St Patricks Church, 1 St John Street, Coatbridge

Telephones - House: 01236 606808, Hall: 01236 606116
FROM SHOOTS TO FLOWER (1896-1996)

1896 On May 17, Pentecost Sunday, our present church is opened and blessed by the Right Rev John A Maguire, Bishop - Auxiliary, and later Archbishop of Glasgow (1902-20). High Mass is sung. The theme of the sermon is The Testimony of the Holy Spirit (John XV,26 - XVI,4).

We are informed of this event by Headmaster James Bonner FEIS. He says: "Crowds came from all quarters and a special train brought large numbers from Glasgow and the city districts. Such an animated scene of bustle and excitement had rarely, if ever, been seen in Coatbridge on a Sunday". Provost and councillors of our Burgh are present.

Our new church is described as the crowning glory of Canon McCay's life. The church (without altars) costs £6,770 - 8s - 8d.

Dr. Philip Mc Williams, a parishioner and expert on the church architecture, provides a detailed description of our church, on the following pages.

1898 Sisters of Providence of the Immaculate Conception accept the invitation of Archbishop Charles Eyre to come to Coatbridge. They reside in Blairhill and teach the girls and infants of our parish. They remain for four years and then return to London. The archbishop is determined to raise the educational standards of the Catholic community, throughout the land.

1899 Five former curates make a presentation to our church of a beautifully carved baptismal font designed by Pugin. The inscription bears their names: Rev T P O'Reilly, T Kearney, D T Browne, J Nyhan, T McElroy (RIP).

1900 St Patrick's Hall opens in August. Remarkably it contains a billiard hall, 42 feet by 21 feet. It costs £1,900. Throughout its life it serves a multitude of functions and is at the centre of a plethora of stories easily recalled, with affection and a smile, by senior parishioners of today, eg an official document dated 1925 states that the hall contains, amongst other things, its billiard hall, 88 card tables and 100 packs of cards. Not, as you might think, shades of Pinocchio's Pleasure Island, but an indication that Whist Drives were popular social occasions at this time.

1902 Canon McCay erects a chapel-school for the emerging parish of All Saints. On 1 November, Fr Daniel Collins becomes the first pastor at Coatdyke. Two hundred pupils move from St Patrick's to All Saints School with Miss O'Hagan at the helm.

The same year, on Sunday 7 December, the High Altar is dedicated to the memory of Canon O'Keeffe. High Mass is celebrated. Archbishop John A Maguire, Glasgow, is present. Father J Geerty assists.

A brass plate is fixed on a large tablet. It bears the inscription "This altar was erected as a memorial to the Very Rev Michael Canon O'Keeffe by his faithful people and devoted friends December 7th, 1902".

Records show that the High Altar costs £570 - 15s - 0d and the fittings and railings (no longer in place) cost £267 - 4s - 9d.

1903 After two years of indifferent health, the Very Rev John Canon McCay dies. One side altar, the Lady altar, is dedicated to Canon McCay. The inscription reads: "This altar was erected in memory of the Very Rev John Canon McCay

who died on 22 April 1903."

Altar and railings cost £310 - 7s - 2d.

The Sacred Heart Altar is erected by the O'Hear family in memory of their parents. There is no cost to the parish. Both side altars are erected in 1905.

1903 Fr John Geerty, assistant to Canon McCay takes charge of our parish.

He has been administrator here since 1899. He was born in Wishaw during Canon McCay's time there.

1905 February 13 The new St Patrick's school in Kildonan Street opens. It is a fine red sandstone building which was demolished in December 2006. James Bonner is Head Teacher. Fr Geerty presides at the opening since the school belongs to the Catholic community. Members of theOld Monkland School Board (OMSB) and many local dignitaries are present. The following day the pupils march from the old school in St John Street and begin work.

The school costs £5,406 - 12s - 7d. There are now 3,200 parishioners.

1914 World War I breaks out in August. Our young men are drafted into the armed services. The names of those who lost their lives are to be found on the Cenotaph, Langloan.

1918 World War I ends at 11.00 am, 11 th day, 11 th month.

From Lithuania and Poland come refugees as a result of World War I and the prospects of work. Their loyalty to the Catholic faith enriches our parish. Many settle in Summerlee.

In this same year, the Education (Scotland) Act is passed. Catholic (and Episcopalian) schools are fully integrated into the public system of education while retaining their special character. Local authorities now maintain these schools and employ and pay teachers. Church authorities ensure teachers are orthodox in their belief and acceptable in their character. A crippling burden is lifted off the shoulders of the Catholic community. Existing Catholic schools are leased or sold to local authorities. Parish funds benefit, in 1920, by £1,166 - 18s - 5d.

1924 The organ is purchased for £210.

1931 Very Rev John Canon Geerty dies on 6 April in his 61st year and the 38th year of his priesthood. Like Canon O'Keeffe, all his priesthood is spent in St Patrick's.

We note that Canon Geerty's life was distinguished by his pastoral care, his holiness and his prudence in public affairs. He was a member of the Old Monkland School Board (The OMSB monogram can still be seen on some older Coatbridge schools), the Lanarkshire Education Authority and the Archdiocesan Education Board. He also inspected religious education in schools. The present St Patrick's High School stands in Muiryhall Street because of the influence of this far-seeing priest.

