A Highland priest has celebrated 50 years as a clergyman by saying mass in a church close to his heart.
Father Donald MacKinnon grew up in Fort William before he was ordained at Oban’s St Columba’s Cathedral on April 15, 1971 by the late Bishop Stephen McGill.
Due to lockdown, he had a private service at St Mary’s in Fort William on the day of his anniversary.
But yesterday he was at St Mary’s in Arisaig to say mass and give thanks.
The Lochaber man has ancestral links in the village and he served there for six years from 1997, a time he says he has fond memories of.
He said it was a fitting place to mark his 50-year-milestone.
As part of his training the Bishop sent him to Paris for five years where he studied theology and philosophy at Seminaire Saint Sulpice.
It was an unusual time. He said: “I was there in 1968 when the students were revolting. The city ground to a halt. The students were on strike and we were running out of food. I just wanted to get home.”
After his ordination Father MacKinnon was teaching French and history in junior seminaries.
Following this he served as an assistant in Oban for four years.
Father MacKinnon then moved on to full pastoral work in Oban and later served parishes in Kingussie and Campbeltown before going back to Oban.
In 1997 he went to Arisaig before moving onto Fort William. He now enjoys his retirement in Lochyside. But he still helps out the local parish when needed and writes for Redemptorist Publications.
He was born in the Highland capital on January 28, 1947. He said: “Babies were born in Inverness at the time. My mother had to go up in the worst winter in living memory to have me. I was the oldest of eight.”
Speaking about his time in the priesthood he said: “The vocation grew as you did.”
His favourite thing about being a priest was “the kindness in folk and the example of courage that so many people gave me in theirs times of suffering. Looking after the sick was very important to me and also is preaching”.
During his retirement Father MacKinnon has helped out at St Mary’s in Arisaig recently. He said: “The parish has always been very special to me. My great-great-grandparents Catherine MacIsaac and Alexander Gillespie are buried there.
“My grandmother Flora MacDougall was born in Arisaig and my other grandmother Grace MacKinnon was fostered in the village.”