Dr Magill is Carluke’s new parish priest

Thomas McGill, the new priest at St Athanasius Church, Carluke.
Thomas McGill, the new priest at St Athanasius Church, Carluke.

FATHER Thomas Magill has taken up his new post as priest in Carluke.

He takes over at St Athanasius from Father James Naughton who retired last month.

“I have had a great welcome from the people here,” Father Magill said this week.

For the past 16 years he was parish priest in St Dominic’s in Craigend, Easterhouse, but his background is an outstanding academic one, including years as vice-rector of the Scots College in Rome, and then as the first priest since the Reformation to lecture in divinity at Glasgow University.

Even as a child he was interested in the priesthood, going into a minor seminary scheme when he was only 11 years old, and being educated as a potential future priest away from his home in Hamilton at Langbank and Blairs College near Aberdeen.

Unlike the vast majority of his young classmates, he did go on to be ordained.

Father Magill (62) – or Dr Magill to give him his proper title – studied at the Scots College in Rome from 1970, being ordained in 1976. And after a brief spell back in Scotland he returned to Rome as vice-rector of the Scots College in 1978 – “poacher turned gamekeeper” he commented, of his appointment so shortly after being a student there.

In 1982 Father Magill returned to Scotland, and for four years taught at a seminary in Glasgow. But he then went to work for a PhD in Bible Studies at the University of Glasgow.

That traditionally trains ministers for the Church of Scotland. Following the Reformation in Scotland, the Scots College in Rome was founded in 1600 for Scots Catholic men who could not receive a Catholic education in Scotland. Priests have been educated there ever since.

But Father Magill, wanting to continue his academic work, applied to Glasgow University.

“I wanted to go to a reformed university to experience that approach.” he explained.

He enjoyed the work, and found the qualification in reformed theology “a wonderful addition to my own theological background”.

And he made history!

“I was the first Catholic priest to be awarded a PhD in the Divinity Faculty since the Reformation,” he said.

After receiving his doctorate, he became a part-time lecturer there, again the first Catholic priest to do so since the Reformation.

Sixteen years ago Dr Magill moved to parish work.

“After the academic experience I just wanted a more pastoral ministry, to become a priest in a parish.” he said.

Now he is settling into his Carluke parish.

“I am looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “It is clearly a good-going parish.”