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 - St. Patrick's - School History -

 - The History of Catholic Education in St Patrick’s Parish

 - St Patrick's Primary School Kilsyth - Pupils and Staff on 27th August 2014 - 

From the very beginning of St Patrick’s Parish there has always been a school mentioned in connection with St Patrick’s in Kilsyth.  The Scottish Catholic Directory of 1865 states that even before the arrival of Fr John Galvin in 1865, the first priest stationed in Kilsyth since the Reformation,  that evening and weekend classes were in ‘good working order’. The first classes were Catechism classes and evening classes for young adults.  As such St Patrick's School predates the Parish of St Patrick's Kilsyth and a good estimation for the establishment of the school is August 1862.


When Canon Murphy came to Kilsyth in late 1873 as Parish Priest, one of the major tasks he accomplished was the building of a school. This work he started in 1874 and to the resulting school building a later addition was made in 1896.  He appointed Mr Stone as the first headmaster, and this was as far as the school progressed until the appointment of Canon Macnamara in 1903. Canon Macnamara extended the school accommodation by adding a second storey containing three new classrooms in 1908.  By this time, Mr Stone, the first headmaster, had left for a post in Sunderland and was succeeded by Miss Gallacher as Headmistress. She worked closely with Miss Keane who was infant mistress and it was Miss Keane who succeeded Miss Gallacher when she left in 1910 to be married.  While Miss Keane was Headmistress the school roll was between 350 and 400 pupils, from infants to the supplementary stage.  Her staff was entirely female until the arrival of Mr Boyle and later Mr Patrick Doherty who was appointed first assistant.

1872 Education Act


The 1872 Education Act created state schools which were designated ‘non-denominational’. The Act also made education compulsory for all children aged 5-13. Before this time it had not been compulsory for children to be educated though the state had legislated to establish schools, provided funds for them, inspect them and required that their teachers be trained to certain standards. Prior to 1872 charities, faith groups and private tutors had provided education. In 1872, the dominant agencies which the state had chosen to run the school system in Scotland, namely the Presbyterian religious institutions, were changed. The state now set up school boards, as it deemed the board system was more efficient than the old parish school system, but essentially the public goals of state provision remained the same. This made the 1872 Act fundamentally different in significance from the Education Act of 1870 in England and Wales and the Catholic Hierarchy in Scotland politely declined to take part. It was the 1870 Act in England and Wales which marked the true beginning of public schooling in the UK and in which Catholic schools were involved.


Some religious denominations saw the 1872 Act as the beginning of the secularisation of the Scottish education system. However, many Presbyterian churches assumed that after the 1872 Act, schools would continue to be, in reality, Presbyterian schools and for a very long time they were in fact correct!


Before the 1872 Act, the Catholic communities in Scotland set up their own schools. Catholic schools were set up largely as a response to the discrimination against the Irish and Irish Catholic communities and an inability to teach openly Catholic values to children. It was a way in which the Church could provide education for people in poverty who were largely excluded from the mainstream of the communities in which they were now resident. However, the Argyll Commission of the 1860's did find examples of Catholic children being educated in the parish schools. Here in Kilsyth there we many examples of Catholic children, where for the want of a Catholic school, attended Kilsyth Primary School in Deacons Road/Shuttle St for their secular education and Catholic Sunday School for R.E.


The Catholic hierarchy chose not to join the state system in Scotland established in 1872, despite state encouragement to do so, since there were concerns about state schools being defacto Presbyterian Schools and continuing the Presbyterian traditions from which they has arisen. Many if not most schools in Scotland joined the state system having been previously Parish Schools run by the Church or Free Church of Scotland. It was felt by the Scottish Catholic Hierarchy that for their children’s’ Religious Education (R.E.) and Religious Observance (R.O.) there should be a specifically Catholic capability to teach and the ability to observe the liturgical calendar undiluted by the State or secular concerns.


