Father John Frawley, Blantyre priest

1877 FatherJohn Frawley

1877 FatherJohn Frawley

John Frawley was born in Buttevant, County Cork in Ireland in 1850. He studied hard and found his path by his devotion to the Catholic faith. In 1875, he was ordained in Paris, at the Irish College and then served for 1 year at St Margaret’s in Kinning Park, Glasgow. However he was not a man of good health and the church moved him to Airdrie, to be closer to the country for his own good.

On 16th September that year, Father Frawley was transferred from Airdrie and due to the reformation, would be the first priest to live in Blantyre for over 300 years. His house was located on Glasgow Road directly across from Mayberry Place. John Frawley was 27 years old in 1877 and was about to make his mark on our town. He had a tall first task, which was to raise funds and construct a building that could not only be used as a church, but also could accommodate pupils as a school. The building had to be multi purpose.

He immediately set about fund raising and the people of Blantyre were generous, but no sooner than he had started, within 5 weeks Blantyre suffered a terrible tragedy that saw people focus on the Pit Explosion at Dixons in October 1877 and the aftermath within the community. Funds stopped coming in and were diverted to assist the rescue and help those widowed. Within the Rev. Stewart Wright’s account of the explosion, it was documented that Father Frawley was instrumental in restoring faith in the community and assisting.

A year later, the fundraising started again and the construction of St Joseph’s School – Chapel began in April 1878, on the site of the present parish hall. With Father Frawley project managing, it was built on land purchased from John Clark Forrest, a local landowner. A journalist who interviewed Father Frawley commented in the Hamilton Advertiser that the school would open in Summer 1878, an ambitious construction programme, with the Church being on the upper floor open in the October of that year. The school and the chapel with over 600 seatings, was completed and officially opened on 24 October 1878. One of the earliest headmasters was a Mr McDade.

In 1879, Father Frawley also assisted with setting up the school at Auchentibber. Sadly, a year later in 1880, Father Frawley’s health had deteriorated again and seeking warmer, healthier climates, he decided to emigrate to Australia in 1880. This is something that must have been on his mind, with some clear sorrow in having to leave Blantyre. Before he left, he gave an address to his congregation and the Archbishop at St Joseph’s saying, My Lord Archbishop, It is with feelings of great sorrow that I leave Blantyre today… I could not leave however with-out expressing my heartfelt thanks for the repeated favours I have received in your hands. While I am away I shall ever retain the deepest gratitude for them all and should I return it will be my endeavour to show this by my futurework…”

2015 Father Frawleys grave is now restored

2015 Father Frawleys grave is now restored

Sadly, just one year later in 1881, whilst in Australia, John Frawley died at the very young age of only 30. He died at Inglewood, Victoria, Australia on 28th April 1881. The Roman Catholic community rightly holds his memory in high esteem for his remarkable achievements in the 3 short years he served the parish.

This story is not finished yet though. Recently, after seeing photographs of the state of disrepair of Thomas Frawley’s grave, the Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Blantyre arranged to have the grave andmonument at Inglewood restored. The Catholic people of Blantyre now have a ‘special wee connection’ with the people of Inglewood and Victoria through the life of Fr Thomas Frawley. The renovation of the grave before and after photo is attached.
Finally, Peter McAuley wrote a poem about Father Frawley
“Father Frawley” by Peter McAuley
One night when sitting by the fire
In sorrow and dismay,
I thought on all both great and small
From life had passed away.
My thoughts were on a clergy man
Whom all people did admire,
He was the shepherd of our flock
In the Parish of Blantyre.He was a clever gentleman
So pious, good and kind,
From his early age his vocation was
The priesthood for to join.
He prayed unto our heavenly King
To strengthen his desire,
Ordained to be, poor souls to save
From everlasting fire.God bless his loving parents
They deserve all praise I’m sure,
To give him up to our church
They were pious good and pure.
He was sent off to college
Where he might there divorce,
All the pleasures of this world
And be a soldier of the cross.When just a short time in [Formoy]
He was sent over to [Franie],
To the Irish college I’m told
The Bishop for to pass.
His grace did say study well
And I will {soon have} you ordained,
To be a Pastor of our church
The gospel to explain.

Night and day his time was spent
On his both good and true,
His earnest thoughts and glory was
The charge he had in view.
For he was sent by Him above
Our faith for to restore,
That we might be prepared to meet
The death call at our door.

His mission now was to begin
He soon had to embark,
To be assistant priest in Glasgow
In the parish of [Kinning Park].
When a short in that place
He got orders to remove,
To be a [burite now in Airdrie]
His superiors did approve.

His mission there once more began
In pious thoughts and prayer,
He preached unto his congregation
For never to despair.
But pray to our heavenly mother
For she will [interieed],
Unto her son who died for us
Upon the hill of [balvary].

The people all of Blantyre now
Together did combine,
Sent a letter to the Bishop
Stating there their mind.
They thought this parish large enough
To have a school at home,
And a clergyman amongst us
And a chapel of their own.

A dispatch was sent to [Airdrie]
To the Parish Priest in charge,
When he read this letter o’er
Unto his great surprise.
He was to send his [burite] on
Whom his Parish all admired,
To be the guide and head of all
In the Parish of Blantyre.

A place was now erected
And mass was celebrated,
The tyrants chain now was broke,
Our faith was liberated.
A few weeks in joy we moved along
In holiness and grace,
But to our sad misfortune
An explosion then took place.

On the twenty second of October in 1877
The coal mine did explode,
And over two hundred lives were entombed
Within this dark abode.
Night and day he stood close by
His power at once to show,
If any man in life should come
From this dismal mine below.

With assistance of his Parish soon
A building did erect,
It was a chapel-house and school
Which all people respect.
The building yet can be admired
Where the time and thoughts was given,
Of the Rev Father Frawley
Whom I hope now is in heaven.

This dreadful shock had past and gone
His health did fast decline,
With earnest thoughts about his church
Together did combine.
The second explosion was the blow
I believe it was his end,
When he heard more of the Blantyre mine
Had met an untimely end.

From that date his health reduced
He failed day after day,
His medical advisors told him
At once to go away.
Unto some distant country
To have a change of air,
How can I leave my church and people here
I will [die] in despair.

The ocean wide he tossed about
Till three long months was past,
When long expected came in view
The Australian shore at last.
He disembarked without delay
To the chapel there he went,
To serve God now as a priest
In Melbourne he commenced.

His time was come his hour was [nigh]
No improvement seemed to be,
His troubles in this world was near o’er
His soul would soon be free.
On the twenty eighth of April
In eighteen eighty one,
He departed from this world and Blantyre
And his own dear native land.

Now Frawley Frawley is dead and gone
And for his loss we mourn,
Our prayers are requested for his soul
He will never more return.
His dying words I’ll tell to you
Upon his bed he cried,
Take me back to Blantyre
Where I have lived so well.

He was [interred] on Australian shore
With all honor and respect,
And when the news arrived to us
There was many people wept.
When they thought he was to come no more
Whom they all so well beloved,
I trust that he may rest in peace
And his soul may shine above


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  1. Nuala Frawley Fitzgibbon

    We will visit Blantyre in July all going well

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