My son Aidan is getting married next month. He and his bride will have their nuptial Mass in Cumnock, my old home town in Ayrshire. To be honest, the call back to the ancestral homelands was more to do with having their wedding reception at the astonishingly impressive Dumfries House, on the edge of the little town, which has become a kind of wedding Mecca in recent years.

Dumfries House is one of Britain’s most beautiful stately homes, owned by the Bute family until 2007, when it was saved for the nation by an intervention led by Prince Charles. It combines the stunning Neoclassical architecture of Robert Adam with bespoke furniture made by Thomas Chippendale.

John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, converted to Catholicism in 1868. He later built a church in Cumnock, St John the Evangelist, to a design by William Burges, for the growing local Catholic community. My grandparents were married there, as were my parents in 1958. I was baptised there in 1959, made my First Communion in 1965 and played its organ as a teenager. There will be a real sense of completing a circle when Aidan and Kleida are married there by Fr Lawrence Lew OP in August.


Kleida is Albanian. Her family arrived in Glasgow at the turn of the century. Nominally Catholic, they had to keep their faith secret all through the communist era of Enver Hoxha. Priests and Religious were martyred, including Fr Shtjefën Kurti who was executed by firing squad in 1971 for baptising a baby.

Kleida herself was baptised by Fr Lew last year at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in St Dominic’s church in north London – a poetic and glorious reversal of the Marxist evils visited on Albanian Christians in recent times.

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