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5 deacon cook

Scotland’s first deacon in modern times dies aged 94

Deacon Jacques Cooke: December 16 1924¬—March 25 2019. — By Bill Mowat

Deacon Jacques Cooke, who passed away aged 94 in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, was the first permanent deacon of the Catholic Faith in Scotland to be ordained in Scotland for many centuries.

The principal celebrant at his funeral Mass in St Mary’s Church in Inverness on April 5 was, appropriately, Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti of Glasgow, who had encouraged Jacques to follow this path to a post-retirement vocational career ‘in the service of the Lord.’

It is the one for which Jacques will be principally remembered.

A young Fr Conti became familiar with the Faith and personal qualities of father-of-five Deacon Cooke while he was serving as the parish priest of St Joachim’s & St Anne’s, Wick & Thurso, where Cooke was a prominent layman.


Rebuilding the permanent diaconate

After his appointment to Aberdeen in 1977, Bishop Conti played a key role in re-establishing the permanent diaconate in Scotland.

Aberdeen became the first of Scotland’s eight dioceses to do so and, in Jacques Cooke in Thurso, the bishop had in mind a suitable candidate.

Deacon Cooke was born to a British Army officer from Ulster and a pretty young Belgian girl who had met on Armistice Day, 1918.

Her family’s home in Mouscron, near the Franco-Belgian border, had been requisitioned by the Germans and, by 1918, British officers were being billeted there. A marriage followed in 1921.


Fleeing from war

Deacon Cooke played for Standard Liege FC’s youth team before his parents and their five children decided to flee from Liege to England, sailing from Ostend just hours before the German army invaded Belgium in May 1940.

After schooling, he joined the RAF, but his training as a bomber command aircraft navigator had not been completed by the end of WWII hostilities.

In May 1947 Cooke married Mary ‘Moira’ Corrigan.

He was recruited to the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Windscale and transferred to Dounreay in Caithness in 1963.

It was in nearby Thurso that Anthony, Christopher. Pauline, Martin and Jacinta Cooke were raised.


Full-time devotion

After being accepted and undertaking four years of study in the early 1980s, Deacon Cooke qualified as Scotland’s first permanent deacon, taking early retirement in 1986 to devote himself to his new role on a full-time basis, first in Caithness and then in Inverness, where he served until early last month.

His wife’s health began to fail in late 2009, and she passed away in January 2011.

In 2011, when the silver jubilee of Deacon Cooke’s ministry was marked, he observed that he could not have followed this path if it had not been for Moira’s support.

He told close family that he firmly believed that he would be rejoining her in the life hereafter.

Deacon Cooke is survived by his brother Robert-Claude, his children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

There are now more than 70 permanent deacons in Scotland attached to the Church’s eight dioceses.

They can Baptise, witness marriages and perform some funeral services, as well as widely assist priests.

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