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 - Parish History - 

 - The History of Catholic Kilsyth in Pre-Reformation times - 

David Cardinal Beaton - Archbishop of St Andrews

Little is known about the pre-Reformation history of the Catholic parish of Kilsyth. The first accepted historical source concerning the church in Kilsyth comes during the period of the episcopate of Bishop Walter of Glasgow, where we find references to the settlement of Kilnasyde (Kilsyth) and the church at Monybroch which fall within the boundary of the See of Glasgow. The church was recorded as being situated on the banks of the Ebroch burn near the site of the present Barrwood Quarry, although exactly where is not known.

The 2nd Earl of Lennox, a Catholic and a strong patron of the church, had 9 sons and one daughter. His first son, Maldwin, became his heir and ultimately the 3rd Earl of Lennox. Another of his sons, Dufgal, became a priest of the Glasgow Archdiocese and ultimately a Canon of the Chapter of Glasgow Cathedral. His only daughter Eva married Malcom, son of Duncan, Thane of Callandar in Stirlingshire and by a charter dated 10th August 1217 was given as a wedding gift the lands around Kilsyth and patronage of the church at Monyabroch.


So, it is clear that in 1217 there was a pre-existing church in Kilsyth within the See of the Glasgow Archdiocese under obedience to Bishop Walter. Eva had a son called Patrick. When Patrick fell heir to the lands around Kilsyth he was forced to pay the penalty of forfeiture of them as he favoured the claim of John Baliol to the throne of Scotland. Upon the accession of Robert-the-Bruce, the lands given in forfeiture were returned to Patrick’s daughter, the rightful owner, who by this time had married Sir William Livingston, a supporter of The Bruce. So, began a long association between the Livingston family and Kilsyth, who ultimately only lost their lands due to their Jacobite and suspiciously Catholic sympathies much later in history.

During the Reformation the Catholic Church was outlawed and persecuted and with the death of Archbishop James Beaton of Glasgow, nephew of Cardinal Beaton of St Andrews (above) in exile in Paris, the ancient Catholic hierarchy of Scotland came to an end. From 1598 to 1621 Catholics in Scotland were nominally subject to the Archbishops of England, in contravention of a Papal principle laid down centuries before in the Bull of Pope Clement III 'Cum Universi' which declared the Scottish Sees independent of England. Pope Gregory XV then established the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide) in 1621 which assumed formal ministerial control of Scotland via Vicars Apostolic for all of the mainland UK. The Vatican had always recognised the independence of the church in Scotland and that of Ireland from England & Wales, but for a short period from then until 1653, it became necessary due to the Reformation to treat Scotland and England & Wales as one administrative organisation.

 It was not until 1653 that a specific Prefecture Apostolic was created for Scotland where prefect- apostolic (senior priests) and then vicars-apostolic (Bishops) were establish for the governance of Scotland. Much of this was done remotely from Italy, France or Spain and priests were dispatched into Scotland to minister to the faithful in secret.

During this time the geography of Scotland was split into two geographic regions for the purposes of administration – The Highland District and the Lowland District. Due to the growth of Catholicism in the period up to 1827 the administrative boundaries were further split to create a third district.


These three areas became the Western, Eastern and Northern Districts. It was this change approved by Pope Leo XII and executed by Bishop Alexander Paterson on the 13th Feb 1827 which set new administrative boundaries that split Kilsyth and Campsie away from Glasgow and associated those parishes with Edinburgh – a distinction which remains to this day. So, it was that an association with Glasgow that had lasted for as much as a 1000 years came to an end and Kilsyth came under the episcopal governance of Edinburgh.

Saint John Ogilvie - Jesuit Priest and Catholic Martyr

Hung drawn and quartered at Glasgow Cross, 10th March 1615

After the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1793 it was the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 was finally 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 body of 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 movements and, for a period,  they also had to financially support the Anglican Church in England. Taken together all of this was a significant burden on freedom of religious expression and amounted to 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 ultimately only the Act of Settlement of 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 and precluding the Sovereign or their spouse from being Catholic and astonishingly, until the Blair Government in 2007, singled out Catholicism as the only religion specifically precluded for holding the post of Prime Minister.


