A Brief History of St Aloysius' Church
Although in 2008 we are celebrating the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the new church, it was not the beginning of a new parish. The Jesuits had been approached with a view to manning a parish and providing a school for the education of middle class boys in 1859 and they were first offered a church in the Townhead area, but this did not materialize and instead, in that same year, the fathers of the Society of Jesus took over the running of the parish of St. Joseph in North Woodside Road. St. Joseph’s had been founded in 1850 to serve what, at that time, was an outlying area of Glasgow. In that same year the Society of Jesus was offered a house in Charlotte Street in the Bridgeton area of the city in which to establish the school for the education of Catholic boys. However, in the early 1860’s the Society purchased land in the Garnethill district, which, at that time, was on the western outskirts of the city and a residential area recently favoured by the wealthier classes. It included a number of Georgian and early Victorian villas.
This land consisted of the area where the church of St. Aloysius and the College playground now stand; it comprised two small houses which stood at the corner of Hill Street and Dalhousie Street and the plan was to construct the school buildings there. These plans were changed when, in 1866 the “Collegiate School’’, in Dalhousie Street, as it was known, came on the market and the Provincial, Fr. Weld, with the help of some friends of the College purchased it. This is now the site of the main College building running from Dalhousie Street to Scott Street. The parish of
St.Aloysius began, first as a Chapel of Easefor the parishioners of St. Joseph’s who lived around the Hill: Mass was celebrated in a large room in the College in 21 Dalhousie Street and the first priest in charge was Fr. John G. MacLeod.
In 1868, Fr. William Kay arrived at Garnethill with instructions to found a mission at St. Aloysius which would be distinct from St. Joseph’s. He quickly set about constructing a large building on the then school play area, that area now occupied by the College Hall with the entrance in Hill Street. This building was completed within a year at which time Fr. Kay left. This building was made of iron and glass, somewhat reminiscent of Queen Street station, and was known as “Fr. Kay’s Railway Shed’’. This building served as the parish church until the opening of the new church in Rose Street some forty years later.
Fr. Kay's Church
The New Beginning
On Sunday, 4th October 1908, his Grace Archbishop Maguire of Glasgow performed the ceremony of solemnly blessing and laying the memorial-stone of St. Aloysius’new church. The day was favoured with beautiful weather, and a large crowd was present to witness the ceremony. Aprocession consisting of St.Aloysius’ altar boys, some forty priests and his Grace the Archbishop, marched from a temporary sacristy to the platform where the blessing and laying of the stone took place. Ajar containing some current newspapers and coins, with a document relating to current church affairs, was placed in a cavity beneath the memorial stone. The Archbishop was presented with a silver trowel by Mr. C.S.Menart on behalf of the contractors, before formally laying the stone. Archbishop Maguire in his address congratulated the congregation of St. Aloysius on having at last reached the beginning of the work of erecting a new church. He claimed to be particularly interested in the work, for as a young layman he had had the pleasure of being present at the opening of the present temporary structure. The new church was unique amongst the Catholic churches of Glasgow in that it had a tower, and it is in the north east corner of the tower that the memorial-stone was placed.
The erection of the new church was completed in some eighteen months and on Quinquagesima Sunday, 6th February 1910, the solemn opening of the church of St. Aloysius Garnethill took place and the parish, which had served the Garnethill community for more than forty years, now had one of the largest and most beautiful church buildings in the city. The church is built in the Renaissance style of the seventeenth century, after the Cathedral of Namur, Belgium. The architect Menart, was responsible for many fine buildings but an architectural historian described St. Aloysius thus: “His masterpiece, though, is St Aloysius Church, Rose Street (1908-10), whose slender, golden-domed campanile rises above the church’s heavily carved Baroque façade and Byzantine dome, creating a prominent landmark on the heights of Garnethill.”
The laying of the foundation stone, 4th October 1908
The church was still in an unfinished condition but the swift approach of a General Mission made it necessary that accommodation should be available for the large numbers who would be attending these services.
The solemnity of the function was suited to the importance of the occasion. The same Archbishop Maguire presided and the ministers of the High Mass were Canon MacLuskey, of St. John’s, Fr. Paschal O.F.M., and Fr.
Antoninus C.P. The Jesuit priests present were: the Rector Fr. Crofton, Fr. Short, who had been responsible for the collecting the greater part of the money for the building, Frs. Bacon, Egger, Corrigan, Legros, Unsworth, Parry, Hanson, Bateman, McCluskey, Middleton, Annacker and Meyer.
