This is perhaps my most favourite poem by the late Jimmy Cornfield. Written in 2005, it details the events leading up to and around the construction of the church, which Jimmy has cleverly put into prose. Pictured alongside this poem, exclusively shown online for the first time is the St Joseph’s Church during the 1950’s on Glasgow Road.
The Church of St Joseph, Blantyre by James Cornfield 2005
St. Joseph’s church you bear the name of a gentle saint,
You’ve been here a hundred years, with you we are acquaint.
should we go back in time, ‘til the moment thou came to be,
We would surely find the man, who’s only dream was thee.
The revered Thomas Hackett, the man who made thee his quest,
Told the Glasgow Archdiocese, “for Blantir it’s only the best!”
This man of god, tho’ small in stature, was very big in faith,
He never took no for an answer, as long as he could breathe.
He then informed the family PUGIN, church builders of renown,.
A gothic church in cathedral style, of Bothwell red sandstone.
John Aitkenhead then built thee, on the side the doctor chose,
As soon as they walls began to rise, then problems there arose.
Protesters and there were many, vandalised the work being done,
They raised the site at midnight and knocked down every stone.
Their fear that a Catholic Church, would again in Blantyre reign,
Drove them to such terrible acts, but their deeds were all in vain!
Some Irish Catholic Colliers, “the chapel gate crowd” by name,
Volunteered to watch o’er thee, guardian angels they became.
From dusk till dawn, o’er three long years, vigilant and proud.
These brave men protected thee, from this unholy crowd.
With every day that passed, like the phoenix you arose,
From the ruins of our Priory, to thy place midst miner’s rows.
Built as you are next to Livingstone church, created a lovely story,
Mayberry Place, the building between, became known as purgatory.
Beautiful house of god of thee, how shall we extol
Of all Blantyre churches, thou art the fairest of them all.
None can compare with thy grace, elegance and beauty.
To make good, the doctor’s work, parish priests make it their duty.
To maintain, nay, to improve thee, has always been their aim,
With donations from our forebears, colliers and weavers by name.
Who gave their hard earned coppers, towards the building fund,
To make the doctors dream come true, a house for god’s own son.
Today we pay thee homage, as we come to commemorate,
A century of prayer, faith and worship, with thy holy estate.
May we as in days of yore, whence thou came to earth.
Be worthy of god’s blessing, as we celebrate thy birth.
Poetry archives for Blantyre are here, which include also some of my own Blantyre poems over the years. https://blantyreproject.com/reference/blantyre-poems/
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