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ARE WE ABOUT TO HAVE A REAL "SAINT"
Margaret Sinclair was born in Edinburgh in 1900 in a basement
flat of a dilapidated tenement block, the third
child of a dustman who was employed by the City Corporation.
Margaret died only 25 years later but, even in her brief life, her
exceptional spiritual qualities attracted attention
and, after her death, her fame spread quickly.
She was educated at St Anne's School in the Cowgate but went on to take a
certificate in sewing, cooking and
dress-making at the Atholl School of Domestic Economy but, at the same
time, she worked as a messenger with
a business firm in order to help support the two younger children in the
Later she worked full time as french polisher in the Waverley
Cabinet Works and became an active member of
her trade union. In 1918 the Cabinet Works closed down and she
found work with McVitie's Biscuit factory.
The Sinclair home was a happy one. Andrew, the father, was proud of
his family and spent a good deal of time
with them. He had never been to school himself but was determined
that his six children should receive an
education. Elizabeth (Libby), the mother, brought up this
good-sized brood with great devotion in circumstances
which were far from ideal. Indeed, she broke down on numerous
occasions only to be supported by her daughter,
Margaret, who urged her to seek comfort in Confession and
Communion. Margaret, herself, went to Mass daily.
The call of God was now clear and unmistakeable and, early in 1922,
Margaret confided in her priest, Father Agius,
that she wished to be a nun, preferably in the Order of Poor
Clares*. She had hoped to be able to join the Poor
Clares at their convent at Liberton in Edinburgh as an extern sister, the
humblest role in the Convent, as the extern
sisters performed all the essential chores which left the choir sisters
free to pursue a life of contemplative prayer.
There was no vacancy at Liberton so she was directed to the Poor Clares
Convent at Notting Hill in London where
she was accepted as a postulant and given the name of Mary Francis of the
She worked in the London area bringing comfort to the poor whilst asking
the rich to give to her Order.
Over the years since her death from tuberculosis in 1925, many cures and
apparent miracles have been reported
as a result of prayers to Margaret. For example, the mother
of Television personality, Jimmy Saville O.B.E., attributes
his recovery from a fall at the age of two years, to prayers which she
had said after seeing a photograph of Margaret
Sinclair in Leeds Cathedral.
Known as the "Edinburgh Wonder Worker" she has a special place
in the life of Scotland's Capital City. His
Eminence Cardinal Gordon Gray^, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh,
aptly summed up the significance
of Margaret Sinclair's life when he said: "We can still admire the
heroism of the early martyrs but the unlikelihood
of any of us being thrown to the lions makes the lives of those early
martyrs somewhat remote. Margaret Sinclair
may be one of the first to attain the title of Saint from the factory
floor. She is near to us in time and place".
Margaret Sinclair was declared 'venerable' by Pope Paul VI in 1978.
The Church, through the lengthy and
'apostolic process', is now considering the possibility of
pronouncing her a saint. On the 1st June, 1982 Pope John
Paul II stated: "I fully appreciate the aspirations of the Catholics
of Scotland for that singular event to be realised and
I know that you are praying that it may come about".
Margaret Sinclair was buried at Kensal Green in North West London on 24th
November, 1925 but, later on
December, 1927 her remains were re-interred in a marble tomb at Mount
Vernon Cemetery, Liberton, Edinburgh
which pilgrimages are taking place on Sundays 12th and 19th of September
this year. These will be followed by
Mass at St Patrick's+ in the Cowgate, Edinburgh.
On 29th June, 1965, the National Margaret Sinclair Centre was opened at
Rosewell which is adjacent to Rosslyn
Chapel. The significance of this is more than coincidental.
* The Order of St Clare was founded by St Clare in the 13th Century
at Assisi. They are a Sister Order to the
Franciscans. Their home convent is still at
^ Cardinal Gray, who died last year, said that the service,
which he attended at Rosslyn Chapel with 11 other bishops
of various denominations, was the best ecunemical
service he had ever experienced. Although Rosslyn Chapel was
built as the Catholic Collegiate Church of St Mathew,
it is currently run as an Episcopalian Church.
this, services by other denominations (especially
weddings) are frequently held - including that of my own nephew who
is a Catholic.
+ St Patrick's Friary is a Franciscan Community.
I am indebted to Father Stephen McGrath, O.F.M., of St
Patrick's Franciscan Friary for the bulk of the above
information and to Mrs Judith Fisken, F.S.A. who first
alerted to me to the possibility of having a true saint in
St Clair family.