The preacher was the distinguished convert, Fr. Robert Hugh Benson, son of the former Archbishop of Canterbury. He took as his text, “As dying, and behold we live,’’ and went on to deal with the accusations levelled
against the Catholic Church that she had failed. He said that those who did not know history very well, did not realize that what the Church said today had always been said for the past nineteen hundred years.
At the opening Mass the choir, under the direction of Mr. Arthur Whittet, sang Elgar’s Ecce Sacerdos Magnus as the entry procession made their way in and during the celebration of Mass performed Gounod’s Messe Chorale, with Elgar’s Ave Maria as an Offertory Motet.
Description of the Church
The length of the building is 150 feet, and the breadth 90 feet. The nave has a span of 44 feet, and is vaulted over by a barrel-roof of reinforced concrete, which at the time was probably the greatest achievement of this branch of engineering in Scotland, rising to a height of 60 feet above the floor, and reaches 71 feet under the main cupola. The lofty tower or campanile is 150 feet and constitutes a striking landmark in the city. In addition there are spacious sacristies and guild rooms, and an imposing hall – The Ogilvie Hall – which was the gift of the Mr. J. Brand.
Although the interior was still entirely brickwalled the builder pointed out that, “ultimately it would be covered entirely in marble and Venetian mosaics’’. The magnificent High Altar was added in 1913. The interior decoration and the marble cladding were added over some years and were completed during the term of office of Fr. Fitzgerald who was appointed Rector in 1926.
There are four side chapels:
The Sacred Heart Chapel, the Lady Chapel, the Holy Souls Chapel, the St. Ignatius Chapel and in addition there is the St. John Ogilvie shrine, which was added in 1933 to mark John Ogilvie’s beatification which had taken place in 1929. On March 10th 2008, the feast of St. John Ogilvie. a plaque was unveiled denoting that this is the national shrine to Scotland’s first Jesuit martyr and first saint in seven hundred years.
The Lady Chapel stands to the right of the high altar and is a faithful adaptation of an architectural gem, the High Altar of San Miniato, Florence, which was one of the special studies of the architect. It is mainly of dove coloured marble with two stately columns with carved Corinthian capitals, on top of which is a beautiful white marble statue of Our Lady on a pedestal in a niche above the tabernacle. This altar was donated by two wealthy lady parishioners as was the stained glass window of the Annunciation.
In February 2008, a copy of the famous statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, also known as The Black Madonna, was donated to the church by visitors from Spain and is only the second of such statues outside Catalonia. It was at this statue in the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat that St. Ignatius of Loyola, then a soldier, laid down his weapons and kept an all night vigil. At dawn he arose and began his long pilgrimage to holiness and the service of the greater glory of God resulting in the book of his Spiritual Exercises and the founding of the Society of Jesus. This wonderful statue is now situated at the Lady Altar.
In May, 1922 the Glasgow Evening News commented on the renovation of the Cowcaddens area which resulted in a large number of evictions affecting the poorest sections of the inhabitants.
Cowcaddens was a district which because of the large number of extremely deprived inhabitants, had attracted a number of philanthropists and as the paper claimed, “without protest, work of years is being undone.’’The article continued to say that three institutions had been brought to an end not one of which can be spared. It then mentioned the three institutions, The Old Women’s Workroom, where poor older women could gather to work and earn a little money to keep themselves and show that they still counted and The Girls’Club which provided a meeting place for young girls just out of school and enabled them to pass their time in a light hearted and enjoyable manner. I will now quote from the article: “Last of the three but foremost in importance was Fr. Bacon’s Club. Everyone knew the once-alert, white-bearded figure, familiar for so many years, who has now celebrated his jubilee and walks bent and frail about the narrow streets where the lads are devoted to his name. No sentimentalist was the padre; he kept a firm hand on his lads, but he led them on the right way. Is it any wonder that he is stricken by the breaking up of the club that has carried on for thirty years and has had 4,000 young men on its books, turning out some fine citizens from unpromising material. Ask the Northern Police of the enormous influence for good of Fr. Bacon’s Boys, of the big Temperance Society, The League of the Cross. The lads served their country gallantly and many made the ultimate sacrifice willingly, and those who have come back are being deprived of the club which was the pivot of their social life and activities. Where are they to go now? There are cinemas, public houses, ice cream parlours and resorts even less reliable; and for all the public care the lads are welcome to go there. That such an ameliorative influence as the Boys’Club should be threatened, that in such a neighbourhood as that of ‘The Rat Pit’ it should be possible to wipe out of existence such a benevolent and flourishing organization is surely regrettable.”