The Very Rev John Canon Geerty is buried in St Patrick's Cemetery, New Stevenston.

Of interest are the societies which flourished in our parish in 1931: Altar Society, Sacred Heart (men and women) St Vincent de Paul, Boys' Guild, Association for the Propagation of the Faith.

Saturday confessions stretch from 5.00 pm to 9.00 pm.

Mention of the Boys' Guild in the Thirties immediately calls to mind the name of Fr Michael Dooley, an assistant priest of towering stature and personality. Under his leadership, the Boys' Guild prospers during the twenty-one years he spends here. Many men in our parish - and throughout the world - can testify to the enduring impression Fr Dooley made in their lives.

1931 The new parish priest arrives. He is Fr Daniel Colvin. Born in Shettleston on 24 January 1877, much of his priestly life has been spent in Maryhill, Cambuslang, Burnbank, Largs, Gourock and Govan. Debt seems to have been a major concern during his 20 years ministry here. His reserved public image hides his caring personality. Many stories of his kindness are still related today.

1939 September. World War II breaks out. Once again many of our young men lose their lives. Their names are to be found on the Cenotaph, Langloan.

1945 World War II ends. Our men return and resume family life. The baby boom causes a severe housing shortage relieved by new housing schemes which ultimately give rise to new parishes. The number of parishioners is 6,782.

1947 The Diocese of Motherwell is erected as a Suffragan See of the Archdiocese of Glasgow. Hope had been expressed that St Patrick's would be chosen as the cathedral since Coatbridge is held to be "the Catholic centre of Lanarkshire" . The title "City of Coatbridge" thus eludes us.

1948 April 21. Rev Edward Wilson Douglas, St Anthony's, Govan is consecrated first Bishop of Motherwell by Donald Campbell, Archbishop of Glasgow. He resigns on February 1954 due to ill health and dies 12 June 1967.

Our church is spruced up for the Centenary Celebration of our original church, erected by Canon O'Keeffe in 1848. Canon Colvin endures poor health in private and with patience.

1950 September. Another daughter parish, St Bartholomew's, is born with a population of 3,476 by the end of the year.

1951 December 8 Very Rev Daniel Canon Colvin dies. At his Requiem Mass, Canon Colvin is described by Bishop Edward Douglas in the following terms: "Canon Colvin did not seek the limelight but his sterling worth was known to you. Above all he was a man of prayer."

Our parish is free from debt as a consequence of his administration.

1952 Fr John C Battel arrives as parish priest. He is a cultured person, an artist, musically sophisticated. During his term, the Patrician Players, parishioners, strut the boards with plays being presented in our reclaimed hall. Curates Rew Anthony McGurk, Daniel Hennessy display an infectious exuberance for the diversity of parish life.

1955 May 23. Bishop James Donald Scanlan, Bishop of Dunkeld since 1949 becomes Bishop of Motherwell due to Bishop

Edward Douglas' retiral. It is to be noted that the invitation extended to the Provost and Councillors of the Burgh of Motherwell and Wishaw to be present, enrobed, at the Consecration of Bishop Scanlan, is declined. On 29 January 1964, Bishop Scanlan becomes Archbishop of Glasgow.

Major repairs to our church are carried out this year, costing £2,431-7s-5d.

Fr Battel draws parishioners' attention to the pristine condition of the altar and reredos. Special equipment has been purchased to keep them clean.

1957 April. Permission is received for the first evening Sunday mass at 7.00 pm. The practice is extended after December.

1958 After extensive maintenance and decoration of the Church, the Very Rev John Canon Battel leaves our parish to continue his priestly ministry in St Joseph's, Blantyre.

1959 Very Rev Peter Canon Sexton comes to St Patrick's. His simple faith is exemplified in his belief, often stated, that the best way to heaven is by having a "Pioneer badge in your lapel and your rosary in your pocket".

Also this year, we receive an offer for the outright purchase of our Church. An alarmed Canon Sexton speaks in terms of "thirty pieces of silver". The offer - a lucrative one -is rejected. So too are further approaches which come from the same client of a London company of estate agents.

1961 December 4. Dispensation from Friday abstinence is given, by the Bishop, for those attending the Parish Dance in the Town Hall.

Extensive church repairs cost £4,046 - 1s - 6d.

1962 Very Rev Peter Canon Sexton dies in Ireland after a period of illness.

The parish welcomes Fr William Duddy and we embark on a relationship which lasts 15 years.

There is the first note of the proceeds of the Friday night collection for the Building Fund: £1,687 - 12s - Od. This temporary measure becomes a second collection at Mass and lasts until April 1996.

The Second Vatican Council begins this year and lasts until 1965. It was convoked by Pope John XXIII in 1959. Its decrees are interpreted rather freely and generate heated debate rather than enlightened discussion. The relative roles of clergy and laity are put under the microscope within this parish.

