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Dolgellau Church of Our Lady of Sorrows

Origins and brief story about a Maltese priest Father Francis Scalpell and the church which he built in Dolgellau, Wales

© Copyright 2002, Ray Cutajar.   All rights reserved.
  By Ray Cutajar  


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I first heard about the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Sorrows some fifteen years ago. My mother had just visited Wales, where she had stayed for three months at Dinas Mawddwy. When she came back she told me about the beautiful church which a Maltese priest had built. I went over to Wales in 1991 and visited the church and the presbytery at Meyrick Street, Dolgellau. At the time, Father Paul Emmett was the parish priest there. He told me that when he visited Malta some time before he did not succeed in obtaining any information about Father Francis Scalpell. He had concluded that there were no surviving members of Father Francis' family, and did not sound hopeful enough to try harder himself. The 25th anniversary of the opening of the church would soon be coming up, and so I promised that I would try to dig up some information when I returned to Malta; and I did.

After finding no entry in the Malta telephone directory featuring 'Scalpell', I concluded that in all probability 'Scalpell' was the adopted version of the Maltese surname 'Scalpello'. Fortunately, this surname is not so common in Malta, and the number of entries in the directory was not large. I started phoning up all the numbers and explaining the reason behind the calls, hoping all the time that the person at the other end of the line would not hang up when I explained that I was enquiring about a priest who had been dead for over 20 years! Although few in number, the Scalpellos in Malta are not all related to each other, and none of them had ever heard of Father Francis.

Miss Lina Scalpello never knew this priest, but she asked Mons.Coleiro, who fortunately knew Father Francis. He passed on to me the name of Father Scalpell's niece so that I could visit her: May Leone Ganado, who lived in Forrest Street, St.Julians, Malta. So much for what Father Emmett had said; he must have given up after the first enquiry, I thought to myself.

I remember that when I called on Mrs Leone Ganado the first time, it was a cold and rainy evening, and she greeted me with a warm drink. She was so delighted that someone had taken interest in her uncle after so many years. She and her father were very close to Father Francis and visited him quite a number of times. She provided me with a lot of information which I would never have found elsewhere. I also obtained other information from the Dominican Priory at Valletta, Stella Maris Parish in Sliema, Monsignor Philip Calleja of the Emmigrants Commission in Valletta, and the Valletta Public Library (Bibliotheca Melitensis).

I put the information together in February 1992 and sent it to my nephew Francis in Dinas Mawddwy, so that he would pass it on to Father Emmett. Mrs May Leone Ganado had also kindly let me make copies of photographs, which I also sent over to Wales, hoping that at least the Dolgellau parish would prepare some kind of leaflet on the founder of that church, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary. I do not know whether any such celebration was in fact ever held.

In 2002 I came across the manuscript which I wrote in 1992, and I thought it would be a good idea to write a web page containing whatever information I have about Father Francis Scalpell. I thought this man deserved some kind of remembrance about his good deeds.

My VERY special thanks go to Mr.Jack Moran of Crosby, Liverpool. In August 2008 he contacted me and informed me that he knew Father Scalpell for over 35 years and was willing to provide me with further information about him. Jack was kind enough to send me various press cuttings containing additional information which I have added to this site. He also sent me a number of photos, which I am also including. He also sent me a recording of radio interviews, from which I gathered further information.

Jack Moran

Jack Moran is a very exceptional gentleman, who has achieved extraordinary feats to help good causes, including invaluable help to Father Scalpell, whom he respected so much. Further on in this website I shall be including a section about Jack, which shows how much Father Francis and the Dolgellau church are close to Jack'sheart and what a kind and generous heart he has, God bless him.

Jack recognised the goodness in Father Scalpell and continued to help him so much along the years and stayed with him even during Fr.Scalpell's last night in his coffin in Dolgellau church. Mr.Moran remains faithful to the memory of Fr.Scalpell to this very day and the Dolgellau church is very much in his heart. He cared, and still cares, a great deal to remember Fr.Scalpell on his anniversaries along the years, like the time when he combined the remembrance of Fr.Scalpell's arrival in Dolgellau to that of the tragedy of the ill-fated submarine Thetis in 1939. But more about all this in a later part of the website...

I would welcome any relevant information, photos, etc, be it from Maltese or Welsh sources, which any one may wish me to consider including in this site. Just let me know by clicking here, and I will do my best!


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