CANON JOHN WALLS

John Walls was born on 10 February 1937 in Ayr. His parents were John Walls and Mary McIvor.

He was educated at Saint Maryís College, Blairs and the Royal Scots College. Valladolid. Spain.  He was ordained in Valladolid on 18 March 1961. He continued his studies at the Scots College, Rome till 1964 when he was appointed to the Church of Saint Peter in Chains. He moved to the Good Shepherd Cathedral, Ayr in on 30 August 1968. In 1970, he returned to the Royal Scots College, Valladolid as Vice Rector and in 1974 became Rector. He became an Honorary Canon in 1977. He was appointed Parish Priest of Saint Paulís Church, Hurlford in 1981, Saint John's Church, Stevenston in 1988 and Saint Teresa's Church, Dumfries in 1997.

Canon Walls died in Dumfries Infirmary on 28 February 2010. His Requiem Mass was concelebrated in Saint Teresa's Church on 8 March. He was buried in Ayr Cemetery. May he rest in peace.

In February 2011, a new pulpit in Saint Teresa's Church was dedicated to Canon Walls. A plaque on the pulpit was unveiled by Jack Groom, Provost of Dumfries in the presence of parishioners, Canon Walls' family and priests of the deanery.



The obituary below, written by the Emeritus Bishop of Galloway, Maurice Taylor, is from the Galloway News, Pentecost edition 2010.

By the death of Canon John Walls on 28th February, the Diocese of Galloway lost a great priest. His passing brought sadness to a large number of people, particularly to Moira and Eric, John’s sister and brother, and to the parish community of St Teresa’s, Dumfries.

John was born on 10th February, 1937 to John and Mary Walls (his mother’s maiden name being McIvor). He went to St Margaret’s primary school in Ayr and was an altar server at St Margaret’s church.

Like so many boys in those days, John Walls showed a desire to be a priest. His parish priest, the redoubtable Mgr Joseph McHardy, arranged for him to be admitted to Blairs College for his secondary education. From there, he proceeded, in September 1955, to the Royal Scots College, then in the city of Valladolid in Spain. He was resident there for six years and attended classes in the local diocesan seminary where all the lectures were given in Latin. Towards the end of his course, he was ordained a priest in the college chapel in Valladolid on 18th March 1961 by Bishop James Ward, the then auxiliary bishop in Glasgow.

John had done so well academically in Spain that Bishop McGee sent him, as a young priest, to Rome for two years to do further studies. During his time there, the Pontifical Scots College was situated in Marino, a town some ten miles south of Rome. Since lectures were in the Gregorian University in the capital, this entailed hazardous journeys there and back on a moped which he had acquired. One of his fellow postgraduate students in the college was a young priest called John Cunningham, studying canon law while John Walls was doing a degree in theology. Their lives, of course, were to come together again in 2004 when John Cunningham became bishop of Galloway.

On his return to Scotland, John Walls became assistant priest at St Peter’s, Ardrossan, and later at Good Shepherd Cathedral in Ayr, five years in the former, two in the latter. In 1970 the post of vice-rector of the Royal Scots College became vacant and, with the permission of Bishop McGee, then bishop of Galloway, John Walls was appointed by the Bishops’ Conference to the post.

It was Bishop Maurice Taylor who was rector of the college at the time. He recalls, “We had four happy years together as rector and vice-rector. John was good at the job and very conscientious. In addition to the routine work of looking after the students and maintaining law and order, we organised quite extensive celebrations to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the transfer of the college from Madrid to Valladolid.

Bishop Taylor continues, “When it was time in 1974 for me to return to this country, I had no hesitation in recommending to the bishops that John should be my successor. They agreed and, since the rectorship of the Spanish college is a state appointment, the bishops had to ask the Spanish head of state formally to appoint John Walls as rector of the Royal Scots College. John, therefore, like myself, was an appointee of General Franco himself”.

John had seven years as rector (following six as a student and four as vice-rector) and he carried out the task very successfully. It was a difficult time, first, because the growing scarcity of students for the priesthood was by then becoming apparent; and second, because politically those were perilous times in Spain as the country, following Franco’s death, went through the difficult process of restoring the monarchy and becoming a democracy integrated in Europe.

Back in Scotland in 1981, John spent a few months as chaplain to the Benedictine nuns in Dumfries. Thereafter he was successively parish priest in St Paul’s, Hurlford (for six years), and in St John’s, Stevenston (for nine years), before he moved to St Teresa’s in 1997. He was soon very much at home in Dumfries and felt totally content in that beautiful and historic part of the diocese.

It is fitting to recall the gifts with which God endowed him and which enabled him to work so well for the benefit of others. Above all, John possessed two related gifts: intelligence and wisdom. He was highly gifted intellectually, a very clever person; and he had the wisdom, the insight, to bring that intelligence to bear on all the situations that occurred in his work. This enabled him to be a Vatican II priest, aware of the teaching and the spirit of the Council, and with a desire to implement that teaching and that spirit in his own ministry.

John was a faithful, prayerful, involved, reliable and pastoral priest, with a dedication that was single-minded and sometimes difficult for others to comprehend or to match. He was very much the leader in the parishes in which he served, especially in liturgical matters where his influence was obvious and the liturgy exemplary. On several occasions, the bishop asked John if he might assign a priest newly ordained to Stevenston or to St Teresa’s so that he (Canon John) would pass on his ideas and his ways. The resultant learning process was effective but, on occasion, quite difficult and mutual. Yes, John was a determined man, determined to excel, to do his best always, to be totally dependable.

That, no doubt, is why he was given so many diocesan responsibilities; to mention some: chairman of the Council of Priests, director of the Ministry to Priests Programme, leader of the Group for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, director of the Adult Growth in Faith Programme, Church representative on Dumfries and Galloway Education Committee, Diocesan Consultor, Canon of the Cathedral Chapter. When an onerous appointment had to be made, John was sure to be among the likely choices. In the funeral homily, Bishop Taylor remarked that he should have been happy to see John entrusted with any position of responsibility in the Church.

John Walls was a good speaker; his homilies always prepared, relevant and brief. That last quality was one that he looked for in others as well as in himself. “You took eight and a half minutes”, he once chided Bishop Taylor.

John died on 28th February, the Second Sunday of Lent. That last detail is relevant because the gospel of the day was the story of Our Lord’s Transfiguration. That experience reassured the apostles that the Lord’s death was a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation, a death that led to the glory of his Son’s resurrection. It reassures us also and gives meaning to our death, if we are united with Christ. With faith reassured and confirmed, then, we commend to God John, brother, friend and priest, that he may be united in glory with the risen Jesus.

The funeral Mass, led by Bishop Cunningham and with almost fifty priests and a packed congregation, took place in St Teresa’s church, Dumfries, on Monday 8th March. That afternoon, John’s body was taken to Ayr Cemetery and interred there, beside the mortal remains of his mother and father.