emblem were in blue, it is now standard that the symbol be depicted in purple, long a colour associated with Scotland through the national florae of heather and thistle. (more…)

January 27, 2014 1:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

HOLYROOD IS SUCH a pleasant spot, despite the recent intrusion of an ostentatiously ugly government building designed by a Spanish architect. The other day, while visiting Edinburgh, I heeded the recommendation of the Prettiest Schoolteacher in Clackmannanshire to sample the burger at the Holyrood 9a. It was quite delicious, though not perfect, and was splendidly washed with a pint of Kozel (most un-Caledonian, I concede, but you can get Deuchars in London, you know).

Afterwards, our little party decided to have a little wander down Holyrood Road towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the epicentre of the Scottish monarchy.

Nestled between Calton Hill and Salisbury Crags, the Palace sits at the end of the Royal Mile that runs between it and Edinburgh Castle. With the Old Town to its west, the expanse of Holyrood Park flows off to the south and east of it. (more…)

April 21, 2013 9:44 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Burn Baby Burn!

A Burning-in-Effigy at Exposes the Cowardices of Tomorrow’s Politicians

I cannot condemn this in more stringent terms. The Tories at the University of St Andrews have apparently burnt Barack Obama in effigy and then backtracked with all manner of pussyfooting around and the standard issue of apologies. Burning in effigy is a perfectly legitimate form of political expression and has been verified by centuries of tradition.

What’s more, I suspect there’s a bit of the old racism behind the apologies: would anyone have bat an eyelid if Mr Obama’s predecessor had been burnt in effigy by students? I, for one, would have happily joined in both effigy-burnings. The more effigies burnt the merrier. Chesterton remarked “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged”, and I would suggest effigy-burning is a potentially more wholesome if less efficacious alternative.

If you’re going to burn an effigy, burn an effigy and then stick with it. But the weak-kneed, shilly-shally Tories always want to engage in a bit of old-school fun before hoisting up the white flag and issue an “unreserved public apology”. Rank hypocrisy of the highest order! Ye cannae have yer cake an’ eat it, too!

December 4, 2011 7:22 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Edinburgh Update

Well, I was going to direct you over to Seraphic’s blog for an at least partial account of my Edinburgh weekend but she’s done gone and taken the dagnabbed thing down. It’s just as well, as when she described the assembled guests at a long Sunday lunch by the sea in Portobello she finished her description with “and Andrew Cusack wearing something rumpled from Ralph Lauren”. In fact, it was Massimo Dutti, but there you have it. (more…)

November 9, 2011 10:00 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

Fra Freddy, Rest In Peace

Yesterday, I was very saddened to hear of Fra Freddy’s death. Fra Freddy was a legendary character whom I was introduced to in my first year at St Andrews. He was invited to speak to the Catholic students most years on some subject or another — an introduction to prayer or a lenten meditation. I was quite pleased when he was so taken with a poster I designed to advertise one of his talks that on his way back to Edinburgh he nipped out of the car at the last minute and grabbed a large copy. Fra Freddy was an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud with a good sense of humour, but he also had the capability to surprise with a kind word when you least expected it.

Fra Fredrik John Patrick Crichton-Stuart was born September 6, 1940 to Lord Rhidian Crichton-Stuart (son of the 4th Marquess of Bute) and his wife Selina van Wijk (daughter of the Ambassador of the Queen of the Netherlands to the French Republic). He was raised in Scotland and North Africa (where his father was British Delegate to the International Legislative Assembly of Tangier) and was educated first at Carlekemp in North Berwick and then at Ampleforth. He joined the Order of Malta in 1962, later being named the Delegate for Scotland & the Northern Marches. In 1993 he was appointed Chancellor of the resurrected Grand Priory of England. Fra Freddy became Grand Prior himself when his cousin, Fra Andrew Bertie, died in 2008 and was succeeded by the then-Grand Prior of England, Fra Matthew Festing.

Fra Freddy was a devoted follower and promoter of the traditional form of the Roman rite. He joined Una Voce Scotland in 1996 and became secretary in 2000. Two years later he was named councillor and senior vice-president of FIUV, the International Federation ‘Una Voce’, and briefly served as its president in 2005.

Over the past year or so Fra Freddy had been varying ill but seemed to recover. I am told he was found dead yesterday morning, still clasping his breviary. He was well-known in Edinburgh and beyond, and he will be missed by his many friends as well as those who worked and volunteered with him or interacted with him in his charitable activities.

Grand Prior of England
of the
Sovereign Military & Hospitaller Order of St John
of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta

6 September 1940 – 14 June 2011

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.

