St Bride's Cambuslang
Though the present Church of St.Bride's has been established scarcely a quarter of a century, yet the district is full of associations which link it with the Ages of Faith. And such local names as Kirkhill, Chapel-Lands and Vicarland still attest how closely the parish of Cambuslang was united with the ancient Faith of Scotland and with the venerable See of Glasgow.
At what time the district was first erected into a parish it is impossible to say, but it is certain that the parochial system had come to be fully recognised in Scotland before the middle of the twelfth century, and there is mention of a parish priest of Drumsargard about the year 1170. The name Drumsargard is now confined to a hill near Hallside, but it was anciently applied to a considerable estate, and to the parish of Cambuslang with which the estate of Drumsargard nearly corresponded. The original Church of Cambuslang must have been among the earliest ecclesiastical foundations in Scotland. The parish was anciently dedicated to St. Cadoc, a Welsh prince who flourished about AD500. Renouncing his earthly princedom he embraced the monastic state, and passed seven years of his life in this district among his Cymric brethren of the north. He must therefore have built his little oratory here nearly half a century before St. Mungo founded the Church of Glasgow. The pre-Reformation Parish Church stood on the eminence which from this circumstance has received the name of Kirkhill. In 1379 William Monypenny, Rector of Cambuslang, endowed a Chapel of Our Lady which was served by a resident Chaplain, and the site of this chapel is still commemorated in the names Chapel-Lands and Chapel Yard. John Cameron, who was Rector of Cambuslang up to the year 1424, became Bishop of Glasgow two years later. By this arrangement, which was subsequently confirmed by Bishop Andrew Muirhead in 1459, the Rectorship of Cambuslang had annexed to it the office of "Sacristan" of the Cathedral, with a residence in the vicinity of the church and a seat in the Cathedral Chapter. This arrangement necessitated the appointment of a Vicar to reside in the parish of Cambuslang, and the plot of g round assigned to this ecclesiastic is still known as Vicarland.
As in other parts of Scotland, so in Cambuslang, the Church suffered from the violence of the revolutionary movement known as the "Reformation," and about three centuries were to elapse before the ancient Faith began to recover something of what it had lost. The growth of the coal-mining industry and the establishment of the steel works in this neighbourhood gradually attracted a working population, mostly of Irish birth or of Irish descent; and these humble workers were destined under God to be the means of reintroducing the Catholic Faith into the country where it had been planted some thirteen centuries earlier by the saintly missionaries of the Celtic race in the times of Columba and Kentigern.
For some years Cambuslang formed a part of the Mission of Rutherglen, which had been opened in 1853; but in 1878 the new Mission of St.Bride's was established. A building was erected from designs by R. Dalglish to serve both as church and school, with a small house adjoining as the residence of the priest. The building was opened and the first Mass celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, the 15th of December, 1878, when the opening sermon was preached by the late Archbishop Eyre, while Dr. Munro preached at the evening service. The new structure could not accommodate more than 162 school children, or more than 369 worshippers. The total Catholic population of the Mission was about 1,300 souls. But, as the district then included the present Mission of St. Charles's, Newton, the congregation was a somewhat scattered one; its members were almost exclusively composed of the working classes, and trade and labour soon began to suffer from the financial depression which followed upon the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank. It was therefore under circumstances of considerable difficulty that the first priest of St. Bride's, the Rev. William Carmichael, continued his zealous labours for the space of about seven years.
In November, 1885, Father Carmichael was succeeded by the Rev. John (now Canon) Taylor. About this time we note a steady growth in the Catholic population, and a gradual return of more prosperous conditions among the working classes. These favourable circumstances were fully taken advantage of by Father Taylor, and under his administration the state of the mission continued to improve. In November, 1888, he was removed to Motherwell, and was succeeded in Cambuslang by the Rev. Thomas J. Cunningham, who soon endeared himself to the members of his congregation; but in less than two years and a half his work was cut short by his early death. He died on the 7th April,1891, universally and deeply regretted, and his people signalised their regard for his memory by the erection of a handsome memorial altar, which was unveiled the following year. The Rev. James F. Morrison was appointed to St. Bride's on the 26th of April, 1891. Under his administration the mission rapidly developed; very considerable additions were made to the mission property; and other important changes were likewise effected. The increase of population and of school attendance necessitated an addition to the chapel-school, and this work was begun in November 1891. The new wing was opened on Sunday, 23rd of October, 1892, when special sermons were preached by Canon Maguire (now Archbishop Maguire) in the morning, and by the Rev. Father John M'Mullan, CP., in the evening. The building thus enlarged afforded additional room for 150 children, raising the total school accommodation to over 300, and the total church accommodation to nearly 600.
By this time the Catholic population of the Mission of St. Bride's was some 2,700, having more than doubled during the fourteen years since the church was first built. To meet the needs of this growing population, a commodious chapel-school and house, erected from designs by Messrs. Joseph Cowan & Sons, were opened at Newton in December, 1903; and the Rev. Thomas Currie was appointed to the new Mission of St. Charles's there established. But even the relief thus afforded, did not prove sufficient to meet the growing needs of church and school in Cambuslang. Moreover, as an assistant to Father Morrison had been appointed in October,1896, it was found that the old house was too small. Accordingly two new plots of ground were now secured; a new and handsome school was built beside the original structure; and a larger house was erected above the Caledonian Railway cutting. The new house was occupied and the new school opened, in May 1897. At the same time the lower part of the old house was altered and fitted up as a much needed recreation hall, while the upper portion was converted into a residence for the school janitor.
On the 8th of June, 1900, the Rev. Gerald Stack succeeded Father Morrison, when the latter was promoted to St. Mary's, Pollokshaws. In spite of all that had been done by his predecessor, it was found necessary to provide increased accommodation for the growing congregation. A temporary church seated for 850 persons was begun the following year. The new building was constructed from designs furnished by Messrs. Joseph Cowan & Sons. It was built of brick with red sandstone front, and by great exertionswas made ready for the celebration of a first Mass on Christmas Eve, 1901. The interior decorations were subsequently completed, and the formal opening took place on Sunday, the 9th of February, 1902. The Church was blessed by the Right Rev. Angus MacFarlane, Bishop of Dunkeld. High Mass was sung by the Rev. John Taylor of Motherwell, assisted by the Rev. Michael Hughes of Mossend, as deacon, and the Rev. James F. Morrison of Pollokshaws, as sub-deacon. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Matthew Power, SJ. In the evening Solemn Benediction was given by the Right Rev. Monsignor Lennon of Liverpool,.when Father Power again preached. Meanwhile it had become necessary to add to the school. The building formerly used as a church. was accordingly entirely re-modelled, the lighting and ventilation particularly being greatly improved, and a new storey being added. Additional accommodation was gained for nearly 400 pupils, the total school accommodation being now raised to about 900. A further immediate gain has resulted from the change, for the upper storey of the re-modelled building, not being at present required for school purposes, has been fitted up and furnished so as to make an exceptionally fine recreation hall.
St. Bride's has now a Catholic population approaching 4,000:the congregation is provided with a comfortable and commodious, if unpretending church; the clerical staff consists of three priests suitably accommodated in a well built house; and the school has some 600 children in daily attendance. Although not without its burden of debt, and although subject, like other neighbouring districts, to suffer occasionally from the consequences of depression in trade and of scarcity of employment among its working population, there seems every reason to believe that the Mission of St. Bride's may look forward to continued growth and to a steady improvement of its condition in the future.