ST. BRIDGET OF IRELAND
The establishment of the Catholic Church in Eaglesham followed the tragic events of the Irish Famine of 1845 -1849 and the resurgence of industrialisation in Glasgow and the west of Scotland with the consequential immigration of the Irish seeking work and a future. It was therefore appropriate that one of Irelands great saints be dedicated to this new Church in Eaglesham.
St Bridget goes back a lot further in time however, 451 AD to be precise at Faughart near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland Slavery, was a common practice in those far off times and like many of her ilk Bridget was the daughter of a local chieftain, her mother being a captive slave. That situation gave Bridget privileges as she was to care and supervise the kitchen and dairy. She was efficient and charitable to the poor, the latter characteristic being frowned upon by her father. At that time, the St Patrick, the Patron saint of Ireland, was preaching Christianity and both Bridget and her mother were attracted to his teachings. Indeed his teachings prompted Bridget to assist the poor with greater fervour which resulted in her being relieved of her position and sent to work in the home of the King of Leinster the reason being that she had given her father’s sword to a leper so that he might have food and shelter.
As an accomplished, and it would appear, a good looking woman Bridget was an attractive proposition as a wife. She declined all offers however and decided, with the blessing of her master, to take holy vows and become a nun. That decision was to seal her place in history.
With like minded women she established a convent in Croghan Hill and, through time,in other places, Kildare being the most important site.
Apart from her religious duties and promotion of her Faith she promoted a school of art and metal work and she was a pioneer in the illustrations depicted in the Irish medieval ecclesiastical books. History records that Ireland, at this point in time, was the cultural centre of Europe.
The simple cross of St Bridget is made from rushes and, on her feast day in February of each year the process of forming this simple cross with rushes is replicated throughout the world. The cross’s origin relates to the incident when St Bridget picked up rushes from the floor of the room, in which she was explaining the concepts of Christianity to a chieftain. The cross helped her explain the death of Christ and His sacrifice to the peoples of the world.
St Bridget was a remarkable woman and she is the Patroness of Ireland. She is honoured throughout Europe and her patronage extends to blacksmiths, sailors, farmers scholars and travellers.
When she died she was buried in the High Altar of Kildare Cathedral and in 1878 her relics were taken to Downpatrick where they were interred along side those of St Patrick and St Columba.
BRIEF HISTORY OF EAGLESHAM
The early sources of Christianity within Eaglesham are difficult to determine. It is quite feasible, however, that the early Celtic missionaries such as St Ninian, St. Mungo or St Mirren may well have trodden the slopes of this little hamlet of Eaglesham, but without the more formal organisation of the later Roman Catholic Church, Celtic history is vague.
What is not so vague was that, with the entry of the Normans into Scotland in the 12th Century, with their Catholic faith, the seeds of a Christian community were established in Eaglesham.
The Montgomerie's established a church in Eaglesham in 1368 and Thomas de Arthurlie, whose name still resounds in Barrhead, was rector in 1388. In 1414 Eaglesham was recorded in Papal Letters of Pope Benedict XII, and during the fourteenth century the Glasgow Bishopric became the centre of control for west central Scotland.
The Reformation in the mid sixteenth century created massive changes in religious beliefs throughout Scotland, and Eaglesham slowly followed by establishing a Presbyterian Kirk in the village.
In 1637 the National Covenant was signed in reaction to the dictates of Charles I and his Archbishop, resulting in a civil war in England and the establishment of the Covenanters in Scotland. The Presbyterians were strong supporters of the Covenanters and, along with the town of Fenwick, Eaglesham became a staunch area of support. The battles at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge testify to the bitter campaigns the time. As testimony to this period of religious strife local men met their death in the Covenanters cause, and some are buried in the Kirk yard in Eaglesham.
In 1689 with the new Protestant Monarch, William of Orange, firmly in control, the formal religion within Eaglesham was decidedly Presbyterian. In fact the villagers of Eaglesham supported the Royal Forces of King William during the Scottish 1745 rebellion.
By 1790 Eaglesham had developed approximately into the current civic design with the Lynn Burn and the Orry separating the two sides of the village. There were eight public houses, a baker, and with the establishment of a new cotton mill in 1791 there was a demand for labour in the village.
The original presbyterian Church was by 1780, in a poor state and, in 1788, it was replaced by the current Octagonal shaped Church in Montgomery Street. In the interim, divisions had occurred between the various parishioners as to differing interpretations of the Protestant religion and, by 1858, with the addition of the Roman Catholic Church and its Parish Priest, Fr. michael Cronin, there were five Christian Churches within Eaglesham namely;
The Church of Scotland
The United Presbyterian Church in Coo Lane
The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Glendinning Place
The Free Church in Montgomery Street
St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church in Polnoon Street
In 1850 Eaglesham had a post office, a subscription library, gas lighting, and 15 public houses and the Gilmour family emerged as a powerful force within the village community. They built Eaglesham Mansion House in Waterfoot which was unfortunately burned to the ground in 1945. The site now houses the advanced technology factory Linn Products. It is interesting to note that had the Gilmour’s allowed the establishment of a rail link between Thornton Hall and Eaglesham, the future of the village would have considerably changed. The disastrous fire in the Mill in 1877 saw the population of Eaglesham drop from the census figure of 2428 in 1844 to 1365 in 1881.