In the late 19th Century there was still much mutual suspicion between the State and the Catholic Hierarchy and the Catholic community at large and for good reason. It was within living memory that need for the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 has been required to repeal many formalised anti-Catholic mechanisms of State prejudice such as the Act of Uniformity, the Test Act and the Penal Laws (Education Act 1695, Disarming Act 1695, Marriage Act 1697, Banishment Act 1697, Registration Act 1704, Popery Act 1704 and 1709, Occasional Conformity Act 1711 and the Disenfranchising Act 1728.) Together this legislation required Catholics to abjure the temporal and spiritual authority of the Pope, not be allowed to carry weapons or hold senior posts in the army, not be able to work in the civil service, not get married as Catholics and most importantly to Catholics, on pain of death, renounce transubstantiation. If Catholics were open about their faith then they had to conform to all aspects of the legislation, register their presence and their movements and, for a period,  they also had to financially support the Anglican Church in England via additional taxation. Taken together all of this was a significant burden on freedom of religious expression to say the least and amounted to defacto State sponsored persecution.  A slowly paced succession of reforms were introduced over the 19th Century allowing Catholics freedom of worship, freedom of association and freedom of employment in the civil service, leaving only the Act of Settlement 1701 as one of the few legal provisions which still to this day discriminates against Roman Catholics in the mechanisms of the highest offices of State even after recent reforms (2007) to the Act by the Blair Government. It should therefor come as no surprise that the Catholic community in 1872 wanted to retain their newly found freedom of religious expression and politely decline State involvement in what were Church run schools at that time.


The Episcopalian Church and the Catholic Church also had further concerns about secularisation aspects of the 1872 Education Act and so both Catholic and Episcopalian denominational schools remained outwith the state system until 1918.

1918 Education (Scotland) Act.


Education Act 1918, often known as the Fisher Act, is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (8 & 9 Geo. V c. 39). It was drawn up by Herbert Fisher OM (21 March 1865 – 18 April 1940) who was an English historian, educator, and Liberal politician.

This Act raised the school leaving age to fourteen and planned to expand tertiary education. Other features of the 1918 Education Act included funding for Catholic state schools in Scotland, the provision of ancillary services (medical inspection, nursery schools, centres for pupils with special needs, class sizes of no more than 30) and many other reforms.


By the 1920s, the education of young children was of growing interest and concern to politicians, as well as to educationalists. As a result of this rising level of public debate, the Government of the day created a series of commissions of enquiry, headed by Sir William Henry Hadow. Altogether the Hadow Committee published three very important reports - 1926, 1931 and 1933. These reports led to major changes in the structure of primary education. In particular, they resulted in separate and distinctive educational practise for children aged 5-7 (infants) and those aged 7-11 (juniors).


By 1918 had become clear that the attainment gap between Catholic and state schools had widened significantly, with children in Catholic Schools performing less well than those in state funded schools. State support for Catholic schools was therefore seen by the government as a necessity in order to achieve equality of provision for all pupils in Scotland. Catholic schools had been unable to financially afford the level or range of education required to ensure that their pupils achieved parity with state school pupils.


The Government therefore proposed to bring Catholic schools into the state sector within the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act, and to provide them with full state funding. As part of the move to bring Catholic schools into the state education system the Act guaranteed the following rights for the Catholic community:


• Catholic schools were to be fully funded by the state. They would be open to inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectors;

• As public schools, Catholic schools were to be open to all, but provided primarily to serve the needs of the Catholic community;

• The Church was expected to approve all religious teachers in Catholic schools as to their 'religious belief and character'; the local education authority was to appoint, with the approval of the church, a supervisor for religious education in Catholic schools.


This move enabled Catholic schools to have financial security whilst retaining their individual identity. Catholic schools themselves saw state support as extremely helpful because it removed the burden of self-financing and maintenance. The Education Act of 1918 was however largely acknowledged by all quarters to be pluralistic in intent and nature. It was on the whole amicably implemented but it wasn’t entirely uncontroversial even within the Catholic community. Eventually, those that resisted the Act succumbed only because they could not afford to build a proper secondary system without the funding that came only with full education authority control and funding.


It should be noted however that in 1918 act the Catholic schools in Scotland were not offered the option of being voluntary providers sanctioned and financed by the state as in England and in Wales and in Ireland. They HAD to accept transfer to the education authorities if they were to continue to receive public money.