It should therefor come as no surprise that the Catholic community in the 1800's wanted to retain their newly found freedom of religious expression during the 19th Century and decline State involvement in Church affairs of any kind and particularly in the affairs concerning the education of Catholic children. Over time, the repeal of a number of the corn laws and legal restrictions which had been placed upon Catholics were liberalised or removed thus making the Vatican content to return Scotland to the normal system of governance of the Church.


After a long campaign, on the 12th May 1877 Pope Pius IX gave an audience to Bishop Strain where he presented a formal petition for the restoration of the hierarchy to Scotland. After a number of further years of work by Bishop Strain, it was eventually Pope Leo XIII, whom he had first met as a fellow seminarian student many years previously, who granted the Restoration of the Hierarchy. A diocesan hierarchy was ultimately restored to Scotland on 4th March 1878.


Never the less, Scotland remained subject to the jurisdiction of Propaganda Fide until 1908 when along with England, Ireland, Holland, Canada and the USA, Scotland was transferred from Propaganda’s jurisdiction to their own independent governance. This was known as the second restoration of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Archbishop John Menzies Strain

© by kind permission of Blairs Seminary Museum 

Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern District of Scotland 1864-1878

& 1st Archbishop of St Andrew & Edinburgh 1878-1883

 - A Catholic Mission At Campsie - 

By 1831 a Catholic mission had been established in Campsie called St Paul’s Mission. It was to take another 15 years for the Catholics of Campsie to build a church of their own and it was to take another 35 years after that for their missionary rector, Rev John Magini, to successfully petition Archbishop Strain of Edinburgh to change the name of the parish in honour of St Machan, a local Saint still entombed within the ruins of his early medieval church in Campsie Glen.

Besides marking the building of a new Church in Campsie, 1846 saw the start of the great Irish Potato famine in which millions died and whereby up to a million surviving but starving Irish came to Scotland to seek refuge and start a new life. Kilsyth, like Campsie, was to see an influx of new, mainly Catholic, Irish inhabitants who needed ministry in their own faith.

Mission Register of Campsie

Baptisms from 1831-1836 & Marriages from 1831-1838

Written in the hand of Fr Paul MacLachlan

From their forefathers, the Catholic people of St Patrick’s Kilsyth have always known about the debt of gratitude which we owe to the priests and the people of Campsie for access to the Sacraments during the period between the founding of St Paul’s (now St Machan’s) in 1845 and the establishment of St Patrick’s Kilsyth in 1865. Even before 1845 when Campsie itself was founded as a Parish, there is evidence that the Catholics of Kilsyth would seek access to the Sacraments from the Mission Station of Campsie as early as 1831.

This image is the front cover of the Mission Register of Campsie for Baptisms from 1831 to 1836 and Marriages from 1831 to 1838. It also contains lists of Parishioners in 1831 in Campsie, Milngavie, Kirkintilloch and Kilsyth as well as a few other outlying villages. The Mission Register is in the possession of the Scottish Catholic Archives in Edinburgh and is written in the hand of redoubtable Fr Paul MacLachlan who was the only Priest covering a vast area of central Scotland.

Fr MacLachlan listed the names of those Catholic families and individuals in Kilsyth in 1831. Names include Donnelly, Haggerty, McNally, Campbell, O’Hara, Connelly, Hudson, Galvin, Gribbin, Callaghan, Walsh, Byrnie, McGuigan, Shauvling, Maguire and so on. Many of these surnames of Catholic families still persist in the Parish today via their descendants!

In the Catholic Directory of 1832 it records that a Catholic Mission had been established in Campsie at the beginning of the previous year (1831) by the late Bishop Paterson for the benefit of Irish Catholics employed in that parish and in the neighbouring districts. Initially it was recorded that there were some five Catholic families in the Kilsyth area at that time. In the Catholic Directory for 1835 reference is made to the lack of regular places of worship in the “stations” i.e. places which were visited regularly by the priest from Campsie. There follows a reference to the “villages of Lennoxtown, Torrance, Kilsyth, Milngavie, Kirkintilloch, Dunfermline, and the contiguous parts of Fife, Clackmannan and Perthshire.” One priest, Father Paul Maclachlan, was in charge of this whole area, so it can easily be imagined how infrequently he would be able to visit each “station”.

