Bishop George Hay

      Bishop and writer, b. at Edinburgh, 24 Aug., 1729; d. at Aquhorties, 18
      Oct., 1811. His parents were Protestant, his father having been a
      non-juring Episcopalian, sentenced to banishment for his adherence to the
      Stuarts in 1715. Destined for a medical career, young Hay began his
      studies at Edinburgh university, and when barely sixteen found himself
      summoned, after the battle of Prestonpans, to attend the wounded soldiers
      on the battlefield. He afterwards followed the army of Charles Edward for
      some months; but before the decisive fight at Culloden illness compelled
      him to return to Edinburgh. He was later arrested for having participated
      in the rising, and taken to London, where he was kept in custody for
      twelve months. Here a Catholic bookseller named Neighan gave him his first
      insight into Catholic teaching, and on his return to Scotland he studied
      Gother's well-known work, "The Papist Represented and Misrepresented". An
      introduction to Father Seaton, a Jesuit missionary at Edinburgh, was
      followed by a prolonged course of instruction, and Hay was received into
      the Catholic Church, making his first communion 21 Dec., 1749.
      Debarred by the penal laws from graduating or receiving his medical
      diploma, he accepted an appointment as surgeon on a trading vessel bound
      for the Mediterranean. While in London, on his way to join his ship, he
      became acquainted with the illustrious Bishop Challoner. The result of
      their intercourse was that May determined to enter the priesthood, and on
      the arrival of his vessel at Marseilles, Hay journeyed to Rome, where he
      studied in the Scots' College for nearly eight years. Among his
      fellow-students was the future Cardinal Erskine. In April, 1758, he was
      ordained priest by Cardinal Spinelli, and on his return to Scotland was
      appointed to assist Bishop Grant in the important district of the Enzie,
      in Banffshire. In 1766 Bishop Grant succeeded Bishop Smith as Lowland
      Vicar Apostolic, and soon afterwards procured the appointment of Hay as
      his coadjutor. He was consecrated on Trinity Sunday, 1769, and
      thenceforward for nearly forty years sustained practically the whole
      burden of the vicariate.
      Of strong constitution and untiring energy, as well as sterling piety and
      zeal, he did an immense work for religion in Scotland during this period.
      The stress of his ministerial labours did not prevent him from doing much
      active literary work. He published the first English Catholic Bible
      printed in Scotland; but the work which secured his own reputation as a
      religious writer was his complete cycle of Catholic doctrine entitled "The
      Sincere, Devout, and Pious Christian" published 1781-86, and still
      recognized as a work of standard value. Bishop Hay's own life was a
      perfect example of that ordered devotion and assiduous labour which he
      inculcated in his writings, and his calm and equable temperament was proof
      against the many trials and difficulties inseparable from his position as
      a Catholic prelate under the penal laws. The Scottish Catholics, numbering
      at this time some 25,000, were, through the operation of these iniquitous
      statutes, in a condition little better than that of slaves or outlaws.
      Bishop Hay's efforts to procure some relief for his co-religionists
      aroused a storm of fanatical fury, and in February, 1779, the chapel and
      house which he had recently built in Edinburgh were burned by the mob.
      Very inadequate compensation for this outrage was made by the magistrates,
      and the outbreak of the Gordon Riots in England, in 1780, further delayed
      the long-hoped-for relief. In 1793, however, Bishop Hay had the
      satisfaction of seeing his flock released by Act of Parliament from the
      most oppressive of the penal laws. He had meanwhile laboured not only for
      the Church at home, but also to improve the condition of the national
      colleges at Rome and Paris. His great object, in regard to the college at
      Rome, was to have it placed under the control of Scottish superiors. His
      efforts on behalf of the institute in Paris were interrupted by the French
      Revolution, in which it was entirely swept away. The bishop's last public
      work was the foundation of a new seminary at Aquhorties, in Aberdeenshire,
      and here, after transferring, with the sanction of Pius VII, the entire
      government of the Lowland District to his coadjutor, Bishop Cameron, he
      died, deeply regretted, at the age of eighty-three.