Universities: Catholicism & Tagore

Friday 18th May 2012
Mary Queen of Scots last letter. Courtesy National Library of Scotland http://digital.nls.uk/mqs/trans1.html and Portrait of Rabindranath Tagore Title: My Reminiscences Illustrator: Sasi Kumar Hesh http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22217/22217-h/22217-h.htm

TWO priceless collections of manuscripts, books and letters from the archives of the Catholic Church are to be housed at Aberdeen University, while The Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies (ScoTs) has opened at Napier University’s Institute of Creative Industries.

The document collections, which include letters from Mary, Queen of Scots, and said to be of “nationaland international significance” were last housed together in 1958 at the former Blairs Seminary on the outskirts of Aberdeen and  will be reunited again at Aberdeen University’s new state-of-the-art library.

The main archive, which includes papers from Aberdeenshire and Moray dating back to the 12th century, is currently in the care of Columba House in Edinburgh, where the extensive Scottish Catholic Archive is located.

The university will also become the custodian of the Blairs Library, which has been on loan to the National Library of Scotland since 1974. The Blairs Library is a valuable collection of 27,000 books and pamphlets dating from 1801. Several of the documents are the only surviving copies.

Many of the artefacts were once hidden at the Catholic Church’s “secret” seminary in Glenlivet on Speyside, which served as a refuge for the training of young students for the Catholic priesthood during the Jacobite rebellion. “Scalan College” survived as a major seat of Catholic teaching in Scotland until the end of the 18th century.

 Archbishop Mario Conti, (left) president of the Heritage Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said: “At a time when the future location of the pre-restoration archival material belonging to the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trust was under consideration, the offer from Aberdeen University to accept it on loan and display it alongside other appropriate collections was carefully considered and prudently accepted.

“The intention of the trustees was to preserve the material in its integrity and make it available to scholars, students and post-graduate researchers in conditions which ensured both its security and its expert care.”

He added: “The whole Catholic community is indebted to Aberdeen University, itself originally a foundation of the church, for this fruitful outcome.”

Professor Ian Diamond, the university’s principal, (right)  said: “We arepleased that these important collections are returning to the north-east. Our state-of-the-art Special Collections Centre is one of the best facilities in Scotland, attracting students, scholars and visitors from across the world.

“The Scottish Catholic Archive and the Blairs Library will complement our existing holdings and returns many of these significant documents to the area in which they originated.”

At the end of the International Tagore Conference The Global Impact of the Writer in the Community’ organised by the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs) and the Centre for Literature and Writing (CLAW) at Edinburgh Napier University,  a major university Centre  is dedicated to the life and works of Rabindranath Tagore  to mark the Nobel Laureate’s 150th birth anniversary, and set up under an agreement with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which is funding two PhD fellowships in Tagore studies.

Professor Indra Nath Choudhuri, (left) Academic director of the Indira Gandhi Institute, will be Scotland’s first Chair in Tagore Studies (ScoTs) at Edinburgh Napier University that has the second largest Indian student population of any Scottish university, and will “promote Indian culture, education, philosophy, art and literature by highlighting Tagore’s legacy’’.

Tagore had “strong links’’ mainly through his friendship with Sir Patrick Geddes, with Scotland. Geddes designed (right)  Women’s Studies Centre, Visva-Bharati, at Santiniketan 

“ScoTs will celebrate the life, teaching and vision of Rabrindranath Tagore, whose spirit continues to inspire,’’ said Dr. Bashabi Fraser, Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at the University who says the Centre was ideally placed to promote cultural connections between Scotland and India. “By working alongside other European organisations and cultural bodies we’ll be able to spread Tagore’s influence and attract research interest from far and wide.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary  Culture and External Affairs in the Scottish Government, described Tagore as India’s “greatest artist, musician and poet ..with many close ties to Scotland. ScoTs will celebrate these connections and Tagore’s legacy, deepening the relationship between our two countries.


I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers! 

I bow to you all and take my departure.

Here I give back the keys of my door and I give up all claims to my house.

I only ask for last kind words from you. 

We were neighbours for long,  but I received more than I could give. 

Now the day has dawned  and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out.

A summons has come and I am ready for my journey.

                                                                                - Rabindranath Tagore 

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