As a result of the 1918 Education Act therefor, the responsibility for the provision of school buildings and staffing was transferred from the Parish of St Patrick's Kilsyth to the Stirlingshire Education Committee, with certain aspects of the children’s religious education still controlled by the Church authorities.  The Act guaranteed the following rights for the Catholic community:

From this time, parents began to take advantage of the benefits of the Act to obtain secondary education for their children even although this meant a great sacrifice for some at this time.  Nevertheless the Parish of St Patrick’s was to see and enjoy the fruits of these sacrifices in the years that lay ahead.


Meanwhile the school building was gradually becoming quite inadequate for the number of pupils attending, but due to the economic depression and the contraction of public spending very little could be done to improve these conditions.  In 1929 apart from the main school building, St Patrick’s school classes spread into the Burngreen School (now the Old Library) and then to the Old Fever Hospital building (now a fencing supplier adjacent to the graveyard) in 1933.  There the facilities were extremely primitive with the added inconvenience of being about a mile from the main building.  With developments in education, St Patrick’s was raised to the status of a Junior Secondary School in 1933.  Although facilities were limited, pupils were able to take advantage of the benefits of a higher education.


Just before the outbreak of World War II it was decided to build a new Kilsyth Academy, and so the plan was that St Patrick’s School overflow could take over the old Academy building in Shuttle Street to alleviate the accommodation problem.  Work, however, on the new Academy had to be stopped soon after the beginning of hostilities and the plan was never enacted.


The increase in the school population continued and in January 1940 infant classes were being accommodated in Mansefield House and in St Patrick’s Church Hall. The hall, however, was requisitioned for use by the Army for most of the war and so classes had to find alternative accommodation.  Towards the end of May 1944, St Patrick’s Hall became available once again and classes vacated Mansefield House.  The school roll was then 497.  When the new session began in August 1944, pupils were transferred from St Patrick’s Hall to the Territorial Hall. 


Mr Allen McCann M.A., B Sc, principal teacher of mathematics at St Modan’s High School, Stirling succeeded Miss Keane on 7th January 1940.  During his period as Headmaster Mr McCann worked tirelessly for the improvement of facilities in St Patrick’s School and when he was appointed Rector of St Modan’s High school in 1953, he left St Patrick’s a much improved and better organised school.


In the years after the war pupils continued to be educated in less than adequate conditions.  It was only when the H.O.R.S.A. huts were built in Stirling Road in 1949 that something approaching adequate accommodation was provided for pupils. The huts however, were prone to bouts of flooding during the winter months. The roll had increased by then to 587.


Mr Hugh Dobie M.A. succeeded Mr McCann as Headmaster in August 1953 and Miss Mary McCann became Infant-mistress, succeeding Miss Elizabeth McCart who had been infant mistress since 1938.  For the next few years the status quo existed but in 1960 a beginning had been made on the building of a new school in the north end of Bogside Public Park.  It was completed and ready for use in the second half of 1963.  It was officially opened by His Grace Archbishop Gordon Gray on 24th September 1963.


When Mr Dobie retired in 1972 he was succeeded by Mr Michael G. (Gerry) Callaghan until 1975 when Mr Andrew F. McGarry took over prior to the opening of St Maurice’s High in 1976.


Pupils from St Patrick’s Parish also attended St Modan’s High School in Stirling for senior secondary education. They continued to attend St Modan’s until Regionalisation in 1975. The responsibility for the school then passed to the Dunbarton division of Strathclyde Region. Some pupils also attended Our Lady’s High School in Cumbernauld to complete Highers. At this time St Patrick’s School lost pupils from Banknock, Banton and Lennoxtown. As part of the regional restructuring, St Patrick’s was designated a high school, taking pupils from Primary 1 through to S4 and successfully presenting many pupils for “O” Level exams until the opening of St Maurice’s High School in August 1976.


