Bishop Hay.

George Hay (1729–1811) was a Catholic bishop of Scotland and writer. His parents were Protestant. Destined for a medical career, young Hay began his studies at the University of Edinburgh. During the Jacobite Rising of 1745, when he was sixteen, Hay was summoned to attend wounded soldiers after the battle of Prestonpans. He afterwards followed the victorious Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stuart 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 John Gother's 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 Roman Catholic Church, making his first communion on 21 December 1749, at the age of 20.

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 Bishop Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic of the London District. The result of their intercourse was that Hay 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 for nearly forty years sustained practically the whole burden of the vicariate.

Bishop Hay's efforts to procure relief for Catholics under the penal laws of the time aroused opposition, and in February 1779, the chapel and house which he had recently built in Edinburgh were burned. The outbreak of the Gordon Riots in England, in 1780, further delayed relief. In 1793, by Act of Parliament some of the most oppressive of the penal laws were lifted.

He made efforts to place the college at Rome 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 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 government of the Lowland District to his coadjutor, Bishop Cameron, he died at the age of eighty-three.


He published the first English Catholic Bible printed in Scotland; but the work which secured his own reputation as a religious writer was his cycle of Catholic doctrine entitled The Sincere Christian, The Devout Christian, and The Pious Christian, published 1781-86.


This article incorporates text from the entry George Hay in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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