Gillis, James (DNB00)

GILLIS, JAMES, D.D. (1802–1864), catholic prelate, born at Montreal, Canada, on 7 April 1802, was the son of James Gillis, a native of the parish of Bellie, Banffshire, Scotland, who had emigrated in early life and acquired a considerable fortune. He was educated at the Sulpician College in Montreal, and in 1816 went to Scotland with his parents. In 1817 he entered the seminary of Aquhorties as an ecclesiastical student, and thence was transferred to the seminary of St. Nicholas at Paris, where he was a fellow-student with Dupanloup, afterwards bishop of Orleans. He left St. Nicholas in October 1823 and entered the seminary of Issy, a house belonging to the Sulpicians, to study philosophy and theology, but his health gave way and he was obliged to return to Scotland in April 1826. He was ordained priest at Aquhorties in 1827. In the following year he was deputed by Bishop Paterson to collect money in France for the repairs of St. Mary's Chapel, Broughton Street, Edinburgh, and during his stay in France he conceived the idea of reviving the conventual life and restoring the religious orders in Scotland. On the outbreak of the revolution in 1830 he with difficulty effected his escape and returned to Scotland. In 1831 he became secretary to Bishop Paterson, and having subsequently collected funds for the purpose in France, he founded St. Margaret's convent in Edinburgh for nuns of the Ursuline order. It was opened on 16 June 1835, being the first religious house established in Scotland since the reformation. On 22 July 1838 he was consecrated bishop of Limyra, in partibus, having in the previous year been appointed coadjutor to Bishop Andrew Carruthers [q. v.], on whose death, 24 May 1852, he succeeded to the vicariate-apostolic of the eastern district of Scotland. In the course of a tour which he made in France in 1857 he, at the request of Dupanloup, pronounced the panegyric of Joan of Arc in the cathedral of Orleans. On this occasion the heart of Henry II, king of England, who died at the castle of Chinon on the Loire in 1189, was presented to him by the mayor of Orleans as a tribute of thanks for the eloquent panegyric. In 1859 Gillis introduced the jesuits into his ‘district.’ He died at Edinburgh on 24 Feb. 1864.

He published: 1. ‘A Letter to the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, containing a refutation of certain statements made by the Revd. Frederick Mound …,’ Edinburgh, 1846, 8vo. 2. ‘Letter to the Duke of Argyll on the subject of his speeches as chairman of the late annual meeting of the Edinburgh Bible Society,’ Edinburgh, 1849, 8vo. 3. ‘A Discourse on the Mission and Influence of the Popes, delivered on the day of thanksgiving for the return to Rome of Pius IX,’ London, 1850, 8vo. 4. ‘Facts and Correspondence relating to the admission to the Catholic Church of Viscount and Viscountess Feilding,’ Edinburgh, 1850, 8vo. 5. ‘The new Penal Law considered in its bearing upon Scotland; or two Letters addressed to the Earl of Arundel and Surrey’ (on Lord John Russell's Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill), Edinburgh, 1851, 8vo. 6. ‘Letter to Duncan Maclaren, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, on the proposed “Voluntary” Amendment of the Lord Advocate's Educational Bill for Scotland,’ Edinburgh, 1854, 8vo. 7. ‘A Lecture on Education,’ Edinburgh, 1856, 8vo. 8. ‘Panégyrique de Jeanne d'Arc, prononcé dans la Cathédrale d'Orléans à la fête du 8 mai 1857,’ 3rd edit. London, 1857, 8vo. 9. ‘A paper on the subject of Burns's pistols,’ Edinburgh, 1859, 8vo, read before the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, to which the bishop presented a brace of pistols that had belonged to the poet Burns.

[Gordon's Catholic Mission in Scotland, p. 480 (with portrait); Hist. of St. Margaret's Convent, Edinb., 1886 (with portrait); Times, 26 Feb. 1864; Catholic Directory (1867), p. 11; Weekly Register, January–June 1864, pp. 131, 147, 163; Cat. of the Advocates' Libr. Edinb.]

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