The first recorded Mass said in Kilsyth since the Reformation was on Christmas Day, 1847. This marked the creation of Kilsyth as a mission station of Campsie – it was to be another 18 years before Kilsyth was to become a Parish in 1865.


The priest who said this Mass in 1847 was Father Gillon of St. Paul’s Lennoxtown (as it was then known – now today known as St Machan’s) and it was celebrated in a house in Charles Street. Later Arnott’s Hall in Charles Street was to serve as a temporary church before one could be built.

Christmas Day 1847 is the first recorded Mass however it is clear that Kilsyth was a Mission Station from 1831 receiving regular but infrequent visitations from priests. It is therefore unlikely that in the period 1831 to 1847 priests would come to Kilsyth to minister to the people and NOT say Mass.

In the obituary of Monsignor MacLachlan Vicar general of the diocese of Dunblane published in both The Tablet and The Stirling Journal in 1882 we read that -

After his ordination in 1831, his first charge of importance was the care of souls in Campsie, Kilsyth, Stirling, Falkirk, Alloa, and Linlithgow. Through this extensive district he trudged and drove at regular intervals.”

It is very likely that a young Fr MacLachlan in the 15-year period between 1831 and 1847 said the first post Reformation Mass in Kilsyth – but that no record of it exists.

Inside the Mission Register of Campsie, toward the back there is just one page headed...
"Catholic Congregation of Campsie - Kilsyth" in which the names of 24 adults are recorded and a statement "and his 4 children" against the name of Arthur McGuigan.

The great Irish Famine had the effect of displacing the vast majority of the Irish Catholic families who then sought refuge and settled here in Scotland and elsewhere.

By 1845 St. Machan's Church had been opened in Lennoxtown, some eight miles distant, and local tradition has it that Catholics from Kilsyth assembled at the Head of the Haugh Road every Sunday and trudged to Lennoxtown to hear Mass. After Mass, the good people of Lennoxtown treated them to a meal before they set out again on the return journey.

When a priest was needed for any emergency, such as a sick call, one of the younger men would hurry all the way to Lennoxtown. Having delivered his message at the chapel house, he would then hire a conveyance to carry the priest and himself to Kilsyth.

Every Sunday and holiday of obligation, Campsie would host the Catholics of Kilsyth who would walk the 14-mile round trip to take part in Mass. From ‘A History of Kilsyth – A Memorial of Two Lives’ published in 1901 by Rev Robert Anderson, Church of Scotland Minister, on page 214 we see;

‘For many years the Roman Catholics of Kilsyth had been increasing by the incoming of Irishmen, as labourers at the coal and ironstone pits. They had no priest nearer than Campsie, seven miles away, and, with a faithfulness that was a marvel to Protestant onlookers, they travelled the distance, there and back, every Sabbath morning and evening.’

Things were to improve slightly after 1847 when Kilsyth was established as a ‘Mission Station’ of Campsie. A priest would travel to say Mass in Kilsyth once a month. In the Scottish Catholic Directory of 1849, we find:

“The Clergyman of Campsie has to attend several ‘stations’ ...Kilsyth, where he officiates once a month at the same hour (9 a.m.). In the latter town (Kilsyth) there are about 100 Catholics. The first recorded Mass said there since the so-called Reformation was on Christmas Day, 1847...”

The priest who said this Mass was Father John Gillon of St. Machan’s, and it is recorded in the 100th Anniversary Brochure that this Mass was celebrated in a house in Charles Street. So, this is the first officially recorded post Reformation Mass in Kilsyth.

Memorial stone to Fr John Gillan  which can be found in St Machan's Lennoxtown

 - The foundation of St Patrick's Kilsyth - 

This was the beginning of an era of industrial expansion in Scotland, and many Irish workmen began to find employment in the construction of railways and similar projects. With the completion of the projects, many returned to Ireland, but others remained. In 1846-47 the failure of the potato crop in Ireland forced many Irish families to emigrate and large numbers came to Scotland to take up permanent residence. Around 1850 coal and ironstone began to be worked in the mines on the slopes of the Kilsyth Hills, and this brought a considerable number of Catholics to the district from areas as widely removed as Airdrie, Ayrshire and Ballycastle in Ireland.

