The Martyrdom of St John Ogilvie

The Martyrdom of St John Ogilvie was first performed in 2012 with a closing night held in front of 200 people in St Aloysius Church, Garnethill.  Combining faith and the arts, AGAP’s acclaimed production was written and directed by their creative director Stephen Callaghan. This year the company have revised the hugely successful play, staging the revival as part of the 400th Anniversary Celebrations.  Fittingly, the touring play had its final performance in Ogilvie’s birthplace of Keith, Morayshire on Saturday 18th July.

Beginning in present time the play starts with an entertaining scene with people from around Scotland trying to claim him as their own, before transporting us back in time to 400 years earlier.  Supplemented by additional detail and biblical verses on a large screen, and sacred music, we are taken through the last months of John Ogilvie’s life.  His arrival in Scotland, his betrayal, trial and execution.  The interplay with the chief historical figures of the time adding depth and drama. 

There is much in the play that mirrors the suffering and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the suffering and torture, public degradation and execution, with the Archbishop a constant reminder of Pilate.

Fast paced with very slick scene changes by three ladies, the action, drama and excellent acting held your attention throughout, and the running time of approx. 2 hours flew by.

Hopefully this will not be the last occasion that AGAP make the journey north to perform their plays!



St. John Ogilvie

The story of Scotland’s only post reformation martyr was brought to life in this special Anniversary production.  It told the story of John Ogilvie, born near Keith, Banffshire in 1579, into a wealthy Calvinist family.  The well connected young nobleman travelled to Europe as a teenager to further his education, where he converted to Catholicism, being ordained a priest in Paris in 1610.  He returned to Scotland 18 years later as a Jesuit priest, disguised as a returning soldier who wanted to get into the horse-dealing business, using the alias John Watson. During these turbulent times when the Mass was outlawed following the reformation, he began to preach in secret, celebrating mass clandestinely in private homes.  He was betrayed to the authorities by Adam Boyd who pretended to be one of his flock to trap him.  

John Ogilvie was put on trial 3 times, firstly in Glasgow, then Edinburgh in front of the Privy Council, then again in Glasgow.  He was subjected to torture, including starvation, beatings, sleep deprivation – being kept awake for eight days and nine nights, in an attempt to make him divulge the identities of other Catholics.  He did not yield, meeting his torture with equanimity, humour and courage.  On 10th March 1615, aged 36 years, John Ogilvie was paraded through the streets of Glasgow and publicly executed at Glasgow Cross for refusing to recognise the spiritual authority of King James over that of the Pope.  This date is now his feast day.  

John Ogilvie was declared Venerable in the same century of his death.  He was declared Blessed on 22nd December 1929 by Pope Pius XI and was canonised on 17th October 1976 by Pope Paul VI.