June 15, 2011 8:00 pm | Link | 7 Comments »

Scotland in Snowfall

Scotland has been enveloped in snowfall, and the BBC has put a photo gallery up of reader-submitted images of the recent precipitation. The In Pictures feature of BBC News Online’s Scottish section has for years been one of my favourite parts of the website, offering a new series of photographs every week varying from the startling to the quotidian. Above is Michael Rennie’s view of a rather peaceful-looking Loch Ness. (more…)

December 1, 2010 11:41 am | Link | 3 Comments »

The Spott Estate, Dunbar

HERE IS A lordly demesne! In East Lothian, thirty-one miles from the centre of Edinburgh and three from the Royal Burgh of Dunbar, sits the Spott House and estate, now on the market from Knight Frank. The property is a whopping 2,463 acres in total, including 1,779 acres of arable land, 214 of pasture, and 356 acres of woodland. The estate has more than quadrupled in size in the past decade, under the ownership of the Danish-born Lars Foghsgaard, who bought just 600 acres in the year 2000.

As The Times wrote of Mr. Foghsgaard, “Clad in tweed jacket, plus fours and Hunter wellingtons, with several brace of partridge in his hand and his labrador at his side, he looks the very image of the country gentleman as he strides though his East Lothian estate.”

“The previous owner was very involved in the land,” Mr. Foghsgaard told the Times. “I am not a farmer, so I employed a farm manager: it’s crucial to have the necessary skills and connections in the area to do the job well, and as a foreigner I did not have those.” But the Dane does enjoy seeing the workings of the farm. “When I walk the dog, I always pass through the cowshed, where we have lambs being born each day — it’s such a joy to see.” (more…)

November 28, 2010 6:12 pm | Link | 17 Comments »

The Situation at St Andrews

Or: A Lesson in Corroborating Your Sources

AS IF, WITH THE recent announcement that a certain St Andrean couple are getting engaged, there wasn’t enough for us to expend our idle chatter about, the University of St Andrews is thrust into the fore on an entirely separate matter. Damian Thompson, the provocative and informative Catholic Herald editor and indispensable Daily Telegraph blogger wrote a blog entry — Catholic students at St Andrews ‘can’t have the Latin Mass’ — relaying the claims of a student that he and a stable group of students have asked to have a monthly Mass in the Extraordinary Form, found a priest willing to say it, and have been denied. Fr. Z, the world’s most famous clerical blogger, soon picked up the story as well and made a few comments of his own.

The reality of the situation, it appears, is far removed from the one student’s claims. (more…)

November 19, 2010 10:07 am | Link | 11 Comments »

Antipopes We Have Known

The University of St Andrews is commencing the celebrations of its 600th anniversary, as the institution was founded in stages between 1410, when teaching started, and 1413, when a bull was issued recognising it as a university by Pedro de Luna, an antipope who styled himself Benedict XIII. Yesterday I attended a fascinating lecture by Dr. John Rao — From the Triple Papacy to the Council of Constance — as part of the 2010–2011 lecture series organised by the Roman Forum.

Boy was Benedict a baddie! Even the council he called passed resolutions condemning him and the cardinals he appointed turned against him. He ended his days maintaining his schismatic claim, holed in island fortress of Peñiscola. The day before he died, he appointed four cardinals, who elected de Luna’s friend Gil Sanchez Muñoz y Carbón as Clement VIII. Or rather, three of the cardinals did while the fourth — Jean Carrier, the archdeacon of Rodez — wasn’t present, so he went and single-handedly elected his sacristan Bernard Garnier as pope, who took the name Benedict XIV.

Garnier was permanently in hiding, and his location was only ever known to Carrier. B-14 did manage to choose four cardinals of his own, and on the antipope’s death they elected Carrier pope, who was inconveniently captured and imprisoned by his rival antipope, Clement VIII. Oddly, having just succeeded the supposed Benedict XIV, Carrier chose to use the name and style Benedict XIV also. A novel by Jean Raspail (L’Anneau du pêcheur) depicts a line of anti-papal successors to the two Benedict XIVs.

As a lecturer, Dr. Rao is both informative and entertaining, and I’d encourage anyone interested to attend the remaining lectures in this year’s series. There’s always wine on offers and little things to nibble on, with a box for generous donations to be made towards the cost of the program. The next lecture is Martin V and the Troubled Return to Rome — this week is the 593rd anniversary of that pope’s election, as it happens.

Also, Dr. David Allen White, retired Professor of World Literature at the United States Naval Academy, returns to New York in December for the Syllabus of Errors Weekend, on the subject of Charles Dickens and the Evils of Modernity. I went to last year’s Syllabus of Errors weekend, and Professor White is entrancingly engaging, a veritable font of knowledge.