On Sunday, January 19th, 1862 the Catholics of Kilsyth now having swelled in number to around 600, held a meeting and appointed a committee to draw up a letter to Bishop Gillies, Bishop of the Eastern District of Scotland as this area was then known prior to the restoration of the hierarchy in 1878, to request a resident priest in Kilsyth. The committee consisted of JOHN LYNCH, Chairman, JOHN NELSON, Treasurer and MICHAEL DEMPSEY, Secretary. After waiting three weeks for a reply which was not forthcoming they sent a deputation to Edinburgh to meet with the Archbishop in person and they were apparently warmly received by him and he promised a resident priest would be forthcoming. A house was acquired by the committee and at length, the Rev. Robert Innes arrived in Kilsyth on Sunday the 4th of May 1862 and read a letter from Bishop Gillies, in which Fr Innes was ordered to remain in Kilsyth for three or four weeks, inspect the house provided for him and inquire into all the affairs of the parish.  In fact, what happened was he left the same day and never returned, instead being directed by the Bishop to go to Crieff where Fr McDonald, the priest of St Fillan's in Crieff was ill and would shortly thereafter pass to his eternal reward.



of the undersigned Catholics of Kilsyth to the Right Rev. Dr. Gillis, Bishop of Limyra and Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern District in Scotland.




That on Sunday, January 19th, 1862, we the Catholics of Kilsyth held a meeting and appointed a committee to draw up a Memorial to your Lordship praying for the appointment of a resident clergyman in Kilsyth. It was also agreed at said meeting that each working Catholic should lodge with our Treasurer at least one day's wages as a fund to be placed at the disposal of any priest your Lordship might be pleased to send us, who would thus be enabled to meet all preliminary expenses without entailing any additional outlay to your Lordship. Towards the end of the following February our Memorial was forwarded to your Lordship's address, but as it remained unacknowledged for the space of three weeks we were doubtful whether it had reached its destination. We therefore deemed it advisable to appoint a deputation to wait personally on your Lordship who were received most courteously, and who on representing the true state of matters here, received a promise from your Lordship that a Resident Pastor would be sent to us without further delay. On the strength of this promise and acting in accordance with the advice given to the deputation, our committee secured a house as a suitable residence for the clergyman whose arrival we daily expected. But as Lent was now fast drawing to a close and he had not made his appearance up to Palm Sunday, a second deputation, consisting of our Chairman and Secretary, proceeded on Monday of Holy Week to Edinburgh to implore your Lordship, if possible to give the Catholics of Kilsyth an opportunity of complying with their Easter Duties by sending them a priest if only for three or four weeks whose expenses they would most cheerfully pay. At length, the Rev. Robert Innes arrived here on Sunday the 4th of May and read to us a letter from our humble altar addressed to him by his Bishop, in which he was ordered to remain with us for three of four weeks, inspect the house provided for him by us and inquire into all our affairs. But Mr. Innes departed the same day for Campsie and has never since appeared in Kilsyth, leaving us for weeks in the most profound ignorance and perplexity. On the 6th June he addressed us a letter from Crieff demanding £1 expense incurred by his visit to Kilsyth and informing us that he had been suddenly instructed by your Lordship to repair to Crieff and organise that Mission of 400 Catholics without delay. Thus we were fooled for four successive Sundays regularly assembling for Divine Worship to the amusement and ridicule of our Protestant neighbours, who can boast of having two clergymen for a far less numerous congregation than ours.


