Affectionately known as “The Joe’s”. Following the opening of the St Joseph’s Church in Glasgow Road on 18th June 1905, the adjacent former Chapel, also being used as a school, became solely used as a school.
Mr James Rooney had arrived at St Josephs in 1902 and would continue to be headmaster for a long service of 30 years. During his regime the school rool increased from 700 to 1500, becoming one of the largest Roman Catholic Schools in Lanarkshire.
From 1905, the Catholic school roll continued to increase and plans were submitted by Messrs Bruce and Hay for a school extension, of 2 floors with 4 classrooms on each, eight in all plus a headmasters room, at a cost of £3,010. The Diocesan Finance Board approved this on 12th March 1908 and the new school was built by 1910. Demands for cookery and woodwork facilities, eventually saw smaller extensions being added to the back of the school.
Overcrowding at Catholic Schools was by the 1920’s a huge problem in Lanarkshire. On Thursday 7th March 1929, the Lanarkshire Education Authority sanctioned new additions to Roman Catholic schools in Lanarkshire. Including at Blantyre. The wooden erections, which were to be of a temporary type, would relieve the overcrowding at St. Patrick’s Craigneuk; St. Augustine’s, Langloan; St. John’s Uddingston; and St. Joseph’s in Blantyre. The total cost was estimated at £5,000. In April 1929, a start was made by the Lanarkshire Education Authority on the erection of Blantyre’s wooden buildings consisting of 10 classrooms to accommodate 300 pupils, to be occupied later that year. These lasted for some time and may be remembered by many parishoners as their first classrooms. By this time the school was for both primary and secondary RC pupils.
In 1932, Mr. Peter Hyndland succeeded to the headship of St. Josephs and like his predecessor had the difficult task of guiding the school through the years of a world war. After many changes and difficulties, he retired in 1946 to enjoy a well earned rest.
The next headmaster was Mr. Hugh MacLeod who would oversee the new school being built nine years later. By the mid 1950’s with plans underway for new primary Schools at Coatshill and Fernslea Avenue, St Joseph’s submitted their own plans for a brand new school.
The first phase of the long awaited and much needed new Catholic school on Glasgow Road was officially opened on 24th January 1955 by Mr. Edward Daly, Vice Convener of Lanarkshire County Council. The school in an east-west configuration had a rather municipal look about it, but was greatly welcomed. It had 9 classrooms and a general purposes room to accommodate 360 primary and secondary school pupils. It cost £71,661.
Mr. David Gordon Bannerman was the Architect, a county design professional based in Hamilton. The final phase to accommodate all pupils was part occupied on 16th August 1956 with final occupation in January 1957, a truly monumental year for education services in Blantyre. That School will be the St Joseph’s School that most people remember in Blantyre. It had modern amenities and comforts, a far cry from coal fires, gas lighting and open air conveniences!
20th Century teachers included Mr. McShane, Mrs McKay (the register teacher), Mr McLeod the Headmaster, Mr John Drummond, ‘Big Scout’ O Neill, The ‘Beed,’ Mr Harry Kelly, Mr. Archie McKay (in sicence), Mrs Callaghan, Miss Cox, Miss Harran, Miss MacNeil (in music) and Miss Tocher. Around 1971-72 season, St Josephs football team won the League, County Cup, runners up in The Shinwell Cup and won the Inter League Shield against St Peters from Laighstonhall.
Despite beautiful classrooms and increased facilities, staff shortgaes and other problems faced Mr MacLeod, the headmaster in the 1950s and 1960s, not the least being the disappointment he experienced when his efforts to have the secondary department raised to O Level status failed. He retired in 1970, having been in charge for 24 years. He was a keen fisherman in his spare time.
The next headmaster was Mr. Edwin C Bonner, who took over command in 1970, when the raising of the school leaving age to 16 was bringing with it varied problems, which he dealt with swiftly.
On 29th June 1973 the Secondary Department closed and the school became Primary pupils only from August 20th that year. The senior pupils were then usually expected to be schooled in Hamilton at John Ogilvie High School. This large change in circumstances meant the school returned to its original status: St Joseph’s Primary.
