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  • The Canny Scot: Archbishop James Morrison of Antigonishby Peter Ludlow
  • Santo Dodaro
The Canny Scot: Archbishop James Morrison of Antigonish. By Peter Ludlow. [ McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion, vol. 72.] (Montreal: McGill–Queen's University Press. 2015. Pp. xvi, 330. $34.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-7735-4498-7.)

In The Canny Scot, Peter Ludlow presents a multidimensional characterization of James Morrison (1861–1950), Bishop and Archbishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, describing the nature of the man, his life, and his time in history. Ludlow details Morrison's many contributions to the Catholic Church in general and the Diocese of Antigonish in particular, his role as Chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University (StFXU) in strengthening the institution, and his contribution to the establishment of the University's Extension Department and the promotion of the Antigonish Movement.

Ludlow portrays Morrison as an exceptional man in exceptional circumstances, intensely private, austere and committed to his faith, but also pragmatic. [End Page 583]As a young priest in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Morrison served as rector of St. Dunstan's College and oversaw the building of St. Dunstan's Cathedral. He took his tasks to heart and refused to cater to special interests, political or otherwise. The term "canny Scot", which was ascribed to Morrison by Father Jimmy Tompkins, reflected his approach in protecting the interests of the Church and the well-being of his parishioners, as well as those of StFXU.

Morrison's accomplishments and shortcomings are described within their local and global historical contexts. For example, Ludlow discusses the economic plight of the rural areas of the Maritime Provinces and industrial Cape Breton, as well as the global concerns related to the World Wars and their aftermaths. Ludlow presents Morrison's role in the emergence and spread of the Antigonish Movement as complementary to that of Fathers Moses Coady and Tompkins, stressing his facilitation role; without his willingness to allow priest-professors to participate, the movement may never have occurred. While conservative and fiscally prudent, Morrison understood that action was required ,and it was best to give Coady and the others the freedom to carry it out.

Ludlow also notes that Morrison may have 'overstayed' in his role as bishop. Efforts towards encouraging him to retire included granting him the title of Archbishop. Moreover, the appointment of Bishop John R. MacDonald to assist him was not well received by Morrison, who continued to carry out his functions in the same way as before, virtually until his death at age eighty-eight in 1950.

The bulk of the narrative (chapters 2 to 5) focuses on Morrison's lengthy tenure as Bishop of Antigonish; a period that coincided with tumultuous global events including two World Wars and the rise of communism, important developments in the Catholic Church, and the emergence and workings of the Antigonish Movement. Nevertheless, he also traces Morrison's life from his birth and early childhood in PEI, which was painfully marked by the loss of his mother in childbirth when he was six years old, through his life as a young man, as a student in Rome, and his ministry as a priest in PEI. These formative years established the foundations of Morrison's character, beliefs, and worldview, while also exposing him to the critical challenges facing the Church during the time, including animosities based along ethnic lines, in the Maritimes, Canada, and worldwide. By the time he left PEI to assume the role of Bishop of Antigonish, Morrison was an erudite, serious, and pragmatic cleric.

Chapter 2 describes Morrison's early years as Bishop of Antigonish. His appointment as Bishop is one of an 'outsider' in the face of severe divisions that existed within the Antigonish Diocese. Ludlow describes Morrison's journey of fitting into his new role as bishop and new environment of Eastern Nova Scotia. As a Church Administrator, Morrison exhibited characteristics of a 'workaholic' who adopted an approach guided by professionalism, diplomacy, and political neutrality. His dedication to meeting the needs of rural and industrial workers and immigrants and his commitment to schools and education were consistent with Father [End Page 584]Tompkins' concerns with socioeconomic plight of...


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