It was with the deepest sorrow that we contemplated the change in your Lord-ship's dispositions towards us by which we were deprived for the space of eleven weeks, of the inestimable services of any priest, thus losing the glorious spiritual privileges held out by our Church to all her children during the Holy Season of Lent and Easter. We venture then briefly to refer to our past exertions to secure a resident pastor here, in order more confidently to implore your Lordship to take our case into consideration and to reflect on the great dangers that we are constantly exposed to as working miners, of dying without the consolations of our Holy Religion. We grieve from our hearts to state that this sad fate has overtaken several of our congregation through accidents and other causes since July last and may be the unhappy lot of any of us at any moment until it please your Lordship to provide us with a resident clergyman. Through the great spiritual destitution to which we are abandoned many of us have grown up in ignorance and vice; they know nothing of the principles and teaching of their Holy Religion and could not repeat the Lord's Prayer or name the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Matters have lately become much worse since we have recently been deprived of our Sunday and Day Schools in which for two years only, our much neglected children received some little instruction. Many good Catholics come amongst us from time to time but as soon as they ascertain that we have no resident priest they leave us at once and thus we are deprived of the advantages we might otherwise derive from their education, their wealth and good example. Also there are some amongst us now, who are willing and are able as heretofore to offer as much as £20 per annum towards the support of a resident clergyman as was stated on the last occasion our deputation waited on your Lordship. Still as we have nearly doubled in numbers since that time (of which probable increase your Lord-ship received timely notice), we are confident of being able easily to support a respectable clergyman, especially as the new works which are regularly daily opened afford every prospect of a still further increase in our numbers and wealth for many years to come. We would also beg to direct your Lordship's attention to the wretched condition of our present place of worship which is wholly inadequate to our wants and will still be far too small even after the contemplated enlargement takes place next June to afford a majority of us the opportunity of assisting at the fortnightly service which is celebrated by the Campsie clergyman under existing arrangements. Besides the flooring is not at all secure and may at any moment give way when over-crowded to the imminent peril of life and limb. Should your Lord-ship question any of these statements we pray you to commission any disinterested clergyman to inquire into our forlorn condition and we are confident that he will report many other matters which we have not considered it prudent here to state. We may mention here that one of the Rev. gentlemen who at present attend us for a short time once a fortnight from Campsie, stated from the altar a few weeks ago " that very few of the old Catholic inhabitants of Kilsyth were now to be seen coming out to hear Mass on Sundays."


We therefore implore your Lordship again and again to send us an energetic priest to instruct our helpless little ones, to keep open our Sunday and Day Schools, to guide and give us all advice and consolation and to bring back to the fold many of our erring Catholics who have strayed away through neglect. Finally it is with the greatest confidence that we, your Lordship's most dutiful children, humbly pray by the Paternal care which you have of all that Divine Providence has en-trusted to your charge, that you will be pleased to remedy the evils we complain of and high are the hopes of this congregation at present that this Petition may meet with a more favourable reception than did the last, two years ago, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, etc., etc.


JOHN LYNCH, Chairman

JOHN NELSON, Treasurer


Fr John Galvin

Founding Parish Priest of St Patrick's Kilsyth 1865.

During this period the Catholics of Kilsyth organised a day school for the general education of the children and Sunday school to provide instruction in the Catholic faith that was much neglected without the presence of a resident priest. So, it was that the foundation of St Patrick’s School pre-dates the foundation of the parish itself. The Scottish Catholic Directory of 1865 states that even before the arrival of Fr John Galvin our first resident parish priest, that evening and weekend classes were in ‘good working order’. The first classes given by the school were Catechism classes and evening classes for young adults. A good estimation for the establishment of the school therefor is the period May to August 1862.

Eventually the committee wrote a plaintiff petition again to the Bishop who had not yet been forthcoming with a priest for Kilsyth. Unfortunately, the bishop was never to reply. Canadian born Bishop James Gillies died on 24th February 1864 aged just 61. There was a short period therefor when the administration of the diocese changed, and the new Bishop John Strain was appointed.

So, it was not until 3 years after the original letter to Bishop Gillies and his promise of a priest was given that this promise was answered, eventually, by his successor Bishop John Strain with the presence of Fr John Galvin who arrived in Kilsyth on the 5th January 1865 and was tasked with the founding of St Patrick's Parish and building a church suitable for worship to accommodate the growing numbers of Catholics in the town.

No more would the Catholics of Kilsyth have to walk every Sunday to Lennoxtown to gain the benefit of access to the sacraments.

This young Priest then set about raising funds to build. When funds were raised, a small stone church designed by architect Duncan McFarlane of Greenock and built by a contractor, Mr Gow, supervised by A. McIntosh of Glasgow. It is remarkable that it was built within 14 months of Fr Galvin’s arrival in Kilsyth.