Further developments in education took place in 1980 with the Education Scotland Act which formalised the right of schools to have Religious Education and Religious Observance within schools and also states the need to


recognise religion as an important expression of human experience; to appreciate moral values such as honesty, liberty, justice, fairness and concern for others; to investigate and understand the questions and answers that religions can offer about the nature and meaning of life and develop their own beliefs, attitudes, moral values and practices through a process of personal search, discovery and critical evaluation’.


In 1996 there was further restructuring of the regions in Scotland and North Lanarkshire Council is now responsible for the education of pupils in St Patrick’s Parish.


In 1976 St Patrick’s became solely a Primary School with Mrs Anna Devine as Head Teacher until 1989.  Miss Annie Clinton, who had been in charge of the upper school during this time, became Head Teacher after Mrs Devine.  She left in 1990 to take up a post with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI).  Mrs Helen Smith became Acting Head Teacher from August 1990 until April 1991 when Miss Patricia Monaghan was appointed. Unfortunately Miss Monaghan only held the post of Head Teacher from 1991 until 1996 when she sadly died of cancer.


The post of Head Teacher was then taken over by Mrs Patricia Clark who had been Depute for Miss Monaghan during her illness. Mrs Clark had a very long and successful career as Head Teacher before retiring (early!) in December 2013. She oversaw the present St Patrick’s Primary school being completed in August 2007 and saw the old building demolished in 2008. The new school building built on the playing fields of the old school also houses St Patrick’s Nursery – the non denominational state nursery facility for the south of Kilsyth. The new building was declared open by His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien on Tuesday the 26th February 2008.


On Patricia Clark’s departure, Mrs Mary Bernadette (Dette) Canavan, took over as Acting Head Teacher in December 2013 until the appointment of Mr Kristopher Thomas in August 2014 as acting Head Teacher. In early 2015 Mr Thomas was appointed permanently to the post of Head Teacher. Mr Thomas resigned his post in the summer of 2017 to take up a position of Head Teacher at another School in North Lanarkshire.

In August 2017 Mrs Johanne Gardner was appointed as Acting Head Teacher for a period and Mrs Jean Rae was appointed as permanent Head Teacher at St Patrick's in January 2018. Mrs Rae is a native of Kilsyth and a member of St Patrick's Parish was the first native Kilsyth person to hold the post since Gerry Callaghan in 1975. Mrs Rae retired in 2021 and as an interim measure Marie Rose Murphy, Head Teacher of Holy Cross in Croy, became Acting Head Teacher until end of the summer term in 2022. Another Acting Head Teacher was appointed in Martin Higney, originally from Croy, who has been a long term member of staff at St Patrick's and who is also currently a Kilsyth resident and parish member of St Patrick's Kilsyth. In late 2022 Mrs Kathleen Celino was announced as the new permanent HT of St Patrick's Primary and it is hoped that she will take up this role at some time in 2023 after being released from her current post.


St Maurice’s High School is the designated secondary school for all Catholic pupils in St Patrick’s parish.  It opened in August 1976 with Mr Andrew F. McGarry as Head Teacher, having served as Head Teacher of St Patrick’s Junior High in Kilsyth during the transition year prior.


Later Mr Peter Mulheron became Head Teacher on the 16th August 1991 and Mr Laurie Byrne succeeded him in the post of Head Teacher on 19th April 2004. Mrs Patricia Alexander commenced her duties as Head Teacher on the 3rd December 2012 and retired from teaching in July 2017. Mr James McParland took up his duties as Head Teacher in August 2017 and was replaced as Head Teacher by Kevin O'Connor in Sept 2020. Mr O'Conner had been seconded to another school and Mrs Louisa McGraw was appointed for the period Aug 2022 to December 2022. Mrs McGraw came from the staff of Taylor High School. Mrs McGraw secured a new permanent Head Teacher role and was herself replaced as Acting Head Teacher by Mrs Laura Moreland in January 2023 whilst the search continued for a permanent replacement for Mr. O'Conner.


St Maurice’s has grown from strength to strength with pupils involved in the school’s life, that of the  surrounding Catholic Parishes and the local communities of Kilsyth, Croy, Moodiesburn and Cumbernauld.  

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