SHE rests in eternal peace, cocooned in her Cowgate shrine within three coffins, one of them lead, one zinc and one wood, topped off with a marble slab that can conveniently slide away should the need arise.
The tomb within St Patrick’s Church has been Margaret Sinclair’s final resting place for more than a decade – a hallowed spot far more fitting than the cold, wet earth of her original burial spot, and certainly more appropriate for the woman now on a fresh journey to become Scotland’s first modern-day saint.
For soon that white marble slab may indeed be shifted to reveal her mortal remains within. And the prayers of many who desperately yearn to see the one-time factory girl from Blackfriars Street, who loved to dance and window shop along Princes Street, become a saint, may well be finally answered.
Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh confirmed yesterday that he has set the wheels in motion for a fresh campaign aimed at having the Venerable Margaret Sinclair first declared “blessed”, and then confirmed as a saint.
He has appointed Father Joseph McAuley, parish priest of St Lucy’s Church in Cumbernauld, to help him promote the humble biscuit factory worker’s name and raise new awareness of her devoutly religious life.
All that then remains is the not insignificant matter of a miracle to find, setting Margaret on to the next stage towards becoming Scotland’s second saint after St John Ogilvie, the 16th-century martyr. He was tortured and hanged in Glasgow and eventually canonised in 1976.
But while Cowgate-born Margaret’s journey to sainthood suddenly seems to be back on course after 70 years of stops and starts, there is one other potential stumbling block which could cast a shadow over any new heavenly status: Margaret is attributed as having intervened from beyond the grave to save the life of a very young Jimmy Savile.
The disgraced DJ’s mother Agnes prayed to Margaret as he lay desperately ill as a toddler. Her prayers were answered within hours, and Savile lived to go on to lobby the Vatican for her canonisation. Sadly, of course, the television and radio presenter’s life would eventually become horribly tainted by child sex allegations.
Thankfully, however, there are other astonishing acts and events linked to the one-time humble McVitie’s factory worker who went on to become Sister Mary Francis of the Five Wounds, who died dreadfully young and became known for aiding the poor and under-privileged through prayer.
Among those who claim to have been miraculously cured by the prayer of the Venerable Margaret is a blind woman who recovered her eyesight, a woman who had chronic osteoarthritis and a woman in Liverpool with a tubercular infection in her lungs.
More recently, a baby boy was born premature and weighing just one pound. Desperate, his family placed in his incubator a piece of cloth which had been pressed to Margaret’s body immediately after death. The child is said to have gone on to flourish but the family was reluctant to give St Patrick’s the go-ahead to put forward his name as evidence of a miracle.
Others have told of praying to the Venerable Margaret in the hope that ill loved ones may be revived, with astonishing positive results.
Now it’s hoped that this fresh bid to raise awareness of her humble life and the incredible acts linked to her name will uncover even more.
Archbishop Cushley was inspired to launch a fresh bid for her elevation to sainthood after witnessing the devotion many have to her memory at her St Patrick’s shrine, where she was re-interred in 2003 as calls for her canonisation escalated.
“Even after the passage of 90 years since her death, she remains in the affection of many in Edinburgh,” he says.
“Others have testified to her help through prayer, and I’m encouraging people to bring their cares and concerns – especially for others, not just themselves – and to place them before Margaret in prayer. I’m confident that one day she will be recognised as a new saint for a new generation of Scots.”
He added: “Margaret led an exemplary life as a lay person, who was very much a modern woman, a woman of her times, and who was also an exemplary religious sister, albeit briefly, before she died at the age of 25.
“Almost immediately after her death in 1925 a devotion to Margaret spread and spread rapidly and was very strong for many decades.
“This is something that Father McAuley and I are hoping to build upon and strengthen to spread in the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, throughout Scotland and beyond”.
A LIFE SADLY CUT SHORT
Margaret Sinclair was born in 1900 and brought up in Blackfriars Street.
She was one of nine children born to Andrew, a Protestant who converted and her devoutly Catholic mother.
She was educated at St Anne’s School in the Cowgate where she learned sewing, cooking and dressmaking at the Atholl School of Domestic Economy, before beginning work as a french polisher in the Waverley Cabinet Works and later at the McVitie’s biscuit factory in Gorgie.
Aged 23, she then joined the Order of the Poor Clares in London.
Within months, though, Margaret was struck down by tuberculosis.
She died in an Essex nursing home in 1925.