The day Pope Francis expressed his appreciation of Scottish whisky to a Borders cleric

A newly-ordained Jedburgh priest has revealed Pope Francis’s appreciative response after he received a bottle of Scottish whisky as a gift.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 9:23 pm
Father Martin Eckersley, Jedburgh, and Father Bobby Taylor, Galashiels, at Jedburgh's St Mary's Catholic Church. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Father Martin Eckersley, Jedburgh, and Father Bobby Taylor, Galashiels, at Jedburgh's St Mary's Catholic Church. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Father Martin Eckersley, who was born and bred in Jedburgh, spent seven years studying at Pontifical Scots College in Rome.

On Saturday, July 10, he was ordained at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh and yesterday his Mass of Thanksgiving was held at St Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church in Jedburgh, where he was joined by family and friends and Father Bobby Taylor, from Galashiels, who studied beside him in Rome and who was himself ordained on June 29 at the Church of Our Lady and St Andrew in Galashiels. Father Martin had the honour to meet the Pontiff four times during his years in Rome, with one particularly memorable encounter.

He recalled: “Meeting him for the first time was really surreal. It was the 400th anniversary of the college and they had us over to the palace, it was all very formal and at the end we handed over to him a bottle of Scottish whisky as thanks for having us.

Father Martin Eckersley, Jedburgh. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

"The next time we saw him was at the Easter vigil and we were asked to serve for him, which is a real honour.

"Scots College is unique in a sense as our cassocks, the robes that we wear, are this blue/purple colour and almost everybody else is just in black and you could see that he recognised us and he looked us up and down and said ‘ah, good a-whisky!’ I can’t remember what brand of whisky it was.

"It was lovely that he remembered us considering all he people he meets on a daily basis.

“You are kind of starstruck because he is the Holy Father but the way he comports himself and the way he speaks to you he just seems like a granddad.”

Father Martin Eckersley, Jedburgh, and Father Bobby Taylor, Galashiels, at Jedburgh's St Mary's Catholic Church. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

The last priest ordained out of Jedburgh was Father Basil Clark in 2000.

Father Martin, 29, who studied at Dundee University and was a former pupil at both Parkside Primary and Jedburgh Grammar School, added: “I have the summer free but I will be offering cover to priests who want to go away on holiday, and to pick up experience in different parts of Scotland, but thereafter I’ve been appointed to St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church in Falkirk and I start there in September, for how long I don’t know, that’s up to the archbishop.

"You usually do four years as a curate, or assistant priest, and then you get let loose on a parish of your own.”

Father Martin Eckersley pictured with his parents, Barbara & Richard, at St Mary's Catholic Church, Jedburgh. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Father Martin Eckersley, Jedburgh. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)