With the discovery of coal and surge in industry within Blantyre in the 1870′s, the town’s Roman Catholic population grew quickly.
In 1821, documentation stated that there were just 149 Roman Catholics in Blantyre, and by 1881, there were over 600. By that time, it was no longer acceptable to meet for mass in converted homes or hired halls. People felt it necessary to travel to Glasgow for mass on actual holy ground.
By 1877, the local Catholic community rejoiced on being informed that Father John Frawley (27 years old) would be the first permanent priest of Blantyre. He had a difficult 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 St Josephs School – Chapel opened in October 1878.
By 1903, construction of the beautiful St Joseph’s Church at Glasgow Road was underway, a place for all of Blantyre’s Roman Catholics to worship. At that time persecution and sectarianism was rife, the church itself falling foul to theft and damage by others.
Blantyre’s Catholic population grew year upon year, decade upon decade with a growing need by the mid 20th Century for a second church. St John Ogilvie was constructed at Broompark Road, a building of much more modest and modern appearance.
As of 2011 census, Blantyre’s Catholic population has once again surged and there are now more Roman Catholics in Blantyre than there is any other religion, including Church of Scotland. Catholicism in Blantyre has gone from being a minority religion to modern, thriving majority.
Pictured in 1903 is the former St Joseph’s School Chapel.