Michael J. Turner was born at Penrith, Cumberland, on 29th May,
1855. He entered Blairs Junior Seminary College in Aberdeen
on the 18th October 1867 and was then eventually sent to St
Edmund's, Douai, France, in August 1872. He then went to the
Sulpician Seminary at Issy in September 1873. After spending
two years there in the study of Philosophy and receiving the
Tonsure from Cardinal Guibert on the 20th May 1874, he entered
the Theological Seminary in Paris.
According to the Catholic Directory of 1880 - Ordinations of
1879 section - he 'was obliged to spend the next year of
his course (1876-77) at Blairs in Aberdeen to recruit his health'.
In October of 1877 he returned to St Sulpice at Issy where he
completed his theological studies and received Minor Orders
from Cardinal Guibert on 15th June 1878. He was recalled to
Scotland in December 1878 and was ordained Sub Deacon on the
6th and Deacon on the 12th of that month.
He was ordained Priest on the 26th January 1879 by Archbishop
Strain in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral Edinburgh, where he was thereafter
appointed for a time as assistant priest of the Cathedral.
Before coming to St Patrick’s Kilsyth in September 1890
he was ‘Priest-in-charge’ at Davidsons Mains and
South Queens-ferry near Edinburgh. His appointment to Kilsyth
was unxepected after the sudden departure of Fr
John Lee back to Ireland. During his time in Kilsyth he
was installed as Canon of the Metropolitan Cathedral Chapter
of St Mary's in Edinburgh therefor becoming Canon Turner. After
spending 13 years in Kilsyth, Canon Turner was transferred to
St. Machan's, Lennoxtown, in 1903.
Cardinal Guibert of Paris
Canon Turner was devoted, not only to the Catholic people of
St Patrick’s Kilsyth, but very much to those in the surrounding
villages who did not have a Catholic Priest of their own. On,
foot he visited places as far away as Croy, Twechar, Cumbernauld,
Condorrat and Smithston. In his clerical diary for the years
1890-91, he wrote of a sick call at Croy Row, visiting three
Catholic families at Turneyhill, near Twechar, calling on a
couple in a `mixed marriage' at Cumbernauld, visiting a partially
paralysed man in Condorrat and looking in, on one visitation,
on half of the homes at Smithston Row, which he called `Little
Ireland'. Of Croy he wrote 'Croy was my pet lamb for the lengthened
period of twelve years'. His visits round the widely scattered
parish were usually made on horseback, or with his favorite
pony, Roddy, drawing his " phaeton " carriage.
One thing for which he is personally remembered is as a remarkably
good singer and his voice was often heard to advantage above
the others at social events. He is also remembered with gratitude
for his extension of the original St Patrick’s Church,
which he enlarged by adding a side aisle and erecting a tower
and installing a bell.
To improve the social amenities he built a billiard hall with
games room for the youth of the parish. Many children in those
early years of the Parish in Kilsyth and the surrounding villages
owe their education to Canon Turner and his predecessor Canon
Murphy. It was Canon Murphy who was responsible for the construction
of the first St. Patrick's School building in 1874 and by Canon
Turner's time it was evident that Catholic children not only
from Kilsyth but also from Auchinstarry, Croy, Smithstone and
Twechar were being educated at St Patrick’s school in
It is also worth mentioning that it was during Canon Turner's
stay in Kilsyth that our neighbouring parish of Holy
Cross Croy was founded in 1902. This event is a very real
indication of the growth of the Catholic population in Kilsyth
Recently we have discovered some newspaper archives which contain
letters from Fr Turner to the editor of the Kilsyth Chronicle.
They give an insight into not only the activities of Fr Turner
working on behalf of his parishioners but also the living conditions
in Kilsyth at that time...
Page 36, 4th October 1890 - The Tablet
'ST. ANDREWS AND EDINBURGH.
ADDITIONAL CLERICAL CHANGES.
In consequence of the return of the Rev. John Lee to Ireland,
the important mission of Kilsyth has become vacant. His Grace
the Archbishop has now appointed the Rev. Michael Turner, South
Queensferry, to Kilsyth. The Rev. William Farquhar, Tranent,
succeeds Father Turner, and the Rev. Alfred Roche, of the Cathedral,
takes charge of the united missions of Tranent, Musselburgh,
and the St. Joseph's Industrial School. The Rev. Laurence Keogh,
recently ordained in Ireland, with some other young priests,
will fill up the vacancies at the Cathedral, Falkirk, &c.'
Reproduced by the kind permission of The Tablet
“St Patrick’s Kilsyth February 4th 1903.