The parish area circa 1963
On the occasion of his Golden Jubilee as a member of the Society of Jesus in 1918, at a presentation in the College hall, Fr. Bacon’s efforts were recognized and towards the end of the evening Mr. E.V. Hutchinson, a former pupil of the College handed over a cheque for £610 remarking at the same time that cheques had come from all over the British Isles and from every theatre of war on land and sea. This money was to be devoted to the erection of a marble pulpit in St. Aloysius’church. Today that pulpit stands at the Sacred Heart side of the church.
An interesting change to the entrance of the church was carried out in the late 1930s during Fr. Threlfall’s time. The original entrance had been by means of a flight of stairs which led directly up from Rose Street, but in 1938 this was altered to the present arrangement of two side stairways leading to a walled patio. The original arrangement can be seen on the current parish bulletin and on the trowel presented to the Archbishop at the laying of the foundation stone. This interior decoration of the church was a prolonged and costly enterprise and the debt increased alarmingly so that the prospect of the solemn consecration receded. It was not until after the Second World War that debt was steadily reduced and finally cleared. On 29th November, 1953 Archbishop Campbell presided at the solemn ceremony of consecration.
The Sisters of Mercy
Although they had been in Glasgow since 1849, The Sisters of Mercy came to Garnethill in 1868 at the invitation of the Jesuit Fathers and rented from them two houses in Rose Street the area now occupied by St. Aloysius’church. The purpose of the invitation was to assist with the social needs of the parish and they were also given teaching duties in the Milton Street primary school. There is a letter in which the Jesuit manager of the school is insistent that, “the certificated teacher must be thoroughly efficient in order to satisfy the requirements of the government, and in addition, be able to play the harmonium and teach singing.’’ However, shortage of staff meant that the Sisters had to abandon this enterprise, but they did not forget their promise to assist the Jesuits in their educational work and continued to work in St. Joseph’s Primary School, which had been a Jesuit parish from 1859-1931.
From 1926 until October 1966 there was a monthly parish magazine, The Aloysian, which, in addition to the parish notices, gave an account of the many activities. Astudy of this publication reveals the changing life of St. Aloysius’parish and indeed the changing religious life and practice in the West of Scotland.
The issue for March 1938 lists five priests and one brother on the church staff, seven sodalities and confraternities and seven societies. There were six Masses on a Sunday commencing at 7 a.m. and finishing with the 12 noon solemn celebration. (It has to be remembered that there were no evening masses and those wishing to receive Holy Communion had to fast from midnight.) Weekday Masses were at 7, 7.30, 8, 8.50 (College Boys) and 10 a.m. In addition there was a Sunday afternoon service at 3 p.m. for children and evening devotions and Benediction at 7 p.m. Confessions were available during Mass on a daily basis, on a Saturday from 2 - 4, and from 6 - 10 p.m. and on Friday from 8 - 9.30 p.m.
During the Second World War the parish continued to be busy as it was very popular with the large number of military personnel, especially American servicemen who were billeted in the local hotels. The number of priests was still five: Fr. W. d’Andria (Rector), Fr.F. Tryers, Fr. J. Christie, Fr. C. Turner, Fr. J. Dempsey and Bro. T. Ward (Sacristan) and they were very busy as a list of parish societies and sodalities will show. The following is from The Aloysian for April 1943, at the height of the Second World War:
Men’s Confraternity of the Sacred Heart. Meets on the Tuesday preceding the First Sunday of the month at 8 p.m. Communion Day, First Sunday of month. Director – Fr. Turner, secretary: Mr. J. Murray.
Men’s Sodality of Our Lady Immaculate. Meets each Sunday at 4.p.m. Communion Day, First Sunday of month at 8 a.m. Director: Rev. Fr. Rector. Prefect: Mr. D. Morris. The Young Men’s Sodality was organized in groups known as Bands each comprising some fifteen or so men. The Bands were named after a saint or other devout person so that the six Bands were : St. Aloysius, St. Andrew, St. Ignatius, St. Michael, St. Patrick and Blessed John Ogilvie. There was also an Annual Retreat at Craighead.
Young Mens' Sodality of Our Lady, annual retreat
Boys’Guild and Sodality of Our Lady Immaculate and St. Vincent De Paul. Communion Day First Sunday of the month, Mass at 9 a.m. Meeting each Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Guild Hall, 79 Milton St. Club Room open each evening. Director: Fr. Christie.
Women’s Confraternity of the Sacred Heart. Meets on the Tuesday preceding the Third Sunday of the month at 3.30 p.m. Communion Day Third Sunday of the month. Prefect: Miss M. Thornton. Director: Fr. Rector.
