In the late 1970’s the council’s proposed allocation of £2.5m to build a Secondary Roman Catholic High School in Blantyre, was causing some controversy.
To understand this, we must remind ourselves first that the Education Act back in 1918, gave the Roman Catholic Church the right to ask councils to construct separate Schools for Roman Catholic pupils, if numbers could be justified. The Act also of course stated that non denominational schools should be provided too.
During 1974, Roman Catholic Churches in Blantyre did just that and asked the Council to intervene with the construction of a brand new RC Secondary School, and proposed a building of the same calibre as the recently built Blantyre High School. That year, as Blantyre High had opened, Lanark County Council planners assessed that there were not sufficient numbers of Catholic secondary pupils in Blantyre to justify the expense, and asked that these pupils should attend nearby St John Ogilvie in Hamilton.
Regrouping at this disappointment, Roman Catholic organisations and Churches regrouped in 1978, when as Blantyre headed into a reconstruction fit for the future, they once again demanded a Roman Catholic School should be built, this time coming up with the idea of including Roman Catholic pupils in Halfway and Cambuslang, in order to justify and therefore meet the necessary quote. The numbers fitted, and the Council in their 1978 budget, were forced to incorporate a budget for building the new RC Secondary School in Blantyre.
With plans announced by the council, and the budget secured, the requirement for this school became a major talking point in Summer 1978 and unfortunately it was dividing opinion and dividing communities, even outwith Blantyre with sectarianism coming to the forefront of protests.
For example, a leading Orangeman in Larkhall, Mr Bain, a senior officer in the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland addressed 10,000 marchers that July controversially stating that the addition of a Catholic School in Blantyre was denying other state schools better funding. He said, “Let us look at the harm this is causing, this dual system. A new RC school is to be built even although planners said there wasn’t enough pupils. This pressure group in Blantyre re-opening this and adding in the pupils in Cambuslang and Halfway, just to get the new school is against the wishes of most people in the county.”
Whether his comments were listened to by others is unknown, but by late 1978, with a planned extension of John Ogilvie and a new School in Cambuslang, the issue of the proposed school in Blantyre was put to bed, with it being removed from budgets and again, not being able to be justified. The move to extend John Ogilvie and provide schooling in Cambuslang, was seen a means to reduce pupil numbers under the necessary quota again, and therefore justify the removal of the school from the budget.
As such, Blantyre never got its RC Secondary School.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
Picture, for illustration only.
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