St Patricks Church, 1 St John Street, Coatbridge

Telephones - House: 01236 606808, Hall: 01236 606116
FROM ROOTS TO SHOOTS (1848-1894)

1848 November The original church built on the present site is opened by the Ceremony of Blessing. Pontifical Mass is then celebrated and sung by Right Rev Dr John Murdoch, Vicar Apostolic, Western District. Fr O'Keeffe acts as sub-deacon at Mass.

An entry in the 1850 Catholic Directory runs as follows:- "This village (Coatbridge) is about 8 miles from Glasgow in an easterly direction. The locality in which it is situated is one vast mineral field. Every knowe has its own iron work or coal pit. The district is densely populated, chiefly by the humbler classes, almost all of whom are Irish immigrants. The Catholic population is estimated at 5000. The present edifice (is) connected to a most commodious presbytery and schoolhouse which were erected at the same time . . . Since the opening of the church a gallery has been erected in it so that it now accommodates 700 sitters".

1849 and 1851 Cholera breaks out. Hundreds die of this plague.

So exemplary is Fr O'Keeffe's pastoral care that he is presented with an Address signed on behalf of parishioners, by Henry McLachlan and Daniel McAleer, testifying to the fact that no parishioner died without the rites of Holy Church. (In passing, we can note that Margaret, a daughter of Henry McLachlan, became Dame Laurentia, Abbess of Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester, and an international authority in Church music, history and architecture. She was the subject of the book 'The Nun, the Infidel and the Superman'. The Infidel was the eminent Sidney Cockerel, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The Superman was the famous Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw. These two men were life- long admirers of the gifted Dame Laurentia. Shaw described her as 'the enclosed nun with the unenclosed mind'.)

1857 On representation from Fr O'Keeffe, Bishop John Murdoch detaches the west part of St Patrick's and forms the new parish of St Paul's, Shettleston.

1862 onwards The Glasgow Free Press, claiming to speak for Irish immigrants, onwards conducts a hostile campaign against

Bishop John Murdoch. The differences appear to be related to the nature of political movements, clerical appointments, control of finance and personality clashes. Bishop Murdoch dies in 1865.

1866 To cope with increased population, St Patrick's Church is renovated and enlarged. To mark the occasion,Pontifical Mass is celebrated by Bishop John Gray, Glasgow. Fr O'Keeffe assists. The organist and choir mistress is Miss Campbell.

The local press reports:- "A magnificent gasalier with 36 burners hangs from the ceiling. The arch over the sanctuary is divided into 24 panels in each of which is placed the representation of an angel. The back of the altar has 6 panels, upon which are painted the four Evangelists with St Patrick and St Columba on either side."

Forming the front of the altar at ground level are three panels - works of art, it is said. They are the Ecce Homo (Our Lord crowned with thorns), Lamb of God, and Mother of Sorrows.

1867 Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul come to our parish and stay for 7 years. Their convent is situated in St John Street. They teach the girls of the parish.

1869 8 December Vatican Council I is summoned. The doctrine of infallibility of the Pope is defined. So, too, is the value of reason in its relation to faith.

1872 Education (Scotland) Act makes school attendance compulsory. Presbyterian schools become public schools. Episcpolians and Catholics retain their indepedence and their control of educational provision.As a consequence an immense financial burden builds up on the Catholic community.

1874 11 October St Mary's Parish, Whifflet, is formed from our parish and is opened by Archbishop Charles Eyre, Apostolic Administrator of the Western District. The first parish priest is Fr J A C Van den Noort, one of our curates. Archbishop Eyre is neither Scottish nor Irish. He is a native of York. He had been appointed in 1869 to reconcile the national factions which had developed within the Western District.

1875 St Patrick's cedes another district, this time to St Joseph's, Cardowan. This new daughter parish is 1100 strong and with a Gothic church accommodating 550. Fr Michael O'Keeffe celebrates the first Mass on 14 November. His Grace, Archbishop Charles Eyre, presides at the formal opening.

1878 March Pope Leo XIII restores the Hierarchy to Scotland.

Archbishop Charles Eyre becomes Archbishop of Glasgow, as ecclesiastical government returns to our native land. He is a man of commanding presence, physically, intellectually, spiritually. His contribution, scholarly and civic, to west of Scotland life is recognised by the University of Glasgow. In 1892, he is awarded an honorary LLD. St Patrick's is now part of the Archdiocese of Glasgow.