Married Women’s Sodality of Our Lady. Meets on the Second and Fourth Sundays of the month at 2.45 p.m. Communion Day, Fourth Sunday of month. Prefect: Mrs. Byrne. Director: Fr. Tryers
Young Women’s Sodality of Our Lady. Meets every Sunday evening at 6 p.m., and on Tuesday preceding Second Sunday of month at 3.30 p.m. Communion Day, Second Sunday of month. Director: Fr. Tryers, Prefect: Miss Mary Moffat.
Girls’Guild of the Sacred Heart. Meets every Sunday at 3.15 p.m. Communion Day, Second Sunday of month, 9 a.m. Director Fr. Dempsey. Prefect: Miss Riach.
Passages - Head Pass-Keeper : Mr. A. Bennett. Outdoor Collections: Director: Fr. Rector; Secretary: Miss E. Cassidy.
Propagation of the Faith
Apostleship of Prayer.
S.J. Missions of Salisbury and Guiana
St. Vincent De Paul
Boy Scouts and Cubs
Girl Guides and Brownies
The Union of Catholic Mothers.
There were many additional events that occupied the priests of the Parish Mission according to the seasons; Lenten Missions, May and October Devotions. Ten years on The Rector was Fr. Andrew Gordon and he was assisted by five priests, Fr. J. McGowan, Fr. W. Dempsey, Fr. J.Girkins, Fr. A. Gits, Fr. C. Turner and Brother H.Maguire. (Sacristan). The sodalities and confraternities were listed as before.
Throughout the first sixty years St. Aloysius was a very vibrant parish community with some 5,000 parishioners and a large number of regular visitors who attended Mass and received the sacraments there. The beauty of the church and the quality of the liturgies, preaching and the music attracted many from out with the confines of the parish. During the week, Miss Grogan’s Girls’Choir preserved the traditional hymns of the recurring feasts by their clear singing at Friday Benediction.
The altar servers were, in the main, from the College and were trained by the Brother Sacristan of whom the longest serving was Brother Thomas Ward. The reverence, dignity and solemnity of these liturgies in the spacious and impressive setting of the church attracted worshippers from all over the Glasgow area. It is essential to note that the population of the parish during the first fifty years was just over 5,000 souls but then, as now, a significant number from outside the confines of the parish were regular attendees.
The times of Confessions were frequent and the number of Jesuits ensured that the large number of penitents did not have a lengthy wait, and even today the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available daily in the forenoon and early evening. There were other reasons for the popularity of the church many of which still hold good today in the twenty first century. The beauty of the church combined with the dignified splendour of the main liturgical celebrations was a huge attraction for many, and the standard of serving and the quality of the music enhanced this attraction.
Right from the outset the new church had been equipped with a superb organ and this was evidence of the high musical expectations of the parish community. By the 1920’s, on Sundays the 11a.m. Mass was a sung Mass with an adult choir and a number of devoted men helped organize and maintain the high standard of performance. Arthur Whittet, Charles Lovat, Kevin Buckley, John Iverson and Mario Bianco were some of those who helped in this way. It was during Fr. Crehan’s period as Rector that this choir abruptly ended in anticipation of the Second Vatican Council’s recommendation that there should be more congregational participation in the liturgy.
However, the 12 noon liturgy which was a Solemn High Sung Mass at which the choir, composed mainly of College pupils trained and conducted, first by Fr. Fred Brady and from 1939 by Fr. Thomas Lakeland, provided the music, was allowed to continue. Fr. Brady was a master of Plainchant and during his time this would have been the predominant musical style. Fr. Lakeland preferred a more varied musical menu and in addition to the Plainchant, introduced polyphony and some modern composers.
Fr. Lakeland left in 1962 and his work was continued by Mr. James Dourish until 1969 and for the past thirty nine years, the choir has been directed by Mr. Dan Divers and includes female members. During that time there has been a number of organists, three of whom were Mr. Kevin Buckley, Mr. Anthony McElhinney and the current long serving Mr. Ewen Cameron.
Today, the 12 noon Sunday Mass at St. Aloysius, offers something markedly different from most liturgical celebrations in the West of Scotland in respect, both of the music and the manner of serving. Various settings of the Mass, including Plainsong, the polyphonic masters such as Palestrina, Victoria, William Byrd, the classical style of Haydn and Mozart, works by Mendelssohn, Elgar, Fauré, and modern composers including Britten, Oldroyd, Darke, Rutter, Mawby and others, are rendered in an inspiring manner, and contribute to the reverential atmosphere of the occasion.
During the first sixty years there was a substantial number of families with young children and this ensured a plentiful supply of altar servers who were in the charge of the Brother Sacristans of whom the longest serving was Bro. Thomas Ward. He was on the staff during the war years and then after a spell in England returned in the late 1950s and was responsible for the recruiting and training of the altar boys and for many years had a large pool of servers, many of whom were recruited from the College.
