“Church of St Josephs” by J Cornfield 2005


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.

1950s St Joseph's Church wm

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/


On social media:

Rena Connor Beautiful Poem……⛪️❤️
Betty McLean In reading the lovely poem I was reminded of the strong feelings between protestants and catholics. Walking along the street as a young person I was often confronted by a group of boys who would ask, “True Blue or Dickory Dan” It was always intimidating but never any violence. Thankfully those days no longer exist and people are more tolerant as least I hope so.
The Blantyre Project Betty – I’d love to agree with you there, but there are still strong visible divides in Lanarkshire as a whole. A difference in this era though is the fabulous community work being done to heal those rifts for good.
Betty McLean I am glad to know that some progress has been made Paul, after arriving in Canada we did not experience the strong feelings of whose religion was the “right” one. I have both in my family and often attend Catholic and Protestand services. A friend once commented “there are more wars are caused over religion” I have to agree when seeing the news. People need to practice the Golden Rule and treat each person with respect.
Margaret Duncan I’m Blantyre born and bred and remember the bigotry but now I live in Biggar and my sons can go to watch old firm matches in the pub, with their friends all dressed in their respective Celtic & Rangers tops – all friends. We are still Sth Lanarkshire but I have never, ever experienced any bigotry nor have my sons.


Add a Comment
  1. Hi Paul. I am sorry that I did not get the time to visit you when on holiday from Tasmania. Did not even get to see Hurlawcrook.

    In the poem by J Cornfield, it is mentioned that John Aitkenhead was the builder. Do you have any details which could further this?

    Regarding Barnhill, I have the birth of Margaret Todd, daughter of James and Rose Anne Govan/Gibb?? in 1860. Then, in 1880, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Todd, daughter (illegitimate) of my GG grandfather Alexander Aitkenhead and Margaret Todd. They married a year later 01/03/1881, again address is Barnhill both. My grandfather just made the correct side of the sheets being born 16/12/1881 at Causeystanes.

    You really are a very busy man. I was going to unsubscribe as I only have limited data allowance but kept it going in the hope I might see something of the Aitkenheads – and there it was!!

    Kind regards. Robert.

    Robert Aitkenhead, Tasmania.

    1. Robert – I have quite a lot of information on the Aitkenheads. Just let me know if you want to know more about the builders or any of the family members. I’m sorry if we have emailed about this sometimes ago, I do recall emailing a few people about Aitkenhead Builders in the past. There is no subscription to this site. Its all free, so feel free to drop by anytime. A search for Aitkenhead in the search box on the left of the site will return some results of stories that may interest you. All the best, Paul.

Leave a Reply to robert aitkenheadCancel reply