St. Gregory’s is a Roman Catholic Church, built and opened in 1971, within the Archdiocese of Glasgow. The Parish of St Gregory’s covers areas in the North and West of the City of Glasgow. The origins of the Parish can be traced back to the building of some 1,800 houses in the Wyndford Estate (on the former grounds of Maryhill Barracks, home of the Highland Light Infantry) which required the formation of a new Parish between the two old-established Parishes, Immaculate Conception, Maryhill, and St. Charles’, N Kelvinside. The patron Saint Gregory Barbarigo (Feast day 18th Jun), who was canonised in 1960 by Pope John XXIII, was chosen by Archbishop Scanlan who had resolved that he would name a parish after the saint.
St Gregory’s Oratory & Temporary Church in Maryhill Road
Fr (later Mgr) Brendan Murphy was appointed to open this Parish on 19th Feb 1965, and took up temporary residence in the Immaculate Conception Presbytery. A classroom in St. Mary’s Annexe on Maryhill Road (on the present Maryhill Police Station site) was rented, to gather the new parishioners together for Holy Mass, and the “Oratory” was born!
The altar, vestments and other equipment came from the private Oratory of the late Archbishop Campbell, and the first Mass was on St. Patrick’s Day, 17th Mar 1965, in a tiny building designed to seat 50, with a congregation far in excess of 100. Permission was then granted to use the Assembly Hall in Shakespeare Street Public School on Sundays and on 28th Mar the first public Masses were offered and the Sacrament of Baptism administered ; two hundred and sixty received Holy Communion and five children were baptised.
His Grace Archbishop Scanlan selected the Patron for the Parish – St. Gregory Barbarigo.
Great difficulties were being experienced in providing a house for a Presbytery. Then, at Easter, Father Hickey, Parish Priest of the neighbouring Parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, had just completed a new Presbytery and St. Gregory’s were able to acquire their old house in Bilsland Drive to serve as a temporary Presbytery for 6 years.
On Pentecost Sunday 1965 Fr William Donnelly was ordained and appointed as assistant to St Gregory’s. The first Sunday bulletin was printed in October showing a regular pattern of parochial life, growing steadily despite the handicap of temporary premises . In November 1965 application was made to British Railways for the Dawsholm site, near to the new school of St Gregory’s, but 1966 began with little prospect for building. Mass attendance, reception of the sacraments and organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul and Youth Clubs were increasing in strength and in February a Sister of Charity was appointed to the parish and took the name Sr Gregory. A Mission in March 1966 indicated the general difficulties of the parish with morning Mass in the Oratory, evening Mass in St Charles’ Parochial Hall in Wilton St and weekend Mass in Shakespeare St School – a parish census was taken.
On 26th June 1966 Fr Thomas Hendry was ordained and appointed to St Gregory’s and also on that day it was announced that the parish was purchasing the entire annexe of St Mary’s School for reconstruction as a temporary church. With the opening of St Gregory’s School in Wyndford, St Mary’s Annexe had become vacant and the parish’s offer for the buildings and grounds had been accepted. Work commenced on the temporary church, the long one storey ‘hut’ building was transformed into the ‘Oratory’, with a ‘classroom’ foyer at each end which gave accommodation for groups to be formed and meetings and small social events held in the entrance foyers.
A film was made by Mr Lawrence Russell of the Scottish Catholic Film Institute, of which Fr Murphy was Chairperson. “Springboard to the World” gave the story of the early days of the parish, with full colour film of all the activities of the first few years. The film was transferred to DVD format by Scottish Screen Archive in 2010, as part of Scotland’s Moving Image Collection, and some of it can be seen on its website. The film portrayed all the excitement as the news of the site of the new church became available, followed the work on the building site and the formation of the parish groups. The Film Premiere took place in the school, and was shown several times over the years at film shows in the parish hall.
(Photos courtesy of The Only Way is Maryhill)
The building of the Church, House and Hall complex in Kelvindale Road
Eventually in 1968 the parish obtained part of the site of the disused Dawsholm Engine Shed (closed in 1964). It had been a brick-built 6-track dead-ended shed with a 2-track repair shop. There was a turntable and a coaling stage set on a ramp. Previous negotiations had been underway and Glasgow Corporation had acquired the site from British Railways to fit in with the new proposed Kelvin Walkway.
Plans were made for a new church, hall and parish house on Kelvindale Rd.
As the Church plans were approved and the tenders went out for contractors, the houses in Wyndford were increasing rapidly, with new families moving into the area on a regular basis. In August 1969 building operations commenced.
The parish became a hive of industry with fundraising events being organised constantly. By October 1970 the list of activities in the parish were as follows:
Monday Parents Club : Cadettes (teenage girls uner 15)
Tuesday Girls Club : Pools Promoters : Boys Football Club
Wednesday Parents Club : Marian Association
Thursday Ladies Socials : Boys Club : Church Cleaning and Altar Society
Friday Pools Promoters : Cubs : Scouts : Guides : Girls Swimming Club :Monthly socials in school.
Saturday Saturday Mart : Football Teams under 16’s, 15’s,14’s, 13’s & 12’s.
Sunday SVDP : Stall promotion : Passkeeping : Lay readers : Sponsors at Baptisms : 500 Club organisation : Altar Boys : Counting collections.
Every Week Preparing, typing and printing 1750 Bulletins and Pool Sheets.
