Our patron is St James, known as 'the Great', probably because he was rather taller than the other disciple called James ('James the Less' or, more respectfully, 'James the Just'), who was the brother of Jesus.
James was the son of Zebedee and Salome. Zebedee was a fisherman and James and his brother John joined him in the business. They were working working with Simon Peter and Andrew when they were called to follow Jesus.
The two brothers, together with Peter, were present on key occasions throughout Jesus' ministry. They were there when Peter's wife's mother was healed and when Jesus raised Jairus' daughter. They were witnesses to the Transfiguration and were with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion.
After Jesus' resurrection, he met James and the other disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. Following Jesus' Ascension, James was among those assembled in the Upper Room when they received the Holy Spirit and set out with courage to proclaim the Gospel.
James died a martyr around 44 A.D., executed by Herod Agrippa.
A statue of St James in Le Puy Cathedral, a starting point for pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. He is shown as a pilgrim, with a staff and a wide-brimmed hat to keep off the wind and he rain. The hat bears a scallop shell, which was to become his emblem. Photo: Michael Krier, 2006, Confraternity of St James
James is credited with having taken the gospel message to Spain. His remains were taken back to Compostela, which has become a destination for pilgrims since the Middle Ages.
A scallop shell, a memento of Santiago de Compostela, hangs in St James' Church in Wick.