Due to ill health, Rev Fr. Cronin left St Bridget’s in 1877 and the Parish was absorbed into the Parish of St Joseph’s in Clarkston and Mayfield, the parish house was sold. From 1900 the population dropped to 1075 but, to the credit of the villagers, they re-invented Eaglesham as an attractive holiday venue for the more prosperous Glaswegians and those who wanted to get away from the industrial pollution of the city.
By the end of the19th century life was draining out of the village and its houses were deteriorating to the extent that by 1937 it was suggested that both Montgomery Street and Polnoon Street be bulldozed and new Council houses erected.The 1939/45 war saved the village as the houses were used to give shelter to evacuees from Glasgow. The question of redevelopment was again raised and once again the village was saved by two local women, Miss White and Mrs. Davidson who through the initiation of the Eaglesham Preservation Society ,which later evolved into the Restoration Joint Committee, sought to preserve the houses rather than demolish them. Grants were given to owners for restoration and houses that once sold for £25-£100 now regularly sell for £200000- £400000.
Increased traffic and the attendant road vibration was causing damage to the houses in Montgomery and Polnoon streets but the building of the new bypass has restored Eaglesham to its village ambience.
History of St. Bridget’s Church
12 Polnoon Street, Eaglrsham
Mass was being celebrated in the village of Eaglesham for some years before St Bridget’s Church was built and definitely before 1840.
The difficulty in tracing these beginnings is that the village was served from different churches.
On one occasion after Fr. Peter Forbes of St Mary’s Pollokshaws had said Mass in Bryon’s Eglinton Arms, the horse in the stable under the hall died the same night and the owner would no longer let the hall.
From 1841 and for at least nine years, priests came from Barrhead and Rutherglen saying Mass once a month in the Montgomerie Hall, in Turnbull’s Close and in the house of a Mrs. Arneil.
In 1849 Busby with Eaglesham, was assigned to the new mission of St. Mary’s Pollokshaws and the people counted themselves lucky to have their monthly Mass in the hall of the Inn at Busby, and in the rented school in Eaglesham.
The owner of the lands in Eaglesham in the 1850’s was a descendent of the Earls of Eglinton, one Archibald William Montgomerie born in Sicily in 1812. His illustrious career included Rector of Marshal Collrge of Aberdeen University in 1851 and of Glasgow the following year. He became a Knight of the Order of the Thistle and served two terms as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1852-1853 and from 1858 - 1859. These latter postings were a significant factor in the establishment of St Bridget’s Church as it was surely not coincidence, that having witnessed the ravages of the Irish famine he gave the land for the building of St Bridget’s Church.
It has been remarked that the site given did not front on to the green in the village. It is just possible that the Earl was sensitive to the climate of possible hostility that existed in those days and felt it would be wiser not to provoke an issue.
In 1858 the first Parish Priest was Fr. Cronin, who purchased the house abutting on the the site of the Church, from Mrs Arneil for £300.
The plans for the Church were drawn up by Charles O’Neil and the builders were Strutters & Wright. Both Church and house were lit by gas and the Catholic census of 1859 gave a return of 1500 Catholics in the whole parish.
It is interesting to note that the large picture within the Sanctuary, The Deposition From The Cross was commissioned by the parishioners of Eaglesham from the painter Desurne. In days when every penny, counted it was an expensive item, but a reflection of the attitude of the parishioners that only the best was good enough for their Church. Subsequent efforts by the parishioners of St Bridget’s indicate that such devotion has not diminished.
The Church walls are built of sandstone and whin rubble and extend in width to two feet. The roof is covered in Ballachulish slate and the floor area is 177 square meters. The building is category ‘C’ listed and can accommodate some 200 parishioners. The Church hall is an integral part of the Church and can accommodate approximately 40/50 people,
The destruction, by fire, in 1876 of the mills that were a major source of work in Eaglesham was a disaster and the depletion in parishioner numbers was considerable. In 1877 St Bridget’s was absorbed into the new Parish of St Joseph’s Clarkston. The house, Mayfield, was sold by the Church Authorities in 1885 with the proviso that in the event of resale the Diocese would have first option on its purchase. The Diocese eventually re-purchased Mayfield in 1947 at a cost of £1500.00 and became the residence of the Maguire family from 1947 to 1982.
St Bridget’s was accorded a Papal Blessing by Pope Pius X11 in 1959 on reaching its 100th year. The event was celebrated by Bishop James Black, Bishop of Paisley, the Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s Clarkston and the parishioners of both Churches.