1878 November Glenboig strikes out on its own as a Gothic chapel, dedicated to Our Lady and St Joseph, is opened with Missa Cantata. Miss Campbell conducts the Coatbridge choir. The chapel costs £2,000 and the bill, we are told, is met by Fr Michael O'Keeffe himself.

1881 May A school is opened in Glenboig with Patrick Love as headmaster.

1882 St Augustine's school is opened in Bank Street, Langloan. It costs £2,180. In 1890 an extra classroom is built for £600. Total accommodation is 110 pupils.

1885 Coatbridge achieves burgh status. Its population is 25,000. Its motto is 'Laborare est Orare', taken from the Cistercians of Newbattle Abbey. The motto's meaning is: To work is to pray.

1892 Archbishop Charles Eyre agrees to Canon O'Keeffe'srequest that Langloan should be a separate parish. Father John Hughes celebrates Mass for the first time in the new Langloan Catholic school on Saturday 11 June. St Augustine's Parish is launched.

1893 26 April Very Reverend Michael Canon O'Keeffe dies. His funeral is described as "a striking manifestation of public sentiments of sympathy and respect and the sight presented on the occasion cannot easily be forgotten."

Very Rev Michael Canon O'Keeffe (1818-1893)
An appreciation

In his later years, Canon O'Keeffe was known as "the grand old man of the 'Brig." Such a title is not easily won, but when it is bestowed it is 24-carat.

This good priest enjoyed the esteem of the whole community. For example, a large distinguished audience was present when St Augustine's school was opened in 1882 and a presentation was made to the Canon. Part of the address given on that occasion read:

"We beg to state that almost half of this gift is from our Protestant fellow townsmen who are so well represented here tonight, and who most heartily join us in doing honour to the gentleman and public benefactor, recognising, as they do, that they also share with us in the fruits of your benefactions; that every school which you build and bestow on us is a boon and a saving to the whole community."

Canon O'Keeffe had built our first church. During his lengthy priesthood in St Patrick's, he planned new churches, new schools, new halls throughout the area to ensure that the church would stay close to the people. Sunday schools were also held in the homes of parishioners and conducted by lay people. This priest was a true missionary, driven by his faith and priestly vocation, but also content in the knowledge that "Paul might plant and Apollo water but it is God who gives the harvest".

We should remember that just before the Canon's death the population of St Patrick's Parish was 7300 and that in 1892, the year prior to his passing, he cleared the parish of debt from funds he had received from Ireland. The sum paid personally by Canon O'Keeffe was £960 - 3s - 6d.

Coming to the end of his 46 years in St Patrick's, he was turning his attention to the need for a new church, our present church. This task, however, fell to the Very Rev John Canon McCay, following the death of Canon O'Keeffe, on Wednesday 26 April 1893. He was laid to rest in Dalbeth Cemetery, Glasgow.

One appreciation of theCanon ends:

"Life's work well done
Life's race well run
Life's crown well won."

1893 May 18 Born in Glenmornan, Strabane, Co Tyrone, in 1832, the Very Rev John Canon McCay takes charge of St Patrick's Parish. Unlike his predecessors, Canon McCay has proved himself a great pioneering priest in Lanark, Carluke and finally Wishaw where he has erected St Ignatius' Church. He has established missions in Carfin (1862), Newmains (1871), Motherwell (1873) and Overtown (1873).

Such a strenuous ministry has undermined his original robustness. Nevertheless, he sees the building of a new replacement church for our ancestors and later generations as a priority. Because of the birth of our daughter parish, St Augustine's, 1892, our parish is now reduced from 7,300to 3,115.

1894 The original St Patrick's Church is closed on Sunday, 19 August. The last sermon is preached by Fr Charles Reid Brown whose father, William Brown, was present at its opening in 1848. Fr Brown states that the original church had witnessed 2,000 marriages and 15,000 baptisms.

Demolition starts the following day and the stone cross which topped the church is offered to St Joseph's Cemetery, Rochsoles, Airdrie.

Last Baptism

William, born 31 July.
Parents: William Kennedy, Catherine Reilly
Sponsor: Mary McGlone
Baptised: 13 August 1894 (Fr) John Nyhan

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