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History Section

Parish History

St Mary’s can proudly claim to be the “Mother Parish”, not only of Greenock, but of the whole area of Lower Clydeside. Established in 1808 as the Greenock Mission, its early priests served a wide area, stretching from Dumbarton to Ayrshire. Several of the parishes in the surrounding district were founded directly from St Mary’s.

St Mary's

St Mary’s in the snow, 1887.
Painting by Patrick Downie.

The earliest known trace of Christianity in Greenock was the ancient chapel of St Blane, which stood in the heart of what later became St Mary’s Parish. Except for the name of Kilblain Street, no vestige now remains of the chapel, which may have been founded in the sixth century by St Blane of Bute himself, or one of his followers. In pre-Reformation times Greenock belonged to the large rural Parish of Inverkip
St Blane's look a like
St Blane’s Chapel in Greenock may have looked something like this.
As the Catholic Church in Scotland slowly recovered after the Reformation, the Catholic population of Greenock gradually increased. The first resident priest was Simon-Louis Capperon, a refugee from the French Revolution. He arrived some time before 1798, and earned his living as a teacher, as did other French priests who settled in Greenock during the nineteenth century  

In 1808 the Greenock Mission was founded, under its first Rector, Rev. John Davidson. He celebrated Mass in a rented hall for a congregation of about a hundred, mainly incomers from the Highlands and Ireland, and visiting seamen from the busy port.

at grave
Mgr John with a group of parishioners visiting the grave of John Davidson.

The first St Mary’s Church was built in 1816, with the school being opened shortly afterwards.

Old St Mary's
Old St Mary’s Church and School, at the corner of East Shaw Street and Bearhope Street, which was know as “Roman Brae”.
By the middle of the nineteenth century the Catholic population was massively increased by immigrants from Ireland. The new, larger St Mary’s in Patrick Street was opened in 1862.
St Mary's

This and the following picture are the earliest known photographs of St Mary’s.
St Mary's interior
St Mary’s interior, taken in the 1890s, soon after the installation of the new High Altar.

This picture shows what might have been. This is how the architect intended St Mary's to look. Money ran out before the tower was finished.

St Mary's
What might have been. This is how the architect intended St Mary’s to look. Money ran out before the tower was finished.

Over the years our church building has undergone numerous alterations and renovations, our most recent Renovation Project being completed in 2003.

A more detailed account of the history of our parish can be found in St Mary's, Greenock - the Story of a Community. The book can be obtained at the church, or by post. Click here for more information.

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Saint Mary's Catholic Church, 14 Patrick Street, Greenock, PA16 8NA, Scotland. UK