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Canmore began its life in 1895, when it was built as a private residence for Professor Arthur Stanley Butler, and given the name "St. Swithins". It was sold in 1907 to ​Mrs. Annette Harmar, the cousin of Fr. Herbert Laughton, a priest assigned to St. James. It was during Mrs. Harmar's residency that the building was renamed "Canmore", a direct reference to Malcolm III Canmore, the husband of St. Queen Margaret of Scotland. After Mrs. Harmar's death in 1914, the property was sold to Mr. James Beattie, and then to George and Jane Spencer. In 1943, Flying Officer Hugh Donington-Smith and his family moved into Canmore and ran it as a hotel. Seeking to expand their hotel business, three years later they purchased what is now the Hamilton Grand, and sold Canmore, in 1947, to the Society of Missionaries of Africa, better known as "The White Fathers".

It was under the management of the White Fathers that the seeds were planted for Canmore to become a chaplaincy for Catholics at the University. They opened Canmore up to students at the University, hosting guest speakers, student rosaries, a student choir, and developing a library. Fr. Gillan, the parish priest of St. James, also became increasingly  involved as a chaplain to the students. The White Fathers sold Canmore in 1958 to the Brothers of Christian Instruction, under which plans began to take shape for Canmore to be used solely as a university chaplaincy for students. The Brothers contacted Dr. C.P. Stevens who, along with his wife Betty, had recently established a Small Fund to assist worthy Catholic causes. In July 1964, Canmore was acquired by the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, which has overseen the Chaplaincy ever since.


With a new chaplain appointed in 1970, Canmore underwent many structural and social changes. The building was home to a strong and dynamic community that worked hard to ensure that it was a place of prayer, community, and rejuvenation for all. In 1973, four nuns from the Sisters of the Assumption came to live in Canmore. The nuns lived on the top floor, cared for the building, and provided spiritual guidance and practical advice for the students.

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Canmore remained the center for Catholic life amongst the students, and the nuns, and students worked together with the various chaplains to continue Canmore's tradition of handing on the Catholic Faith. In 1987, Fr. Brian Halloran was appointed both chaplain to the University, and parish priest of St. James. Fr. Halloran entered into a vibrant Canmore, where the Catholic Society had over 300 members, an annual ball, and was flourishing due to strong leadership. Weekly talks by different speakers on various theological topics were held, along with various events that drew large crowds to Canmore. In 1993, the Sisters of the Assumption left Canmore due to a decrease in vocations, and, despite the presence of a warden, the building became increasingly difficult to maintain. In the early 2000s, Canmore became quieter, darker, and dirtier, but the atmosphere of friendship and fun never ceased, with constant pot-luck dinners encouraging students and parishioners to get to know each other on a closer level. 

In 2010, Fr Kingham and volunteers started to make necessary refurbishments and improvements to the building. However, much more work will be required in the future to carry out necessary renovations to make Canmore fully financially and physically viable. We hope to begin fundraising for these works in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, the Catholic Chaplaincy has continued to flourish, with events and socials well-attended by members of the Catholic Society and parishioners alike. The number of people who have discovered their vocation to the priesthood or religious life, or met their future spouse, while at Canmore is too great to count. It is the hope of all who currently call Canmore their second home that Canmore will continue to be a bastion that will stand as a living testament to the both the generational faith of the students of the University of St Andrews, and to the eternal glory of Jesus Christ. 

(In 2014, the President of the Catholic Society, Mr. Francis Ferrone, compiled a short booklet on the history of Canmore. All historical content above is courtesy of that booklet.


The Canmore building is comprised of many different areas used by students for many different uses and at many different times. Below is a list of all the rooms open for student use, along with the hours of the building.

  • The Common Room

  • The Lounge

  • The Cloakroom

  • The Kitchen (with sitting area)

  • The Library

  • The Chaplain's Room

  • One Bathroom

  • St. Margaret's Chapel (Mass offered every Wednesday during term-time at 7:00 PM)

    • We kindly ask that all who enter through Canmore's doors respect the presence of the Blessed Sacrament that is reserved in the Chapel.

Hours: Mon - Fri: 8:30 AM - 10:00 PM,​​ Saturday: 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM , ​Sunday: 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM

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