It is great credit to this young priest who, still only 27 years old and in his first posting as a Parish Priest, managed to organise a Parish, obtain the land for a Church and Parish House, organise better the Sunday Schools and days Schools, fund raise and then build the first St Patrick's Church in Kilsyth which stood for almost 100 years - all within the space of 15 months from his arrival. Fr Galvin was to stay in Kilsyth, consolidating the new St Patrick's Parish in until 1873.

As we have already seen, the first St. Patrick’s church was built on the same site as the modern church during 1865 on land donated by Sir Archibald Edmonstone, Bart of Duntreath, and was opened on 17th March (St Patrick’s Day) 1866.


It was a modest sandstone building and was built in the traditional modern gothic style which was universally used for places of worship at the time.

The Parish worked well with a succession of priests and assistant priests, parishioners growing in number and resources gradually over the next 90 years. Kilsyth was to become the mother church of 3 other adjacent Catholic Parishes during this time - Holy Cross Croy, St Luke's Banknock and St John of the Cross Twechar. However, following a fire in 1954 the old church was finally closed after 96 years on New Year’s Day 1962 and was then demolished.

The original St Patrick's Church Kilsyth

built 1865 opened 1866 closed 1962

The original interior of St Patrick's Church Kilsyth as built by Fr Galvin in 1866

The interior of St Patrick's in 1929 after extensive upgrading works undertaken and paid for by The Right Rev Monsignor Patrick MacNamara

 - The New St Patrick's Kilsyth - 

Canon Thomas McGarvey

Parish Priest 1956-1972

Builder of the current St Patrick's

Canon Thomas McGarvey, parish priest in the early 1960’s set about raising funds to build a new church and appointed Gillespie Kidd & Coia to design the current building which has since become a fine example of modernist architecture and now forms part of Scotland’s architectural heritage as a grade ‘A’ listed building. It is visited frequently by academics and architectural students from all over the world. The new churched was opened on the 17th March 1965 by His Grace Archbishop, later Cardinal, Gordon Joseph Gray.

The new church was eventually dedicated during the time of Fr Denis O’Connell on the 17th March 1987 by His Grace Archbishop, later Cardinal, Keith Patrick O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and successor to both Bishop Gilles and Bishop Strain. It was a church he knew well having served here himself as an assistant priest for 3 years from 1972 – 1974.

St Patrick's Kilsyth c1971  Reproduced by kind permission of the GUSA Archive ©

 - St Andrew's Convent Kilsyth - 

St Andrew's Convent in the Parish of St Patrick's Kilsyth was established in May 1972 by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception after a discussion with the mother superior in Glasgow and Fr Denis O’Connell PP of St Patrick’s at that time. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, together with other Orders such as the Sisters of Mercy, the Marist Brothers, the Society of Jesus and the Sisters of Notre Dame, all saw education as central to the overall improvement and development of the Catholic population in Scotland. The idea of mission also played a central role in permitting The Franciscan Sisters to embark upon such an endeavour as the establishment of a new Convent and branching into Parish work, an act entirely in keeping with their ethos and history.

The height of the close relationship between St Patrick's Parish and the Franciscan Sisters came in April 1984 when two of the daughters of the Parish, Pauline Dempsey and Brenda Murphy made their final professions and joined the order as Sister Margaret and Sister Carmella. The 25th anniversary of the Convent was celebrated on the 25th May 1997 in St Patrick's with a special Mass to mark the occasion where many former members of the Convent in Kilsyth returned to mark the occasion which also happened to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Order. There was always only ever a small community of Nuns in Kilsyth, no more than 3 or 4 or 5 at any one time. Latterly it dwindled to 1 or 2 and the house became unsupportable as the age of the nuns increased and in turn they needed support themselves.

​When the Convent finally closed it was entirely fitting that Cardinal O'Brien returned to St Patrick's on Monday 15th May 2006 to say a Mass of thanksgiving for the lives and works of the many Franciscan Sisters who had lived out part of their vocation amongst the people of Kilsyth.