When Bro. Ward was moved to Blackpool in 1980, the number of recruits suffered a drastic reduction but a faithful core continued to attend and maintain the standards. During the past twenty years Mr. John McCabe has recruited and trained the 12 o’clock Mass servers, all of whom have been College pupils. The number of servers is much smaller but with a pool of seven or eight it is possible to have two acolytes, a crucifer, book carrier, thurifer and boat boy all supervised by the most senior boy as Master of Ceremonies and all of whom serve with reverence and dignity.
The aforementioned Bro. Thomas Ward was responsible, not only for continuing the high standard of presentation but on special occasions such as the Forty Hours Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the Christmas Crib, he produced spectacular effects which attracted visitors from a wide area.
“It is only if you accept the theology of it that the incident in the stable becomes significant at all. ‘He lay in the manger and reigned in Heaven.’” So wrote Mgr. Ronald Knox in an article in 1940. The crib maker expresses his belief in the Incarnation by the work of his hands and for many years, especially under the direction of Brother Ward and his devoted helpers, the crib in St. Aloysius had been a stimulus to devotion and a general attraction.
The variety of the services also proved popular and even today when the number of priests is greatly reduced, there is a choice of Sunday liturgies. Each Sunday there is the quiet 9 a.m Mass, the 10.30 a.m. Family Mass, the 12 noon sung Mass, and at 9.p.m. a very popular evening Mass (some claim it is the latest celebration of Mass in Western Europe), which attracts many young people.
However, the principal reason for this attraction is the fact that St. Aloysius is a Jesuit parish which, certainly in the early days, had a large Jesuit community. I have mentioned the work done for the poor by Fr. Bacon but there were other priests who made an important contribution to the life, not only of the parish, but of the wider spiritual life of the Archdiocese. During the 1920s on Wednesday evenings the church would be packed with
parishioners and visitors, Catholic and Non-Catholic who flocked to hear Fr. Peter McPhillips, who served in the parish from 1915 - 1934. The following extract from his obituary reveals his great gift and the reason for his popularity.
“It would be safe to say that Fr. McPhillips was foremost amongst the preachers in the British Isles. His work in this connection took him all over Scotland and England and almost every town of any note has thrilled to his eloquence and profited by his preaching. God had endowed him richly with the gift of words and to God he made return. His eloquence brought him no personal gratification – it was devoted wholly to the greater glory of God (AMDG). Fr. McPhillips was best known to Glasgow for his Wednesday evening sermons in St. Aloysius. Catholics and Non-Catholics alike packed the building on these nights. He was an authority on the beliefs held by innumerable denominations outside the Church and his strong conviction of the truth and reality of the Faith thrilled his audience. There is no doubt that the conversions resulting from his eloquence can be numbered in thousands.”
Rectors - Parish Priests
Fr. William Kay. 1868 - 1869
Fr. W. Lea. 1869
Fr. Parkinson. 1870
Fr. Maguire. 1871 - 1872
Fr. Edward Whyte. 1873
Fr. Thomas Williams. 1874 - 1877 (First Full Rector)
Fr. Amherst. 1877 - 1882
Fr. Whyte/ Fr. Charles Gordon. 1882 - 1889*
Fr. W. Lawson. 1889 - 1899
Fr. Ignatius Gartlan. 1899 - 1904
Fr. William Crofton. 1904 - 1911
Fr. Michael McMahon. 1911 - 1919
Fr. Patrick Dinely. 1919 - 1926
Fr. William Fitzgerald. 1926 - 1934
Fr. Louis Threlfall. 1934 - 1940
Fr. William d’Andria. 1940 - 1948
Fr. John Brady. 1948 - 1952
Fr. Andrew Gordon. 1952 - 1958
Fr. Laurence Crehan. 1958 - 1964
Fr. John Costigan. 1964 - 1970
Fr. PeterMontgomery. 1970 - 1976
Fr. Robert Carty. 1976 - 1978
Fr. George Earle. 1978 - 1981
Fr. Clarence Gallagher. 1981 - 1985
Fr. Michael Kyne. 1985 - 1988
Fr. Michael Bossy. 1988 - 1993
Fr. Kenneth Nugent. 1993 - 1998
Fr. John Twist. 1998 - 2005
Fr. Peter Griffiths. 2005 - 2007
Fr. James Campbell. 2008 - 2009
Fr Peter Griffiths 2009 - 2013
Fr Tim Curtis 2013 - present
*1882-89: Fr. Whyteas Rector but as he resided in Edinburgh Fr. Charles Gordonwas appointed Superior at the Hill