November 8, 2010 9:00 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Preservation is Not Enough

A Proposal for Enhancement

Professor of Philosophy, University of St Andrews

IT IS COMMONLY said of St Andrews that it is a place of beauty. This is often a compliment to its natural setting, with open skies arcing over the reaches of the bay, and ancient rock and cliff yielding to the changing rhythms of the waves. At the same time visitors are generally struck by the pleasing combination of natural and built environments: the ruined grandeur of the Cathedral and Priory standing bare to the elements; crowstep-gabled cottages gathered in against the wind; the broad thoroughfares interlinked with narrow cobbled lanes; and the church towers etched against the sky. There is also the scholarly dignity of Deans Court, the quizzical posture of the Roundel, the charm of the courtyards to the south of South Street, the sad ruination of Blackfriars juxtaposed with the aspiring frontage of Madras College, and other evocative sights besides.

Here and there within the midst of all of this stands, physically, historically, and socially, the University. Its contributions to the architectural distinction of the old town are obvious enough. They are, principally, the harmonious South Street complex of St Mary’s College (1593-41) to the west, Parliament Hall (1612-43) to the north, and the Library extension (1889-1959) – now the Psychology wing – to the east; and the North Street set of the Collegiate Church of St Salvator, Gate Tower and tenement (1450-60), and beyond it the west block (1683-90) containing the Hebdomadar’s Room, and to the east and north the College buildings (1829-31 and 1845-6, respectively). There are other smaller and oft-reworked jewels associated within the University: St John’s House in South Street (15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries), St Leonard’s Chapel (remodelled c. 1512), and the ‘Admirable Crichton’s House’ (16th century), but the principal architectural benefactions of the University to the town are the North and South Street college complexes. I have not mentioned the Younger Graduation Hall (1923-9) and the Student Union (1972) and prefer to leave it for readers to determine what might be said of these.

It could hardly have passed unnoticed that the list of contributions dates mostly from the late middle-ages to the nineteenth century, and this fact raises two questions: first, whether in the second half of the twentieth century the University was sufficiently attentive to its role as principal architectural patron; and second, how it might now hope to enhance the built environment of St Andrews. (more…)

October 20, 2010 11:21 am | Link | 4 Comments »

The Daisy Wheel

Among the most well-known works of modern Scottish design, besides the ‘Clootie Dumpling’ of the Scottish National Party, there is the logo of the Royal Bank of Scotland: the Daisy Wheel. Now one of the most well-known financial brands in the world, the Royal Bank of Scotland was founded in Edinburgh in 1727, thirty-two years after its rival, the Bank of Scotland. (The Bank of Scotland, as it happens, was founded by an Englishman, John Holland — just as the Bank of England was founded by a Scot, Sir William Paterson).

The Scottish Parliament had declared in 1689 that King James VII had, by his absence, forfeited the throne, and handed the Crown to his Dutch rival William of Orange, who had already seized the throne in England. The House of Hanover succeeded to the throne of the new United Kingdom which had been created in 1707, but the Bank of Scotland was suspected of harbouring Jacobite sympathies. The London government was keen to help out Scottish merchants loyal to the Hanoverians and so, in 1727, King George granted a royal charter to the new Royal Bank of Scotland. (more…)

September 26, 2010 5:00 pm | Link | No Comments »

The East Neuk of Fife

THE EAST NEUK of Fife is one of my favourite little corners of the globe, in what is definitely my favourite country in the world. Here are a set of almost unspoilt little fishing villages with a quite localised architectural style that makes them instantly recognisable. The name of this little regionlet signifies its location as the east ‘nook’ of the Kingdom of Fife, that juts out into the North Sea.

Those concerned for this part of the world might be interested in signing up for the East Neuk of Fife Preservation Society, which has completed admirable work all over the East Neuk, and is currently considering the restoration of the gatehouse of Pittenweem Priory.

September 22, 2010 9:21 pm | Link | No Comments »

Interesting Things Elsewhere

Benedict and Britain

The papal visit began in Scotland, and the smaller setting (Scotland has just five million people, fewer than London alone) proved a wiser starting point of the pontiff’s trip to Great Britain. “Would the first day have been the success it was if it had taken place in England?” asked William Oddie. “Would the papal chemistry have worked so soon in London, that vast and engulfing megalopolis, if the reception by Her Majesty had taken place in the impersonal splendours of Buckingham palace rather than in that ancient architectural wonder Holyrood house (whose very stones are a testimony to its Catholic origins) and if the Popemobile ride through the streets afterwards had been down the Mall?”

Damian Thompson has argued that the papal visit has proved a triumph for Benedict and a humiliation for the secular-humanist crowd. The Daily Telegraph blogs editor and Catholic Herald editor-in-chief says that the Pope’s natural shyness has worked to his advantage, while the former Spectator editor Dominic Lawson argued in the Independent that Benedict’s unpolitical nature gives him a popular appeal.

