Built on Irish Soil
The following report is from the Glasgow Observer and Catholic Herald of 5 August 1938.
CENTURIES-OLD CATHOLIC LINK RENEWED IN AYRSHIRE
Ardrossan’s New Church Built On Irish Soil
High up on the Castle Hill, looking across the waters of the Firth of Clyde, like a beacon casting abroad its warning rays over the bay below, stood the old Catholic parish church of Ardrossan.
How often must its old belfry have sent out its sweet tones across the waves as it called the people of the town to morning mass or evening prayer!
Dedicated by a double title as in the old grants of the Earls of Eglinton, to Saint Peter in Chains and the Blessed Virgin Mary, it had two altars under the same dedicatory titles. Of one altar, that of Saint Peter, we find mention in the old charter of 12 March 1438, where John Lockhart, Lord of Barr, provides for an annual rent to be paid to the chaplain for saying three masses annually for the repose of his soul at the altar of Saint Peter in the Ardrossan church.
The patronage of the Ardrossan church was under the Archbishops of Glasgow but its presentation lay within the Royal prerogative.
That the Catholic church of Ardrossan existed in the beginning of the thirteenth century is shown by a document still existing in the Glasgow Chartulary, dated 1226, which describes an agreement between Walter, Archbishop of Glasgow and John, Abbot of Kilwinning whereby the Bishop granted the Abbot a pension of sixteen shillings, payable from the church of Ardrossan.
For hundreds of years, the ocean waves thundered at the foot of the Castle Rock and still the old church, emblematic of the greater body of which it was a tiny part, withstood the storms and ravages of time until the hand of the despoiler left it and its dependent chapel at Saltcoats, in ruins in the last years of the sixteenth century.
Now, after a lapse of so many years, a magnificent church begun in June 1936, is nearing completion. Its position is at the very foot of the Castle Rock, nestling in the shadow of the old Catholic church of Ardrossan.
A note of great interest may here be stated for those children from the Island of Saints who have taken the place of many Ayrshire Scots cheated out of their Holy Faith at the so-called Reformation.
The entire site of the new church is composed of Irish soil brought as ballast in ships from Ireland and dumped over many years all around the Castle Rock from which the sea has since receded. To the depth of more than three feet, this Irish soil covers the entire acreage of the land on which the new church stands.
The new church occupies a commanding position on the South Beach. Standing in spacious grounds and facing out to the sea, it arrests attention, not only by reason of its prominence, but also on account of its architectural beauty and simplicity.
It is a departure from convention in Scotland, the style being in relation to the later Swedish Renaissance. The massing is traditional and the interior has been designed in strict accordance with Catholic traditions and ideals to retain strong ecclesiastical atmosphere. The planning and equipment, however, are on modern lines to meet acoustic and sighting requirements. The church seats 1000 comfortably.
The building is constructed of Accrington Nori facing brick and roofed with sand-faced rustic tiles. The interior is finished in plaster and the woodwork is in Austrian oak.
For the last four years, holy mass has been offered up twice every Sunday without fail in a hall at Ardrossan. The accommodation both in Saltcoats and the large hall in Ardrossan was fully taxed and a church worthy of the glorious ecclesiastical past was decided upon by his Grace, the Archbishop of Glasgow. His very deep interest in the spiritual interest of his subjects in this part of the great Archdiocese of Glasgow is now demonstrated by his unstinted liberality in giving of the best to the Catholics of Ardrossan.
The opening and blessing of the new church in Ardrossan will be an occasion of great joy to the faithful of Ardrossan. It will be the realisation of their cherished dreams.
Once again they will give sanctuary to the same Lord and God as was worshipped in those centuries past. The lamp will be relit – a sign of the real presence in their midst.
Ardrossan itself has seen three of its sons in the vineyard of the Lord. The are Reverend James McCarroll, now in charge of Saint Joan of Arc Church, Highbury, London; Reverend Archibald McSparran, Saint John’s Church, Glasgow; and Reverend Robert McCliment, London.
The priests in charge of Ardrossan and Saltcoats are as follows. Father William Hallinan (1853-1878), Father William Bergemann (1878-1884), Father James Mackintosh (1884-1893), Father Philip McColl (1893-1899), Father Patrick Ryan (1899-1905), Father Francis Cronin (1905-1907), Father William Carmichael (1907-1914), Father Bernard Lynch (1914-1923), Father Stephen Thornton (1923-1926), Father Francis Stephen (1926-1933) and Father Joseph Doherty, the present priest in charge.
BALLAST: Ships can be unstable when empty. When a ship was sailing to collect cargo, it was common to fill it with ballast, such as soil, to aid stability. Some ships, sailing from Ireland to Ardrossan, carried ballast which was dumped on the shore on what became the site of the Church of Saint Peter in Chains.