Despite the setback of the builders going into liquidation and the work being held up for six months, the clergy took up residence in the new presbytery, early in January 1971, and were then on site for the final stages of the Church building.
On 11 February 1971, Archbishop Scanlan performed the ceremony of the ‘Laying the Foundation Stone’, and the building work was duly completed and the Opening Mass /Ceremony in the new Church was held at 12 noon on 13th June 1971. We were honoured by the presence of the Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain, Archbishop Scanlan, Bishop Ward, Monsignori, Canons, Priests, and Civic dignitaries, Ministers from Church of Scotland, Methodist and Anglican Churches. Rev. Pearson presented a gift of Jerusalem Bible to mark this great occasion.
Forming the Guard of Honour were the Marian Association, our Lady’s Cadettes, Cubs, Scouts & Guides.
See Photos of Opening Page for more photos of the event.
Architectural and Artistic Features of St Gregory’s Church
Architects: Borthwick &Watson (later incorporated into Thomas Cordiner, Cunningham & Partners). Sculptor, Mural Designer: Charles Anderson.
Stained Glass Artists: George Walsh (Stations of the Cross), other panels in Lady Chapel attributed to Shiela Cochrane.
One of several bold designs that the Archdiocese of Glasgow commissioned, and fitting with Second Vatican Council themes. Magnificent stained glass tower and panels and an exquisite use of sunlight to animate the interior. Charles Anderson epoxy resin treated mural and sculptures in concrete and metal. A late modernist style with flat roof, plain exterior and dramatically sunlit interior.
The tower incorporates a hardwood window with a distinctive wooden cross, finished in black, and the remainder is infilled with magnificent stained glass, allowing the southern sunlight to drench the area below with a wonderful wealth of light and subtle colour. The sanctuary crucifix, “The Risen Christ” by Charles Anderson, above the main altar is made of metal, fibre glass and glass; it depicts the triumph of the cross.
St Gregory’s type of rooflight/sanctuary tower, seems to have been introduced into Scotland by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia with their Modernist St Paul’s RC Church, Glenrothes (1956). Its purpose is to shed light from above on to particular parts of interiors (emphasizing the altar). The idea was that the building should be dynamic and over the course of a day the sun moves round and that method of lighting animates the interior.
The 14 stained glass Stations of the Cross by George Walsh depict the passion and death of Jesus. Light, dark and colour is used extensively. The spiritual aspect of the church is enhanced by the use of Hartley Wood manufactured glass, which accounts for the light reflection.
The Lady Chapel is greatly enriched by its long stained glass windows and by the epoxy-resin treated mural of Our Lady, which is designed to counterbalance the baptismal font. The altar and font are Charles Anderson’s bold textured concrete sculptures.
The idea of a long processional approach from the church grounds entrance -in our case beside the church hall wall and covered walkway–gives time for the worshipper to adjust from the secular world outside to the sacred interior; it replaced the traditional design of a long-aisled rectangular plan church interior. In the Architects’ Description printed in the Solemn Opening Souvenir Brochure it states that “the church buildings despite the low lying nature of their site and the domination of the adjacent, tall blocks of flats manage to achieve by the simplicity of their design, materials, their unity and general landscaping a considerable degree of dignity, charm and harmony, which command the attention of the passers-by and provide an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity… The use of a deep white concrete cope carried around all of the buildings and the walkways at a uniform level, not only assists in unifying the group, but also helps to create the effect that the roofs of the Church and Hall appear to rise and float above the general mass of the buildings from which they are separated by the introduction of clerestory windows carried around on all sides” The Kelvin walkway which runs along the west side of the church, and tree setting, enhances the complex of buildings and covered walkways in the grounds.
The foundation stone for the church was laid on 11th Feb 1971, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, by Archbishop Scanlan; a casket was placed under the stone containing a piece of rock from Massabielle Hill, Lourdes on which Our Lady stood and a set of the then new decimal coins.
At this period materials such as concrete and brick were preferred and when St Gregory’s was built it was the architect’s plan to use modern materials in the building; The exterior is brown facing brick relieved by white precast concrete dressings. In the interior the altars and ambo were concrete, the floor of the sanctuary natural riven and polished slate slabs. The sanctuary crucifix, “The Risen Christ”, above the main altar is made of metal, fibre glass and glass and was originally suspended above the altar, being designed to be complemented by the original reredos, which was made of metallic finished fibre glass panels, and tabernacle. There were alterations to the main Sanctuary but the side /Lady altar retains many of the original features. The artist originally suspended the sculpture above the altar like Salvador Dali’s “Christ of St John of the Cross”. Particular attention was given to safety and he sought the advice of a yacht rigging fitter for the cables and tensions. Like Dali’s Christ, our “Risen Christ ” has no physical bindings or wounds. The figures of Our Lady and the naked Christ Child in the Lady Chapel Mural look backwards to the main sanctuary and the triumph of the cross. (originally there was no partition).
In the church and large hall the white plaster finished walls contrast with the richly timbered (Western Red Cedar) finished frieze below the clerestory windows and the similarly treated deeply coffered roofs. The church is simple in its interior and designed in the modern concept seating about 600 on hardwood (Afrormosia) pews. The seating pattern-on three sides of the sanctuary is a good example of the re-ordering of church interiors, due to changes and radical reforms introduced with the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Catholic Church, which was ongoing at the time.
(Grateful thanks to C Anderson, J Bredin, Fr Hendry and G Walsh. Copyright P Cox & St Gregory’s Church)