In reformation times the church used by Huntly residents was the Castle Chapel. During the Reformation Huntly castle became a safe refuge for Jesuit priests . In 1560 the Catholic faith in Scotland was severely persecuted, and the Protestants took the churches at Dunbennan and Kinnoir. From 1560-1787 there were no Catholic churches in the northeast of Scotland. However, Catholics worshipped in secret, gathering in homes and barns for Holy Mass whenever a priest was known to be in the area. This was a very dangerous time to be a Catholic and it is a great testimony to the faith of the Scottish people and their priests that they would risk their lives for the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
St. Margaret’s church, a notable building in Huntly, in northeast Scotland, was designed by the architect William Robertson of Elgin, assisted by Bishop Kyle with the encouragement and generous financial support of the Gordon family of Ward House. The church opened on 31st August in 1834. The new church was named after the Patroness of Scotland, St. Margaret and was described in the Catholic directory of the time as "This new and splendid chapel"
In 1838 Fr. Terence Magulre took up residence in St Margaret's, Huntly, and it was he who established the school in 1848 (closed in 1969). Fr James MacDonald came to Huntly in 1874 after he had successfully seen to the reroofing of the Preshome and he was also remained in Huntly until 1907. The successor to Fr. McDonald was Fr. Donald Matheson born at Tomintoul in 1873. He died in 1923. Next came Fr. William Mulligan, well known for his sermons of an hour or more. During the second world war, there was an Italian prisoner of war camp near Huntly and the prisoners attended St. Margaret's. The next parish priest was of highland descent but from Glasgow, Fr. Kenneth Mackenzie. His stay in Huntly was to be the longest he spent in any parish but illness made him seek retirement and he went to the vacant chapel house at Portsoy. Many of the present day parishioners have fond memories of the next incumbent Canon J Lewis McWilliam. He was born in Buckie in 1904 - died in 1995. The parish was then administered from Keith by Monsignor Copland. He was born in 1920, at Tombae Clenlivet and He died aged 82 in 2002. After retired as Auxiliary bishop in Southwark Diocese Bishop John Jukes OFMConv came to Huntly and worked tirelessly for the parish from 2001- 2008. Then Bishop John retired and took up residence in a house bought by his Diocese on Gladstone Road, Huntly. Afterwards Fr. Patrick Stoffer OFM Conv was sent on loan for a few months from America, and he was replaced by another Conventual Franciscan Friar Fr. Gerald Hicks in October 2008. Fr. Gerald remains the priest in charge throught the parish.
St. Margaret's is not short of distinction in the annals of the Northeast of Scotland, and among them must be the fact that it was here where the Conventual Franciscan Friars for the first time since the Reformation returned to Scotland after an absence of 470 years.
Fr. Maximilian McKeown OFMConv
30 Chapel Street