Sunday, 11 July 2010

Our Lady of Aberdeen

Friday the 9th of July was our Patronal Feast Day in the Diocese of Aberdeen therefore a First Class Feast Day.  Unfortunately I was amazed to find out that in my local chapel there was not even a mention of this Feast never mind a Mass in Her Honour.

A Little history

Located in a side chapel in a Brussels church is one of Scotland's treasures, a statue of Our Lady and Child which was saved from destruction in Aberdeen during the Reformation.  For sixty-five years, it was hidden until it was shipped to safety in the Low Countries.  Despite her intention to keep the statue in the Royal Palace, the Infanta of Spain, the Archduchess Isabella, was persuaded to place it in the newly built Augustinian church in Brussels.  

The statue remained in this church until 1796, when it was again removed for protection into private hands, this time to escape the ravages of the French Revolution. An Englishman, John Morris, safely restored it to the Augustinians in 1805 and it remained in their care as an object of devotion until 1814 when it was removed to the neighbouring Church of Our Lady of Finisterre.  It is still venerated there as Our Lady of Good Success.

Since the Restoration of the Scottish Hierarchy in 1878, devotion to Our Blessed Lady in Aberdeen, throughout the diocese, and further afield, has focused on copies of this ancient statue including the statue (above) which stands in the Chapel of Our Lady at Saint Mary's Cathedral Aberdeen.  Why won't the Belgians give us back the original statue?

Here is the old version of the Hymn to Our Lady:

Our Lady of Good Succour,
In the city by the sea,
Where the Don flows down the valley
To greet the silver Dee,
The ashes of faith still smoulder
Where the fire of the faith has been:
Bring the old faith back to Scotland
Our Lady of Aberdeen.

Our Lady of Good Succour,
In the country saints have trod,
While martyrs and brave confessors
Who gave their lives for God,
O hear the prayer of Columba,
Of Margaret, Saint and Queen:
Bring the old faith back to Scotland
Our Lady of Aberdeen.

Our Lady of Good Succour,
The love of God grows cold
In a country that has forgotten
The saving truths of old;
But a brighter dawn is breaking
And a fairer hope is seen:
Bring the old faith back to Scotland
Our Lady of Aberdeen.

Our Lady of Good succour,
In the happy days of old
Men deck'd thy gracious image
With silver and with gold;
Though darker days succeeded
Thou still art Scotland's Queen,
Come back, come back to Scotland,
Our Lady of Aberdeen.

As I said this is the old version.  Some years ago I sadly recall the then Bishop of Aberdeen, Bishop Conti, (currently Archbishop of Glasgow) commissioned new wording to make it more "ecumenical" so as not to upset the Protestants.  Phrases such as 'the old faith' were removed and replaced with PC wording.

Reflecting on this version I marvel that, whilst written approximately one hundred years ago by Mother Francis Forbes R.S.C.J., its currency remains as true today as when penned by this devout Scottish religious.

My local chapel may not have honoured Our Lady but I was very pleased to find at the FSSP chapel in Edinburgh today that this was chosen as the recessional hymn.  Also that wonderful community The Sons of The Most Holy Redeemer wrote a fine article on their blog.  Strange the only two places I visited which honoured this Feast day were Traditional communities!


  1. Many thanks for this most interesting post on devotion to Our Lady of Aberdeen. We pray that the original statue will one day find its way back to Scotland.

  2. Very interesting stuff. I have seen the words of this humn to Our Lady of Aberdeen before, but I do not know the tune. I would very much like to be able to sing it. Since you obviously heard the tune at the FSSP chaple, are you able to tell me what it is? I know this might be hard over the web (lol) but perhaps it is the same tune as another hymn, or you know some site where I can find it? Thanks in advance.

  3. Dom,

    Happy to oblige, but you really do not want to hear me sing this; honestly!. lol

    Here is a url link which has the musical score. Click on the music sheet to enlarge and download if you wish.

    I find a wee dram great for loosening the vocal chords.

    In Christo,


  4. Truly Aberdeen is a liturgical desert. The bishop did manage to clebrate the patronal feast of the cathedral but only becuase this year the Assumption fell on a Sunday! He didn't bother last year! We sang the modern Conti version of Our Lady o Aberdeen at the end.

  5. Good news. I have just read in the Diocesan magazine that the original statue of Our Lady of Aberdeen is set to return to Aberdeen BUT only on loan - yes loan, for approximately 6 weeks to help celebrate the Cathedral's 150th anniversary.

    How very kind of the Belgians.

  6. by the headmaster Mr wardWe where taught the old version at St Catherine Rc primary school Barmulloch Glasgow