It was advantageous that Fr. Kavanagh the Parish Priest of St Joseph’s initiated maintenance repairs on St Bridget’s during his eleven years tenure. In 1975 the 125th Anniversary of the opening of St Bridget’s was celebrated in St Joseph’s by Bishop McGill, Fr. Dennis Reen, Fr. Arthur Kilpatrick and other priests who had served in the Parish.
It was not until 1984 that the Bishop of Paisley decided to re-open the Parish of St Bridget’s as a separate entity and the new Parish Priest, Mgr. Henry Farrelly was given the task of re-establishing the Parish.
Building surveys revealed serious deficiencies. particularly in Mayfield and in the Church. A major refurbishment was undertaken by Mgr Farrelly at a cost of £84000 and a fund raising programme initiated and enthusiastically pursued by the parishioners.
In 2008 St Bridget’s celebrated its 150th Anniversary and the Priest in Residence, Canon Felix McCarney initiated a refurbishment programme for the Church. New kneelers were installed and both the Sacristy and Church were repainted and re-carpeted. Repairs to the building fabric was undertaken. A celebratory Mass by the Right Reverend Philip Tartaglia, bishop of Paisley was held in St Bridget’s on the 1st February 2008 followed by a reception in the Montgomery Halls Eaglesham.
In 2010 a fire developed within the Church which destroyed the Sanctuary, seriously damaged the floor and roof of the Church adjacent to the fire point, rendered the church organ inoperable, destroyed the carpeting and church fabric and damaged the sanctuary painting. At this point in time Canon McCarney had retired and the new incumbent, as Parish Priest, was Fr. Macmillan who raised the alarm, on the night of the fire.
Church Services could not be undertaken and in a wonderful display of Christian charity the members of the Church of Scotland Community quickly offered the facility of Carswell Hall to the parishioners of St Bridget’s for their Sunday Service until restoration of the Church was completed.
Such Christian charity was further displayed when the Presbytery of Eaglesham Parish Church provided their Church for St Bridget’s Christmas Eve Mass. With the assistance of the Paisley Diocese the St Bridget’s was restored to its present condition in 2011 and in 2014 the final refurbishment of Mayfield Hall was completed. Old buildings such as St Bridget’s need constant maintenance and as the parishioners of 1878 displayed their desire to hold on to their Church those of 2016 continue to do likewise.
The Parishioners of St Bridget’s have had the privilege of the following priests providing religious instruction and assistance to them since 1857; Fr, Michael Cronin, Mgr. Henry Farrelly, Canon John McElroy, Canon Henry Mooney, Canon John O’ Dwyer, Canon Thomas Jamieson, Canon Felix McCarney, Fr. Brian McGee, Fr. James Duggan, and Fr Macmillan.
In its lifetime it is interesting to note that while Fr Cronin was establishing St Bridget’s convicts were still being transported to Australia, rocket technology and flight were the subject of science fiction. In the interim St Bridget’s witnessed The Boer War of 1899, The Russian Revolution of 1917 The First World War of 1914, The General Strike of 1926, The Spanish Civil War of 1936, The Second World War of 1939, the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb in 1945 The Vietnam War in 1967 and many other atrocities
It is hoped that whilst St Bridget’s provided a place of worship and religious instruction over these tumultuous times, future generations will be accorded the same facility in this little Church in Eaglesham.
The parishioners of St Bridget’s have over the years had the privilege of dedicated priests who at times have had demands put on them above and beyond their spiritual duties e.g. The establishment of St. Bridget’s in1858, finding the money and effectively rebuilding the Church in 1984, the upgrading of the Church for the 150th anniversary and the total refurbishment of the Church in 2010 due to fire.
It is therefore with gratitude that the following priests of St Bridget’s are listed:
|Fr. Michael Cronin||1857-1877|
|Mgr Henry Farrelly||1985-1988|
|Canon John McElroy||1988-1990|
|Canon Henry Mooney||1900-1993|
|Canon John O’Dwyer||1993-1996|
|Canon Thomas Jamieson||1996-2003|
|Canon Felix McCarney||2003-2009|
|Fr Douglas Macmillan||2009|
Fr. Brian McGee and Fr. James Duggan the respective Parish Priests from St Joseph’s Parish in Clarkston Shared the responsibility for St Bridget’s in the period 2003/2009
Fr Douglas C Macmillan was born in Glasgow in 1953 and educated at St Mirins Primary School, Kingspark and St Aloysius College.
He joined the Royal Bank of Scotland in1970 and in 1992 he entered the Seminary in Glasgow. He was ordained a Priest in 1999 and served in St. John’s Barrhead, St Mirin’s Cathedral in Paisley and as Administrator in St. Mungo’s Greenock subsequently becoming a Parish Priest at the Holy Family Church in Port Glasgow. In 2009 he became the Parish Priest of St Bridget’s, Eaglesham