1963 An offer by a local baker to buy part of the church land is declined.

1965 February 24. Very Rev Francis Canon Thomson, Rector of St Mary's College, Blairs is consecrated Bishop of Motherwell. He resigns due to ill health on 14 December 1982,moves to Biggar as parish priest and dies on 6 December 1987.

1971 Our parish introduces the Covenant Scheme.

1973 Renovation of our church takes place. Its purpose is to enable parishioners to conform to the new liturgical practice. The cost is £17,896.61.

1975/6 The new presbytery is built in St John Street.

As a result of the Wheatley Commission, Coatbridge, Airdrie and surrounding villages form Monklands District.

1977 Very Rev William Canon Duddy unexpectedly leaves us and moves to St Margaret's, Airdrie.

Fr Peter McCann returns to Coatbridge having been at one time parish priest in St James'. He brings a readiness to give lay people a role of significance in parish life. Open meetings of parishioners become a feature of his time here. Co-operation and collaboration are seen as goals to be sought for the benefit of our parish.

1979 Sunday Vigil Mass becomes a feature of parish life. It is celebrated on Saturday evening.

1980 New hall is opened by His Lordship Bishop Francis Thomson.

1982 Fr McCann supervises the exodus to Bellahouston. Hundreds of parishioners take part in the Mass celebrated by His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

Meanwhile the cleaning of the external stonework of our church is completed. So too is the pedestrianisation of the Main Street. Fr McCann acts to have Eucharistic Ministers appointed.

1983 May Bishop Joseph Devine, ordained bishop auxiliary by Archbishop Thomas J Winning on 31 May 1977, becomes the fourth Bishop of Motherwell.

Later this year Fr Peter McCann leaves us for St John Ogilvie's Parish, Blantyre.

Fr Alphonsus Woods moves from St Aidan's Parish, Wishaw, to come to our parish.

1984/5 Root and branch alterations, cleaning and painting take place over this period and our Church is admired by visitors and parishioners alike. Fr Woods receives many compliments for his achievement.

1985 St Patrick's Day. We receive the Apostolic Blessing of Pope John Paul II to mark the 140th anniversary of the foundation of our Parish. Bishop Joseph Devine is the main celebrant of the Mass of Dedication. Fr A Woods and Fr T Trench are among the many priests who concelebrate. There is a visiting choir and the Offertory Procession consists of guests. A celebratory lunch is provided in the hall for guests of the parish.

The baptistry is reclaimed and no longer serves as a cry-chapel. A baptismal font, recovered from the doomed St Margaret's, Kinning Park, replaces the ancient font. The existing Stations of the Cross are also salvaged from St Margaret's and restored. The cry-chapel now takes up part of the porch and acts as accommodation for day-time worshippers. Many people pay visits to our Church.

The bill for the renovation and restoration of church and presbytery is in excess of £200,000.

1988 The Very Rev Alphonsus Canon Woods retires.

Fr Patrick Brosnan arrives in January. Worship, prayer, charity and spirituality are placed at the heart of parish life. He is a true Alter Christus.

1994 The Eucharistic Service on a Thursday evening is introduced. It is celebrated entirely by Lay people of the Parish.

1995 March 26. After an extended illness Fr Patrick Brosnan dies. Our Parish weeps, then prays.

Hundreds are left outside of our Church as his Requiem Mass is celebrated. He is escorted by a group of parishioners to his grave in Killarney.

1994-95 During Fr Brosnan's illness, Fr Michael Briody acts as Administrator. He leads us into a deeper understanding of liturgy. Bishop Joseph Devine celebrates the 150th anniversary of our

Parish. Fr Briody assists at the Mass. He leaves to become parish priest of St Michael's, Moodiesburn.

1995 August. Fr Eamonn Sweeney is welcomed to our parish from St Michael's, Moodiesburn.

1995/6 Extensive renovations begin in our Church and hall. The baptismal font moves to the front of the Church at the Sacred Heart altar.

The baptistry is converted to the Centenary Chapel, open all day with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; during Mass this chapel fulfils the role of cry-chapel. The porch is opened up again and a stained glass window depicting St Patrick has been installed to commemorate Fr Patrick Brosnan; it has been funded totally by the subscriptions of parishioners and friends. The floor of the chancel is now tiled; formerly it was carpeted.

For the first time since 1845 we have a nun as pastoral assistant, Sister Moira Duffy. Fr Sweeney and Sr Moira form the pastoral team. They recognise that relationships form the key to the life of a Christian community.

1996 Local government re-organisation takes place. Under a cloud of controversy, Monklands District Council passes into oblivion. Coatbridge is now part of North Lanarshire and is administered both in civic and ecclesiastical affairs from Motherwell.

Fittingly in this Centenary Year of our Church, the Secretary of State for Scotland declares that, because of its architectural and historic importance, St Patrick's Church now enjoys the status of a 'B' listed building.

His decision receives a triple "Amen" from Dr Philip Mc Williams and this Chronicle.

William Docherty, 17 May 1996

November 8, 2009A service of Dedication and Thanksgiving took place on Sunday, 8th November. The evening was a musical celebration of the transfer of our new Church organ from Clifton Church.

saint patricks, main street view