 - Major Restorations Works -1999 - 

Very Rev Monsignor Gerard R. Canon Hand

Parish Priest St Patrick's Kilsyth

1991 - 2006

In 1999 Fr Gerry Hand the PP at that time undertook a major fabric restoration of the church building, which was designed by the Gillespie, Kidd and Coia architectural practice and had by this time become a listed building.


The fabric had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and Fr Hand put together a £1.2m Heritage Lottery funded restoration package. During this time the church was closed for the best part of a year and St Patrick’s school was used to host most of the religious services of the Parish.


However, it should be noted that the Rev Alistair McLachlan of the Burns and Old Parish Church offered the use of his Church building – so for a year, Saturday night vigil Mass was held in an active Church of Scotland church building. This historic invitation, unthinkable a generation ago, was made possible through the friendship of the two men and the closeness of the two congregations, a debt of gratitude we owe to our Presbyterian neighbours and fellow Christians.

 - A New Parish Hall - 

Fr Hand & Rev Alistair McLachlan in 1999

at the Burns & Old Parish Church

After years of planning and fundraising, the new millennium was to see the parish benefit from a new Parish Hall, which was formally opened during the time of Fr James Tracey and blessed by His Grace Archbishop Leo Cushley on Wednesday 6th November 2013.

The history of the site upon which the new Parish Hall was built is interesting. It stands in a field which, prior to 1767, was known locally as the 'Kiln Yard' and was purchased by the Presbyterian congregation of the Kilsyth Relief Church, who erected a Church on the site that year. According to 'A History of Kilsyth - A Tale of Two Lives' by the Rev. Robert Anderson published in 1901, a Presbyterian church stood on the site for 125 years where 'God was worshipped and the Gospel was preached.'

In 1893 the Presbyterian congregation built what is now the Anderson Church of Scotland at the foot of the town and moved out of the building. For nearly 40 years the old church building was used as a Music Hall and Cinema until it was purchased by Monsignor Patrick Macnamara and used as a parish hall for the Catholic congregation of St Patrick's Kilsyth. A suite of halls was progressively developed over time and remained in use until 2006. It consisted of a lesser hall a large hall, kitchen which served both, a meeting room a stage and back stage area, a snooker hall with 3 tables and a refectory and coffee shop.

During the demolition of the old hall in 2012, the bricked-up windows of the old 1767 church became visible, as did the original blonde sandstone which had been lost underneath roughcast for several generations. The old stone cross which had sat atop the building since the days when it had been Presbyterian Church was incorporated into the walls of the new parish hall to respect the Christian use and history of the site.

David Stewart and Ronnie Burrows of Fleming Ltd, the builders, Paul Randal the Archdiocesan Fabric Officer, Fr James Tracey and on the right Joe Fitzgerald and Joe Livingstone of the Parish Fabric Committee - The hall being handed over.

The Most Rev Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh unveils a commemorative plaque (the first unveiling of anything in his episcopate!) which acknowledges the history of the site upon which the new hall stands 

After Mass on Wednesday the 6th November 2013, Archbishop Cushley blessed the new hall. He then declared the hall formally open by unveiling a commemorative plaque in the vestibule which celebrates this history of the site. Commenting upon this joyful event for the Parish, he revealed that this occasion was a milestone for him too, as it was the first commemorative plaque he had been asked to unveil as the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh!

 - 150th Anniversary of St Patrick's Kilsyth - 2015 - 

In 2015 the Parish celebrated the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Parish by Fr John Galvin on the 5th Jan 1865. The Parish decided to celebrate the anniversary on the Patronal saint’s day, 17th March, and so Mass was held to mark the occasion and start a whole year of special events designed to remember the history of the parish and those of generations before. A new Parish Badge was designed to mark the occasion.

Another thing which took place throughout the anniversary year, which also coincided with various events to mark the 100th anniversary of some of the battles of World War I, was research into those men from the parish who had lost their lives in that great conflict and also World War II. There was no war memorial in the current St Patrick’s Church as the previous memorial had been lost with the demolition of the old building in 1964 and in the intervening period from 1965 since the new church was built, there was little appetite for a military service to erect a war memorial coinciding as it did with the worst years of The Troubles in Ireland, where many of our parishioners have family ties.

