Some of the early history of the parish and the connection with St Margaret’s Convent.

 

Father John Comper was ordained in the newly consecrated cathedral at Perth in 1850.  The preacher at that service was the Rev. J.M.Neale, the noted hymn-writer and translater, with whom the young Comper kept up a warm friendship.  In 1861, Neale was visiting the latter, newly appointed to the charge of St. John’s in Aberdeen and listened sympathetically to his request for Sisters from his newly founded Community of St. Margaret in East Grinstead, to come and work in his parish.  The first Sisters arrived and were duly installed in a house in Afflick Place, by which time Comper was planning mission work in the Gallowgate, a notorious slum area of north Aberdeen.

 

In the Convent archives are the Convent House Diaries starting from 1863. They contain fascinating little glimpses of the social conditions of the time and all that the clergy and Sisters had to contend with in building up the life of the church and parish. There are constant references to visiting the sick and bereaved.  Infant mortality was high and that of young adults from consumption equally so.  A Ragged school was established, clubs and classes for the boys, the women and girls, guilds for confirmation candidates, (40-50 presented at a time!)-  Just think what that represents in terms of daily mission outreach and pastoral care.

 

J.M.Neale himself constituted the growing Sisterhood in Aberdeen as an independent House of the Society of St. Margaret and it grew and prospered, as did its outreach.   In 1867 the Sisters started work in Cove where the ground had been prepared by Neale’s own visits there, usually on foot. Later Fr. Comper started another mission church on the quay in a rat-infested building between the quay and a grain silo, which became St. Clement’s, and in which the Sisters took an active part.  This was later moved up to Mastrick as the population was re-housed. They also taught in the St. Margaret’s day school, one being head mistress for many years. Parish visiting and Sunday school work remained a feature of the Sisters contribution to the church, together with the provision of Retreats and Quiet Days in the beautiful Convent chapel in the Spital, built by Fr, Comper’s architect son, Sir Ninian.