Will no one suggest to our Town Council and Parish Council a
‘Scheme for the better Housing of the Working Classes
in Kilsyth,’ at a cost not exceeding £10,000.We
have been reminded repeatedly of the number of one room houses
in Kilsyth, and we see for ourselves how families are huddled
together for want of proper accommodation. Mr McKillop, M.P.,
in a recent address, hits the nail on the head when he declares
‘Social problems will be the greatest problems to solve
in the coming generation and therefore must claim most attention
by the politician. The wellbeing of our nation depends upon
the health, comfort and development of the physical, mental
and moral life of the nation, and towards this the Housing of
the Poor must occupy a leading place.’ I am, yours etc.,
Letter to the editor of The Kilsyth Chronicle, 4th Feb
“St Patrick’s Kilsyth February 12th
Referring to a ‘Scheme for the better Housing of the Working
Classes in Kilsyth,’ I might take the liberty of suggesting
that the ‘Brick Rows’ (euphemistically called ‘Kingston
Rows’) should be demolished and replaced by stone erections
worthy of the name ‘workmen’s houses’. Apart
from the front row, the accommodation in the remainder is totally
inadequate to the proper upbringing of a family. So ashamed
of the very appearance of the ‘side row’ has someone
been that he has placed a nondescript gable to screen the view
from passers by. Surely these huts have served their time and
something better might be provided in the present days of progress?
I am, yours etc.,
Letter to the editor of The Kilsyth Chronicle, 12th
A Notice of his death from the 1930 edition of the Scottish
Pray for the soul of the Very Rev. Michael J. Canon Turner
who died at Barnton, Davidson’s Mains, Edinburgh on the
14th December 1928 in the 74th year of his age and the 50th
of his priesthood.
The Very Rev. Michael J. Canon Turner was born at Penrith, Cumberland,
on the 29th May 1855. He entered Blairs College on the 18th
October 1867 and St Edmunds College, Douai, France in August
1872. In 1873 he was transferred to the Sulpitian Seminary at
Issey and 2 years later he entered the Grand Séminaire
de S. Sulpice in Paris to complete the usual course of studies
for the priesthood. The tonsure and minor orders were conferred
on him by Cardinal Guibet, major orders by his uncle Bishop
(later Archbishop) Strain.
After his ordination to the priesthood, which took place on
the 26th January 1879, he was appointed assistant priest at
the Cathedral, Edinburgh. His first separate charge was Davidson’s
Mains and South Queensferry and in the latter place he was able
to provide a church and presbytery.
His next charge was the mission of Kilsyth, where a wide district
now under the spiritual care of four clergymen gave ample scope
for his zeal and enterprise. Whilst at Kilsyth he enlarged and
beautified the church and erected a congregational hall. His
labours during the period of his career for the betterment of
life for the miners are still remembered with gratitude by the
Lennoxtown was his next sphere of labour and during his stay
there he provided of a hall and procured the erection of a church
to meet the needs of the Catholics of Balfron. Thereafter for
many years he was Missionary Rector of St. Francis Xaviour’s,
Falkirk, and during his rectorship the district of Camelon was
detached and formed into a separate mission.
At this time his health began to fail and his ecclesiastical
superiors placed him in the easier mission of Peebles. Soon
however, he was obliged by his enfeebled state of health to
relinquish active missionary duty and he retired to live in
the nursing home at Musselburgh and in St Mary’s hospital
His death occurred at Barnton, Davidson’s Mains, Edinburgh
on the 14th December 1928.
The funeral took place the following Tuesday. Solemn requiem
Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral Edinburgh by Canon Hobin.
The panegyric was spoken by Canon Considine. The remains were
interred in the Grange Cemetery where the prayers were said
by Bishop Graham, assisted by Canon Turner of Dundee, a cousin
of the deceased.
This notice is by kind permission of The Scottish Catholic
Directory, 1930 edition, pages 306 – 307.
THE VERY REV. CANON M. J. TURNER.
The death has taken place, we regret to state,
of the Very Rev. Canon Michael J. Turner (retired), of St. Andrews
and Edinburgh, in the fiftieth year of his priesthood. He was
the nephew and biographer of Archbishop Strain, the first Ordinary
of the See on the restoration of the Scottish Hierarchy in 1878,
from whose hands he received ordination in St. Mary's Cathedral,
Edinburgh, in the following year. The parishes associated with
the late Canon's ministry include Davidson's Mains ; South Queensferry;
Kilsyth ; Lennoxtown; Torrance, where he built the chapel, dedicated
to St. Dominic; St. Francis Xavier's, Falkirk; and Peebles :
at the last-named parish he retained the title of rector Emeritus.
Canon Turner was made a member of the St. Andrews and Edinburgh
Metropolitan Chapter in 1893.
The funeral took place on Tuesday last at Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh,
preceded by a requiem at the Cathedral.—R.I.P.'
This obituary is by kind permission of The Tablet Pg27, 22nd