A total of 59 men from St Patrick’s lost their lives in World War I and another 12 lost their lives in World War 2. So, at the Mass to mark the end of the anniversary year on 17th March 2016 Archbishop Leo Cushley unveiled and blest a long overdue memorial to our parish war dead.

Fr Sullivan of Croy, Fr James Tracey, Monsignor Patrick Burke VG,
Monsignor Gerard R. Canon Hand and Fr Daniel Doherty 17th March 2015

Archbishop Leo Cushley unveils and blesses the War Memorial 17th March 2016

 - Our History in General - 

In general, regarding our wider Parish history we can now benefit from the many academic papers and publications such as the 'Innes Review' which have been written over years or information gathered at the Scottish Catholic archives which fill in some details of the history of Catholicism and Christianity almost as far back as the collapse of the Roman Empire in the period c410AD.

What has also become clear that the ecclesiastical association between Kilsyth and Lennoxtown (Campsie - our mother parish) and Glasgow Archdiocese is far older than the early 19th Century. As we have seen, Kilsyth was part of the Glasgow Archdiocese in the Deanery of Campsie prior to the Reformation and both Campsie and Kilsyth have only been part of the Diocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh since the post Reformation re-establishment of this parish 150 years ago.

Hence Kilsyth has had an ecclesiastical association with Glasgow for at least 300 years before the Reformation and an association since with St Andrews and Edinburgh for only the past 150 years!

The widely accepted view that Catholicism as an indigenous religion in Scotland had been wiped out as a result of either popular support for the Protestant Reformation or widespread oppression or perhaps both and was only re-established as a result of the Irish famine in 1845, is also not quite true. It is clear that the recusant Scottish Catholicism survived, as the history of Scalan, the secret Scottish Catholic seminary that hid throughout the post Reformation period in Glen Livet, can testify.

Records show that the demand for priests was so high that between 1717 and 1799 more than 100 Catholic Priests were trained, ordained and sent throughout Scotland from its secret walls, although each was outlawed on pain of death until 1774. An example of which is the martyrdom of St John Ogilvie a Jesuit priest hanged on the 10th March 1615 at Glasgow Cross for being a Catholic priest.

In his History of Kilsyth, Rev. P. Anton records that Lady Livingston, kinswoman of the first minister of the Reformed Church, Rev. Alexander Livingston, was excommunicated because she refused to comply with the opinions of the Reformed Church. The Glasgow Presbytery was also so dissatisfied with the conduct of the Rev. Alexander Livingston for his lack of enthusiasm in the prosecution of her case and so he was deposed from his charge as Minister of Kilsyth. This was typical behaviour of recusant Catholicism which survived in secret supported by many in the landed gentry.

Much oppressed by statute and by society at large, Catholicism survived and thrived strongly in the Western Isles, the Northern Isles and many parts of the Highlands. It is also the case that there was much lowland Catholicism especially amongst the gentry who continued to practise their Catholic faith in secret. Indeed, there is a hint in some histories that there were three or four Catholic families living in the Kilsyth area when Catholic priests were once more legally tolerated (post the Catholic Relief Act of 1774) and allowed be open about their faith, no longer under pain of death. Then a slowly paced set of reforms, given some more urgency by the events of the French revolution, which saw large numbers of Catholic refugees enter London, then allowed Catholics to marry, take posts in the army and study for a degree. Finally, the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1826 dismantled most of the remaining penal laws.

It is true that indigenous Lowland Catholicism was much augmented and revived by the influx of Highlanders after the clearances from about 1750 and by the Irish, firstly coming to Scotland to work in coal mining and the steel industries from about 1800 and then again in large numbers after 1845 fleeing An gorta mór (the great hunger) - the famine of Ireland and the partly man made humanitarian disaster that resulted.

Other waves of European Catholic refugees and migrants, mainly French, Italian, Spanish, Irish and Polish have come to Scotland in different times from 1789 to the 1990’s to augment and enhance the indigenous Catholic community in Scotland as a whole and also here in Kilsyth.

We are now proud to be a multicultural, indeed global, community of Catholics in Kilsyth with antecedence from many geographically diverse continents and countries.

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