The district of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire on the left bank of the Clyde was originally attended from Hamilton, and later from Strathaven. In 1872 it was attached to the newly erected mission of Larkhall. The territory is an extensive one, and comprises the villages of Blackwood, Lesmahagow, Draffan, Stonehouse, Auchenheath, Netherburn and Coalburn. In the middle of last [19th] century Catholics had began to appear in the district owing to collieries having been opened. Mass was said occasionally at Draffan, Lesmahagow and other places. Eventually it was decided to make Blackwood the centre for the district, and a handsome church seated for 200, was built on ground close to the village purchased from the Duke of Hamilton. The opening took place on the 16th December 1880, when the present Archbishop [Maguire] preached. A school was opened on the 30th October 1881, and the average attendance for the following year was 41. In 1896 an arrangement was made that the charge of this district should be taken by a Benedictine Father from Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire. Accordingly it was cut off from Larkhall, and erected into a separate mission, the first resident priest being the Rev.John Cuthbert Pippet, OSB. He built a new presbytery in 1900, and in 1902 made an addition to the school giving accommodation for 60 more children. In 1905 the Rev. John Sigebert Cody, OSB, succeeded to the charge. The school average attendance in 1907 was 90 and the Catholic population is about 800. In connection with this mission it is interesting to note that formerly at Lesmahagow there stood the abbey of Our Lady and St. Machutus, founded in 1144 by St. David of Scotland, who brought monks from Kelso. The dedication to St. Machutus points to an earlier monastic foundation in the times of the Columban monks; and there are records to prove that here there existed a house of the Culdees. Not a vestige remains of the pre-Reformation buildings, but the site is still known by the name of the Abbey Green.
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