The volume and biliousness of the media’s campaign against Benedict XVI has actually backfired and turned the lukewarm into pope-welcomers (like Kate Hoey MP, reports Christina Odone). Another blogger reported the influence a television programme produced by the gay activist and sometime paedophilia sympathiser Peter Tatchell that was broadcast just before the Pope’s arrival:

‘Are you going tomorrow?’ I asked. ‘Yes, I am,’ she replied. ‘I wasn’t going to at first, because it’s a long day, but when I saw that rubbish last night on the telly, I changed my mind. I’m don’t care if I die there; I’m going.’

Meanwhile Mark Dowd, another homosexual, was determined to be even-handed in his documentary “Benedict: Trials of a Pope”, and his broadcast was well-received. The filmmaker wrote in the Catholic Herald “when you have to make a one-hour programme on one of the most clever and gifted people on the planet you have to look behind the headlines and the angry rants on the blogosphere. In short, you have to do justice to the man as best as you can.”

Hilary White had a chat with barrister and Catholic Union chairman Jamie Bogle, who argued that the visit has taken the wind out of the sails of Benedict’s enemies.

“Jamie also pointed out that the protesters were having a bit of fun with the numbers,” Hilary writes. “A friend in Vancouver said that 25,000 turned out for the demonstration. The National Secular Society said it was ‘between 10 and 12,000’. But Jamie told me he had spoken with some of the cops present, and they said it was no more than 2,000.”

It was like a scene from 1984


Atheist Brendan O’Neill reported being disturbed by the anti-papal demonstrators, reporting that there is “a sharp authoritarian edge” to the radical pope-haters. “Things turned ugly outside Downing Street when Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society branded the pope an ‘enemy of the state’, giving rise to the cacophonous chant: ‘GO HOME POPE, GO HOME POPE.’ It was like a scene from 1984. I have been on many a radical demo that has challenged the branding of some group or individual as ‘enemies of the state’; but this is the first radical demo I’ve been on where the protesters themselves demanded the silencing and even expulsion from Britain of someone they decreed to be an ‘enemy of the state’. Even one-time ‘enemies of the state’ – the so-called queers and the old left – were using that criminalising phrase, that piece of political demonology, to chastise the pope. It was the world turned utterly upside down.”read more

Also: The campaigners against the pope’s visit have more in common with the fanatical Inquisitors of old than with Enlightened liberal humanists, says Frank Furedi.

The conservative case for rail


File this one under “things we always knew and are glad someone agrees”: the dissident conservative fortnightly The American Conservative presents a symposium of articles about getting the USA back on the rails. William Lind attempts to destroy the myth of public-transport-hating conservatives while attacking the rampant subsidisation of federal highways. Former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist says the Right shouldn’t surrender the cities to the Left. Glen Bottoms does the numbers on the return to rail and tries to figure out how much it will cost. Finally, John Robert Smith argues that there’s still some life in America’s Main Streets. Christopher Leinberger discusses how private development can fund public infrastructure. read more

The Thomist constitution


St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Dumb Ox”, stated that “all should take some share in the government: for this form of constitution ensures peace among the people, commends itself to all, and is most enduring”. Aelianus muses on a Thomistic view of government, explores the pros and cons of monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and ponders the political position of the family in society. read more

Swedish under threat in Finland


Swedish was historically the language of Finland’s nobility and intelligentsia, as well as of the country’s ethnic Swedish minority — Finland’s first president and greatest hero, Field Marshal Mannerheim, could barely even speak Finnish. But while the Scandinavian land is still officially bilingual in education and government, the 5.5% of the population who are Swedish-Finns is increasingly viewed as “the world’s most pampered minority”. read more

The Südtirol success story


Amid the warnings of doom and gloom ahead for the Italian economy, one province has almost full employment and a healthy economy, not to mention a governor who has ruled for over twenty years. “We are living in the promised land,” — Südtirol. read more

September 22, 2010 2:10 pm | Link | No Comments »
September 16, 2010 10:22 pm | Link | 4 Comments »

The Highest Order in the Land

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle

In accordance with tradition, knights are appointed to the Order of the Thistle on the feast of Scotland’s patron saint, the Apostle Andrew, but they are not formally installed until the following summer when the Queen is in residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. And so this past July, the ‘Thistle Service’ took place at St. Giles’, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, and two new knights were inducted into Scotland’s highest honour and most exalted order of chivalry.

The knights, dames, and officers, dressed in their flowing velvet mantles of green along with their hats and collars, gather across Parliament Square in the Library of the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet (Scotland’s professional body of solicitors), part of the Parliament House complex that long ago housed the kingdom’s legislature, and is now home to her courts. In Parliament Square itself, the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland) forms a guard of honour and is accompanied by the band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. (more…)

September 7, 2010 7:11 pm | Link | 6 Comments »
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