By the early 1970’s each section of the school had its own assistant head, its own assembly room, art room and music room. The original stone building, used as a science and home economics section until 1973, was in 1977 converted into a 60 unit nursery school, which was complete by August of that year.
In 1973, Dux Shields were presented to the school by Dr. Michael Kelly, in memory of his father, David Kelly. Singing was always a favourite subject on the curriculum and the pupils of St Joseph’s distinguished themselves in the Lanarkshire Music Festivals of yesteryear. In 1976, a class choir won the MacLean Stewart Shield for Gaelic choir singing in the An Comunn Gaidheadlach in Glasgow.
In the world of football, the school has had its share of honours since 1928, when the school team won all before it: 4 cups and the League Shield. Then between 1948-49 and 1952-53 the Primary team won the League Championships five years in succession, and in 1954, the Shinwell Cup, while the Intermediate team of 1948 won two cups and the District Shields as well as the Hamilton Acas Cup.
Donations for charity had always been a feature in the schools, particularly for the Propagation of the Faith and Missionary Societies.
St Joseph’s had so many distinguished former pupils to every calling. It would be impossible to name them all. Suffice to say, they have done credit to their teachers. In the same way, individual mention of the teachers, both past and present are just too numours too mention, but all parishioners have their own memories of School days.
A new St Joseph’s Primary School was built as part of the post Millennium improvement of schools policy by the Scottish Government. An entirely new modern, state of the art school was built, accessed from Park Lane. Its address is 4 Park Lane.
In October 2010, the new, present School opened although snagging continued on in to 2011. The contractor was RMJM. The present School is on two levels and has a linear design. The Nursery, and some of Primaries 1 and 2 are on the ground floor, along with the Office and Administration. The rest of Primaries 2 to 7 are on the upper level. St Joseph’s Primary is still a Roman Catholic, co-educational Primary School. They currently have 12 classrooms and a large Nursery Playroom.
The present role of the School is 290 although it has an operational capcity of 358. It can accommodate 28 teachers. The Nursery capacity is 30/30. This session, they have 11 classes from Primary 1 through to Primary 7. St Joseph’s Primary School and Nursery Class work together to provide the best possible care and education for our children.
The head teacher is Mrs Ross, the deputy head Mrs McGhee. A school uniform policy applies. Some out of hours community use has been allowed for parts of the school estate, which has been conceived through the competing needs of seven key functions; private space, learning, street, admin, public, parking and landscape.
With the new, current St Joseph’s Primary School, (a third incarnation up and running for several years), the old Primary School which had sat derelict for some time was eventually demolished by contractors commencing on Thursday 7th and finishing on Friday 29th January 2016. At time of writing there is a large, clear space just off Glasgow Road, offering development opportunity. Approaches have been made by developers to acquire the land where the current St Joseph’s Hall is, but a deal has yet to be made. As such, the entrance, to what will likely become a shopping centre, rumoured to be Aldi, could one day be from Glasgow Road, either via a new roundabout, access from Joanna Terrace or the more unlikely location from Station Road or Park Lane.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016
A large archive of St Joseph’s Primary School Photos can be found by searching the “People” tab on this website.
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Brendan Mcghee Maureen he was a tremendous teacher ..inspire me alot..
And still me and monkey refused ,next we went to moncrief and got suspended. But told if you don’t come back on Monday and take the belt off Pirie your expelled. Worst weekend ever🤔
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Gerry Walker how could you forget James Cleary, John Daly, Sugar Kelly but it was a great team. Didn’t the shinwell go to penalties
An amazing school in the sixties and seventies. I was lucky to be Dux in 1975. Poor kids with aspiration burnt into their heads. Great teachers. Happy to have been there, glad that my kids went elsewhere. Joe
Ha, remember that like yesterday, especially the ‘black squares’ outside the office 😉
Is there a list of ALL former students, especially for the 19teens and 1920s when my late mother’s siblings would have attended?
Sorry Mike – I don’t have access to that, but I’m sure records must exist somewhere.